Those were the words that were staring me in the face on my screen. I didn’t know what to think. Was someone pulling a prank or testing me in some weird fashion? As it turns out they were dead serious. This person had an STD fetish and while they didn’t want anything that could potentially end their life, they were very interested in contracting genital herpes.
I was taken aback for a second. After all, here was this aspect of me that I would gladly delete from my life if I could (pretty sure most with HSV would) and now someone else actually wanted this pesky little virus.
My answer came pretty readily. No, I would not intentionally give someone herpes. I have two goals related to this infection and the first is that my partners will be informed of my condition before engaging in any activity that is a risk to them. The second is to take every measure to ensure that I transfer this to no one. Life is unpredictable of course, but I need to know that I’m protecting who I’m with as much as possible.
If I were to have unprotected sex with them my first goal could remain intact as they would be informed. My second goal though could not survive. They explicitly wanted me to help them get herpes. Now, I don’t think that sharing herpes is as easy a task as it may seem but logistics was obviously not the problem here. I couldn’t bring myself to knowingly give someone this virus. Just for the sake of argument, even if I could bring myself to participate in this person’s fetish I would bump up against my next difficulty.
What if they later on they come to regret having herpes? This is admittedly a complex issue for me because I firmly believe in a person’s autonomy. People should be able to make their own decisions and those decisions don’t have to align with my desires. However, this decision does directly involve me and as an actor in this moral dilemma I get to have a say about how I use my body.
Putting aside the philosophical argument of whether full autonomy can ever be experienced I’m going to maintain here that it can. It’s one of the reasons I want to be completely truthful with those in my life. I want their decisions to be made with every bit of information possible. The more info they have the better decision they can make. If a partner knows my condition, the nature of the disease, means of transmission, and precautionary measures we can employ then they have as much knowledge as I do. We have at least reached parity on that front.
If I went ahead and tried to help them I would be respecting their autonomy. However, I had reason to believe that they weren’t acting in their best interest. To start with they had a STD fetish. Sometimes fetishes become almost like a pathology which would be cause for concern. I ruled this out though because in my very non-professional opinion there was a desire present to avoid injury such as HIV. I feel like this avoidance of harm sidestepped the pathology issue.
Regardless, fetishes come and go. This person was also 18 years of age and the younglings are still figuring out who they are and what they want. For fucks sake, I’m 41 (as of this writing) and I’m still working on that. It’s part of self growth and it’s a continuous process as we age. Our work is never done in this respect.
I dislike undermining someone’s autonomy but there is a chance that later in life they might regret intentionally contracting herpes. I don’t want to be part of that scenario. That is my choice. If they decide to continue trying to get some type of STD/I then that is their choice.
Another thought I had was isn’t life about experiences and wouldn’t not having sex be a lack of experience? As someone who is single I don’t have sex more days than I do, but it doesn’t feel like a lack of experience. Then again, on those days I don’t have an offer laid at my feet like this.
Ultimately, I concluded that perhaps I may miss out on a sexual experience or two with this person but that regret is much to do about nothing so long as I can avoid a much worse ethical regret. I don’t feel as if I’m missing out. Even if life is only about experiences (a notion I do not explicitly subscribe to) then this whole situation is certainly a much more unique scenario (i.e. experience) than having sex will likely ever be.
All in all, this is the right decision for me to make. I want to protect this person even though I’ve never met them and even though I am disregarding their wishes. I also want to feel good about my role in the world and my relationships with others. This is certainly a situation I never thought I would encounter and yet here I am.
I would say life definitely threw me a curve with this one but I am happy with the outcome. Maybe this person will fulfill their fetish. So be it. If that happens then at least I can rest well knowing I wasn’t part of it. That good feeling will last far longer than any from sex ever will.