Health

Sexplain It: I Exposed My Partner to Gonorrhea, but I Didn’t Do Anything Wrong

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I’m Zachary Zane, a sex writer, author, and ethical Boyslut (a fancy way of saying I sleep with a lot of people, and I’m very, very open about it). Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of sexual experiences, dating and sleeping with hundreds of people of all genders and orientations. In doing so, I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating issues in the bedroom (and a bunch of other places, TBH). I’m here to answer your most pressing sex questions with thorough, actionable advice that isn’t just “communicate with your partner” because you know that already. Ask me anything—literally, anything—and I will gladly Sexplain It.

To submit a question for a future column, fill out this form.


Dear Sexplain it,

I just found out I got oral gonorrhea from going down on a guy a few weeks ago. Since that hookup, I also went down on a woman I’ve been seeing casually.

I texted the woman to let her know I might have given her gonorrhea, and she is really upset. She sent me a long text saying I should have told her I was sleeping with men and that I was clearly lying to her when I said I cared about safe sex. (For the record, she knows that I’m bisexual, and we are not monogamous. Also, for the record, I wear condoms with all my partners during penetrative sex—just not during oral.)

Did I do something wrong here? Do I owe her an apology?

—Oral Gonorrhea

sexplain it graphic

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Dear Oral Gonorrhea,

I can sympathize with her freak-out about possibly having gonorrhea. Society wrongly shames people—women, especially—for having STIs. She might also be afraid of having to tell her other partners, or the health ramifications, or some other concern. But instead of unpacking these feelings, she’s yelling at you, which is not cool.

You didn’t do anything wrong here. I mean, sure, you theoretically could have been clearer about exactly when you use condoms. But in my experience, hardly anyone uses condoms during oral sex, and the standard is to assume that when people say they use condoms, they’re referring to vaginal and anal intercourse. It’s so standard that if she’d been truly worried about your condom use during oral, I’d argue she should have asked a follow-up question to clarify that.

(And by the way, sex always carries a risk of STIs, whether or not you use condoms. Condoms can break, and even when they don’t, you can still contract STIs like syphilis and herpes through skin-to-skin contact. That’s why sex experts have moved away from saying “safe sex” to “safer sex,” to acknowledge that even sex with condoms comes with risks.)

And as for her accusation that you should have told her you were hooking up with men? I’m not buying it either. First off, you told her you were bi. If she’d truly been worried about potentially higher STI rates among men who have sex with men, she could have asked for more details on your sexual partners. (Not that you would have been obligated to share, BTW. But if you said you didn’t want to reveal who you were sleeping with, she could have made an informed decision about whether or not she wanted to sleep with you.) Despite knowing your orientation, she didn’t ask, which leads me to believe she’s suddenly grasping for anything that will put you in the wrong.

You don’t owe this woman an apology. And as tempting as I’m sure it is to counter her accusations of dishonesty, it’s not worth your energy, since you’re probably not planning to see her again.

However, I get wanting to say something, so you don’t totally ghost her. How about some helpful advice? Try this: “Hey, I can tell you’re worried about potentially having a positive diagnosis. If you go to your primary care doctor or urgent care, they’ll give you a shot in your butt and tell you that you can’t have sex for seven days. That’s it!”

If she doubles down and attacks you again, don’t respond. It’s not worth your time.

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