How Do I Not Hate Myself For Having Unprotected Sex?

Hey Ginzo,

I did something stupid last week and I am flipping out. Long story short I ended up hooking up with a stranger. The problem? We didn’t use protection. I know I am an idiot. So I am just really freaking out because even though there is no risk of pregnancy I have absolutely no idea whether or not this person had an STD. Like what if I just gave myself HIV? I am so mad at myself and embarrassed that I haven’t been able to tell anyone about it. I just feel so stupid because I don’t even have a way to contact this person. I didn’t want to use anything in the moment but now I realize THAT IS SO STUPID. I guess how do I live with myself while I wait out the time it takes to show up on tests?

I’ve Made a Huge Mistake

Dear I’ve Made a Huge Mistake,

First of all, solid Arrested Development reference. Second of all, please be kinder to yourself.

You made a mistake. You had a moment of poor judgment, and now you know that in the future, using protection, whether a condom, internal condom, or dental dam (for oral sex), is a must not only for your health but for your peace of mind. Remember this level of anxiety for the future so when you are swept up in the moment, you can pause and remember how nerve-wracking an experience it was. Learn from this that whether you are having sex with a stranger or someone you know well, you need to have protection on hand to prevent yourself from getting lost in the moment again.

Even if you do have an STI now, this doesn’t make you less smart, worthy, sexy, or deserving of love.

That being said, stop beating yourself up about it. You made a mistake, a mistake that is probably more common than you think. People have unprotected sex a lot; sometimes they contract STIs, sometimes they don’t. This does not change their value as a person. Even if you do have an STI now, this doesn’t make you less smart, worthy, sexy, or deserving of love. There is a terrible stigma in this country around having an STI, yet one in four people have one. This means that right now, you know someone (probably several someones) who has had or does have an STI. They haven’t turned into monsters or piles of human waste because of their STI; you probably don’t even know that they have one. They go on their daily lives, going to school, going to work, having relationships, eating tasty brunches, riding bikes, laughing at funny movies, and generally doing everything everyone else does. Regardless of the results of your tests, you do not have to worry that it is the end of your happiness or chance at a healthy sex life.

Also, it’s normal to worry about other people judging us when we make a mistake. But I think hiding in shame with this weight on your heart is doing more harm than good. Reach out to a friend who you consider nonjudgmental and supportive to talk to them about your concerns. Emotional support will do wonders for anxiety, and feeling the unwavering love of a good friend will help you not be so hard on yourself. So get tested, keep condoms on you, and don’t stop loving yourself, regardless of your results!

XOXO,
Ginzo

P.S. Though it sounds like you may have already researched this, I just wanted to link the information in case anyone who has stumbled upon this needs the information: here is an infographic from STDchecker.com that outlines how long after unprotected sex you should get tested for specific STIs. If you need to find free testing, you can visit https://gettested.cdc.gov/ to find a clinic near you.

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