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Questions about Genital HSV 1, and continuing an enjoyable sex life

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Hello everyone,

I have a few questions about genital HSV 1 that I haven't found answers to yet on the internet. I found out I had genital HSV 1 in September and despite the initial upset, I've been really good with dealing with this new aspect to my life. I haven't had to have the disclosure with another person yet, but now as I see myself becoming involved with someone, I'd like to see your responses to these questions. 

Firstly, I've read a ton of articles, blogs, and e-books on herpes and I've read some statements that say the transmission of genital HSV 1 is so low that it's really nothing to worry about. My first reaction to that is that it's not true, any opinions on that? Another question that keeps coming to mind now that I can see myself becoming intimate with someone else for the first time with herpes (and not to get too personal) but does oral sex still feel good even with condoms/dental dams? 

I'm maintaining a positive attitude and outlook on having herpes, but sometimes when I start to think of a sex life with it, I tend to fall into a negative mindset (although I know that's only the fear talking). Can sex still feel like it's something out of the heat of the moment and passionate when there is more preparation, and caution put into it? Sometimes I wonder how sex can still feel fulfilling when there is so much latex or whatever sort of protection you use involved, especially if your outbreak covers areas that not only a condom can protect from. If this sounds negative, I don't mean to be; I'm just so new to this all and am genuinely curious about how to continue my life in a fulfilling way without letting these minor fears get in the way. 

Any advice at all would be greatly appreciated, thanks for your time :)

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From what I've heard (I'm not a doctor, but have heard plenty on this subject), HSV-1 doesn't naturally prefer the genitals. Herpes 1 prefers the lips. For that reason, genital HSV-1 outbreaks will tend to be much less severe and will occur much less often. And viral shedding will be less, too. Therefore, the transmission rates would be much less overall. But there's still a chance of transmission. When we talk percentages, those can be misleading, because whether there's a 38% chance or a 83% chance of transmitting herpes, the person getting their diagnosis is black or white: either you have it or you don't. So, the conversation will still include the possibility that your partner will get genital HSV-1, but the chances of it happening are less.

And about the whole oral sex feeling good question, I don't know from experience since I'm of the male persuasion … ;) (Anyone of the female persuasion want to chime in?) But, consider this: Beyond the question of whether more layers/caution will lessen the actual physical sensation, think about what it means to have sex with someone you're truly connected with and close to vs. someone who you're just f***ing (pardon the french). 

Personally, I would much rather have connected, vulnerable sex with a partner than disconnected sex that is all about just getting off. (I'm not insinuating that that is what you're referring to, but consider that sex is about something deeper than more or less physical sensation — there's also emotional sensation.) From my experience, connected, emotional sex the most fulfilling kind of sex there is. And ironically, it was the vulnerability of disclosing that I had herpes that helped to further open the door so that my partner and I could to go deeper with each other. Talk about beautiful sex (condom or not)! So, in other words, putting a condom on or strapping on that dental dam isn't the same as strapping a condom around your heart (may be the corniest analogy yet, but it's so true).

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Thank you again so much for your thoughtful input; you definitely have a way with words! Haha. And I would love to check out the next virtual support group; I wasn't free to do it tonight, but I think connecting with others on the subject would be very healing for everyone involved. And love the analogy to strapping a condom around your heart! Keep em' coming! Lol. Genuinely grateful for your thoughtful and thought provoking responses.

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