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How to react to and deal with the "herpes jokes"


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Hi Everyone,

 

I just found this group, I was motivated to search for something like this after watching Brene Brown's TedTalk on dealing with Shame (which turned out to be featured on this site!).

 

Anyway, in the past couple weeks I've been encountering a lot of unkind and sometimes brutal herpes jokes. In the media-- "Pitch Perfect" (the movie), "South Park" etc....and then also the 'accidental' jokes brought up in casual conversation. For example, a guy I am talking to (and interested in) mentioned buying used shorts, which I joked was gross and he said, "only if the previous owner had Herpes!"...*crickets chirping*, I laugh nervously. Good thing we were on the phone and not in person because he would have seen the "terrified rabbit" look on my face! I felt like someone had punched me in the gut and I started tearing up..all the while attempting to continue a normal conversation.

 

Has this happened to anyone before? How harshly do you judge a person who makes these type of jokes? Should I stop talking to the guy? This view and these offhand comments about Herpes (and the horrible stigma) are so common (and stem from ignorance) that I have no idea how to handle this. Any advice? Should I call the person out in the future?

 

Thanks

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Hey KCate! Great question! As you're already figuring out, someone else's ignorant/hurtful/careless joke says more about them than the person being joked about.

 

Here's a previous discussion on these forums a while back about this (including a personal story of when I actually disclosed to a few friends after they made an ignorant joke about herpes):

http://herpeslife.com/herpes-forum/discussion/1196/my-friend-and-a-herpes-joke/p1

... and another: http://herpeslife.com/herpes-forum/discussion/947/herpes-jabs-not-so-funny/p1

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Ok thank you!

 

It does tell something about the person, but I feel like before contracting HSV2 and going through experiences like getting my heart broken I would have been insensitive like that too! Can the person be helped/educated? Is it worth trying when the problem is so rampant in society and enforced by the media?

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That's up to you on what level of transparency you want to have in service of lessening our societal/cultural stigma. There's a lot of conversation around that on the post linked to above. I believe that this is why all of us doing our own personal work to lessen our own shame around having herpes ultimately lessens the stigma because then whenever we talk about it, we talk about it from a place of okayness and self-acceptance instead of from a place of shame and self-pity.

 

Here's a poster I designed to get that point across. :)

http://herpesopportunity.com/downloads/be-contagious-herpes-opportunity.pdf

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Hey there (: Im glad you found this site and are part of the community!!! Iwant to state that in one week will Be 1 year with H. Its been a long and bumpy ride!! Iremember when iwas first diagnosed H jokes really seemed to bother me. Iused to walk away from conversations and die on the inside. Once iaccepted H and permed to love myself and remembering its just a skin condition the jokes became less harsh. Everyone is different but ijust sat there and would smile eventhough ifelt uncomfortable. You know that saying "fake it till you make it"? That's what idid and soon enough I'm now able to laugh with the jokes they don't bother me. People arnt educated enough and have been taught because of society that getting something life H is one of the worst things to happen to you. Sometimes it happens on an accident. Ihope ihelped you atleast alil bit.

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This exact thing was happening to me, too. I got my diagnosis and when I went to work, that entire week there was herpes jokes left and right. It's like when you buy a new car and you suddenly see it everywhere; I got diagnosed and suddenly herpes was all anyone wanted to make fun of. It was really hard for me to deal with the comments at work but ultimately I didn't feel comfortable telling them my diagnosis, so I stayed shut. It was really hurtful though, seeing first hand how negative people can be about it especially when I first was dealing with it. I hope that it gets easier for both of us as time goes on!

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