I am a 51-year-old man recently diagnosed with herpes. To be honest, I can't believe I made it this long without contracting it. I won't go into my sexual past, especially during the 80s, but I'm guessing Simon Le Bon and I are pretty much neck-and-neck in the girl department. Okay, maybe I'm a tad behind him, but I did make my mark in Sudbury at least.
I'm just asking for a bit of space to do this, SA: Hey, folks in your 50s and 60s and 70s! You can get STIs as well as younger people. Careful out there! I guess I was feeling a little like I was immune. I'm not kidding, it really did seem that way, considering what I got up to, and maybe I got a little cocky. Also, any support or words you care to send my way would be much appreciated.
Yes, it's true that there is no expiration date on getting an STI, which is kinda funny in a way. It sort of feels like heading out on a bike ride in your 40s and breaking your front tooth falling over your handlebars. Shouldn't you have had that accident out of the way when you were 8?
I consulted with my STI go-to gal, Lyba Spring, and she offered this: "In fact, infections are rising in the older population, who are unaware, unused to using protection and have few skills around negotiating safer sex. HIV infections among Canada's 50-plus have almost doubled from 7.6 per cent in 1998 to 13.8 per cent in 2006."
I also find this news really interesting: "Most new herpes infections are a result of unprotected oral sex with a person who has a history of cold sores (HSV-1)." This means peo-ple are contracting genital herpes from people going down on them, or the other way around. As The West-over Heights Herpes Handbook says, "HSV 1 is increasingly the cause of gen-ital herpes infections as oral-geni-tal contact becomes a more routine part of sexual expression."
The other thing that might be of note to you is this, according to The Herpes Handbook: "A person could have genital herpes for 30 years, not know it and then have their first recognized recurrence! When they fi-nal-ly do have an outbreak they recog-nize, it can cause unnecessary ha-v-oc in a relationship when issues of fidelity arise."
You didn't mention whether you know from whom you acquired herpes, and I don't know if you had any long-term marriage-type relationships, so it is possible that you've had herpes since the song Down Under by Men at Work was a hit. In fact, D, you might find several songs among the top hits of 1983 that make an excellent an excellent pun for this possibility. The pop songs of 1983 were rife with herpes transmission double entendres, it turns out.
"Most transmissions take place in the absence of symptoms, because the virus sheds," Lyba adds. "It is impossible to know when/how many days per month you shed virus. With something like one-fifth of people posi-tive for HSV-2 (genital herpes), it is no surprise that he contracted it. He is certainly not alone."
And this news, which flies in the face of so much STI contraction lore: "One is more likely to contract it in a long-term relationship, so he needn't beat himself up about having had multiple partners. I should also say that you can get herpes anywhere in the boxer shorts area from skin to skin contact; condoms or dental dams are only protective for the parts that are covered. That said, in terms of future immunity, if you have type 2, it's highly unlikely you will ever get type 1. But if you have type 1 you can certainly get type 2."
"The next time he has an outbreak and a doctor swabs the lesion, the lab can tell him which type he has," she says. "If he has HSV-1, it tends not to recur as frequently as HSV-2."
Long-time reader, first-time writer. (Always wanted to write that.) Here's the question: is there such a thing as a real (read not a hack) sex coach out there we could hire to tight-en up our intimate activities?
Athletes have coaches walking them through slapshots or putts or a right hook. With something as important and as frequently poorly ex-ecuted as sex, are there not people we can pay to come into our bedroom or living room or pool deck to make us sexual Olympians (or at least improve or amateur ranking)?
My wonderful partner and I have a healthy and happy sex life - we think. But wouldn't it be good if we could get a third party to confirm that or, if we're wrong, give us a routine to follow, like a personal trainer?
Looking forward to your reply.
Yes, just as there are life and sport coaches, there are sex coaches.
"It is not a regulated discipline, so you have to find someone you feel comfortable with," says Carlyle Jansen of Good for Her. "Coaching is different than therapy in that it generally takes one or a few sessions and doesn't delve as much into the past. It involves talking about what's working, what you'd like to change, enhance, explore, let go of, and education and suggestions with homework on how to make it better. Some peo-ple seek a coach on their own, and some in partnership."
Several of the workshop facilitators at Good for Her, including Carlyle herself, offer personalized ser-vices. "Not all of us necessarily call it coaching," she says, "but we work with-in the realm of what Bill says he's looking for."
Check out the list of facilitators to see if any of them meet your needs. You can inquire about their availability and fees for private sessions via the website.
"The store doesn't really involve itself, other than being happy to pass on contact info for the facilitators," says Carlyle. "People regularly call us who are looking for 1:1 or 2:1 counselling or coaching. Or they'll come to a workshop, like the facilitator and approach him or her for further assis-tance.
"I recommend that Bill check out our workshops, because he'll likely learn something new there and then connect with a facilitator afterwards for follow-up individual attention."
Carlyle does want to be clear that, to her understanding, all the facilitators work with clothes on and that discussion and exercises don't generally involve watching you and your partner have sex. She assures me that "there are many exercises that can be done with clothes on to enhance intimacy and connection - for example, things I teach in the Deepening Intimacy For Couples workshop. Doing this kind of work involves a lot of reading, practising and attending hands-on, clothes-off work-shops, and also developing intui-tive skills. Some of our facilitators have studied sexology, therapy or alternative healing/therapy traditions. Each of us has a different approach."
Carlyle thinks it's great that you're looking to enhance you relationship now. "Many wait until boredom, resentment or frustration builds to such a point that makes it harder to salvage," she says.