This is the story of an STI…
Most of us by the time we reach our thirties have lived through the inconvenient, uncomfortable and embarrassing life experience of going to get tested.
Maybe it’s just me? Maybe you’ve always, always, always on pain of no sex always used a condom and never caught an STI. Good for you. Maybe you’ve only ever been to the clinic to ‘be safe’. Also well done. Or maybe you’ve woken up four days in a row with an itchy muff and decided that you must have done something terrible and the only way forward is to visit the free clinic? This of course comes after starting off rational and applying your old Thrush cream, which incidentally starts to work, but you talk yourself out of using it on the basis that out of date medication could do more harm than good so instead of buying a new one immediately you jump to the most dramatic, terrifying, panic-stricken conclusion possible.
This results in desperately trying to a find an open clinic at 9am on a Sunday morning. Unfortunately London’s free sexual health clinics are literally bursting at the seams. To the extent that by the time I made it to what seemed to be the only one open they were so busy I was placed on a reserve list and told I might get a call later in the day. Might.
Erm, hello, my vagina is in distress and I need to be seen NOW.
Not only that but they won’t let you book an appointment if you have symptoms, no they are reserved for the un-dirty people who just want to ‘be safe’. So if you have symptoms, like me, and are put on a reserve list, like me, and they don’t call you, like me, you just have to walk in again and try your luck the next time it’s open. I mean as if I needed another reason to despise the Tory government and their reckless cuts to our health service? Now it’s a personal vendetta between Jeremy Hunt and my cunt.
Turns out nobody cares especially the flat toned dead pan receptionist who essentially told me there was no room at the clinic. This only made my shame worst. That and writing 35 in the age box.
On previous visits to be screened I found the waiting after the test the worst part. Not knowing what you’ve got, if anything. Praying for a harmless text message and not an HIV-related phone call. It turns out the waiting that precedes the being seen waiting is far worse. This mutates what is really a small problem, that can happen to virtually ANYONE and is easily fixed, into a horror film. The wild imaginative illnesses that could be infecting your blood stream. The mortification of being so irresponsible to have allowed this to happen. The fear of having to contact someone and tell them that you’ve got something…
This is the story of the last time I got chlamydia…
The last time I got chlamydia a friend of mine who I had slept with in the past contacted me, very grown up, and told me that he had chlamydia and I might have it too. This was very non-blamey and friendly like ‘I’ve got chlamydia you should get tested’ to which my response was ‘oh shit OK thanks for telling me’. Nothing nasty, shit happens kind of thing. I mean it is impossible to know with chlamydia who had it first especially if it was a while ago which in this scenario it was. I then felt it was my responsibility to tell someone else who I had recently slept with, with a condom I hasten to add, that this was going on. The response was almost opposite. I received such a shaming, holier-than-thou text in which he actually used the words ‘this is disappointing’ that basically translates as ‘you are disgusting and I never want to see you again’ which needless to say made me feel horribly humiliated and hurt.
Back to the present itching it was only after returning home from my lack of success on the other side of London that I confessed my symptoms to my sister who sensibly suggested that it was probably Thrush. Oh Thrush my old friend.
This is the story of the last time I got Thrush…
Several years ago before I moved to London I was in between relationships and fuck buddys enjoying a rare bout of celibacy when I irresponsibly ended up sleeping with my then ex. Soon after I woke up with an itchy Ya-Ya and quickly berated him for potentially infecting me with some life threatening STI. It turned out to be Thrush contracted either from said random shag upsetting my vaginal PH or most likely from eating a pizza I had made myself in the same week using out of date yeast. Thrush is after all a yeast infection and can be caused by several factors; other infections, antibiotics, dodgy homemade pizza and is not actually an STI, yes it can be transmitted sexually but that’s not normally the case.
Only after discussing this with my older, wiser sibling did I remember this story and realise that actually the symptoms were either Thrush or possibly BV.
What’s BV I hear you cry?
BV otherwise known as Bacterial Vaginosis is another common infection affecting our lady parts. It is again not passed on by any man, in fact men can’t get it. It is possibly caused by upsetting the Foo-Foo’s status quo which could be having lots of sex after a period of no-sex say but get this; NO ONE ACTUALLY KNOWS. I have since heard on good authority that Organic Coconut Oil is an effective natural remedy for said illness so if you fancy nipping out to Holland and Barrett and sticking some up your fanny please let me know how it turns out!
However this helpful tip came my way too late for this particular instance so after scouring the Canesten website (thank you Canesten website) and popping on my thinking cap I deduced from this curious situation that I didn’t have an STI at all. I had run to the clinic on a Sunday morning out of sheer panic all because of what was probably a bit of Thrush that a quick walk to to Morrisons easily resolved.
I then realised that I was bloody quick to judge and attack my own behaviour. Yes I had had sex in the week and it was great thank you very much but look how quick I was to punish myself for it. Is this a female thing? A single thing? Is this what Catholics feel like? Am I so ashamed that I’m still having non-committed sex in my thirties when most of my generation are cosying up to their long-term partners with babies and dogs between their legs instead of penis mannequins that I volunteered for some Sunday morning self-flagellation?
Why was I so embarrassed? I mean I’m still embarrassed now writing this! My mind moved so quickly to a full-scale attack of my own character without much reason at all. Are societies claws so deep in my love handles that although I am very happy with my life I have to somehow attack it for not being sexually stereotypical? Are we programmed to believe that being sexually uninhibited can be dangerous to our health? But then again why blame society? My thoughts are not societies fault. Yes it presents the most popular options but ultimately I can control what I think if I try really hard and should not be constantly sabotaging my own life or holding others accountable for it.
As the granddaughter of a Midwife who helped pioneer sexual health in her local area and the daughter of a woman who wisely encouraged my own sexual knowledge as a curious teenager I can’t help but feel I’m letting down the side and who can blame me but me?
To be truly comfortable with our sexual selves takes a lot of balls. When it comes to sex there is so much hidden and often not so hidden judgement that it’s no wonder we end up anxious. Our innate human discomfort spreads to the unknown as we expose ourselves to potential strangers and we flail even more than usual. Emotions, passions, bodily fluids, diseases all get mixed up in this steamy mysterious cauldron and let’s face it you rarely know what you’re going to get. When our instincts are bang on we ignore them chasing our own tails to get back to that first conclusion. We are told so many stories of what love, sex and relationships should be that we forget to enjoy what we have. Old wives tales and magazine articles come back to haunt us. Panic sets in and we scrutinise ourselves for not living up to standards we have set in our own heads. We mentally abuse and assault ourselves for not knowing what is wrong with our bodies when the fact is that not even Doctors know it all.
This was the story of when I didn’t catch an STI.
Janna Fox is an actress, writer, yogi, aerialist in training and creator of many things. She started blogging for The New Establishment in February 2017 and her pieces are published every other Wednesday. Janna also contributes to sex blog Hitting the Spot. For more information please visit www.jannafox.com