Last week the news broke that several public library copies of Fifty Shades of Grey were tested positive for trace amounts of herpes and cocaine. There isn’t even enough of the virus present in the books for anyone to contract it from touching them; just enough present for it to test positive.
This has inspired a large wave of ew, gross, herpes, and I guess it really IS a dirty book lol from not only the people reporting this news but, well, everyone else. So far most, if not all, of the reactions I’ve seen have had hefty doses of shaming thrown in.
I’ll admit, when I first heard it, I raised an eyebrow and thought I think I don’t want to know how those books got herpes.
But I dismissed that thought pretty quickly. The fact is, you don’t have to hump a book to give it herpes. Herpes simplex isn’t just an STI; it’s the same virus that gives you cold sores. Viral shedding can occur at any time, and in more areas than just the genitals. It may be asymptomatic. Fifty Shades of Grey getting herpes likely has little to do with the book’s content and more to do with how common herpes is and how popular the books are.
I am not an expert on herpes. I’m just someone who knows people who have it. I’m also someone who was researching STIs about 7 years before I was having sex. (Insert I’m sort of Ravenclaw even though I’m Slytherin joke here.)
The shaming reactions to this news have saddened me.
Having herpes or any other STI doesn’t make you a monster, or diseased, or dirty or unclean. It just means you contracted something. That something may have no cure as of yet (herpes, AIDS), or it may just need a trip to the doctor and a prescription to get it cleared up (syphilis). It may be easy to live with, or it may be hard. STIs are a part of life. Even, sometimes, for people who aren’t having sex. Contracting an STI does not mean you are undeserving of love or basic human decency.
I hate Fifty Shades of Grey with an all-consuming passion, but I don’t condone the way people have been talking about this. Fifty Shades of Grey testing positive for herpes does not make it a terrible book (the fact that it’s a terrible book makes it a terrible book), and when you say it does you are indirectly saying that people who have herpes are terrible people.
Criticize Fifty Shades for its shoddy writing, for its depiction of an abusive relationship as romance, for its utter lack of plot or meaningful characterization, for its rape apologism, for its plagiarism, for its absolute lack of truthfulness in depicting BDSM and promoting of dangerous BDSM practices, for its message of “EWWWWW, POOR PEOPLE”. Those are all fair criticisms.
Criticizing the book because library copies happened to test positive for herpes is not fair, and has nothing to do with the book itself. Herpes was also found on Tango by Pieter Aspe, and yet you don’t hear people making shaming comments about that. Somehow, because Fifty Shades is about a subject many people find taboo, it’s fair game?
No. It’s not. Stop shaming folks who read erotica, period, and stop with the sex-negative, STI-shaming surrounding this news story. It’s boring. As boring as the sex scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey.