Breaking down the barricade of shame, guilt, and feelings of isolation that surround STIs, Ella Dawson, the undaunted feminist and sex-writer, bravely lifts her voice in our new What’s Underneath: “The more I talked about herpes, the more power I felt over it. I realized that herpes would only decide my fate if I let it.” With the fortitude of an undeniable leader, Ella went public and wrote an article on Women’s Health (which immediately went viral) about how she contracted herpes. As Ella tells us, "There are so many stereotypes about herpes. You're either a slut or you're a victim who got cheated on.
But Ella was no victim. She was an empowered, confident Wesleyan student who was having consensual sex with her boyfriend: “I met him at a party. He was super charismatic and sexy and funny and brilliant and I fell really hard for him.” But three weeks later, she woke up to her first outbreak. “My brain went into panic mode,” Ella reveals. “I felt disgusted and revolted by my own sexuality. I was thrown into a real identity crisis, but my mom and dad smacked me out it.”Her boyfriend, however, became emotional abusive, telling her, “This is what I get for falling for a girl like you.”
Propelled by her irrepressible self-worth, Ella left her slut-shaming boyfriend and started on her mission to fight herpes stigma. She now sees herpes as “the ultimate douchebag detector,” because, if a guy rejects her due to her infection, she shouldn’t be getting involved with him in the first place. “Herpes is a part of me. It’s my teammate, and I’m proud of it,” Ella announces.
For the full story on how Ella became the unrepentant face of herpes, watch her video above, then help fight STI stigma yourself by sharing this post with your friends and loved ones.
Follow Ella on Twitter: @brosandprose
Ella's video was edited by Andrea Cruz