Earlier this year, Ellie Boulder helped start a conversation on Twitter about working as a cam model with herpes. The tweet exchange was open, honest and positive.
We recently reached out to Boulder to find out more about her thoughts on STI shame in the cam community. Here’s what she had to say…
Check out our interview with Ellie Boulder — “Greywitch, Sacredslut: The Philosophic Ways of Ellie Boulder” — to learn more about her.
YNOT Cam: Do you think there is a lot of shame amongst models who have STIs? Do you think a lot of this is self-inflicted or because someone else has shamed them? Something else?
Ellie Boulder: I’ve witnessed a lot of shame and blame around STIs in this community. It’s probably a mixture of self-inflicted shame and other people shaming them.
In general, STIs also carry a pretty heavy stigma in society. Using the phrase “clean” to mean having negative test results and the phrase “dirty” to mean testing positive definitely contributes to this stigma. Of course, we don’t want to give other people an STI if we have one, and testing is normal and required for most of the industry when shooting hardcore and exchanging fluids. That doesn’t mean that STIs have to be shameful.
On the contrary, it’s completely okay for a person in this industry to be living with an STI like herpes. There are other STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea that can be treated easily and quickly with some meds.
In general, why should a model try to work through their shame?
Working through shame is such an important part of any person’s growth. The more we shame something, the more shameful it becomes. It’s a vicious cycle. If each of us — even those of us who don’t have an STI — work through why we might personally feel aversion and repulsion to the thought of a person with, for example, herpes, the more we can release our shame and educate others.
Most of us were scared of STIs when we were teenagers. This was the main tactic used to teach me abstinence, acting like STIs are the worst thing in the world, maybe even worse than death! I think a lot of the underlying cause is whorephobia. Statements like: “Only sluts sleep around and get STIs” or “Only good, respectable people are clean” mean society is equating STIs with being a bad slut, a bad person, a dirty whore.
I think a lot of sex workers want to distance themselves from this whorephobic, misogynistic perception by presenting themselves as “safe” and “clean” and are unwittingly contributing to it. If we can openly discuss prevention, living with STIs, testing and proper terms to use, the more we all learn instead of perpetuating the stigmas.
This means a few things. Educate yourself on proper terms to use, read new research from reliable sources and be sensitive to what people living with STIs have to say, particularly those with HIV and herpes.
Earlier this year, a lot of models chimed in when you asked for advice on behalf of another model who was ashamed of her STI. What was the overwhelming message that you read in these tweets?
I love our Twitter community because so many models replied with stories of how they were ashamed of their herpes. I was even surprised by how many models opened up about it!
Any advice models who have an STI could use from that conversation?
Herpes is a virus that can only be transferred when the other person has an outbreak.
I began learning because, in January 2017, I was raped by someone I didn’t know. He didn’t use a condom… When I went to the hospital, they gave me all the meds they could to stop any infection from happening, but the HIV meds (PeP: post-exposure prophylaxis) had to be taken over the course of 30 days, and I had to have regular blood tests. PeP has actually been around for quite a while, but PreP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is relatively new from the last few years. It lowers the viral load so one can have sex with a person who is HIV positive and not contract it.
I’m not an expert and I’m still learning, but my point is, in this day and age of information, there’s no excuse for being misinformed about STIs, especially if you are in the sex work industry.
YNOT Cam would embrace the opportunity to speak with a sex educator about STIs. If you’re a sex educator who is willing to be interviewed, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Header image background by Belle C from Pexels.