STI shaming is a real thing, and it's not cool. Here's one woman's story.

She's overcoming shame and stigma in a big way.

What do you know about STI stigma? A new video shines a light on the work one activist is doing.

You might have heard about the "What's Underneath Project," a video series by StyleLikeU. Each video features people who, over the course of the video, take off articles of clothes while sharing stories about loving and accepting themselves.

The series has featured rock stars and actresses. Now, it features Ella Dawson.



All GIFs from StyleLikeU.

Ella Dawson is a fearless advocate in the fight against stigma — in her case, the stigma surrounding STIs.

STI is short for sexually transmitted infection, but you might be more familiar with the terms STD and sexually transmitted disease (there's a slight difference between STI and STD).

Ella has herpes. She's OK with it, and you should be, too.

When it comes to STIs, people make a lot of assumptions. Most of the time, they're way off base.

People often see STIs as something someone gets as "punishment" for sleeping around. But to Ella, slut-shaming and STI stigma are two sides of the same coin.

"For me, the work I'm doing is so shaped by my feminism and by my personal experience that I don't know how you can talk about STI stigma and herpes stigma without talking about slut-shaming," she says in her video.


In the video, Ella explains a relationship with a guy that quickly turned abusive because of that stigma.

Though he didn't immediately break up with her, he held Ella's herpes diagnosis over her head as a sort of trump card to excuse abusive behavior — and for a while, she says, it worked.

"Whenever he did anything wrong, it came back to, 'But I'm such a great guy because I'm staying with you,'" she adds. Spoiler alert: it turns out he might have been the one to give her herpes, not the other way around.



I wanted to learn how this translates to a wider audience, so I reached out to Ella to chat.

"As much as not everyone gets an STI, emotional abuse is so universal," she told me. "It's terrible and common and so hard to talk about. Especially that gross 'I can't be awful if I did this one moderately decent thing!' A healthy relationship isn't keeping score of positive and negative behavior."

"The only way I'm going to get through this is if I write about it ... if I let it matter to me in ways that are healthy," she said.

It's through her writing and her activism that Ella came to accept herself, which is pretty amazing.

"STIs are so stigmatized, they're seen as a reflection of someone's character, and the public feels entitled to information that they think shows who someone 'really is,'" she said.

"But everyone can get an STI regardless of their lifestyle or their morals, so STIs don't really tell us anything that we have a right to know. At the end of the day, the only people owed that information about someone are their partners and their doctor. I'm this public about my status because I want to be, not because I should have some scarlet 'H' on all my clothes."


For more of Ella's story, check out the full video below.

More

Brace yourselves, folks, because this is almost too friggin' adorable to handle.

A 911 call can be a scary thing, and an emergency call from a dad having chest pains and trouble breathing is no exception. But thankfully, an exchange between that dad's 5-year-old daughter and 911 dispatcher Jason Bonham turned out to be more humor than horror. If you missed hearing the recording that has repeatedly gone viral since 2010, you have to hear it now. It's perfectly timeless.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Image by Brent Connelly from Pixabay and sixthformpoet / Twitter

Twitter user Matt, who goes by the name @SixthFormPoet, shared a dark love story on Twitter that's been read by nearly 600,000 people. It starts in a graveyard and feels like it could be the premise for a Tim Burton film.

While it's hard to verify whether the story is true, Matt insists that it's real, so we'll believe him.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Can the teens do literally anything without being blasted? Apparently not...

Katie Cornetti and Marissa Bordas, two Pittsburgh teens, were involved in a car crash. After taking a sharp turn on a winding road, the car flipped twice, then landed on its side. The girls said later on that they weren't on their phones at the time. The cause of the crash was because the tires on Bordas' car were mounted improperly.

The girls were wearing their seatbelts and were fine, aside from a few bruises. However, they were trapped in the car for about 20 minutes, so to pass the time while they waited for help, they decided to make a TikTok video. They made sure they were totally fine before they started recording.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Approximately 10% of the population is left-handed, and the balance between lefties and righties has been the same for almost 5,000 years. People used to believe that left-handed people were evil or unlucky. The word "sinister" is even derived from the Latin word for "left."

In modern times, the bias against lefties for being different is more benign – spiral notebooks are a torture device, and ink gets on their hands like a scarlet letter. Now, a new study conducted at the University of Oxford and published in Brain is giving left-handers some good news. While left-handers have been struggling with tools meant for right-handers all these years, it turns out, they actually possess superior verbal skills.

Researchers looked at the DNA of 400,000 people in the U.K. from a volunteer bank. Of those 400,000 people, 38,332 were southpaws. Scientists were able to find the differences in genes between lefties and righties, and that these genetic variants resulted in a difference in brain structure, too. "It tells us for the first time that handedness has a genetic component," Gwenaëlle Douaud, joint senior author of the study and a fellow at Oxford's Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, told the BBC.

Keep Reading Show less
popular