Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-1 & HSV-2)

Illustration by Valentina Valle Rojo from Pussypedia Illustration by Valentina Valle Rojo from Pussypedia

The following text uses the word “pussy*” as defined by Pussypedia.

by Patty McInnis

What’s going on?

Herpes (Herpes Simplex Virus of HSV) is a virus—just like any ol’ virus such as the flu or a common cold. It appears in the form of sores on the mouth or genitals. It’s transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, orally or by sex involving genitals. Oral herpes is called HSV-1 and genital herpes is referred to as HSV-2, but there’s no major difference in the viruses besides where they usually reside in your body (they occasionally swap places too). Long story short, herpes is about as big a deal heath-wise as a recurrent rash!1

The first outbreak will be the most painful, and can last anywhere from seven to 12 days.1 Any outbreak after that will be less painful, probably won’t cover as much skin, and will subside far more quickly.2 Of course, all these symptoms and the healing time depends on the person cause we’re all unique little beans!

Symptoms: The primary symptom of herpes are cold sores on your mouth or sores around your genitals that can look like zits or blisters.1 Like any rash, herpes may give you a burning or itchy feeling (resist the urge to pick at it because it will only prolong the sores and the pain!). Additionally, you may feel a fever or headache coming on, or see signs of genital swelling.2 Take it easy and bust out those rad sweatpants, you deserve it! (And yes, you can have herpes and not see or feel the symptoms—we’ll get to that later.)

Causes: Herpes is spread from skin-to-skin contact with infected areas usually during vaginal, oral, or anal sex and/or kissing.2 Oral herpes (HSV-1) can be spread from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex. The virus uses the resources of the host cell to replicate itself, potentially causing all that blistering, tingling, and pain. After this initial invasion, particles of the virus enter and travel along nerve fibers, and ultimately find their way to the sensory ganglion, a small cluster of cells, where it will remain, awaiting your next breakout.3

How Common is This?

Literally SO common! According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 have genital herpes in the United States.2 On a global scale, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that just under half a billion people between the ages of 15 and 49 have a genital infection.4 Approximately 67% of the world’s population, or 3.7 billion people, under the age of 50 have had an oral herpes infection.5

One of the reasons herpes spreads as much as it does is because there are people who carry the virus and don’t know they have it. Sometimes we self-diagnose incorrectly; “Oh, this strange little bump on my pretty parts is just a pimple, no big,” when really it’s a herpes sore. Further complicating matters, there are people with herpes who are asymptomatic, but still capable of spreading the virus through the same ways.3 So when in doubt, check it out.

How Can I Take Care of My Pussy*?

Testing: Healthcare providers may diagnose herpes by looking at your symptoms and/or testing a sample from the sore(s). Sometimes a blood test is used to look for herpes antibodies to determine if you have a herpes infection.3

Treatment: There is currently no cure for herpes, but there are plenty of ways to minimize breakouts and risk of transmission.3 There are three antiviral drugs commonly prescribed to prevent and shorten outbreaks:1

  • Acyclovir (brand name Zovirax)
  • Valacyclovir (brand name Valtrex)
  • Famciclovir (brand name Famvir)

If natural remedies are more your style:

  • Lysine (medical research has shown some but not conclusive benefits!)—an amino acid found in foods such as avocados, black beans, pistachios, quinoa, and more, could prevent the herpes virus from replicating itself in more cells. Lysine counteracts another amino acid called arginine that is needed for the herpes virus to replicate.6

Myth Busting: One of the biggest reasons people think of herpes as being dirty or some kind of end-all-be-all is because they simply don’t know very much about the virus. There’s been some interesting discussion surrounding that history of how the stigma developed if you want to take a peep at the resources below.

In general, staying ignorant about herpes whether you or someone you know has it is kinda like when you want to go out for pizza but aren’t sure if you have the cash. Maybe you have a gut feeling that you don’t have enough money in your bank account for a slice because of that extra drink you had last night at the bar. Instead of looking, you just settle for a box of mac and cheese and call it a night. Then later when you DO look, you see you not only could have bought a slice, but a whole pizza! Your fear caused you to miss out! Woulda been better to ditch the “I can’t, I think I’m broke” anxiety and be fully appraised on your financial standing, right?! RIGHT.

Knowing what you and a partner are working with is super important, especially if you’re about to engage in a sexual romp. Disclosing that you have herpes can be totally awkward at first, but the sooner you realize it’s not a scarlet letter, the easier it becomes! Disclosure could go a little something like this: “I got these glow-in-the-dark condoms when I was picking up my herpes medicine, so cool, right?!” Then you can answer any questions they might have calmly, drawing on all the herpes education you’ll have gifted yourself. Afterwards, congratulate yourself on taking one step towards deconstructing the negative juju associated with herpes!

Maybe you’re on the other end of that scale and you just found out you’re about to get down with someone who has herpes. Here’s some advice: DON’T BE A DUMMY. Remember that sitting in front of you is a person, no different than you. Questions are encouraged, but be respectful. In the end, remember that there are millions of people living their BEST LIFE and herpes is merely something they have, not something that defines them. So, chat it out, be safe and have a banging time.

Author’s Dedication: To Panewshka, may you continue to live your truth.


  1. Herpes Site: Your Online Personal Empowerment and Support. “Symptoms. Transmission. Outbreats/Triggers. Medical Treatments. Natural Remedies.” 1994-2017. <http://www.herpesite.org/herpes-signs-symptoms-incubation-prodrome/>.
  2. Planned Parenthood. “What are the symptoms of herpes?” Accessed 2018″ <https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/herpes/what-are-the-symptoms-of-herpes>.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Genital Herpes – CDC Fact Sheet.” Accessed 2019: <https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm>.
  4. Sauerbrei A. “Optimal management of genital herpes: current perspectives.” Infection and Drug Resistance. 9. (2016): 129-41. <https://read.qxmd.com/read/27358569/optimal-management-of-genital-herpes-current-perspectives>.
  5. World Health Organization. “Herpes SImplex Virus: Key Facts.” Accessed 2019: <http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/herpes-simplex-virus>.
  6. Gaby AR. “Natural remedies for Herpes simplex.” Alternative Medicine Review. 11(2). (2006): 93-101. <http://www.altmedrev.com/archive/publications/11/2/93.pdf>.
  7. Wodinsky, Shoshana. “Can We Get Over Herpes Already?” Salty. (2018): <https://saltyworld.net/can-we-get-over-herpes-already/>.

This article was previously published in Pussypedia and is reposted with permission.