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The Non-News That Is Usher’s Herpes and Why We Have To Do Better

To be honest, I’m listening to the Confessions album and the lyrics on “That’s What It’s Made For” have always made my moist places dry up. It’s not just the one track but so much about the whole soundtrack to woe-is-me condomless philandering that really just makes me want to take my partner and myself to the clinic. If we’re being real with ourselves and each other, having listened to him for twenty years and watched his infidelities play out, we’ve all known Usher to be as much of a thot as he is a singer. And as sex positive as I am, with general respect for hoes doing hoe things, he could never bring his ego over here. It’s just that I feel like I’ve dated a few of his type and every time I had to get that shot in my shoulder. The sex was never worth the discharge or the needle.

We’ll get to B. Scott’s role in all of this shortly, but first I have to be clear that I can’t defend anyone knowingly or willfully transmitting STIs to their sexual partners. With that said, I also can’t victimize or defend anyone who acquires an STI from consensual unprotected sex. I couldn’t even victimize myself ten years ago with my HIV diagnosis and believe me I tried.

It’s a hard pill to swallow or, in the case of Usher’s ex, maybe a lifetime of pills to swallow. Of course, my lifetime of pills would be much easier to swallow if they came with a 1.1 million dollar apology. I was putting myself at risk for sales associate dick, but I digress. We heal if we’re lucky, learn, and we do better. Well, some of us.

We can’t really discuss the allegations of Usher recklessly transmitting genital herpes though, without discussing everyone’s personal responsibility. No doubt, the self assured “disease-free” who get tested maybe once yearly will shake their heads and tweet self-righteously, but I have to call a few things out.

It’s way too easy to assign blame in these situations, to absolve others of their personal sexual responsibility in ways that we too would want to be absolved in similar circumstances. Sometimes when we agree to play without the necessary precautions, we pay in unfortunate and unexpected ways. There is no victim here, only people who each lost their gambles at different times. To argue otherwise is a slippery slope of ableism and stigma down into the criminalization of health conditions, especially conditions like herpes and particularly HIV. In a society where preventative healthcare and the necessary tools for good sexual health aren’t entitlements and remain financially or otherwise inaccessible to millions of people, this becomes a conversation about the rest of us who are far more than a dick’s length removed from the Usher Raymonds of the world maintaining our health and preventing easily acquired infections. Any of us could get herpes tonight if we don’t unknowingly have it already, considering the statistics.

We can’t keep having the same surface level discussions about sexual health, dripping shame and stigma. Better yet, we can’t keep willingly having the same raw sex and blaming everyone else when we end up looking like those slides from ninth grade sex ed. You remember those damn slides on the overhead projector.

Usher should have been taking the necessary measures to reduce the likelihood of spreading his condition and been straightforward about his diagnosis, absolutely. Gotti told you before that men lie, women lie though. See the problem is folks don’t listen and the cost for not listening or paying attention can be Valtrex.

Now for the flawlessly beat face but utter lack of substance that is B. Scott…

It’s hard enough living with a chronic condition, especially one that’s sexually transmitted, without attention-thirsty media personalities fueling prevalent stigma. Imagine being a genderqueer Black femme with a large following but allowing your platform to be used to share folks’ private health information to shame them, when you could be addressing literally anything else. Now, that’s the type of condition I don’t want to catch. There’s no pill for a lack of ethics and in the age of social media that’s a communicable disease too, fam.



Francisco-Luis White is an Afro-Latinx writer and advocate, paying too much rent for a basement in D.C. They have a collection of poems forthcoming from Indolent Books.