Smut Reporting

Let’s talk about chlamydia, or, don’t keep STIs taboo…

Last year Holly found a book titled Thank You, Chlamydia and, because Ingrid and I have Kindle Unlimited subscriptions but she does not, she, er, gently encouraged one of us to read it. Give me all the wild stuff, I said, and I read it. And it was really good!

Then, when I wanted to refer back to it later, I couldn’t for the life of me find the book anymore. At first I thought it was because the ‘Zon had pulled the book, which they do when KU books are pirated and end up free on other sites (so don’t do that!). But then Ingrid found that it had been re-released under the title My So-Called Perfect Life. Which, let me just put this out there, is waaaaaaay not as good a title as Thank You, Chlamydia. Why would I pick up a book titled My So-Called Perfect Life? Holly would never have suggested I do that. 

Now, I have no idea why the author actually pulled the book and republished it under a different title, but I have some guesses, and they make me really mad!

One is that something about the book or the title did get on the ‘Zon’s bad side and there was nothing the author could do about it. Which just makes me angry from a gatekeeping standpoint, but here we are living in a world of private businesses and fair is not particularly applicable when a business can decide what it wants to do within the confines of applicable business law. 

The (to me) more frustrating possibility for this shift is some of the reviews that I found under the original title. Full disclosure: I found the reviews on Goodreads because the Amazon page for the original publication no longer exists. 

About me: I don’t usually care about DNF reviews. These reviews can be informative! Or sometimes reviewers read the blurb and call out some problematic something. This is also informative! Short story, I might not like what some reviewers say sometimes, but every review isn’t for me, and I am fully willing to acknowledge that there is value in different kinds of reviews. 

That said, THE FIRST FIVE REVIEWS ON GOODREADS ARE PANNING THE BOOK BASED ON THE TITLE ALONE. None of my GR friends reviewed this book, so it’s possible that the algorithm might show you something slightly different, but…if that’s the first thing you see when you are looking into reading a book, how do you think you’re going to feel about the book after seeing those comments?

One of the commenters is merciless, citing the title of this book as an example of how this genre (romance) has hit rock bottom. Apparently Chlamydia is inappropriate even for a rom-com. 

Let’s discuss.

While HPV is the most common STI in the United States, the most commonly reported one is Chlamydia. It’s often asymptomatic, it can be transmitted to the same person more than once (bacteria – heyo!), and it’s easily curable with a course of antibiotics. And it’s extremely common among younger adults. Feel free to read this Chlamydia fact sheet from the CDC for all the deets. Or I’m also a fan of the Mayo Clinic, so you could read theirs instead. 

Now, one may think that sexually promiscuous people who don’t use protection are the ones who get chlamydia, so, like, they deserve it or something? Or it’s dirty and embarrassing, and only people who are dirty get STIs? 

I don’t even know. 

Actually, I do. It’s a holdover, hanging on for dear life, of the kind of sex shaming that believes that people who are promiscuous get the consequences they deserve for their behavior. 

That attitude does nothing but continue to stigmatize STIs, which are shockingly (or maybe really not so shockingly…) common. The notion that people who have STIs don’t deserve romance, or that romance and STIs are mutually exclusive is, frankly, repellent. Also, the stigmatization of STIs can prevent people from seeking proper health checks, treatment, and, importantly, from notifying sexual partners of the diagnosis. Which is a bummer. 

More to the point…

I’m not a healthcare…person. I review romance books and talk about romance-related…stuff. So let’s talk about what we see in romance. I am currently regretting that I have not not meticulously tracked which of my non-closed door protagonists used protection or how they used it, because that would be helpful right now, but if you are a romance reader you have probably read at least one book in which a protagonist fails to properly use protection. 

Maybe it’s a historical and prophylactics are dodgy at best. Maybe it’s a paranormal and somehow, in magic land, the characters don’t have to worry about disease or unplanned pregnancy. Maybe the protagonists are overwhelmed by their passion and forget…either to completion or to a pause for retrieval. 

Or maybe a protagonist pulls a condom out of a wallet, doesn’t check the expiration date, and tears the foil with his teeth. 

Just sayin’ – improper use of condoms can (and does!) result in more than unplanned pregnancies. 

Is it…could it be that – just possibly! – those protagonists could think they’re doing everything right? Are those stories – just possibly! – based a little bit on a concept of how those scenarios might play out in real life? Except for the wrapper tearing. There’s no way that turns out as sexy as it reads. Have you ever tried it?

Anyway, the ironic aspect of the Thank You, Chlamydia title is that Dani is doing everything right. She’s in a monogamous relationship with a long-term partner…who she finds out is cheating on her on their wedding day, so she goes on a bit of a grief/rage bender and hooks up with a stranger. And they (oops!) get a little carried away and have to back up to put the condom on before they, er, finish. When Dani finds out she has chlamydia, she thinks she got it from the random hookup at the bar (Obviously! She’d been monogamous so long she forgot for a moment and he was obviously a player!), but she actually got it from her ex. With whom she was not using protection BECAUSE SHE THOUGHT THEY WERE MONOGAMOUS. Her best friends are much more sexually active with different partners, but they aren’t the ones who end up on antibiotics. 

So…Does Dani actually deserve to be slut shamed for getting an STI?

Um, no. No one does.

Furthermore, from a strictly literary standpoint, having to go back to a one-night stand to let them know about an STI and then having sexual tension but being unable to act on it until the treatment is finished are actually not terrible ideas for forcing proximity but creating a little slow burn tension. 

Anyway, if you’re not going to like this book based on the cover, it should be because of the dude’s haircut, not because of the title….

3 thoughts on “Let’s talk about chlamydia, or, don’t keep STIs taboo…”

  1. Oh, this is very relevant to a blog series I’ve been doing, so thank you. And I am a nerd who keeps track of improper fictional contraception, and also things that are sadly unusual (for now) in fiction like lube. I am aware of an Erin McCarthy that references a prior to the book events experience with chlamydia, but like you hope that the list grows.


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