In response to Wish I'd Known, I'd like to put in a word about being a "diseased fuck." I contracted herpes and warts about 16 years ago. The genital warts I got from one sex partner, and herpes was given to me by another, who later became my husband.
Despite these two STDs my husband and I have fared well. The warts were frozen off shortly after their discovery and never returned. The herpes occurred on my genitals only, and I've had a total of three outbreaks. The last one was 14 years ago on my honeymoon. Although I'm straight and monogamous, my immune system has been battered by too much fun--but I've never had a wart or a herp since. And my spouse never got warts from me.
Your letter arrived yesterday afternoon, and some hours later, while I was sitting in a darkened movie theater, my thoughts returned to you. The film my boyfriend and I were enjoying was a hundred-million-dollar metaphor for your struggle: just as you did not let those bugs--HPV and herpes--get you down, the brave young men and women of Starship Troopers weren't letting bugs get them down either. Of course, your bugs are internal and microscopic, and the bugs in Starship Troopers are external and enormous, but still, a metaphor's a metaphor, and this one is worth cutting director Paul "Showgirls" Verhoeven a little slack. I mean, the man is an artist. The Federation, a protofascist world government, is locked in a life-and-death struggle with Planet Big-Ass Bugs, which is clear on the other side of the galaxy. Rather than nuke 'em, the Federation sends a starship full of lily-white teenagers from Buenos Aires (?!) to Planet BABs with orders to shoot the great big bugs with great big guns. Technology has advanced beyond our wildest dreams, except for two things: prom dresses and bullets. At a dance before the kids enlist, girls of the future wear dresses you can buy off the rack at Marshalls. And the great big guns of the future shoot eensy-weensy bullets of the present, so when the troopers get to Planet BABs they are required to shoot each bug they encounter about a hundred thousand times! Since the bugs attack in waves of hundreds of thousands, the troopers are at a distinct disadvantage--all thanks to those crappy bullets! Were I the supreme leader of the Federation, I'd arm my troops with cans of hair spray and disposable lighters before I sent them into battle with those cap guns!
Anyway, one character in particular made me think of you, DFF. Carmen Ibanez (stuporously realized by Denise "Nose Job" Richards) is an ace pilot and the love interest of Johnny Rico (brought unconvincingly to life by Casper "Tiny Nipples" Van Dien). Late in the movie Carmen is stabbed through the chest--the left side, where the heart doth hop--by an enormous and very sharp bug leg, pinning her to the ground. Another bug is about to liposuck her brains out when Carmen escapes! And what of that sucking chest wound left by that easily foot-in-diameter bug leg? Does that slow Carmen down? SIR, NO, SIR! Heart and lungs miraculously spared, Carmen jumps up, shooting tiny bullets from her great big gun at the bug that done her wrong. Like you, Carmen does not give in to the bad bug energy or fall for the invincible-bug hype--she's a survivor!
Like Wish I'd Known, I felt totally fatalistic when I found out I had HPV. However, one day when I was getting a follow-up Pap test, the nurse-practitioner handed me an article from the American Social Health Association about the latest findings on HPV, and I was relieved to read that your immune system can get rid of HPV completely. There are worse diseases, and this is one you can live with. --Dealing With It
According to Sharon Broom of the American Social Health Association, a number of recent studies have shown that in roughly half of all cases, HPV over time appears to be "completely eliminated from the body." What's the catch? "While in some cases the virus does just go away," said Broom, "we don't know exactly why. I would not suggest that this is possible in every case." Interestingly, Miss Broom has not seen Starship Troopers. But if she had, she would know that while Rico is in love with Carmen and enlists to impress her, sadly Carmen is much more interested in flying her starship. Meanwhile, good-time girl Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer), in love with Rico, enlists to be near him. Rico and Dizzy get sent to basic training together--and a mean-ass, bug-stomping, take-no-prisoners kind of basic training it is! A tough-but-caring drill sergeant breaks a recruit's arm for no reason, then throws a bowie knife clean through another recruit to emphasize a point! When Rico fucks up during a training exercise, resulting in the death of a fellow recruit, he is sentenced to a public whipping! Hubba!
So how many lashes does Rico get? One hundred? Two hundred? Try ten! Little Iranian girls get 20 times that for showing ankle on the school bus! In the scene's favor, Rico is stripped, strung up, and shares a moment of homoerotic "here, bite this" bonding with his drill sergeant. If you don't want to see Starship Troopers but would like to see the whipping scene, wait: Rico's (brief) torment will soon be available on-line at the alt.sex.torture newsgroup.
WIK seems to be totin' around a whole piss-pot of shame. There's a question these days as to whether HPV is properly classified as an STD, since about half of all women who carry the virus show no symptoms. WIK is like a lot of STD sufferers, wallowing in self-pity. My advice to her is to pull yourself together! --Froggy
According to our Miss Broom, "HPV is definitely an STD." A good no-self-pity role model for WIK would be Dizzy. Rico rejects Dizzy--on prom night and in the coed showers at boot camp--but does Dizzy mope? SIR, NO, SIR! Dizzy keeps working on Rico and triumphs in the end, bagging her man just before the kids from Buenos Aires (?!) are sent to Planet BABs.
Dizzy is, of course, promptly penetrated to death by the same bugs that can't quite manage to finish off virginal Carmen. Like prom dresses and bullets, the action-adventure-movie rule that women who enjoy sex must die hasn't changed much in Verhoeven's imagined future. Dizzy is a woman with desires, so Dizzy must die. Carmen, a woman free of sexual desire, can't be killed no matter what the bugs do to her. At least Dizzy has the honor of dying in her man's arms. It was worth it, Dizzy tells Rico, refusing to wallow in self-pity even as she gasps for breath, her mouth filling with blood. Why? "'Cuz I got to have you," she tells Rico. Then Dizzy dies. And Carmen? Carmen will be back for the sequel.
If you have questions about HPV or other STDs, call the American Social Health Association's National STD Hotline at 800-227-8922. If you have questions about Starship Troopers, visit the alt.sex.torture newsgroup or call the National Organization for Women at 202-331-0066.
Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.