Growing up in a conservative Christian community, STIs were portrayed as something that happens to people who stray from the right path: total and complete monogamy with 1 single person for life. Condoms are completely unnecessary to learn about under that model; in fact, buying condoms means you're planning to sin, so don't. When I left Christianity and monogamy behind, and joined polyamorous spaces, it would have been a good opportunity to be deprogrammed of this toxic mindset toward condoms.
However, that's not what happened. Instead of condoms and dental dams being stigmatized for their accessory to a sinful lifestyle, they were now stigmatized for their accessory to a relationship lacking in trust and intimacy. Instead of STIs being the wages of sin, they were now a sign of a dirty person. It's really difficult to unfuck one's own mind under those conditions!
Everywhere I turned, the pinnacle of polyamory was "getting" to have sex without a condom with "fluid-bonded" partners. A thin sheet of latex became the barrier surrounding a gated community, separating those deserving of intimacy from those merely allowed the scraps of the bountiful love of the privileged. Relationship rules were written up like homeowners association covenants, ensuring that any interactions with outsiders would be highly regulated in a way that would remind the newcomer of their inherent dirtiness and undeservingness of love and affection, as certain sex acts were elevated higher than others, only to be claimed as if by birthright by those with purest blood.
One of the major factors fueling the recent uprise in STIs is that people won't get tested or treated - the stigma is too great. Well, no wonder, when having one is treated like the Mark of Cain! When you stand to lose access to entire communities of support from even admitting you're capable of catching an infectious disease, where's your incentive for confronting something that frequently won't show any symptoms at all? (I know not everyone can afford medical care; however this is another way that communities could come together, and offer to cover the bill.)
Why is it so hard for us to stop using each other's bodies as tools for our own validation? Why do we insist that partners put our feelings before their own health? #abuseculture Fluid barriers need to become a primary way to show we care about each other's health. You're not a sexual cinnamon roll: too good for this condom, too pure. We need to stop treating people with STIs as less deserving of intimacy, rather than as being in need of accommodations and support.