You Need Help: We’re All Just People

Welcome to You Need Help! Where you seek advice and we try our very best to give it.

This has traditionally been done by way of individual Formspring accounts, Autostraddle’s Tumblr and a Formspring Friday column, which has all been very fun and insightful. But, because Formspring has a character limit and we’re wildly optimistic w/r/t our time-management skills, we thought we’d go one further and let you use our ASS private messaging to share advice-related feelings, too.

For more info on sending in questions, see the bottom of this post. Let’s get down to bossing people around on the internet! Today we help you deal with STDs, your perfect boobs and how to still be You when you are part of a We. Images for today’s post are mostly random because what kind of pictures go best with HPV and boob talk?? Exactly.


Laneia, I just found out I have HPV – one of the potentially cancer-causing strains. Now I feel like I can’t sleep with/date anyone until it clears up/maybe ever, because what if I give a girl cancer inadvertently? Who would even want me now?

Hello person person. You are not a walking STD. Does it feel like you are? You’re not. You’re a person. You are, in fact, a person not entirely unlike 20 million other people in the United States who currently have HPV, along with the other 6 million who’ll be diagnosed with HPV this year. I’m not saying that 26 million people having the same STD should make you happy, but it’s always nice to know that you’re not alone.

this is unrelated imagery that i really like

I called Planned Parenthood for you because I was going to say, “Hello, I would like to speak to a nurse person who can tell me whether or not a girl can get HPV from finger fucking another girl who has HPV. Thank you yes I’ll hold.” But my plan was thwarted when the only options were to either press one to make an appointment or press two to talk to someone in Admin. So! After combing through quite a few threads from teenage boys on Yahoo Answers and reading some really boring repetitive jargon on medical sites who don’t care that we’re gay, I finally found something that I think is as definitive as I’m going to get on the internet, from At the very least I think was like, the 3rd website to register on the internet, so maybe it can be looked at as a reliable source?

Here’s how HPV makes its rounds from one girl to another:

genital-to-genital contact
touching the genitals of a partner and then your own
sharing sex toys without cleaning them properly first

Mkay that’s pretty standard stuff, yeah? So you skip scissoring, no one touches themselves or anyone else until hands have been thoroughly washed, and all the sex toys get scrubbed before each person uses them. These things are not a big deal. This is actually how a lot of people who don’t have STDs have sex, just because they want to! Isn’t that neat? There’s nothing about mouth-to-vag contact, which is worrying w/r/t the accuracy of this article, but I hope it goes without saying that you’d need to use a barrier of some sort.

When we talk about safe sex, we always tell you about gloves, dams, sliced up condoms and washing your toys, so it’s not like these practices are totally out of left field. People do actually have sex like this — with barriers and caution — and it’s not weird. Also? It’s a lot better than having no sex at all.

What I’m saying is, your life/sex life isn’t over.

As you mentioned, sometimes (most of the time?) HPV can go away on its own. I don’t know how this happens and it makes very little sense to my small brain, but I’m not going to argue with science and good news. Not today, my friend.

But please please, the thing I want you keep in your back pocket forever is that you’re YOU. You’re not HPV or any other STD. You’re not just a girl or just an age or a race or a gender and you’re certainly not going to be defined by a fucking virus. I won’t let you.

This quote from Manifesta is about Jennifer Baumgardner’s experience with herpes, which is admittedly different from your situation, but the point is important:

I’m really open about having herpes — partly because I want to demystify the disease, but also because I refuse to be ashamed by it. Although giving the herpes speech to a new squeeze always makes me feel completely unsexy, I have never had anyone react badly.

So there. Who would even want you now? Plenty of people. The same people who wanted you before. Also new people. People have sex with people who have STDs! They really truly do. You are not a vagina hole wrapped in a torso topped with a head. You’re a person. And if someone is ignorant enough to think that you having HPV makes you ‘dirty’ or inherently unfuckable, she’s too stupid for you to sleep with in the first place.


I’ve stopped being myself and I am just her girlfriend now. How I feel about myself is in direct correlation to how much affection or attention she pays me. She loves me but she isn’t dependent on me. I feel like when I’m not with her I don’t exist.

Yeah this situation really sucks. I bet it sucks for both of you. Your girlfriend isn’t dependent on you because you’re so dependent on her, which sort of only leaves her with the option of being the one who is depended on. You have to get out of the house. I don’t know how frequently you get out of your house now, but however often it is, double it. Go to new places and do new things and do them without her.

you could go here, or to the zoo!

I realize this is easier said than done, but you can start small and work your way up to the more challenging challenges. The idea is to find pleasure / affirmation / validation from (positive) sources other than your girlfriend — like, yourself! — so you can see that the world does in fact need and appreciate you in very specific ways. I feel like if you’re proud of yourself, you probably won’t rely so heavily on her existence to define you. I mean, you were you before you even met her, so you’ve already proven that you can be a person without her, you know?

Ok so, starting small:

1. This will maybe seem hokey or basic, but think back to a time when you were super happy and independent. For me this was age 14 — I was inordinately in tune with my true self that year. I’d found Liz Phair and started reading better books, so I was basically unstoppable. Whenever I feel  misdirected or like a total loser, I think about the 8th grade version of me and what I can learn from her. For example, my 8th grade self has previously taught me not to think twice about trying new things (via that time in study hall when I colored streaks of my hair using blue and red Sharpies with great results) and that I really enjoy cooking, which I forget sometimes. Keeping these things in mind is like keeping myself intact. So think back to the version of you who was having more fun and didn’t need anyone’s approval, and see what you can learn from her.

2. Make a list of all of things you want or want to do and begin doing them. I mean, what kind of person do you want to be? Because you can be that person, you just have to do the things that person does. This is where inertia could kick your ass, but you’re not going to let it. I think teaching yourself how to knit or make soap — anything that yields a physical result you can be proud of — would be a good way to kickstart things. Then you can be all, “I made soap today motherf*cker, what now?” And the world will be like, “NICE WORK.” If you can make soap you can probably do anything. You can be king.

I feel like this is the cheesiest advice I’ve ever given anyone? Like it could be an ad campaign for Avon or something, but also I stand firmly behind it. I’ve been in your shoes and the only thing that got me out of that cycle was realizing that the most important person I needed to impress was me.


I feel so bad. I recently lost some excess weight, which I needed to and I did safely through exercising. But I’m left with flat and saggy boobs. I’m seeing my girlfriend again who has been gone for 6 weeks on a business trip. I’m so insecure about the way my breasts look I am dreading sleeping with her again. I don’t know how I can fix this in my head. Do I just act confident about the fact I have grandma tits and no grandchildren?

I’m putting this here because I want like 800 people to tell you how much you don’t need to worry about the sag/perk of your boobs. It’s hard to wrap your head around it — I know because I also don’t like my boobs and can’t imagine how anyone else does — but your boobs are hot due in large part to the fact that they’re boobs, period.

But a lot of girls I know feel less than confident about their boobs. Even though we all understand — probably you included — on a logical level that we only hate our bodies because of the patriarchy, and that it’s a stupid waste of time to even worry about what our breasts look like when we have brains to work on, we’re still sorta consumed with feeling like they don’t meet some imaginary standard. And I feel like there’s nothing I can say to dismantle that worry that you haven’t already heard before. You just have to internalize the fact that your body is normal and good. You know? Just POOF internalize it.

people take pictures of the weirdest stuff jeez

A friend who’s had the same experience as you — losing weight, losing cup sizes, worrying about her girlfriend’s reaction — talked to me about it, and I thought what she said was important so I’ve copy/pasted it for you here:

It’s confusing to lose weight and get healthier and yet STILL have body issues. You think it’ll solve all your problems, but it doesn’t. You have to learn love your body no matter its current geometric configuration. It took a while to come to terms that a person could love me and not a specific body part. My girlfriend loved my boobs because they were attached to this person that is me. Any other boobs on me are fine with her.

See that’s very smart. You have to think that way. Also, we’re all just people, ok? Bodies are weird and different and special and great, but it’s not like you had some say in what your boobs would ever look like. You don’t have these boobs because you couldn’t afford the expensive ones so you had to buy the cheaper boobs, or because you didn’t get your Master’s in Boobology and these are just your community college boobs. It’s not like it was a choice on your part, so there’s no reason for you to feel apologetic or inferior. These are your boobs! I’m clapping for you now. Boobs! Your girlfriend’s coming back and you get to take your shirt off in front of her! Isn’t life just the greatest?


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lnj has written 310 articles for us.


  1. To the girl with HPV: I do some sex education outreach stuff at my university and had lots of training sessions with the medical director of our wellness center.

    When we talked about HPV she said that for a majority of people with HPV or who show an abnormal pap smear, it clears up within a year or two. She said that standard practice is changing and that a lot of doctors will now wait it out and see what happens before taking any measures to try to get rid of it. Like Laneia said, it’s extremely common and probably pretty difficult to pass on during girl-on-girl sex. But yes, use protection. Always always. And don’t worry about it too much, really. Also, it’s very rare that it will turn into cervical cancer.

    I’m not an expert but I hope this gives you a little comfort. Also, here’s some really good information about HPV and cervical cancer:

  2. To the boobs girl. One of my teachers (chief gyno at the hospital in my city) told me something recently: in all his years of practise, he has not ONCE met a woman who was happy with the way her boobs looked, whether it be size, shape, nipples, whatever. So we think ours are “weird” or “ugly”, but the women next to you on that train are thinking the exact same thing about theirs.

    I’m thinking it has mostly to do with the imposed patriarchal view of how boobs should look (so basically, fake).

    Just relax. Your boobs are great.

    PS: not that I have a problem with fake boobs, if that’s what floats your boat. Love to all the boobs.

  3. I find these columns so comforting and helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to do them. Really.

  4. Re: Boobs.

    A while back I also lost some weight and my boobs were super weird looking. They look normal now. It’s probably because I put a little bit of (needed) weight back on (lost too much), but somehow they’re almost all better, no saggy skin stuff. I don’t know if that’s normal, but there is hope?

    In the meantime– I don’t know if this is a weird suggestion or whatever– why don’t you just have sex with a bra on for a bit? In the heat of the moment boobs in a bra can look just as sexy as boobs themselves, imo. But the main reason for doing so is that you need to feel comfortable again. I think once you’ve had really awesome sex you’ll feel fine about taking the bra off, kind of like training wheels!

    • this happened to me! (boobs becoming saggy then less saggy) i think boob skin is pretty elastic and once your boobs get used to being smaller they will get more normal looking. i know that sounds crazy but i really think it’s true.

  5. “You don’t have these boobs because you couldn’t afford the expensive ones so you had to buy the cheaper boobs, or because you didn’t get your Master’s in Boobology and these are just your community college boobs. It’s not like it was a choice on your part, so there’s no reason for you to feel apologetic or inferior. These are your boobs!”

    I recently realized that I have tuberous breast deformity and that’s why my boobs are strikingly different than most ladies’ breasts. I’m trying to wrap my mind around the fact that, medically speaking, my breasts are considered deformed and that all the stuff I can really find online is for boob jobs to “correct the problem.” So, thank you for that quote; different situation, but it clicked with me. These are my tits, damn it, and I’m not apologizing for them. They’re MINE.

    Besides, I have a GREAT nickname for them that wouldn’t be possible if they were the same size, so there’s that.

    (Sorry for the mini-rant, but thanks again Laneia!)

    • Hahaha, you two are right; my earnest apologies! Hopefully the long wait doesn’t make the answer a let-down, eh?

      Biggie Smalls would be the nickname in question. :D

  6. “It’s confusing to lose weight and get healthier and yet STILL have body issues. You think it’ll solve all your problems, but it doesn’t. You have to learn love your body no matter its current geometric configuration. It took a while to come to terms that a person could love me and not a specific body part.”

    ^THIS. SO. MUCH. And I’m still working on it.

    Great advice as always.

  7. still have wine in my glass and also the almost full jar of olives in front of me.
    you promised it’d be kinda long. but dude, it wasn’t long enough. it’s never long enough.
    and THAT’s what she said.

  8. This has given me a lot of boob-related feelings. Please excuse me while I venture out into the cold and ruminate over them.

    • It takes 6 months to become active. And it only protects against certain strains of both the cancer-causing and the genital warts-causing types. But everyone 26 and under should get it!!!!!!!!!! I scream it at all my friends.

      • Hey, do you know things about the vaccine? Because the thing is, before I joined the Peace Corps I didn’t really have any control over my healthcare situation, and now I’m in Peace Corps and I won’t get home until I’m 25, and so I can’t get it until then, and I’m wanting to know if that would be too late. Probably I should google it, but hi!

          • RPCV here, too! I actually had the option to get the vaccine while serving, though I wound up opting not to. I feel like if you don’t have HPV yet and you are still within the window of efficacy, it would be fine? (iamnotadoctor)

          • do i smell the beginnings of a peace corps straddlers group? it smells like hand washed clothes, bucket baths, and squat toilets.

          • Yeah, I got the vaccine when I was a volunteer, but they stopped that after my stage and made it a raffle. I’d ask your PCMO about it. If you request it they may be able to provide it to you.

            And I would definitely join that group. Is it weird that I miss my squat toilet? We bonded.

          • Somehow it never occurred to me that there might be other PCVs/RPCVs on Autostraddle! Let’s get an ASS group asap. I need someone to talk to about the old man on the street yesterday who yelled, “I LOVE YOU!” and winked broadly at me just as I was taking a drink and made me spray and everyone laughed.

  9. one boob, two boobs, me boobs, you boobs,
    big boobs, small boobs, old boobs, new boobs,
    this one has a little star
    this one has a little scar
    Say! What a lot of boobs there are!
    Some are pale and some are dark,
    and some boobs have some stretch marks
    From there to here,
    From here to there,
    Awesome boobs are everywhere!
    some are thin and some are fat,
    some are round and some are flat,
    Here are some that sag a bit,
    and here are some that don’t quite fit.
    Not one of them is like another,
    Don’t ask us why, go ask your mother.
    Oh me, oh my, oh me, oh my!
    What a lot of boobs to eye!
    They’re all so grand; they’re all so great,
    All boobs are undoubtedly first rate!

    From there to here,
    From here to there,
    Awesome boobs are everywhere!

    (with SINCERE apologies to Dr. Seuss)

  10. HOORAY FOR BOOBIES, especially yours, Gorgeous Question-Asking Straddler Number 3.

    Laneia, great answers all, but seriously, that last paragraph is pure poetry, not to mention sterling advice.

  11. “You’re not just a girl or just an age or a race or a gender and you’re certainly not going to be defined by a fucking virus. I won’t let you.”

    This is possibly the best thing that I have heard/read all week.

  12. whenever one has insecurities about their boobs, one should simply recall how they feel about boobs in general.
    if you have ever seen a pair of boobs and thought “ew gross” you need to look at your life, look at your choices.

  13. To the girl with HPV,

    I interned with my local Health Department with their HIV/AIDS Surveillance unit and I briefly got to do some counseling with patients who came into the clinic for STDs. Here’s what I learned/discussed through my time there. It’s difficult to hear that you have an STD but it gets better, and you can still have a functional sex life with an STD. A great percentage of the county I live in has some sort of STD. You’re not alone, and you can also visit your Health Department or Planned Parenthood for counseling, testing, and free condoms/dams. I’m not sure if it’s just at my local Health Department, but if you are unable to pay their fee, they will not turn you down. They want to help. They also always have free male condoms, female condoms, dental dams. But I’d say you should see your gyno/get a pap smear on a regular basis so that if you got cancer, it would be detected as early as possible. If someone doesn’t want to be with you because you have HPV, all I gotta say is that’s their loss! Hope that helps and sorry this is a wordy!

  14. “It’s confusing to lose weight and get healthier and yet STILL have body issues. You think it’ll solve all your problems, but it doesn’t. You have to learn love your body no matter its current geometric configuration.”
    Ugh. Yes. Also I swear to god every woman I know has never been happy with their boobs in any stage of weight loss or gain. We’re never happy with them, but usually everyone else is happy with them.

    • “We’re never happy with them, but usually everyone else is happy with them.”


      Whenever I am unhappy with someone’s boobs I am unhappy with the person who HAD THE BOOBS!
      Example: There was this attractive anti-gay girl in my glass. I looked at her boobs one random day and hated them while eating fries staring at them…bitch.

  15. Y’all…first of all, love this article per ushe. Second of all, for some reason, I can’t login to FormSpring…so, could you tell all the Baton Rouge lesbians out and about tomorrow? Like at Spanish Moon…pleeeeaase!

  16. Boob envy/disappointment in a patriarchal society reminds me of this:

    This is the song that doesn’t end,
    Yes it goes on and on my friend,
    Some people start singing it not knowing what it was,
    And they’ll sing singing it forever just because,

    • Dammit, it’s all fucked up…remove the last line I was too gay to function and I wanted to credit Lamb chops (fucking) play around….*ugh* add add add to original comment *smile* :D

      [Serious Comment]

      Boobs are legit different. It is also okay, really.

  17. I’d like to say re: #2 I pay a therapist twice weekly to talk about the same thing. Not necessarily that I’ve lost myself in a woman, I lost myself in depression. But the advice has been the same. Think of times when you were actually happy and what you were doing that made you happy and then do those things. And I am in a better place so far for it.

  18. Dear boob girl,

    I would like to tell you that I am huge fan of boobs — they are probs my shallow favourite body part on a partner — and i have dated a girl who had the exact same issues (really, really saggy boobs due to weightloss) and they were still a) boobs and b) my shallow favourite part of her. Because boobs, man!

    So if a boobaholic such as my fine self is in no way turned off by sagginess, just imagine how much your gf who likes/loves you is gonna care. She isn’t! Your boobs are just lovely, and they are attached to the loveliness that is you. Rock on.

  19. Also: re boob girl. Does your lady friend hate something about her body? Like maybe she has a poochy belly or a crooked nose or maybe some stretch marks or scars or pox marks or something? anything? I feel like most ladies really don’t dig their own bodies. But I’ve also found out that generally other people don’t care.

    I’ve never heard of anyone getting kicked out of bed because their partner was horrified by their naked bodies. And if some one DID kick their partner out of bed because of saggy boobs or because of stretch marks or scars or anything ever it isn’t because their body is wrong it’s because that person is an asshole.

    PS Breasts are the best thing in the world. I’m pretty fond of mine even though they haven’t been perky since I was like 15. No, really, I’ve been dealing with some serious sag since I was a teenager.

    PPS Here is a gallery of pictures of the boobs of regular people:

  20. The boobs question made me have all the feelings! I feel so uncomfortable with my boobs that the first and only time I hooked up with my girlfriend, I kept my bra AND shirt on. I didn’t even want her fondle them or anything lol But then I get to enjoy her boobs so that was awesome. Its like why don’t I make sense?

  21. Also also congratulations for making the choice to lose some weight, and achieving your own goal through healthy lifestyle…ing! :) that’s seriously a tough thing to do.

    You should be uber proud of yourself and your awesome boobs.

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