Well, this Usher story is certainly a mess.
But isn’t that what social media does best? In the context of the internet, “messy” is the term most commonly assorted with this kind of “drama,” which pulls people’s private lives into the spotlight, often with a lot of exaggeration. In this case, using the facts we have on hand, we could say that at least three things are unnecessary in this whole situation: 1. Suing someone over an STD, even someone who presumably has cash to burn (sorry) on a settlement, is probably not the best or easiest way to go about resolving such an issue. There’s a reason so much privacy and discretion is built into the testing and reporting procedures at sexual health clinics. 2. Usher’s sexual health — or really that of any celebrity’s — is none of anybody’s business but his own and his partner’s, so all the reaching and speculation being fueled by Twitter and gossip sites isn’t helping the situation, especially considering no one seems to know any actual facts aside from what each side is reporting.
But that’s the nature of the beast, as the saying goes, so here are the details that we know, and most importantly, what we can all learn from these unfortunate happenings in the life of the singer who gave us such hits as “Nice And Slow,” “U Don’t Have To Call,” and “Confessions.”
On July 19, gossip site Radar Online reported that Usher was being taken to court for allegedly having sex with a then-anonymous stylist and fan while knowingly infected with herpes. The report included alleged court documents that appeared to show Usher settled a $1.1 million lawsuit in 2012 after transmitting herpes to a sex partner. The documents claim Usher was diagnosed with herpes in 2009 or 2010. Of course, it wasn’t long before the story spread like a virus itself, jumping to other celebrity gossip sites like TMZ and Perez Hilton, and of course becoming the overwhelming topic of discussion at the digital water cooler, aka Twitter, with users chiming in with their own opinions and piping hot, uninformed takes.
Following the initial outburst of speculative journalism, more reports surfaced of two other accusers — one of them a man. This shouldn’t really be a surprise; after all, one of the “insults” most commonly levied against male sex symbols is the accusation of homosexuality, so the story is “believable” inasmuch as people have heard it enough times, so the (fallacious) conclusion is that it simply must be true. Of the three accusers, two have remained anonymous, but the first, stylist Quantasia Sharpton, who is apparently not the woman from the initial lawsuit, held a press conference in New York along with celebrity attorney Lisa Bloom, who is representing all three plaintiffs, to share her story.
According to a CBS News summary of the story, Sharpton said she met Usher “a few years ago” at a concert, when she was celebrating her 19th birthday. She said she was selected to go backstage before the show, and that when she had sex with Usher later, he did not warn her that he had herpes. While she has tested negative for herpes, she says she had a right to know. She said, “Although I am negative, I was upset by the reports because I would have never consented if I had known.”
Usher, for his part, denies ever actually having sex with Sharpton or the others, and also denies ever being diagnosed with herpes. Outlets such as HipHopDX are now digging up dirt on Sharpton, and seemingly the whole world has an opinion on the singer and his current sexual health status.
Here’s the thing, and let me also reiterate: It is none of our damn business. Not one ounce of it. The fervor is understandable, because it is a salacious tale that involves a famous person, which means it feels like something that happened to someone we all know. It’s ripe for gossip material, but there’s just one little problem. Science tells us that beyond providing “emotional catharsis and social control,” sharing gossip may be “an essential resource for self-evaluation.” In other words, we’re supposed to learn something about ourselves from it, and use the information to improve how we live our lives.
The one big takeaway that really seems to be applicable to all our lives in this: Get tested, regularly and often. Know your status, so that you can protect yourself and your potential partners from infections that can range from treatable-but-irritating to outright deadly. Keep in mind as well that knowingly exposing another person to an infection, whether they contract the disease or not, can be illegal in some states, besides being an asshole move in the first place. Last but not least, it really doesn’t matter who that potential partner may be, working class joe or worldwide celebrity, use a condom or keep it in your pants. It’s just not worth the risk of never again being able to sing “Let It Burn.”