After messaging with a man on Tinder for about a week, a Las Vegas woman decided she wanted to sleep with him. She shared with him her recent S.T.I. test and asked for his — a standard practice for her — but pretty soon she noticed something strange about the document.
At first glance, everything seemed fine. He had tested negative across the board, but she quickly spotted several red flags, such as that he’d taken the test at a laboratory she had never heard of and that it had been administered by a doctor named Miyamoto Musashi.
(In case the name doesn’t ring any bells, Musashi was a 17th-century Japanese swordsman famous for creating his own fencing technique.)
“I really was looking forward to spending time with him,” said the woman, a 24-year-old OnlyFans creator who makes explicit videos and goes by Sage the Flame. Because of her work, she is vigilant about her sexual health and is tested every two to four weeks.
“I feel like had it not been for my profession, I probably would have been less likely to realize that this was a fake test,” she added.
With $20 and just a couple of clicks, anyone can generate a fake S.T.I. panel boasting negative results for a riot of infections. Websites offering fake panels often include disclaimers saying that the fake test results are to be used exclusively for pranks and gags.
“The panels we create are purely for entertainment purposes only,” according to one such website. “We are not medical professionals. They are in no way intended to give any actual indication of any medical condition.”
A representative from another website, FakeSTDTest, said in an email that the site had never had any complaints that its fake tests were being used maliciously, and that the site was “not concerned” about its legal liability.
“In addition to a strong disclaimer, our gag tests are clearly labeled as inauthentic,” the representative said, adding that anyone hoping to use one for deceptive purposes would soon find that the panel “would not stand up to inspection.”
Despite the disclaimer, it’s impossible to know a user’s real intent. And while fabricated S.T.I. tests most likely aren’t a widespread issue, what does their availability mean for those in the dating pool who take a “trust but verify” approach to safer sex?
Sage said that the man from Tinder initially resisted taking a test when she asked, but that he eventually said he would do it if it was something she seriously required. When she called him out for lying, she said, he was “alarmingly nonchalant.”
“He didn’t get angry or anything,” she said. “He just seemed like it was just a joke for him. And he never really ever took full accountability for it.”
She later uploaded a video on social media describing her experience and instructing others on how to spot fake S.T.I. tests. She even went on one of the websites and created her own fake test to confront him with in case he denied it. The doctor’s name she used was “Your Girl,” and the testing location was “Up Ya Butt.”
“When I sent it to him,” Sage recalled, “he was like, ‘All I see is negative, negative, negative,’ and then put laughing emojis.”
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that diagnosed cases of certain sexually transmitted infections were on the rise in the United States.
In another instance of deception, a third-party service wasn’t used. Instead, the man created the fake test results from scratch.
Daniela, a 27-year-old music student in Berlin, recalled once asking a friend “with benefits” to provide an S.T.I. test after he suggested that they start having sex without a condom.
The man, whom she had been seeing at that point for about a year, claimed to be allergic to latex, according to Daniela, who requested that her surname not be used because she was sharing intimate dating experiences. Because she was on birth control, she was open to the possibility. Still, she was adamant that they remain sexually exclusive, which he agreed to, and that he provide a full negative panel.
Except the test was fake. Months later, after they ended things, he admitted that he had created the fake test himself to earn her trust instead of going to a clinic. He continued to insist that he was infection-free.
“I just felt really scared because it was like, OK, if he hasn’t checked himself in a while and he doesn’t know, I might have something,” Daniela said. She immediately took a test, the results of which were negative, and she now makes it a point to go to the same clinic with her potential partners and be tested together before engaging in intercourse.
“That way I’m going to know that it’s not fake,” she said.
According to Carrie Goldberg, whose New York law firm sues sexual predators and the tech platforms that can facilitate their abuse, society’s continued stigmatization of sexually transmitted infections plays a huge role in people’s reluctance to admit that they are infected or to even be tested.
“The majority of sexually transmitted infections are very treatable and don’t necessarily interfere with regular sexual behavior,” Ms. Goldberg said in an interview. “But they are so judged, and people who have them are so ashamed, that this market has emerged to capitalize on that shame.”
Ms. Goldberg’s firm makes it a point not to take on cases in which the central claim is unintentional transmission of an S.T.I. because of how such cases can contribute to the stigma, she said, adding that she was more interested in the legality of companies whose products are used to deceive.
“I’m interested in the liability that this company would have if somebody was injured from a deceitful sexual result and relied on a test that the company made,” she said.
On forms featured on two of the most prominent fake-test websites, infections such as H.I.V. and herpes are not listed as options on the panel, which includes other illnesses like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Ms. Goldberg said the absence of these particular infections, for which there are treatments but no cures, signaled that the sites’ operators might have some concern about their legal exposure. (According to the FakeSTDTest representative, that site has never offered the option of including an H.I.V. result on its gag tests.)
Sage said that most of her followers were shocked by her video, which touched off a vigorous discussion in her comment section. She said it opened her eyes to how deception of this nature could be considered as a breach of consent, or even a form of sexual assault.
“Sometimes people have real malice in their heart, and they just don’t care about their own health or the health of others,” she said. “So I think that there are a number of reasons that range from really malicious things to just not having the time or whatever and not caring.”