What’s Sex got to do with… Mono?

We all know that if you have sex, you have a chance of getting STD’s. This risk is surely higher within hookup cultures, where it is normal to have many partners, for anything from kissing to intercourse. We don’t always think about how a hookup culture could contribute to the spread of other diseases, like mono for instance.

According to webmd.com, college students are a high-risk group for contracting mono. Symptoms of this disease include fever, sore throat, headache, and fatigue. None of those sound particularly fun! This virus can’t be transferred by the air; it is usually transmitted through body fluids such as saliva, mucus, and tears. This means that sharing toothbrushes and eating utensils could infect someone, though it is often transferred through kissing; its nickname is the “kissing disease.” On a college campus where everyone lives in such close quarters and hookup culture is prevalent, it is likely to spread. Not everyone who is infected with the virus will show symptoms, and many people who have already been exposed may still be able to infect people–the virus can stay in your body for life.

The lack of symptoms is a major reason diseases like mono (and many STD’s) are spread so easily. In a hookup culture, people go to parties, drink alcohol, hookup with someone, and repeat it again a different night with a different person. All of these characteristics can increase the spread of symptom-less infections. Going to parties and dancing in close proximity to others, sharing cups with others (knowingly or unknowingly), drinking alcohol (which can weaken the immune system), and lots of different people kissing each other are all ways through which an infection can spread.

These situations take place here at Vanderbilt. There are instances in which drinks are passed out, the cups are collected, and then passed out again. Oftentimes the same cups are used for several games of pong, in which different people are playing. People will kiss in the middle of a packed dance floor, as well as in private. And have you seen the state of the bathrooms in the frat houses? It’s a germophobe’s worst nightmare! However, most students partaking in all of this hardly think twice about any of it (which alcohol probably doesn’t help). In addition, this year alone there has been a “Commons Plague,” so named for the large amount of freshmen who’ve contracted it, and several bouts of other sicknesses like mono, colds, and the flu.

Of course, plenty of students who don’t take part in partying or hooking up also get sick, and there are many other factors that contribute to a person’s overall health, like diet, exercise, living in close quarters with others in dorms, and attending classes and coming into contact with many other people. However, the practices that characterize hookup cultures and party scenes are conducive to spreading germs.

Could hookup culture and party culture be major factors in the spread of diseases? Is there any way to make these practices safer and cleanlier?

2 thoughts on “What’s Sex got to do with… Mono?

  1. Actually, some people take pride in having mono, though these people are usually in the younger crowd (think middle- and high-school). These minor diseases prove that you are “sexually active” or “getting some,” kind of similar to a hickey. The stigma of STDs, however, is worse. Both can indicate that someone is sexually active, but one is worse than the other and someone who has an STD will be treated differently than someone who just has mono. It’s weird how both diseases illicit different responses from peers.


  2. I think that with illnesses like mono, individuals must take some responsible because mono, as you mentioned, is normally the result of making out with or drinking after someone else. Maybe individuals should bring their own cups to parties? However, I do agree that hookup culture has exacerbated the spread of such illnesses.


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