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I'm not supposed to kiss through Saran wrap, am I?
May 15, 2009 9:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to enter the college dating scene - or sex scene, I guess. I know to always use condoms - but what about kissing? I know diseases can spread orally, but I never hear about anyone worrying about kissing.

Is there something that I somehow have never realized? Lets just assume that I will be having at least one one night stand, or same-person-every-now-and-then in my life: do I kiss the other person? What do people generally do anyway - avoid deep kissing, and just do light pecking kisses?

In the past, I've only kissed and had sex with boyfriends. I am totally at a loss when it comes to the kissing protocol of casual dating.

FWIW, I'm a straight girl - though if the opportunity presented itself and was awesome enough, I wouldn't mind kissing another girl.

Throwaway email: tempmefimail@fastmail.fm
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total)
 
No one worries about spreading diseases by kissing.
posted by delmoi at 9:52 PM on May 15, 2009


Forget kissing (although, yeah, you can get all kinds of stuff from that); there are plenty of STIs for which the goggles (i.e. condoms) do nothing.

Thing #2: Just because you're going to college doesn't mean you're going to be getting laid like crazy. (If only!) Don't believe everything you see in movies.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:53 PM on May 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


Yea, the only time I would worry is if you have an active cold sore/fever blister, or if your partner does. Otherwise, I've never known anyone who worried about kissing.
posted by cabingirl at 9:54 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


(I should clarify: By "forget kissing," I meant it's nothing to be too concerned about, and not that you shouldn't do it.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:55 PM on May 15, 2009


I'm a college student.

I think your biggest fear as far as kissing would be mono. Mono kind of sucks, but kissing is totally worth the risk.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 9:55 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


“No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.”
Gone With the Wind – Rhett Butler (Clark Gable)

You can catch a cold and the flu by kissing. You can catch oral herpes by kissing. You can also catch passion and looooove and excitement and butterflies. It's worth the risk to most people.

Also: don't worry about labels (i.e. straight / gay).
posted by barnone at 9:59 PM on May 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm in the second half of my college years.

If you're an incoming freshman, trust me, you will not be getting laid as often as you think, because you will be too busy studying. Movies about college are bullshit . FWIW, I have not gotten laid even yet, though generally because I don't go around screwing people I'm not attracted to and because I am busy. Stay away from everything other than your classes and studying and maybe a club or two on campus and maybe your orientation crap and you should be fine. (College is great. At the same time, some of the shit the student societies put on is counterproductive. Grow some gonads and be confident, productive, get good grades, and tell the Greeks, for example, to go fuck themselves.)

Sys Rq, the goggles usually only do nothing for critters that lurk in pubic hair.

Don't worry! You'll be fine.
posted by kldickson at 10:04 PM on May 15, 2009


The probability of contracting HSV-1 through kissing is small, but not zero. There's about a 50/50 chance that any potential partner has HSV-1, and it's not clear whether you're more likely to get infected when they have a visible sore or when they don't.

Mouth or genital kissing can spread herpes. Kissing on the forehead, ears, toes, and even nipples will almost certainly not. Herpes likes moist areas.

In my experience, people seem to be relatively unconcerned about catching HSV-1 from kissing, though I've always had an STD talk with a partner before things get more intimate. If you're really concerned about it, it's totally okay to ask someone about their status before you kiss them, and if they have HSV-1 (and, presumably, you do not), it's also totally okay to ask if they're on antivirals. You also can ask to see recent STD test results--and you should have your own with you to share, as well. Doesn't matter if things are just starting to get interesting and you think an "STD talk" detour might make things awkward. Yeah, it will, but you'll both feel more comfortable after you've had it, and you can get right back to the fun parts. Up to you whether to do it before or after you start kissing. If you *are* HSV-1+, on the other hand, I think you have a responsibility to disclose this to anyone before you kiss them.

I also think it's just generally good practice to discuss STD status with any new partner, whether you think this one is The One or just an ONS, and whether you're using barriers or not. The earlier, the better. If you're practicing serial monogamy, get yourself tested every time you switch partners. If you're involved with multiple partners (lucky you!), get tested on a regular basis. Keep everyone you're involved with informed about your status. Demand the same from them. Remember, condoms can break, and they don't prevent transmission of all STDs, just most of them. In my experience, this kind discussion is not common practice among college students--probably because high school sex ed classes don't tend to teach pragmatic risk mitigation strategies--and that's really a shame.

I think that casual dating kissing protocol varies from person to person and situation to situation. It's hard for me to imagine jumping into bed with someone for the first time without having a passionate make-out session first, but others may want to get right to it. You might meet someone really hot and go right back to their place on the first date for some fun. Or maybe one or both of you wants to take it slow, and you don't even share a chaste little peck until the 3rd date.

It's all good, as long as everyone's happy and safe. Never be afraid to talk about what you want or what you're concerned about with any partner, whether they're a random hook-up or a soul mate.
posted by brain at 10:23 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thing #2: Just because you're going to college doesn't mean you're going to be getting laid like crazy. (If only!) Don't believe everything you see in movies.

Heh, did you miss the part where she said she was a girl? She's obviously going to get laid as much as she actually wants, although it might not be as much as she might imagine it's manly a question of how picky she wants to be. Of course at my school there was a gender imbalance, so it was much easier for girls to find guys then the other way around.

If you're an incoming freshman, trust me, you will not be getting laid as often as you think, because you will be too busy studying.

That really depends on the person.
posted by delmoi at 10:25 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


"If you can’t handle the possibility of getting a minor skin disease, then this game is not for you."

But yeah, in general, people don't seem to worry much about this stuff. Even condoms, really.

I'd totally recommend the HPV and Hep B vaccines, tho.
posted by trevyn at 10:41 PM on May 15, 2009


In my experience, people seem to be relatively unconcerned about catching HSV-1 from kissing, though I've always had an STD talk with a partner before things get more intimate. If you're really concerned about it, it's totally okay to ask someone about their status before you kiss them, and if they have HSV-1 (and, presumably, you do not), it's also totally okay to ask if they're on antivirals. You also can ask to see recent STD test results--and you should have your own with you to share, as well.

Has anyone in the history of college seriously ever done this before kissing someone?

When you say "it's totally okay to ask someone about their status before you kiss them", do you mean "this is the right thing to do", or do you mean, "the other person will find this completely unsurprising and not weird at all"? Because if you mean the latter, again I have to ask: really?
posted by kosmonaut at 10:45 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Be prepared for people to think you are a whackjob if you have a conversation about STIs before you even kiss them. If someone is looking for casual sex, they want it to be casual, not an interrogation. One night stands are not that difficult to find, and unless you're just completely awesomely hot, they'll just move on to someone else who won't give them such a hard time. Plus, they can always LIE, and if you have multiple partners, it's difficult to know who it was that infected you.

So, take it easy. If there's mutual attraction, go ahead and kiss unless one of you has an obvious sore. If you want to go farther, insist on condoms (and maybe another method of birth control). You can certainly ask if they've been tested for STIs, but I wouldn't place any bets on the answer. I would definitely get tested yourself on a regular basis (say every six months).

Also, whether you're kissing a girl or a guy is completely irrelevant to the question of STIs, so maybe there's another question you really want to ask?
posted by desjardins at 11:05 PM on May 15, 2009


Oh, and unless it's a bible school, your college should have a health clinic on campus with lots and lots of information about STIs. You can almost certainly make a confidential appointment to talk with a nurse or doctor about your concerns, or they may have educational workshops available.
posted by desjardins at 11:07 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


@kosmonaut I think most college-age folks don't even know you can transmit things other than colds and mono by kissing. I certainly didn't, until I overheard some guy complaining, "man, I made out with this hot chick at the conference, but she gave me oral herpes!"

The odds of transmission from a single kiss being small as they are, one might make the pragmatic choice to defer this conversation until clothes start coming off. Nothing wrong with this, either. I've never inquired about anyone's status before kissing, but I have had it disclosed to me beforehand--by someone much older than the average college student.

And since I think most young college students aren't even aware of such things, a pre-kiss question would most likely be met with blank stares or "whut's HSV?", and then you have to ask them if they get cold sores, etc.

Ultimately, whether you want to risk weirding-out your partner is up to you. Personally, I think that anyone who decides they're not interested just because I asked about the possibility of getting an incurable (if minor) disease from them isn't worth my interest, either.

So, surprising? Weird? Probably. On the receiving end, I'd consider it a good surprise, an indication that I'm about to start playing with someone who plays it safe. And I think weird is sexy. But that's just me.
posted by brain at 11:20 PM on May 15, 2009


Heh, did you miss the part where she said she was a girl? She's obviously going to get laid as much as she actually wants

Eh, let's just say that's an innacurate overgeneralization.

OP: Don't worry about kissing and don't interrogate the person if you're looking for casual sex and friends with benefits scenarios. But it's okay to not have one-night stands and casual sex too if you feel more comfortable within relationships. There's no pressure. I'm saying this because it seems like you might feel, in calling it "the college dating scene" that there's some expectation that life will be full of wild, casual sex (and it very well might be), but you also seem a tad unsure at the same time.

That said, more troublesome than kissing is oral sex. Don't neglect safety on that front, as you can catch STIs without some sort of barrier present.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:59 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Come to terms with the fact that you will probably get mono, if you have not yet gotten mono. During college, excepting those who kissed absolutely nobody and/or had already had it in high school, the vast majority of people I knew got mono.

And, yes, there will probably be a lot of kissing. Just think of it as a long, extended course in teaching your immune system how to cope with challenges. It doesn't show up on your transcript, but there will probably be a transcriptase or two involved!
posted by adipocere at 1:36 AM on May 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know like 3 people in my life who have gotten Mono. I don't think you need to assume you are going to get mono.
posted by sully75 at 3:06 AM on May 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


Come to terms with the fact that you will probably get mono, if you have not yet gotten mono. During college, excepting those who kissed absolutely nobody and/or had already had it in high school, the vast majority of people I knew got mono.

What the hell? Just because there was an outbreak or something of a particularly virulent strain when you were in school don't mean everyone will get it. I don't know anyone who's had mono, or told me they've had mono.

According to this:
Data collected more than 30 years ago on the incidence of infectious mononucleosis show the highest rates in persons 10 to 19 years of age (six to eight cases per 1,000 persons per year).2,3 The incidence in persons younger than 10 years and older than 30 years is less than one case per 1,000 persons per year,2,
So the poster has a 99.2% - 99.4% chance of not getting mono in a given year between the ages of 10 and 19, so if we assume that the likelyhood is about the same in the early 20s, the chances that the someone would get mono is just 2.4% - 3.2%. In other words she will probably not get mono. In fact, it's very unlikely that she will.

Mono itself. is not that common, although the virus that causes it is.
posted by delmoi at 3:18 AM on May 16, 2009


As a former college rower on a co-ed club team of 110-150 people (55%/45% female), we spent *a lot* of time together. That meant that we were all close, and dating/hookups happened frequently. Now, a boat consists of 8 guys (with a tiny cox - ha!), and it wasn't uncommon in the space of a year for two people on the same boat to have dated the same person on a different boat. Chances are, there was some *light* sleeping involved.

My point: think of sex in terms of 6 degrees of separation, just realize college is closer to 2-3 degrees. If you hang out with them, and date more than 2-3 people per social organization, chances are you are just 2 degrees from sleeping with your entire team.

This means: be picky about who you hang out with and who you date, and make sure your friends stay clean and safe as well. Date, kiss, always get your own drinks at parties, leave quickly if the party is 75% men, and have sex if you want it. Date heavily in as many social circles as you feel comfortable keeping up with the STI gossip.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:43 AM on May 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's take the cited numbers for mono at face value and pretend the 1 in a 1,000 is true for the first ten years of life, the 7 in 1,000 is true for the next ten, and then back down to 1 in 1,000 in for the remaining, oh, fifty years of life.

So, in your first ten years of life, your chances of not having mono would be .99910, or about .99004488. Then, in the next ten years, your chances of not having mono would be .99310, or about .93216434. Finally, in your remaining fifty years, your chances of not having mono would be .99950, or about .95120562.

This would give you a combined lifetime exposure which says that your chances of not having mono in all that time would be .87785, or 12.2% of catching it over your whole life.*

Unfortunately, that number is the chance that you'll show up at a physician's office and have a case of mono diagnosed, not the chance that you'll actually have an Epstein-Barr infection, which may or may not suck enough to send you off to the infirmary.

"Mono is not a rare disease, as 95 percent of people will get it during their lifetimes. By age of 5, about 50 percent of children in the United States have already been infected." This is where I mentioned that you won't get it if you already had it in high school (or earlier).

"EBV is a common virus that scientists estimate has infected 80 percent of people aged 40 or older sometime during their lives." Now, combine that with "Seventy to 80 percent of all documented cases, however, involve persons between the ages of 15 and 30" later in the same article.

There's a difference between "cases of mono," which is someone showing at a physician's office and a diagnosis being made on the basis of tests and a report being filed somewhere, and just getting mono. Mono is fairly underdiagnosed, especially in kids, but it can be in teens as well. Most people think they have a crappy, crappy "bug," sleep a lot for a week, and then go on with their lives. Some figure it out, they don't visit the doctor because they know that there's not much to be done. They don't get filed as cases. If you grabbed them off the street a few months later, maybe you'd find antibodies, maybe not. My friends who got it were pretty sure what it was, but did not bother to hit the infirmary, so they were never counted as cases of mono. When I got it, I got the ass-kicking variety, so I am on file with the CDC probably as a case of mono.

I guess what I'm getting at is that, with that kind of infection rate, you've probably already had it. If you do get it, it probably isn't the kind of month-destroying deal most people paint it as: little m mono, not Big Scary Mono. Maybe delmoi and I are talking about the same thing, EBV-infection versus Big Scary Mono.

You'll probably get some colds that way, too. These things happen. People are basically awash in various other critters, right down to the dust mites in your eyebrows. You can think of it as freaky and gross, or you can think of it as two beautifully complex ecosystems merging for a second and exchanging flora and fauna.

You know, two ships passing in the night, only this time, some stowaways switch boats.

* Any math errors may be attributed to being up in the middle of the night, floating point errors in Microsoft's notoriously-twitchy Calculator program, and hubris, though not necessarily in that order.
posted by adipocere at 5:39 AM on May 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell, very few people allow their worries about mouth germs to get in the way of kissing. And while certainly condoms are imperfect (they feel crummy, they don't prevent 100% of diseases, nor do they prevent 100% of pregnancies), they are a lot smarter than the alternative of letting it all hang out.

You may be surprised, though, at how many of your fellow college students, who have sat through dozens of safe sex lectures and who have access to baskets of free condoms in every dorm, will still choose to have bareback sex at every opportunity. Yes, you personally should not let this impact your own choices about your safety -- but you can't assume that your partners will be making the same choices you would in other settings.

In other words, I knew no one who got mono in college, but I knew lots of people who picked up one or another STD, and each of them was genuinely surprised and shocked about it. And since the comment above about two or three degrees of separation is true (at least at a smaller college), it becomes really important for you to have the courage and self-sufficiency to make your own choices, rather than going along with what your partner wants.

But really, I wouldn't worry about the kissing.
posted by Forktine at 6:06 AM on May 16, 2009


I had mono in college. No STIs though. Er, and I kissed people. Wouldn't worry about the kissing anyway.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:43 AM on May 16, 2009


I got mono in college. I still give my boyfriend (who was my boyfriend back then) shit about it because he most likely gave it to me. It sucked, but it wasn't the end of the world. Most people have already been exposed to mono before they get to college, at an age where mono doesn't usually cause illness, or they got sick with it in high school, so you only get sick if you're exposed and weren't exposed when you were younger.

Don't worry about kissing. Unless the dude (or chick) has a cold sore. The STIs people get orally don't come from kissing people's mouths usually, if you know what I mean.
posted by ishotjr at 9:00 AM on May 16, 2009


1. Not every girl can get laid any time she wants just by owning a vagina. Dear lord, no. It is not that easy.
2. I have known a whopping 2 people (and I have spent the last 12 years around college students) who had mono. It is not that effing common.
3. Do not make out with someone who has a cold sore.

Beyond that, well... as others pointed out, college is not really an atmosphere (well, nowhere is, really) where one can discuss their fears of catching an oral STD and using a dental dam. People do not worry about kissing. This will just not happen, ever. If you're going to get physical with anyone on any level, you will be taking the risk of possible mono, or oral herpes, or a freaking cold. Or not. "Protection" really only boils down to the genital area, specifically the guy's, and assuming you can find a guy who doesn't whine about how much he hates condoms. Nobody will kiss you through a dental dam, especially while drunk at a frat party.

What will happen, most likely, is that you will have the opportunities to make out with random people (or they will just kiss you, consequences be damned). Whether or not you choose to date them, or fuck them once, is up to you. But the one night stands are not a college requirement. You can wait to have nookie with college boyfriends if they agree with doing this, and ditch the guys who just want to get in and out.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:27 PM on May 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't kiss anyone with cole sores, mono, or who generally looks unhealthy. : )
posted by Penelope at 1:46 PM on June 26, 2009


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