“Slap the bag!” yelled some random dude holding a sack of pink liquid at one of my first UCLA parties. Somewhat drunk and completely confused, I gave the bag a small smack and then proceeded to guzzle what turned out to be Franzia Sunset Blush. I lasted about five seconds before I nearly barfed. I left the party wondering who thought that game was a good idea and what diseases I might have contracted.
“Slapping the bag,” as this ritual is so fittingly called, is a common activity in college drinking culture. Most students at UCLA have seen or participated in this ritual at least once or twice, myself included. However, the baffling part is why when the individual in charge of the wine bag comes up to you and commands that you “slap the bag,” we so willingly do, continuing to put our mouths on a spout that has been shared by multiple other strangers’ mouths without any discretion.
The rules of this “game” are fairly straightforward: one player holds the bag, calls out someone else to “Slap the bag,” which they then do and then chug copious amounts of wine. That person becomes the keeper of the bag. However, many variations exist. I have found that typically the same person carries around the bag until it has been finished off. The ultimate goal is to down as much wine as possible in seven seconds or more; I have never been able to last that long.
The exact time and location of the first ever round of “Slap the Bag” are debatable. One noteworthy claim is that it originated at Ohio University, circa 2004. However, Australia may be the place to thank – or blame – for putting cheap wine-based drinking games on the map.
Australian winemaker, Thomas Angove, introduced the world to boxed wine back in 1965. Some time after that – no one knows when, exactly– Australians began to use this product to play a game called “Goon of Fortune,” a drinking-based spoof on “Wheel of Fortune.” Claimed to be an “essential Australian experience,” this game entails pinning the bags of wine from the boxes – referred to as “goons” in Australia – to clotheslines. The players spin said clothesline and whoever the bags land on must consequently drink from the bag.
The appeal of bag-in-box wine is clear: a five liter box of Franzia costs a mere $11.99 at BevMo and wine is a “classier” alternative to beer or vodka. The part that remains unclear is the attraction of taking said bag out of the box, toting it around like an alcoholic piñata and having a multitude of people drink from the spigot.
I can understand that part of the fun in “slapping the bag” is being able to hit something and release some pent-up energy. UCLA is a difficult school and speaking from personal experience, I have a lot of unreleased energy after spending hours stuck in Charles E. Young Research Library. The concerning part is that people seem totally okay with putting their mouths where who knows has gone before.
Now that we know some history, though, let’s get real: Slapping the bag isn’t all fun and games. Nicknamed “the kissing disease,” mononucleosis is a real possibility when participating in even just one round of “Slap the bag.” Generally contracted through saliva swapping, this illness isn’t necessarily the worst thing that could happen to you, but nobody goes to a party with their heart set on getting it either. Common side effects are a persistent sore throat, a fever and excessive fatigue. A swollen spleen is also a possibility – sounds super fun. That wine hangover the next day doesn’t sound nearly as worth it now, does it?
Germs aside, there are some other dangers to take into consideration when participating in this drinking ritual. You can binge drink without even realizing it – or wanting to. A normal serving of wine is five ounces; that means a box of Franzia contains almost 34 servings – put it in terms of servings, not ounces. That’s also over 4,000 calories worth of wine for anyone who is concerned about their figure. The real danger in this scenario, however, is alcohol poisoning – that could actually kill you.
Aside from the fact that it can be a fun way to let loose and make new friends at a party, the reasoning behind why this ritual is a fad remains up for debate. After a wild night of “Slap the bag,” you may wind up with a splitting headache, a gnarly sore throat and massive amounts of regret. It’s not that you should stop playing this game altogether, but think before you slap.