The importance of kissing in a relationship cannot be underscored enough. Of course, kissing feels good and when we are attracted to someone or when we are in love, we kiss to show affection, peace, friendship, passion, sexual desire, and love.
Think about your first kiss.
Wasn’t it magical? You were probably in elementary or middle school and you and your crush stole a kiss behind the shade of an old oak tree in the playground. At least that was for me. I remember my crush was named Darrell and boy, was he cute! We were in Mrs. Wilcox’s second-grade class. One day, during recess Darrell and I sat under the shady tree and he offered me a stick of Fruit Stripe gum–you know, the one with the zebra on it? I was giddy with laughter and before he knew it, I leaned in and gave him a quick peck on the lips. Boy, he ran off like the dickens! I just sat under the tree chewing on my red Fruit Stripe gum quite pleased with myself. After that day, I told everyone that Derrell was my boyfriend because we had kissed under the oak tree.
Derrell was mortified and Mrs. Wilcox was none too pleased…
But, I was deliciously satisfied with myself and my first kiss. Unforgettable!
What is a kiss?
A kiss is just more than lips touching, a kiss has been described by many anthropologists as an evolutionary advantage. Many social and cultural anthropologists tell us that the majority of human cultures like to lock lips, or kiss, in some form or manner.
How kissing evolved is not completely known. What we do know is that Charles Darwin wrote about kissing behaviors in his 1872 book entitled, “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.” Darwin believed that kissing behaviors observed in animals such as rubbing noses together and patting of arms were expressions of a primitive form of kissing. Darwin wrote that these displays showed a desire to receive “pleasure from close contact with a beloved person” and that this form of expression was considered universal.
Other scientists contend that kissing evolved from the feeding rituals between mothers and young, more specifically, animal mothers. This type of kiss feeding occurred when the mothers would chew and pass the food directly to their babies’ mouths. And this eventually led to kissing as we know it today.
Kissing is so important to most human cultures that there is a field of science devoted to studying kissing: it’s called philematology!
What happens to our bodies when we kiss?
When we kiss, a lot is going on in our muscles and our brain. In order to pucker up, you will use over 145 muscles in and around your mouth area and exchange over 80,000,000 bacteria (don’t worry, most of it won’t harm you)!
There is a nuclear reactor of biological proportions when we kiss passionately. First of all, let’s talk about the chemicals that are transmitted from your brain that make you feel so, so good. These feel-good neurotransmitters have names like dopamine, which will heighten your desires and craving for the other person; serotonin, which will raise your mood and trigger passionate thoughts about the person; and oxytocin, which is called the love hormone ( and rightly so!). Oxytocin is responsible for the high one feels during an orgasm and it also can trigger the sense of closeness and bonding between partners.
So really, when you kiss, and you feel as high as a kite with love and passion, you can thank your little friends that create the perfect cocktail for feel-goodness: dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
Men and women kiss differently
Biologically speaking, women are typically the ones who are the pickiest when it comes to selecting a potential mate. That is why it makes total sense that women use kissing as a way to measure how compatible a potential mate will be. But did you know that the tool used in the kissing test is the nose and not the lips? Yes, women will (subconsciously) use their sense of smell to subtly pick up on the scent of a potential mate to determine if his genetic status is conducive to a higher chance of healthy children. Researchers believe that when a woman kisses a man, she can “smell” his histocompatibility complex, or MHC. If she “detects” that his MHC is different from hers, then he is a good candidate because her offspring would have a higher chance of survival due to the stronger genetic diversity. If the MHC is similar to hers, then she is not interested, presumably because offspring with similar DNA would have a lower chance of survival.
Additionally, women probably wouldn’t have sex with a man unless he was a good kisser. This is because of the emotional connection or bond that women experience during love-making.
On the other hand, men would have sex without kissing. They would even have sex with a woman who is not a great kisser. Researchers say that men are more likely to prefer French kissing and are usually the ones to initiate it. There is a very interesting reason why men do this, according to scientists. Men have testosterone in their saliva, albeit trace amounts. When a man kisses a woman he is depositing small amounts of his testosterone in her system and over time, the build-up of testosterone can increase the woman’s libido. Pretty clever, huh?!
Some scientists say that men can pick up on women’s estrogen level and thereby determine if she will be a good baby-making machine!
20 Fun Facts About Kissing
- The Bonobos monkeys are the only animals that truly kiss! They are the original French kissers! You gotta hand it to these oversexed primates. They love to have sex and they like kissing, especially by sticking their tongues in the other bonobo’s mouth.
- Most people turn to the right when they kiss–probably related to the time we were in the womb.
- Most people close their eyes when they kiss.
- Some cultures find kissing disgusting. Only 46% of human cultures kiss for romantic purposes!
- The Middle East has the highest acceptance for romantic kissing: 100%. Just don’t do it in public!
- Complex societies kiss more than basic ones.
- Over 80,000,000 bacteria are transferred during a 10-second kiss!
- Our foraging ancestors liked red fruit and that’s why red lips are associated with seduction.
- Kissing reduces stress levels by lowering cortisol.
- At a subconscious level, kissing triggers the bond-making chemicals that were triggered by breastfeeding.
- National Kissing Day is on June 23.
- Jack and Rose’s passionate kiss on the front deck of the Titanic is considered one of the most romantic in cinema history.
- In 16th century Italy, kissing carried a penalty of death! Talk about paying the ultimate price for a little peck!
- Chinese people learned about kissing from Westerners and they still don’t like it too much!
- More than half of all people experience their first kiss before they turn 14 years old.
- Lips have their own “lip” print. No two lip prints are the same.
- The Kama Sutra contains over 30 different kinds of kisses.
- Kissing at the end of the wedding can be traced to Roman times when they would seal the contracts with a kiss!
- Your pupils dilate when you kiss.
- In the state of Colorado, kissing a sleeping woman is against the law!
Why Kissing is Important in a Healthy Relationship
- It helps you bond and connect emotionally. When you kiss, the love hormone oxytocin is released, creating a chemical bond between the two of you. The act of two bodies coming close together to lock lips connects a couple which is important at the beginning of a relationship and also, for the long term.
- It’ll help you live longer. Kissing can actually help boost your immune system. Exchanging saliva can actually be good for the oral health of your teeth, and the swapping of bacteria can keep you healthy by making your system strong.
- It promotes intimacy without sex. Let’s face it. Sometimes we’re just too tired or even worse, the spark is gone. Kissing is a very intimate form of demonstrating to your partner or spouse that you truly love them and are still attracted to them.
- It can show you’re truly sorry. We all mess up and sometimes we have to say we’re sorry, so why not say it with a kiss?
- It can convey feelings without words. When you can’t put something into words, you can say it with a kiss. Your kiss can let your loved one know that he still lights your fire even when words fail you.
Interested in learning more about kissing? Check out my review of Michael Fiore’s kissing course.