Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kissing

One of the most famous kisses ever
On an episode of That 70's Show, Fez mistakenly thinks that because Jackie told him he was funny and 'ate popcorn out of his lap,' she likes him. At the movies, he leans over and kisses her. Later, when talking to Donna, Jackie says something along the lines of, "You know how sometimes when Fez talks, he rolls his tongue? He did that in my mouth!" Which got me thinking about kissing. Why do we do it? And why is it so damn fun?

In the third century A.D. the infamous Vatsyayana Kamasutra (the Kama Sutra) came out. This was a book about the sociology of sex in India way back when, and there was a chapter about kissing. And even further back, The Old Testament speaks of kissing (such as Judas' betrayal kiss). So, we know that it has been around for practically as far back as we know of. But why do people do it?

There is a question as to whether kissing in an instinct or a learned behavior. If you never saw other people kiss, would you want to? Would the thought of your crush kissing you romantically still be a dream had you not seen it happen in practically every movie ever made? It's not an easy question to answer, and researchers don't have a clear cut response. Of what I could find, we do it because it feels good. This does make sense, because though sex is used for reproduction, we still do it when we aren't trying to make babies. Why? Because it feels good! There are tons of nerve endings in the penis, vagina, and anus, making any kind of physical contact feel wonderful and leave us craving more. This is the same as our lips!! Our lips have tons of nerve endings too, making us want to keep doing it. And the fact that we know there is no chance of pregnancy may make us want to do it more.

It's also a great way to bond and feel close to another person. Our mouths are seen in public, so kissing isn't exactly taboo around others, since it's not super personal and private (unless you are full on making out). Sex makes us feel closer to one another because how much closer can you get to someone besides being inside them? When we intimately kiss another person, with our tongues, we are putting another part of our body inside our partners, creating that special intimate bond. Apparently, 90% of people kiss. Religion doesn't seem to condemn it the way it does other acts of intimacy, society openly shows it, and it's one of the most common ways to show affection. People sometimes greet each other with a kiss, and there are no rules against where on another person's body you can kiss. It seems to be the perfect display of affection, in that you can do it in public to an extent and bring it to the next level in private.

The Science of Kissing, Sheril Kirshenbaum
Author Sheril Kirshenbaum wrote a book entitled, 'The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us.' She talks about how the earliest kisses weren't mouth kisses. They were more along the lines of nuzzling, the way animals do, or 'eskimo kisses'--the rubbing of your nose against another's nose. This was done to say hello or to even see about how a person was doing physically. So why did we turn to lips?

This is super interesting. Kirshenbaum explains that lips are the erogenous zones that stick out the most on our bodies (penises don't count--they are hidden from public view and not as easily accessible). She also says that our ancestors eventually became able to detect the color red quickly, making searching for ripe food easier. The color red then became connected to good, healthy things, which may be why we are drawn to lips. It also explains why things such as lipstick started, as supple red lips are a sign of good health.

According to this article (which had way too much interesting info in this paragraph for me to try and paraphrase), "It’s not just the mouth; the whole body is involved in the act of kissing. When lips hit lips, five of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves, responsible for smell, taste, vision and facial expressions, are excited. Blood vessels expand, cheeks flush, pupils dilate, and the heart pumps a higher level of oxygen to the brain"-Susannah Cahalan (Read more here).

And why do we care so much about bad breath? Not only because our noses are pressed up against each other, but also because our tongues have about 10,000 taste buds! That means we can totally taste anything left in our partner's mouth. But depending on how you feel about the person, you might not even notice. Your body is too busy producing all kinds of feel-good chemicals, leaving you with a fluttery feeling in your stomach because of how much you like the person, or a tingly sensation in the lower regions letting you know how much you want more than that kiss. Also, about 2/3 of people bend their heads to the right during a make-out session, which I find to be pretty interesting.

This article has a few theories as to why we kiss, all of which are great to consider. First, Kirshenbaum states that kissing may make us relaxed, happy and comfortable, because it reminds of us when we were being nursed as infants. That closeness and safety we felt from our mother's may pop up when we are kissing someone. Some studies say that because kissing passes on testosterone, causing women to become turned on, it's a man's way of getting her ready for sex. Kirshenbaum also talks about how 'premastication' may be a biological reason for why we kiss. It sounds dirty, but it just means when a mother chews food before transferring it to her child's mouth, like birds (without the regurgitation). But one of the ones I like the most is the idea that it prepares us for sex and reproduction. Because we can taste and smell another person so closely, we are able to pick up on pheromones a lot easier. A newer study shows that a woman is able to tell when a man's immune system genes (called MHC) matches her own, letting her know that he is a great suitor to father her children. Of course, this is all physiological, and we aren't aware of it. But it's all great to consider.

There are several different kinds of kissing, and you can really kiss anywhere. Some people like to kiss another's neck, or chest, or boobs, or stomach, or private areas. Some like to kiss down a person's back or legs or feet. You can kiss a person quickly, like a 'peck,' which is more of a friendly greeting than an intimacy. You can open mouth kiss a person, with or without tongue. You can bite the other person's lips or suck their tongues.





Regardless of how you do it, just do it. Not only is it super fun and sexy, it also can give you an idea of how compatible you are with a person.  And if someone is a bad kisser, don't give up too quickly. Practice makes perfect, right?

In the comments, tell me about your best or first kiss!!!

Also, I personally think the hottest kiss is Heath Ledger kissing Abbie Cornish in 'Candy.' Watch it here.

The Daily Beast article on kissing.
NY Post article on kissing.

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