Face Time: On The Science of Kissing

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Last fall, I heard Sheril Kirshenbaum speak, author of The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us. With a title like that, who wouldn’t be intrigued to hear what she had to say. She dives into the neurology of kissing, understanding the “poetry of it,” and the history of smooching, where she cites examples across the globe as well as from research done on Bonobos. Given that bonobos share about 98.7 of human’s DNA, observing their behavior is not unlike observing our behavior and rest assured, they’re less likely to be conscious about their kissing in public than humans are.

She shares a humorous example from anthropologist Frans de Waal, which involves a zookeeper who innocently moved to accept a kiss from a bonobo and was astonished to feel a second tongue in his mouth! Bonobos apparently use sex rather than aggression to resolve conflicts in their ‘female-governed society.’ They also have been observed to kiss after being alarmed or frightened or to express excitement after there’s been clamor in the community. And, I love this: reports have seen that they have kissed and nibbled non-stop for twelve minutes straight. Perhaps we could learn something from their amorous behavior.

Since kissing seems like such an integral part of our everyday lives (from kissing our kids goodnight, our friends hello when socially greeting them and our lovers in moments of lust and compassion), it wasn’t until around 1500 BC that there was anything actually documented on kissing. Since this blog largely focuses on cultures around the world, I’ll touch on some of the global trends she discovered during her research.

From kissing noble’s feet to Snow White and the Frog Prince, the book explores the ‘why’s and meanings behind the kiss and where it’s used for bonding and other reasons we may not consider upon first reflection. Every time I come back from Europe, I find myself doing the two cheeks kiss and I’ve spent so much time there over the years, it has become standard practice for me regardless of who I meet. These kisses are also common of course in Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Argentina, Lebanon, Mexico, Switzerland and more. It was  amusing to learn that of all cultures, the German language has thirty words for kissing, including nachkussen, meaning a kiss to make up for those that have not occurred.

In China, there was an article in Beijing Workers Daily only twenty years ago that suggested that kissing was unhealthy and should be discouraged. I’d imagine that coming out of Switzerland, but China? And, let’s not forget how conservative the states remains about public embracing and sexual gestures. In Alfred Kinsey’s 1948 report, he noted that a person’s kissing style correlated on some degree with a person’s level of education: 70% of well-educated men admitted to French kissing, while only 40% of those who dropped out of high school did.

There are the obvious differences between the brain chemistry of men and women that come into play once you start to study the “science of a kiss.” Women are more likely to see kissing as a good way to assess a potential mate or to initiate, maintain and monitor a long-term relationship. And, we all know that men are designed and think differently.

I love this story that was included in Women are from Venue, Men Are Easy Chapter:

“First Lady Grace Coolidge entered a government farm’s chicken coop during Coolidge’s presidency (1923-1929), while a rooster was mounting a hen. She was told the dock copulated dozens of times a day, and reportedly responded, “Go tell that to the president.” When her husband was informed of the bird’s sexual exploits, he asked whether each rooster routinely serviced the same hen. Upon learning there are many females for each rooster, it’s said that the president replied, “Go tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”

Not only do we all likely remember our “first kiss,” but we remember the first kisses of others we see either publicly or in a movie. From Pretty Women to Cleopatra, Casanova and 007, we recall the moments and we yearn for more. We love to see people kissing, experience the hormonal effects of kissing and feel the warmth of kissing, whether we kiss to express affection, adoration, respect or passion. It’s a very interesting read and we recommend it!

Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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One Response to Face Time: On The Science of Kissing

  1. Vicki January 15, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    I enjoyed reading this. The part about the Coolidges was hilarious. And wow, who knew a person’s kissing style correlated on some degree with a person’s level of education. Interesting. Now I’m the kissing mood, but alas I have a long distance lover :(

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