Why do we kiss?
Although more than 90% of all human cultures have a tradition of kissing, not much research has been done to find out why we kiss.
But in 2007 a study performed by Susan Hughes, an assistant professor of psychology at Albright College in Pennsylvania, attempted to solve the mystery.
Hughes team wanted to test 3 theories :
1. Kissing is a way of assessing potential mates.
Human beings rely on many factors to assess a potential partner including some that operate on a subconscious level. Kissing is a great way of getting someone close enough to feel, taste and smell them. There is also the suggestion that kissing allows hormones and pheremones to be exchanged. The team expected that women would put more importance on kissing than men since, in their words, "females tend to practice more discriminative mating due to their limited reproductive potential and greater patental investment". In addition, the average women has a better sense of taste and of smell than the average man and these senses are heightened even further during ovulation.
2. Kissing is a way to bond with our partners
The team hypothesized that kissing is a both a result of bonding and a way to strengthen bonding between partners. Since we generally don't want to kiss, or be kissed by, people we do not accept, kissing is a way of showing that we are accepted.
3. Kissing as a way of initiatiating sex.
Since kissing can lead to sexual arousal the team hypothesized that kissing can simply be a means to initiate sexual activity.
In all, over 1000 college-aged students took part in the study, answering questions about their kissing behaviour.
Breath and taste :
Women care more about the taste and breath of their partners during kissing, rating these aspects as Very Important compared to Somewhat Important for men. In addition, when deciding on whether to kiss someone women rated the state of their partners teeth most highly, higher even than facial attractiveness!
Kissing and bonding
While both sexes used kissing as a way to feel close and bond with their partner the study showed that in long term relationships men use kissing to feel close to their partner less and less, instead using kissing as a method to initiate sex. Women on the other hand continued to use kissing for bonding and (perhaps unconsciously) used the frequency and quality of kissing with their partner as a bellweather for the quality and strength of the relationship. Women also rated kissing before, during and after sex as more important than men did and women wanted to kiss after sex more often than men did.
Kissing and Sex
When asked whether they would have sex with someone without kissing over 50% of males said they would, while only 14% of women said they would.
Women were less likely than men to kiss someone they knew was only interested in sex and men generally expected kissing to lead to sex about 50% of the time. Women expected that kissing would lead to sex about a third of the time.
What makes a good kiss?
The study attempted to discover what makes a good kiss in terms of which partner should be more assertive, how wet the kiss should be (wet, but men prefer wetter than women) and how much touching/caressing there should be during the kiss. However, the authors assert that women base the quality of a lovers kiss on the subconscious cues it provides - the effect of the smell, taste and hormones of their partner than on the physical characteristics of the kiss itself whereas men rate "a kiss that makes my partner moan" more than twice as highly as women do.
The researchers concluded that they were right. We kiss to assess our mates, to bond with our lovers and to initiate sex. Women use kissing more for assessment and bonding than do men, using kissing to judge the health of the relationship. Both sexes kiss to initiate sex but men do it more and have more expectation that kissing will lead to sex.