This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 16 table of contents.

The Kiss

Few scientists study the kiss as a part of sexual behavior. Yet in Western cultures, deep kissing is the behavior that most reliably precedes sex among married couples. Alfred Kinsey, in his pioneering studies of human sexuality, found that 90% of American married women reported deep kissing ("soul kissing" with the tongue) as a prelude to marital sex.

What fact about deep kissing did Kinsey turn up?

Deep kissing is not automatically arousing to humans. Centuries old sex manuals in China and Japan show every imaginable position for intercourse, but they do not show kissing. However, Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1989) says it is a myth that people in non-Western cultures find kissing disgusting. Native cultures all over the world engage in a variety of affectionate mouth-play from babyhood onward.

How common was kissing or similar behavior, in Ford and Beach's anthropological research?

Ford and Beach (1951) found that kissing occurred in 13 of 21 native cultures where field researchers studied courtship behavior. Often kissing was accompanied by an intake of air. Four groups sucked lips and tongues of partners; one (the Lapps) kissed the mouth and nose at the same time. Another (the Arapesh) touched lips gently and drew the breath in. Many cultures engage in nuzzling with the nose as an affectionate gesture.


Mammals take pleasure from sensitive touching on the nose or face

To what did Tiefer suggest kissing might be related?

Tiefer (1978) suggested that kissing might be related to the universal greeting display of mammals: odor-sampling, often by touching the nose.

Human kisses are probably related to the olfactory investigations that mammals make upon greeting. Most mammals rely on their sense of smell to recognize friends or enemies... All human cultures have some form of mouth or nose contact to indicate greeting and affection (Tiefer, 1978, p.35)

What did Stein discover?

Sex is not usually accompanied by kissing unless emotional intimacy is desired. Martha Stein observed 64 call girls from a hidden vantage point, recording the details of 1,230 sexual encounters. She found that kissing was involved in only 36% of the encounters and that most of a prostitute's customers (87%) were not interested in romance or intimacy. They wanted quick sex. Kissing, seduction, and sweet talk were not part of the picture.


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