A kiss is something you cannot give without taking and cannot take without giving.
For many people, the kiss represents the first step in a romantic walk that leads to love, sex, marriage and a life together—though not every time, and not necessarily in that order. Still, kissing is an important and pleasurable component of romantic relationships. Though as adolescents we may agonize over the proper way to kiss—usually while we long for our first kiss—most adults don’t give much thought to the art of kissing. We act on instinct, plunging blindly (often literally with our eyes closed) into this important sensual act.
A few experts have taken the time to study the kiss, and they offer insight into what constitutes a good kiss, and how you can improve your technique and derive more enjoyment from kissing.
A history of kissing
Anthropologists have discovered depictions of erotic kissing that date as far back as 1500 BC, though there is no reason to think kissing hasn’t been around even longer than that. Some scholars feel that kissing evolved from mothers transferring food from their mouths to their infants’ mouths. Lips are full of sensitive nerve endings, which heightens the sensation of kissing. The urge to touch lips seems a natural extension of our human need to touch and be touched.
Poets and artists have long celebrated kissing. Robert Herrick wrote so many poems featuring kissing that he was dubbed the “Kissing Poet.” In fairy tales, kisses awaken Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and the kiss of a beautiful princess transforms a frog into a handsome prince. Francois Auguste Rodin’s sculpture, The Kiss, draws admiring sighs from romantics the world over. John C. Rice and Mary Irwin exchanged the first on-screen kiss in 1896 and kissing has heated up the screens—often as a prelude to sex—ever since.
An array of kisses
Attempts to categorize kisses have come up with all sorts of entries, but generally, romantic kisses fall into two categories: closed-mouth and open-mouthed. Closed mouth kisses, while pleasurable, are considered more chaste and less sensuous than open-mouthed kisses.
Closed mouth kisses can range from mere pecks to loving caresses. Any kiss involving use of the tongue is thought of as a French kiss, which the French refer to as a soul kiss. And one very specific open-mouthed kiss is the vacuum kiss, which, as its name implies, involves literally creating a vacuum by sucking in your partner’s breath.
Of course, kisses aren not limited to mouths. Kissing the eyes, ears and neck can be equally erotic. One study conducted by William Cane showed that 10% of college men enjoyed having their necks kissed, while more than fifty percent like being kissed on the ear.
One issue that unnerves many people is exactly when to initiate a first kiss. Some opt for a kiss at the end of the first date. Some wait several dates before making their move. Others feel that kissing is such a good way to get to know someone, it should be initiated as early in the relationship as possible. There’s no wrong answer, but both parties should be agreeable to kissing.
Most people kiss with their eyes closed, perhaps to focus all attention on the sensation of lips and tongue meeting. But other people report a wonderful intimacy in gazing into their partner’s eyes while kissing. It’s a very personal—and sometimes impulsive decision—so don’t be startled if you open your eyes during a kiss to see your partner looking intently at you.
What makes a good kiss? This, too, is highly individual. An informal survey elicited these responses: Carole, 45, cited “tenderness, a little tongue, nibbling and nice breath” as being the hallmarks of a good kiss. Jodi, 29, said soft lips were nice and urged men to “take more time and kiss everywhere.”
Stephanie, 29, said, “Attraction is what makes the kiss good. It depends on whether the two people connect. The rest is just two pairs of lips mashing together.” And Rod, 43 said, “I love it when we kiss so hard that we can’t breathe.”
In his book How To Be a Great Lover, Lou Paget says of men: “What men want is evidence that they turn you on. More than anything else, that’s what turns them on. You can send that message in no uncertain terms by the way you kiss him.” Suzanne Reed, a sex therapist in Boston, adds that women are vulnerable to kissing because it makes them feel loved. And women tend to view kissing as the ultimate foreplay. “Women like to be kissed all over for as long as possible before sex. Lots of women complain that their lovers want to get down to business too fast—and that kissing is the element that gets neglected.”
As individual as kissing can be, there are some definite no-nos. No big surprise that bad breath, kisses that are too wet, and a bristly beard that leaves abrasions are on the list. Paget says that other definite turn-offs are the use of too much force and tongues that dart in and out, also referred to as lizard kissing. Reed adds, “You shouldn’t need to towel off or apply antiseptic after kissing!”
New and improved
William Cane, a frequent lecturer on college campuses on the art of kissing has some ideas to help you become a better kisser. He suggests that you and your partner watch romantic movies and make note of the best techniques of actors. Then experiment with your partner. Tell him you are going to spend a minute or two kissing him exactly the way you would like to be kissed. He is not supposed to get too involved, just make mental notes of what you like. Then you can turn the tables and have him kiss you the way he would like to be kissed. Chances are, you’ll both learn something.
Like any other art, kissing can improve with practice. So cuddle up with your partner and tell her it’s time to do a little homework.