Sex & Sociability

Question and commentary on connections, both sexual and social

Kissing

This is a re-examination of something you have been doing since infancy.

A recent article in the Health section of my daily newspaper recommended kissing one’s partner as a flu preventive (in case one needed a better reason to kiss). Wikipedia says a kiss can express sentiments of love, passion, affection, respect, greeting, friendship, peace and good luck, among many others things, depending on the culture and context. Someone forgot to mention illness prevention.

Historians initially believed that kissing began with the Romans when husbands would kiss their wives to see if they had been drinking. It is now generally believed that as far back as prehistoric times people would kiss a prospective mate to assess their general health which they could somehow ascertain by the taste of their saliva.

Apparently there must be something healthy and informative about swapping spit. The usually dependable WebMD states “A serious, tongue-tangling kiss triggers a whole spectrum of physiological processes that can boost your immunity” and “that extra saliva washes bacteria off your teeth, which can help break down oral plaque”

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Another web site, bestkisses.com, gives several other health benefits of kissing beyond increasing your immune system and improving dental health: Those who kiss their partner each morning live five years longer than those who don’t. Passionate kissing relieves tension, lowering your cortisol stress hormone. Kissing tightens facial muscles and prevents sagging cheeks. Kissing is good for the heart by causing it to pump more blood throughout your body. During a kiss natural antibiotics are secreted. Also, saliva contains a type of anesthetic that helps relieve pain. The endorphins produced by a good kiss are far more powerful than morphine.

So now that you have some good reasons to lock lips with your lover, are you sure you know how to go about it? An internet search of “kissing” yields an astonishing number of videos and web sites touting tips, techniques and how-tos. They might very well be informative and/or arousing and one can spend hours exploring them all, but I have to step in to remind you that there is never one right way to go about anything.

People, both men and women, are very particular in their taste in the matter of kissing. There are those who don’t kiss, period. There are others who are comfortable with mouth kisses even within their own family members. In between is everyone else, including those who kiss upon meeting a new person or an old friend, on the cheeks or on the mouth.

When it comes to sexual kisses between lovers or prospective partners you certainly know that taste varies there too. Many people object to dry kisses with no tongue action involved while others complain of too much tongue thrusting or too much saliva in “sloppy” kisses.”

One couple consulted me in my therapy office because their sex life was less than satisfactory. She disliked kissing in general and her mate’s wet kisses in particular. He said that passionate kissing was a necessary part of his arousal and he just couldn’t even get started sexually without a few minutes of such activity.

This leads to one of the most frequently asked questions when I wrote my “Ask Isadora” advice column: Can you teach someone to kiss the way you like it and can you do so without crushing him or her? My answer to both questions was and still is “maybe”. One person has to be able to speak up tactfully and explicitly—“I prefer kissing without vigorous thrusting of a tongue” or “Could you relax your lips a little more?”

The best way of instructing a partner in your own preferred way is to show them—“Hold your mouth a little open and now let me show you exactly how I prefer to be kissed.”

The other crucial part of this interchange must be that the other person has to be willing to hear and understand what you’re saying, not that ”You’re a lousy kisser” but that you have your own style and are eager to share it.

Kissing needs to be enjoyable to both parties involved in it, so if you have no partner and are worried about your technique when you do, the how-to web sites might be helpful for some ideas. If you have a partner but have fallen out of the habit of kissing except when hot sex is involved, let me remind you that a good juicy kiss can be enjoyable for its own sake and just for so. It’s apparently healthy for you too!

Isadora AlmanM.F.T., is a Board-certified sex, marriage, and family therapist, lecturer, author, and syndicated advice columnist of "Ask Isadora."

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