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What Real People Actually Think About Kissing

Half of us lose interest in a potential partner after kissing.

Sabina Tone/Unsplash
Best, worst, regretted and forbidden
Source: Sabina Tone/Unsplash

Intimate kissing (think lip-to-lip contact between two individuals in a sexual context) is typically the first partnered sexual behavior you experience. It's also the most common and the most frequent. Yet researchers typically treat kissing as an appetizer or side dish to the entrée. We oddly know relatively little about kissing, including how kisses can vary.

A mouth-to-mouth kiss with a romantic partner is considered one of the most intimate activities that we can experience. Most individuals can recall at least 90% of the details of their first romantic kiss, typically very positively, and in far more detail than they recall first sexual intercourse. Kisses can serve as a marker that identifies when a relationship has transitioned into a sexual one. Incorporating a kiss between the main characters has long been a staple of mainstream TV series and movies, providing an emotional climax that signifies a dramatic change in the characters’ relationship.

We were curious to learn about people's memories of their best, worst, regretted, and forbidden kisses, kissing “histories” and attitudes.

A total of 383 men and 312 women completed an anonymous survey online. They were single (18%), dating (12%), in a committed dating relationship (33%), and married or cohabiting (37%).

Their average age of first romantic or sexual kiss was 15 years, and 39% reported playing kissing games as adolescents. The average number of people ever kissed was 18.6, and those in relationships reported kissing their partner in a romantic or sexual way on average 33 times a week. In short, they had average kissing histories.

What made a kiss the best kiss? Best kisses were characterized by emotions of passion (35%), love (23%), anticipation or surprise (33%) rather who it was they kissed or the actual technique of the kisser. One wrote, “It was romantic and delicious, everything melted away.”

What made a kiss the worst kiss? The lack of spark or passion (25%), qualities of the kiss itself (52%), such as too much tongue or saliva, and feeling forced (9%). One wrote, “Felt like I was kissing a relative” and “like trying to eat my face.”

Regretted kisses were those that were often of bad quality (see “worst” above), but also kisses that they thought should not have gone any further. These involved kissing an ex (36%), a colleague or boss (7%), a friend (25%), or someone already taken (20%). One described their regretted kiss as “the avoid-breaking-up-on-Valentine’s-Day kiss” and another as their “2 am wince memory.”

Fifteen percent had kissed someone who they were not supposed to kiss because of their professional role (e.g., a boss, doctor, minister, police officer).

Quality and technique were important. Almost half (44%) dramatically lost romantic or sexual interest in a person as a result of kissing them.

Women rated breath, body scent, degree of “wetness” of the kiss, amount of touching, and degree of pressure or firmness as more important than did men. Men and women did not differ in how important they found degree of tongue contact (average = quite important), lip movement, or taste.

Most surprising was that more than half would not be upset, or only somewhat upset, if they were told they would not be allowed to kiss their partner in a romantic or sexual way for three months (even if everything else remained the same).

And when asked if they had to choose, would they rather give up kissing or receiving oral sex? Forty-nine percent said receiving oral sex could go, and 28 percent could not decide.

Just like the meals we share in our lives, not every kiss is a good kiss. But kisses and kissing are far more important than we perhaps have realized.

Facebook image: LightField Studios/Shutterstock

More from Lucia F. O'Sullivan Ph.D.
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