The Art and Science of Kissing: Lost to the Ages?

Why doesn't slow burn kissing do it for us any more? Or does it?

Posted Feb 16, 2019

There was a time when the words making love didn’t necessarily mean sex. Many movies of the 1950s and '60s were rife with the suggestion of sex, but most went only as far as a passionate smooch. The camera faded out, the music rose, or the scene switched to one of an open window or even fireworks as you were left to imagine the graphic details. In today’s world, movies and TV shows turn quickly to rip-the-clothes-off sex scenes, while kissing seems to have all but disappeared. Such a tragedy in this chick's mind...

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Source: pexels

Perhaps that is why the 1995 movie, The Bridges of Madison County, resounded with so many women 20+ years ago. The male lead character, Robert Kincaid, (Clint Eastwood) is mesmerized by the sight of Francesa (Meryl Streep) standing in the kitchen doorway, dressed in a lovely new frock, her hair upswept, her face glowing. “You look stunning,” he says of the long-married war bride from Italy transplanted in the heart of America. Her family is away at the state fair and Kincaid is a roving National Geographic photographer who is in town to take pictures of the scenic covered bridges in the area. He and Francesca meet when he asks for directions and instead of just describing how to get there, she accompanies him to his subject bridge. After that, the plot thickens. She invites him to enjoy a second home-cooked meal with her (the first was a get-to know-you encounter that revealed how she thought of her husband as "very clean."), and the scene is set. The phone rings. Robert sits down at the kitchen table and as Francesca chats casually on the phone with a friend, trying not to let on that she is entertaining a strange man. As she strolls with the receiver in her hand, she touches Robert on the shoulder, fixing his collar. She then leaves her hand lingering there. He acknowledges this gesture by reaching up and caressing her hand with his own. The sexual tension is electric with a tinge of awkwardness that only makes it more delicious.

A fairly long slow-dancing scene follows, where the two star-crossed but forbidden lovers lip-graze one another and then finally connect. The eroticism of this scene is as powerful as any love scene in any movie ever made. Eventually husband and children return home, Kincaid mournfully leaves,  and life goes back to normal for all except for Francesca, who writes in her journal about those 4 blissful days when time stood still. She realized some day her adult children would read her words and find there was more to their immigrant mother than they ever could have imagined. 

But wait. There's more. Remember the female pent-up demand for Fifty Shades of Grey? The main character spends the entire time asking her kinky lover for KISSES, and what does he do? Everything but. Kissing is too intimate for this guy. For women, anyway, it's the slow burn that sends us reeling. If men only KNEW that or appreciated the payback from it, of course, women would have the best of both worlds.

This made me wonder why so many established couples somehow discontinue the practice of kissing one another somewhere along the way. Truth be told, kissing was probably a staple in their early relationship, setting the mood for whatever came next or merely making a moment with one another delectable, holding promise for – whenever. It was the stuff of which reflective memory/fantasies were once made, permitting couples to look back on how they ‘made out’ on a front porch, in a car or during a movie. So does it have to end? The answer is absolutely NOT. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain who says kissing is a routine casualty of a long-term relationship.

Dr. Laura Berman, in her MSNBC article, Pucker up! Secrets to being a better kisser, says, “While first kisses may determine the future of a relationship, it is the kisses that follow that determine the happiness of a relationship.” Many couples in long-term relationships often find that the practice of lingering kisses become memories merely because the business of everyday pressures take over, making them a distant memory except for the occasional weekend getaway or vacation, when they feel more relaxed. “A little lip-lock can be a surefire way to spice up your marriage and keep your relationship intimate,” she adds. “I advise my clients to engage in a 10-second-long kiss every day. It is bound to feel unnatural at first, but this is just a tool to get you back in the habit of kissing your partner. Before long, you will find that kissing has become a spontaneous and fun part of your relationship again.”

But did you know that kissing is actually good for you? It has been reported that physiological changes take place all over the body from kissing alone -- not necessarily the ones that are obvious. Sensitivity and endorphins increase throughout the body and even the feeling of pain is suppressed.

In her Scienceblogs.com article, The Science of Kissing, Sheryl Kirshenbaum reports that kissing is one of the most intimate expressions between two people, inspiring all forms of art, from music to painting and especially to literature, shaping both history and legend. “We're exchanging pheromones,” she writes. “In fact, when we're engaged, our bodies release a cocktail of chemicals related to social bonding, stress level, motivation, and sexual stimulation. We become, in effect, 'under the influence.' It's powerful.”

So if your relationship started off with kisses that sent your heart racing and made the rest of the world fade away, there is no reason you can’t reprise this practice with your partner or spouse by merely reminiscing about how much fun it used to be and then retracing your steps. Pretend you're there, exchanging verbal cues that led to your faces getting closer and closer to one another. Remember that? Did he once press you against a wall and nibble on your neck long ago? Remind him of how much you miss that and dare him to make you feel the way you did then. What have you got to lose, anyway? Men do love a challenge.