Saturday, December 24, 2011

On the Benefits of Someone Who Can Kiss The Hell Out of You

The other day at the grocery store, a man came up to me and said, "You must know that you smell incredible." "Uh, thanks," I murmured because, in truth, it was all I could do to tamp down my geeky impulse to add, in a manner reminiscent of a female Mister Peabody: "Ah, you are responding to biological clues in my scent. Most likely you are detecting a favorable genetic similarity between us--although not too much similarity, as that would encourage genetic mutations in our young. All this sensory information is telling you we are probably well-suited to bear healthy, symmetrical young with a balanced assortment of genes.

It is impulses like these that make me glad I am already married. As Dorothy Parker said, "Men seldom make passes at girls who say nerdy &%$# like that."  

So it was with trepidation that I started studying the biochemistry of kissing. Because as any formerly religious person can tell you, there's nothing like a little science to ruin a wondrous, magical thing. 

"Soul meets soul on lovers' lips," said Percy Bysshe Shelley in Prometheus Unbound. A truly good kiss does feel like the meeting of souls -- maybe it's because so much is happening in a kiss. Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, calls kissing a "mate assessment tool" and says, "When you kiss, you can touch, see, feel, taste somebody. A huge part of our brain lights up." Feeling someone's breath upon us or inhaling the scent of their neck is lovely in its own right, but also provides us clues as to each other's health, diet, and genetic make-up. In other words, it makes good biological sense to mate with the one whose kisses make you weak in the knees. 

So why is kissing the right person so damn good? Well, darling, those sweet kisses are making you crazy with a triple hormone combo that increases your sex drive (testosterone), makes you think pair bonding with this person is a fine idea (oxytocin) and causes you to be all sappy and prone to the excessive playing of Iron and Wine CDs (serotonin). In a 2007 study, researcher Wendy Hill compared the hormone levels of college students who had spent 15 minutes kissing with those who merely held hands and listened to music in the student center. For some reason, I love the detail that they were in the student center. The results of the study--stress levels in the kissing couples decreased, blah blah blah... wasn't as interesting as this bit of student center-related info:  
Hill thought that the setting might have been too clinical for the women to get turned on, so she tried in her latest study to up the ambience by locating the couples in a secluded room of an academic building, outfitted with a couch, flowers, jazz music and electric candles.
Alas, the article did not include a picture of this academic love nest with its "electric candles." Not that I think that setting is really all that important. I base this sweeping assessment on the fact that I received my best, most sublime kisses ever in an attic bedroom in Ann Arbor, Michigan, atop a set of bed sheets festooned with pictures of The Flintstones. (There was also a giant tapestry over his bed featuring Aries the ram, but in my memory, I choose to edit that detail out.) I didn't care about any of the decor though because, god, that guy could kiss. Sweet, melty, insanely wonderful kisses. I would live inside his kisses if I could. As the night grew later and later, I told him I should probably go home. "You could," he whispered, while placing the most delightfully soft kisses on my chin and nose, "Or you could stay here and kiss me all night." In a typically bad decision of that era (I was drunk, natch, as was my wont in those days), I inexplicably chose to go home. Dumb moves such as that, plus--okay, fine--my delightful habit of drunkenly calling him at all hours, ended things quickly thereafter.   

Which was too bad, because, damn, our young would have been symmetrical as hell.


JackJuste said...

I wrote something just shy of brilliant from my iPad but... something went awry and it disappeared. So here goes the considerably less clever comment: If some "girl" (OK, woman, ya know... I may be post-40 but I'm not totally creepy) talked that nerdy to me, I'd be scrambling for a Sharpie to write down her number, STAT! Science just makes the poetic seem more potent. For me it's a total turn-on... Agent Dana Scully, anyone? Kari Byron? (I'm sweating already)

Did the study mention the impact of kissing on dudes? And what happens when she stops kissing you, well, me, really. It's horrible. I loved kissing her. It was a-m-a-z-i-n-g! Pulled in sixteen directions at once, made me want to go completely feral and lusty, at the same time, fully intrigued, engrossed and unable to do anything but continue kissing her. Then post-offspring, it just stopped. She can't (or won't) explain. It's terrible. I'd do anything to fix it, if only I knew what it was. Anything to go back to kissing her.

Unknown said...

Mmmmmm......that's how I know that my guy is The Guy. I could just kiss him all day long. And I've been told in the past that I'm as 'cuddly as a porcupine'.

But, man - when the chemistry is there, wow. Just wow.

Asha said...

My most memorable kiss was backstage on a prop sofa in my high school's auditorium. It was a kiss I felt all the way to my toes. Had it have been a movie the heavens would have opened up and cherubs would have played harps around us. I totally married that fucker and had his babies!

HSky said...

I once kissed a guy who made my eyes water, not as in crying, but more like he was spicy! But I think he was too short and pretty to make symmetrical offspring with. Plus, a tad jerkish.

Anonymous said...

If my boyfriend and I had ourselves some "young"-ins, the whole symmetry thing would be runed. Why? because of my genes... yup.... Self-deprecation aside... I think the research discounted the impact of "expectation" by a long shot. The whole "placebo" concept is erroneously ignored in a lot of studies despite the fact that it accounts for MAYBE 50% (or more) of the experience. And I agree with you. I don't think the setting mattered. The fact that these students were being studied sharing an intimate moment might've botched the results. It's funny you say science kinda ruins the magic. Actually, the more I read scientific explanations of phenomenon like kissing, the more interested I become in it. Of course, nothing beats the words of poets when describing love or "kissing" (i liked that you quoted my favorite poet ever)

Ed said...

Well, with all due respect to Science, I find it intensely b-o-rr-i-n-g (yeah, I know that's too many r's, poetic license). I think I'm a pretty sensual person in general, I pay close attention to the whole darn buffet of sensory inputs and sensations that go along with physical intimacy and I try to make sure my partner is getting rocked on all fronts as well. And, I can definitely see the appeal when it's the first exploratory contact with a new someone, an exciting prelude full of future possibilities. But man, once you get past that, I find it marginally more exciting than, say, rubbing elbows. I can't explain why - it's like trying to explain why Pauly Shore isn't funny. It is that way because that's the way it is.

Afterthought: kissing on various places of the body turns me on plenty, both giving and receiving. It's the conventional mouth-to-mouth that really does nothing at all for me.

In conclusion: Suck it, Science.

Jill Hamilton said...

JackJuste-- "Pulled in 16 directions" ? "Feral and lusty"? Holy crap, that's the best sentence I've read all week. I can see why you would be bereft about the absence of that kind of kissing. My minute or so of internet research indicates that kissing is imperative for marriage-- stimulating bonding hormones, lowering stress (in men and women) but mentioning that makes it sound like eating bran or something...So, er, anything for JackJuste?
Tricia--I love your porcupine self being all giddy with love.
Asha--My second most favorite sentence of the week was "I totally married that fucker and had his babies."
Heather--Love this litany of wrongs with this dude: "spicy," "short" "pretty" "a tad jerkish." He had no chance.
Leila--you have made my day with your tons of lovely comments, especially "Holy hell, you have officially made it to my favorite blogger of all time." Hmm, maybe this is actually my favorite sentence of the week.
Ed--Referring to a previous post is quite charming, and possibly makes up for you calling kissing "conventional mouth-to-mouth."

The Barreness said...

Ah the weakening of the knees...

It's been a while.

But then, over the years, I think I may have developed some kind of psychological knee strengtheners.

Sadly, they failed me last night, but hey ho.

Wait. What was this about again?

- B x

christy said...

This is fantastic. I just found this blog and I'm definitely a fan. =)

Harleyq said...

I am totally liking what Ed said above, "rocking on all fronts!" About kissing, its the first step in deciding if you are compatible and how compatible you are. In other words how fast you move onto a more "tactile" scenario. Once again Ed explains, "kissing on various places of the body turns me on plenty, both giving and receiving."
Thanks Ed, you sound perfectly yummy!


CkretsGalore said...

Oooooh I love kisses. Giving and receiving of course. Mind you I'm just an affectionate person.
I love kissing my fiancee but you know what? I like kissing women better. I have since I was 15. Does that mean I'm gay? Naw. I love my ladies....the attraction..the sex...I just don't like having a typical relationship with them. It's all good thought because I can have my cake and eat it too. He doesn't mind. Also I don't mind sharing.

Adria said...

I have a comment for JackJuste, if I may? You said the kissing went away, did more? If so, please consider that having children plus her environmental exposures/diet may have caused havoc with her hormones and dropped her testosterone level. Get her to an alternative doctor and see if it helps. I speak from experience! In thinking back, the very first kiss I shared with my husband was a TOTAL turn on and left me panting for more. As I aged, that disappeared, but now that I have a good doctor helping me, it has returned! In the past few weeks we've spent a lot of time just kissing, and it's been fabulous. Good luck, good sir!

Belinda said...

So, I am feeling all of these comments. I don't desire sex with anyone else, my partner and I are compatible, comfortable and it's good. BUT, when I think someone is sexy (man or woman) I have this huge desire to want to make out with them. That's it though. No sexual fantasies, just kissing and kissing, maybe a little petting and panting. That is pretty sexual though, huh?

Anonymous said...

Heh, I find this funny, since my chosen mate is not a kisser. I love kissing and regret that he is not (so count myself lucky that he lets me kiss others), but it is just not his thing.

Gia said...

Siiigh. This makes me wish I was with Boyfriend tonight to kiss him.

whoresandhookers said...

My best kisser was 15 years young in a movie theater, or anywhere else. But she was too hung up on not having sex, due to getting caught losing her virginity to her stepbrother, so sex was always terrible.

A decade later, after we both got married with kids, I sent her an innocent 'hello' letter, and her Arab husband beat her so bad it nearly killed her. One of those 'honor killing' things.

I wonder if she'll try to kill me if I say hello again?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I love kissing. I think it is essential in any relationship. I had a kiss once that literally made me weak in the knees. My chest heaved and I lost my breath. He continued to kiss me with his arm around the small of my back, I thought was going to fall over.

Anonymous said...

Oh this post saddened me. My boyfriend of many a year (or ex or's complicated) and I are absolutely perfect the bedroom. our kisses cause earthquakes around the world...obviously our children would have been gods. Unfortunately our hearts have lost the battle with the mind and the oxytocin doesn't linger, instead replaced quickly by the memory of how that same boundless energy can be used instead to recklessly destroy a perfect foundation. If you have it respect and coddle "it."

in bed with married women said...

Week Bi Week, well thanks for ruining my whole damn thesis here.
Gia, hope you got your chance and hope BF is not like Ed (above) who considers kissing "conventional mouth-to-mouth".
whoresandhookers--this sort of has nothing to do with what you wrote, but now i am wondering what percentage of the time both people are assessing the kiss similarly.
Dan--man, that made me happy.
Anonymous--wow. i don't think my chest has ever actually "heaved." not i am filled with bitter jealousy.
Anonymous 2--ugh, so sorry. but again, you came up with the yummy sentence "obviously our children would have been gods" so that part's good.

OctoNoctua said...

Geeky things work, I tell you. It was just the thing that got my future husband to fall in love with me. It's even on my About page. See? Right there after the first picture.

By the way, I first ran across you in the Blogger forums, how did you eventually get that FB Like box down there (not to mention StumbleUpom)? I can't seem to figure it out for the life of me.

DuskyMaiden said...

mmmm... kissing is yummy. I think I definitely fantasise about kisses more than sex.

I too am a nerd. When hubby and I first got together I looked up all the science of the chemicals that were making us feel the way we were, why hubby couldn't sleep, and how long we could expect the 'magic' to last. I thought it was romantic... and he was in love enough to agree.

Best kissers for me have also been women, but I prefer sex to involve a penis. :)