Wednesday, 13 November 2013

What’s in a Kiss?

“Kiss me and you will see how important I am,"
Sylvia Plath wrote.
The erotic kiss (as opposed to the kiss of respect, friendship, courtesy, or parent-child) is recognized in most cultures around the world. The vast majority of adults all over the globe have experienced the awkwardness, excitement, confusion and pleasure of it. But one must admit that on its face the practice of kissing is more than a bit strange. Why would the exchange of saliva and dinner salad remnants be considered a desirable event, a ritual of passion? Given that the erotic kiss is so common, it must play an important role in the dance of human sexuality. But what exactly is that role?

Opinions among scholars differ as to the function and origins of kissing. One hypothesis is that the kiss has evolved as a mechanism for gathering information about potential sexual partners. A kiss brings us into close physical proximity with the other, close enough to smell and taste them. The face area is rich with glands secreting chemicals that carry genetic and immunological information. Our saliva carries hormonal messages. A person's breath, as well as the taste of their lips and the feel of their teeth, signals things about their health and hygiene, and thus their procreative suitability.

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