Like me, you may have experienced the frustration of walking down the hallway, minding your own business, happy to be getting to your next class on time. And then… Bam! A couple decides to stop and make out so that whole world can see them swap spit in all its glory. As I stand there irritated that they had to mess up the great flow of traffic that was going on, I wonder why making out is so appealing. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that kissing is great and all, but when I really think about it, the urge to experience and understand the exact texture of someone’s tongue and the inner workings of their mouth is just . . . weird.
Me and my strangely curious self decided to do some research on this odd phenomenon. The first thing I found out was that there is an entire area of study dedicated to understanding kissing. Its called philematology. So I’m not the only one curious about human’s love of locking lips. These philematologists are scientists, so of course they live for controversy and conflicting theories. Therefore, there are many differing beliefs about kissing. Some believe that it is a learned behavior, while others believe that it is instinctual.
One argument for the theory that kissing is learned, is that it can be traced back to our ancient mothers. It was not uncommon for mothers to chew food for their young (aka mastication) and feed it to them by mouth. As they grew, mothers would continue to press their lips to their children’s face as a comforting gesture. It is possible that we copied this practice and from there stemmed the modern smooch. My deepest apologies if that ruined kissing for you forever.
The arguments for kissing being instinctual are also quite interesting. Many of you have heard of pheromones, chemicals that animals give off in order to attract a mate. Wlodarski, a doctor in the study of human behavior, suggests that kissing is really just a socially acceptable way for us to get close enough to each other to pick up on one anothers’ pheromones. We can then decide whether or not we find them attractive enough to get it on. In addition to the purpose of finding a mate, kissing just feels good! Human tongues and lips are filled with nerve endings that cause us to release those good ol’ endorphins making us feel awesome.
Philematologists also look to other animals to help understand kissing. Chimpanzees literally “kiss and make-up,” and often embrace each other with a kiss and a hug to reconcile after a fight. Bonobos, however, take it to a whole other level. They kiss on the regular, with tongue, to comfort each other, greet each other, and sometimes for no clear reason at all.
It’s also important to recognize that not all human societies partake in this interesting practice. Anthropologists estimate that about 10 percent of cultures don’t kiss, most of them made up of hunter-gatherer tribes. This clearly shows that kissing is not essential to our survival. But hey, that doesn’t mean we have to. So carry on with the frenching, snogging, playing tonsil hockey, smooching, saliva swapping, pecking, and whatever other creative words might roll off your tongue.