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Monday, February 13, 2006

What's in a Kiss?

from David Templeton's article First Kisses

Man with beard kissing a womanAs tomorrow is Valentine's Day, everyone should practise the art of kissing as much as possible to get into the mood of the day. However, theory is just as important as practice.

With over twenty words for the act in its native tongue, it is well documented that France was the first country to formally accept kissing as an act of courtship in the sixth century, when dances were first sealed with a kiss. However, have you ever wondered how kissing came to be and what theories lie behind the practice of the pressing together of lips and tongue?

A Brief History of the Modern Kiss
The stories surrounding the beginnings of the kiss are more pragmatic than romantic.

One theory suggests that prehistoric man and woman tasted each other's saliva to check out prospective mates' health.

Another theory put forward is that kissing evolved from sniffing each other's faces as a primitive way of greeting, in much the same that animals, particularly dogs, sniff each other as a welcome and to determine where one has been and what mood it is in.

Others theorise that ancient man was simply copying the antics of Bonobo apes, which kiss with tongues and are the only other primates to copulate face to face rather than from behind.

However it's not all scientific.

There is a more romantic hypothesis that our early ancestors believed that one's soul was carried in the breath and that by inhaling each other's breath they could mingle and meld their souls.

Early Eroticism in Kissing
Whatever its beginnings, kissing was soon adopted as erotic foreplay.

One of the first written references to erotic kissing appears in the sex manual the Kama Sutra, which was created in India around the third century and was based on the Kama Shastra or 'rules of love', which dates back to the seventh century BC. The Kama Sutra describes more than thirty different methods of kissing.

The Romans took a different view. Kissing had more do with respect than affection in the Roman Empire. Rank and not love denoted where you kissed a person. The most important members of society could expect to have their robes and jewellery kissed by the populace. Nobles of equal rank would kiss each other on the lips, while the less important were offered a hand and the least significant people had to make do with a foot to kiss.

However, by the 16th century the Mediterranean's red-hot lovers had gone decidedly cool on kissing even as a mark of respect and the then government of Naples banned the practice, making kissing an offence punishable by death. Kissing remains the subject of legislation to this day in other places. For instance, in the state of Indiana, USA it is against the law for a moustachioed man to 'habitually kiss human beings'.

Kissing has also been the subject of music. Arguably it was the universal sound of kisses that gave Turkish pop singer 's 1997 hit single Şımarık its characteristic sound. However kissing almost got him into trouble in 2001, due to another kiss - a sensuous tongue kiss - he gave his leading lady in the music video to a different song.

Kissing Today
Modern research has come down firmly on the side of kissing. One study suggests that people who kiss their partners goodbye before leaving for work have higher incomes on average than those who don't. Another shows that babies who are given lots of kisses and cuddles by their mothers grow into less anxious, more confident people who are less likely to suffer from depression or the ill effects of stress than those who are not.

Not only is kissing enjoyable and good for you, but dieticians also suggest the act burns an average of twenty-six calories a minute.

So whatever the motive behind putting our lips together, to ape the apes, to show affecton or to kiss goodbye to that extra weight, get kissing tomorrow.

For more about kissing also see: Valentine's Day Special 2007: Kissing Chemistry

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