What’s Kissing All About?

May 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured

Do you remember your first kiss?  Mine was on a motorcycle at the top of a mountain when I was thirteen years old. The boy I was kissing was seventeen.  Earlier he asked if I wanted to go for a ride on his motorcycle.  I said yes.  I was so excited, I knew my first kiss was going to be happening soon.  So I hopped on the back of his bike and off we went.

We rode around until we got high up and could see all the streets and houses below.  We were in the mountains in the state of Rio de Janeiro, where I grew up.

He turned his bike off and we both got off.  He was nervous but managed to ask if I wanted to be his girlfriend.  I too was very nervous but also managed to say yes.  And then it happened.  His lips moist and full touched mine.  Then without being taught anything I just instinctively opened my mouth and my tongue and his touched.  All these amazing feelings started rushing in and at age thirteen I was being baptized into the sensual world of adulthood.

But did you ever wonder how the first kiss happened?  At some point in time in the development of humans there had to be the first kiss.

I searched high and low for the answer to my question but came up empty.  The truth is that historians don’t know everything about the history of kissing.  What I did find out was that four Vedic Sanskrit texts, written in India around 1500 B.C., appear to describe people kissing but the same historians also say that doesn’t mean that nobody kissed before then, or that Indians were the first to kiss. It simply means that artists and writers may have just considered kissing too private to depict in art or literature.

I also found out that anthropologists who believe that kissing is a learned behavior, theorize that the Greeks learned about it when Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 B.C. and that  little before BC or after (no one can pinpoint the exact date of the publication) the Kama Sutra came out with over 250 passages about kissing.

So the story continues that at the end of the Greek reign, Alexander’s army and their generals started spreading through the middle-east and Macedonia bringing with them the kiss.

Later it was the Romans who started spreading kissing throughout the world as they expanded their territories.  And by all historic accounts, kissing had to be taught in the new world.

Regardless of where it started the fact is that kissing plays a major part in how we relate to each other romantically and socially.

The Anatomy Of A Kiss?

Kissing is a complex behavior that requires significant muscular coordination; a total of thirty-four facial muscles and 112 postural muscles are used during a kiss. The most important muscle involved is the orbicularis oris muscle, which is used to pucker the lips and informally known as the kissing muscle.  In the case of the French kiss, the tongue is also an important part. Lips have many nerve endings so they are sensitive to touch and bite.

Our facial nerve also carries impulses between our brain and the muscles and skin in our face and tongue. While we kiss, it carries messages from our lips, tongue and face to our brain to tell it what’s going on. Our brain responds by ordering our body to produce:

Oxytocin, which helps people develop feelings of attachment, devotion and affection for one another

Dopamine, which plays a role in the brain’s processing of emotions, pleasure and pain

Serotonin, which affects a person’s mood and feelings

Adrenaline, which increases heart rate and plays a role in your body’s fight-or-flight response

When we kiss, these hormones and neurotransmitters rush through our body. Along with natural endorphins, they produce the euphoria most people feel during a good kiss. In addition, our heart rate increases and our blood vessels dilate, so our whole body receives more oxygen than it does when we’re just standing around. We can also smell the person we’re kissing, and researchers have demonstrated a connection between smells and emotions.

Our bodies may also play a role in who we prefer to kiss. Researchers have proven that women prefer men with immune system proteins that are different from their own. In theory, having a baby with someone with different immune proteins can lead to healthier offspring. Scientists believe that a woman may be able to smell these proteins while kissing, and that what she smells may affect whether she finds her partner attractive.

Kissing Also Promotes Health Benefits

Affection in general has stress-reducing effects. Kissing in particular has been studied in a controlled experiment: increasing the frequency of kissing in marital and cohabiting relationships was found to result in a reduction of perceived stress, an increase in relationship satisfaction, and a lowering of cholesterol levels.

But At The End Of The Day

We all know that a bad kiss can ruin any romantic proposition because a kiss is like an ironing press (yes, the one you use to press your clothes with) – as I have learned from a bumper sticker on the back of a truck in Brazil – you turn it on on top but it heats up on the bottom.

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