“Oh, man, I hear he got second base!” Admit it. You knew I wasn’t talking about baseball. Of all the euphemisms we use for sex, this one it seems to be the best known, at least in this country. It seems to be encoded in the male DNA that you’ve got to get to first before you can try for second, let alone try to score.
So, is that why we kiss? Liberator says this doesn’t pass the smell test. We need to look deeper.
Surprisingly, kissing is not universal. Anthropologists say that 90% of human cultures engage in smooching. For example, Eskimos wisely rub noses, and thereby avoid literal lip lock via freezing. Kissing can be a prelude to passion, a casual greeting, a hello or goodbye, a wish for luck before the roll of the dice or even the seal on a death warrant (a la Michael Corleone to brother Fredo).
Some scientists, in typical killjoy fashion, claim that the evolutionary origins of kissing can be traced to the passing of partially chewed food from mothers’ mouths to their infant offspring, and that the lip contact became imprinted as a sign of love (Liberator tip of the day: Do NOT share this information during an evening of romance). What seems both more probable and less disgusting is that kissing serves both an erotic and communicative functions.
The old saying goes that for sex, women need a reason but men just need a place. From an evolutionary point of view, that might make for lots of humans, but probably wouldn’t do a heck of a lot for the stable family units needed to get the little suckers to adulthood. So, you ask again, why do we kiss?
First off, kissing is nice (you needed me to tell you that?). Lips contain an incredible concentration of sensory nerve cells.
Lips, tongue and hand (especially the thumb) are biologically designed to be super sensitive. Beyond that, the nerves of the lips and tongue have direct connections to the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for emotion and sex. These connections then tie into the pituitary gland, often called the “master gland.” The result is a decrease in cortisol, a stress hormone, and an increase in oxytocin in males. Oxytocin is the “bonding hormone", which confers feelings of warmth and attachment. Women are known to secrete gobs of the stuff when nursing. You might hypothesize that men need a boost to commitment, and kissing helps with this. Moving on, a good tongue lashing does more than increase the sensory input. This is usually initiated by the male. Male saliva contains testosterone, which stimulates the female (and male) libido, making it more likely that you’ll get to second, third and Score! So, a kiss lowers stress and leads to bonding, and increases the chances of deeper transfers of biologic stuff. We do it because it feels good on both a sensory and chemical-emotional basis. Admittedly, this is not the stuff of Dr. Zhivago, but it beats hell out of nutritional intercourse.
As they say in every infomercial ever made, “But wait-there’s more!”
It seems that kissing has a lot to do with mate selection. During kissing (or nose nuzzling for that matter) the closeness of vomeronasal sensing organs allows for sampling of thekissee’s pheromones. In a study of pheromones, women were told to sniff the used undershirts of various men and asked to pick the ones that “appealed to them.” They picked ones whose genes were different from their own, a valuable way to increase the likelihood of having healthy progeny by avoiding overlapping immune systems. This gives new meaning the need for “chemistry” to make a relationship work.
Now you know that you’re doing something really important when you kiss. How appropriate to discover that even kissing is part of the information age. So go ahead-exchange some biological information, lower your stress and bond.