- William Park
Kissing the lips is not practiced by all people as some people think, there are a variety of different ways in which people kiss each other, so how did this practice begin?
A study of 168 different cultures around the world indicated that less than half of all societies accept each other’s lips.
And William Jankowiak, professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, found that only 46 percent use lip kissing in a romantic sense, apart from other things like parents kissing children or greeting.
Two theories about why humans need kissing stem from the idea that as children we have an innate desire to touch lips and feel things through our lips. In the first theory, we may associate lip touching with breastfeeding, and this is innate in every person.
Another theory is that it comes down to “mouth chewing.” Perhaps our early ancestors’ mothers chewed food first and moved it straight to our mouths during our early formative years.
And we can see this thing now in our closest ancestors – chimpanzees – as well as in other types of monkeys.
Why do people accept?
“But I think the reason kissing is universal, or not, is that people can satisfy their cravings in many other ways than just kissing,” Jankowiak says.
These lipless cultures find other ways to be intimate, says science writer Cheryl Kirshenbaum.
“There’s the Malay kiss that Darwin described, where the women were sitting on the floor and the men somehow climbed over them and they quickly inhaled each other’s scent,” she says.
In the Trobriand Islands, off the east coast of Papua New Guinea, lovers kiss each other by sitting face-to-face and biting each other’s eyelashes.
“It may not seem romantic to many of us today, but it does the job for them,” says Kirshenbaum.
What is important in kissing lips and other types of kissing is the exchange of close and intimate information between us.
Kissing by applying pressure to our lips is almost a unique human behaviour. And if kissing has an evolutionary purpose, why aren’t we seeing more animals kissing one another?
This question was answered by Melissa Hogenbaum for the BBC in 2015, when she suggested that one of the reasons we might get close to our partner’s face is the desire to breathe the soul of the other in reciprocity.
Smell can reveal all kinds of useful information: diet, illness, and mood, to name a few. And many animals have much more developed senses of smell than we do, so they don’t have to be so close together that they touch the lips.
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