Spa Health: Lip Service

What is it about the act of kissing that makes humans (and other primates!) from almost all societies and cultures choose to pucker up?

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It is a “human courtship behavior that is incredibly widespread and common… And we are still not exactly sure why it is so widespread or what purpose it serves,” says Rafael Wlodarski, Oxford University researcher.

Determined to understand more about this lip-smacking phenomenon, Wlordarski and Oxford professor Robin Dunbar set up an online questionnaire in which more than 900 adults weighed in on the importance of the smooch in their relationships. The results of their research, funded by the European Research Council and appearing in recent editions of the Archives of Sexual Behavior and Human Nature, yielded some fascinating responses:

  • Women rated kissing as generally more important in relationships than did men.
  • People who are more selective in choosing a romantic partner tend to value kissing more than others.
  • Sexual arousal was not cited as a driving factor in why people kiss in romantic relationships.
  • For women, kissing a potential romantic partner is the most useful way to assess “genetic quality” during the fertile time in their menstrual cycle.
  • People reported that the importance of kissing changes for them according to whether they’re in a long-term or short-term relationship. (Women cited kissing as being especially important in long-term relationships.)