Telling About Kissing

Telling About Kissing January 5, 2011

Greg Laden gives the thumbs up to Sheril Kirshenbaum’s new book The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us and sums up some fascinating takeaways about kissing:

Kissing is not a human universal. Not all cultures do this. The history of kissing is complex and interesting, to the extent that we know about it. Kissing may or may not be a signal for quality or ability in relation to other activities such as sex. Science has something to say about the efficacy of lip-enhancing behaviors such as gloss and colorizing. And did you know that men and women do not necessarily like the same kind of kissing, at least in some contexts?

Sheril’s book is a fun read and there is no way you will not find it informative. Gender issues and sexuality is an interest of mine (as an evolutionary biologist) so I know a lot of this stuff, but I learned a great deal reading The Science of Kissing. And, it made me think.

To me, the most interesting take-home message from Sheril’s book is that kissing is both a fundamental, primordial form of communication involving the deepest limbic and visceral functions and the most basic social negotiations foundational to human existence, and something that any one group of human can simply do entirely without. The Science of Kissing documents the heterogeneous nature of kissing historically (and by inference prehistorically) and ethnographically, while at the same time demonstrating the nature and mechanics of kissing as an ethological player in the kind of social space where one might also find cringing or punching or swearing or yelling or fearing or other visceral activities.

At first, this seems highly enigmatic, but need not be so. What is needed is to draw kissing down to some of it’s more basic components. What is kissing made up of that could be done some other way that does not add up to actual kissing?

Greg goes on to explain the answers to these questions a bit here.

Video interview with Sheril here.

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