We all love smooching. It’s no shock to now that researchers from Oxford University has suggested that not only does kissing us help us find a partner, but it also helps us keep them!
DPhil student Rafael Wlodarskin says that “Kissing in human sexual relationships is incredibly prevalent in various forms across just about every society and culture. Kissing is seen in our closest primate relatives, chimps and bonobos, but it is much less intense and commonly used.”
The Oxford University researcher goes on to say:
“So here’s a human courtship behaviour which is incredibly widespread and common and, in extent, is quite unique. And we are still not exactly sure why it is so widespread and what purpose is serves.”
Why Do We Kiss, Again?
Professor Robin Dunbar and Wlodarski established an online survey for over 900 adults asking the importance of kissing in both long and short term relationships.
Wlodarksi further elucidates, “There are three main theories about the role that kissing plays in sexual relationships: that it somehow helps assess the genetic quality of potential mates; that it is used to increase arousal (to initiate sex for example); and that it is useful in keeping relationships together. We wanted to see which of these theories held up under closer scrutiny.”
The researchers reported their findings in two journals: the Archives of Sexual Behviour and Human Nature.
Women Place More Importance on Kissing
Some interesting tidbits — the surveys found that women found kissing to be much more important than men in relationships.
Men and women who rated themselves as attractive, or people who often engaged in short term relationships, also thought of kissing as very important.
The research further indicates that people use kissing as a means to select their partners: “Mate choice and courtship in humans is complex,” says Dunbar. “It involves a series of periods of assessments where people ask themselves ‘shall I carry on deeper into this relationship?’ Initial attraction may include facial, body and social cues. Then assessments become more and more intimate as we go deeper into the courtship stages, and this is where kissing comes in.”
He adds: “In choosing partners, we have to deal with the ‘Jane Austen problem’: How long do you wait for Mr. Darcy to come along when you can’t wait forever and there may be lots of women waiting just for him? At what point do you have to compromise for the curate?
“What Jane Austen realised is that people are extremely good at assessing where they are in the ‘mating market’ and pitch their demands accordingly. It depends what kind of poker hand you’ve been dealt. If you have a strong bidding hand, you can afford to be much more demanding and choosy when it comes to prospective mates.
“We see some of that coming out in the results of our survey, suggesting that kissing plays a role in assessing a potential partner,” Dunbar further says.
So the next time you’re out and about with your potential mate, make sure you’re kissing right!
- Wlodarski, R. & Dunbar, R.I.M. Examining the Possible Functions of Kissing in Romantic Relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2013 DOI: 10.1007/s10508-013-0190-1
- Rafael Wlodarski, Robin I. M. Dunbar. Menstrual Cycle Effects on Attitudes toward Romantic Kissing. Human Nature, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s12110-013-9176-x