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The Evolutionary Science and Art of the Kiss

“A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.”- Ingrid Bergman

Kissing is the cornerstone of the intimate dance.  Fail at the kiss and whatever potential spark of romance may have existed evaporates in an instant.  And while the passion and intention that we bring to the kiss is our most immediate communication device, which as Bergman notes makes our words superfluous, it is also serves as one of our most basic biological mechanisms which protects us from genetic incompatibility.  So while kissing is most certainly an art that can be learned, it is even more primarily a science which is impossible to ignore. The science of kissing is called philematology, which has also researched and documented the complex interconnected systems in our physiology that come into play in our passionate kisses. They alter not only our emotional state, but our physical condition as well.   Evident when the kiss envelops us,  the world falls away and we are left breathless with a racing heart and often, even sweaty. And you are not imagining the acrobatic feel of a a make out session either, kissing requires significant muscular coordination. In fact, a total of 34 facial muscles and 112 postural muscles are used during a single kiss.

The science of philematology also shows us how well we are designed for the sport- our lips, the primary point of contact in a kiss,  have the slimmest layer of skin on the entire body and are among the most densely populated with sensory neurons of any bodily region, even more so than fingertips or genitalia. And our lips aren’t the only place where the human body is wired to kiss. Half of our cranial neurons influence the kiss by releasing a cascade of neural messages and chemicals, which are responsible for the intense euphoric sensations that carry the vital signals about the sexual/mating potential.

Yet, there is no denying the failed kiss and for good reason. Philematologists argue that kissing’s most vital function is in survival of the species. This is why it is  impossible to kiss someone whose odor turns you off.  Even if all else is perfect,  a poor scent match is indisputable evidence for a poor biological match. We all have a scent profile that is as unique as our fingerprint and the healthiest offspring is a result of widely divergent matches of these profiles. Unhealthy and unsound offspring come of scent profile matches that are too similar. Kissing brings us into this feedback loop with instant recognition, how our unique scent profile blends with a potential mate speaks volumes both consciously and subconsciously about our genetic compatibility or the lack of it. This is why the first kiss can sometimes be the kiss of death for a new relationship. If scent profiles are poorly matched, the relationship is doomed. Our attraction through our nose may be our most primitive, but it is also the most important in finding out who are worthy biological partners.

As a species we have been using the kiss as a form of compatibility testing for millennia. In fact our urge to kiss is at the root of our biological imperative to procreate. And as mentioned previously, the modern kiss derives from the most primitive of all animal behaviors, shared with all mammals, of smelling our mates to determine genetic compatibility.  But our ancestors also believed the kiss had the power to unite their souls, as they presumed that the spirit was carried on the breath. Which is where the science of the kiss also becomes an art form which communicates way more than our words ever could about our intentions and our feelings.  Whether it is a first kiss or the five thousandth kiss good bye, your kiss reveals you. You cannot hide your ambivalence inside of a kiss. There is no forcing in a kiss; although most of us can remember the unwelcome thrust of an un-invited tongue shoving its way in. The use of unnecessary force or the urge to pull away speaks volumes.

The most erotic kissing happens when you approach the dance as you would a meaningful conversation. One of the first essential discoveries in the art of kissing is that it should not be rushed. Just as a real conversation opens with the capacity to listen, the patient kisser is curious and their kisses demonstrate their sensitivity and understanding. Rushing in and trying to take control of the kiss screams amateur and pushes people away more often than pulling them in. Kisses that are insincere or are demanding intimacy that doesn’t exist are visible for what they are.

There are three primary elements that turn on a kissing conversation: breath, lips and tongue. But the one most often overlooked is the breath, the space that contains not only both kissers, but the spirit that moves between you. Respecting the breath, not only as the space that is holding you, but as a means of  the deep connection which it cultivates.  Experiment with breathing through your nose and align slow, deep breaths  with your partner.  There is something deeply sexy about the holding the breath as well. Many tantric techniques rely only on synchronized breathing to create a mystical and profound unity.  As mentioned previously, our perfectly designed lips have the ability to communicate soft opening as well as firm control. Experiment with softening your lips even for a short kiss and see how that changes the dialogue. Hard kisses with tight lips can be overwhelming even in the midst of serious passion. Soft open-mouth kisses invite your partner into a dialogue, which is the goal. Feel for response. Open-mouthed kissing can teach you a lot about opening to relationships: about how to avoid forcing things, as well as giving both partners the opportunity to be active participants choosing their unspoken words.

And finally, consider the tongue as your diplomat, and just like in a good conversationalist, use the tongue judiciously to communicate interest, curiosity and intrigue. A light tongue tracing the lips, quick darting meeting of tongues in the center of open lips is incredibly exciting and will open the conversation to new levels.