The Body Language of Kissing: Why We Kiss, Types of Kissing and How to Kiss

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I inclined my head and went for the kiss. With my eyes closed I could only sense and smell her, it was an entirely another way to communicate through our senses, intense and direct.

Have you ever wondered why we actually kiss?

Kissing of course is fun, but we’ll look deeply into the motives of such “strange” activity and the theories behind it.

After we finish with the theory, we will look into some further related issues such as kiss types, learn what respect and patronage have to do with it and what’s the difference between a platonic and a romantic kiss on the cheek.

If you came here because you want some practical tips on how to kiss, don’t worry, we will go through the steps later on.  We will also look at the things that can go wrong, how they can be avoided, and whether are they really that bad after all.

So without any further ado, let’s jump to my first question:

Why do we kiss?

Well apparently I wasn’t the only one who was puzzled by this, and there is a whole research field dedicated to the study of kissing and its effects on us (Philematology).

So far, nobody’s too sure about the reason behind that strange activity (think about it). You can argue that it’s part of the sexual activity of humans, just like sex, so we don’t really need to look any further for explanations. But that’s not entirely correct because:

1. While kissing is fun, there’s no biological necessity for it to exist. We can reproduce without kissing.

2. Yeah, kissing is very popular today, but it wasn’t evident much in cultures outside the Western civilization a few decades ago. Kissing became much more prominent as a result of the Western culture spread around the world.

OK, so what are the theories?

Where does kissing come from?

1. It started as mouth feeding – this is the most probable conclusion, as we can see many other species utilize this activity. While it might seem a little gross, it was truly essential.

In the days before squashed food was served in tiny cans, we had to soften our baby’s food manually, so the infant would get all the nutrients he needed from the food he could not entirely process by himself.

In later stages, we found out that touching lips together is also very stimulating and fun, so we adopted that habit and transformed it into something way more romantic and sexy than mouthfeeding.

mother feeding her son

2. It’s a biological match-finding test. Suppose you could answer the question “Is s\he right for me?” in one simple test.

Kissing apparently is one such test. Since through it we can actually “taste” our partner, and feel and smell him very closely, it’s hypothesized that through it we can identify if they’re the right match for us (of course as long as they didn’t eat garlic).

It’s theorized that we can identify the strength of the immune system and it’s a match for ours through the pheromones we receive while we kiss. If it tastes good then it’s probably good for us, no? (If only it was true for sweets..)

Side Note: It’s better for us genetically to “mix-in” with a person with an immune system different from ours. More variety = stronger and more adaptable system. that’s why inbreeding doesn’t work well.

While I’m not sure how reliable this test is (I never dumped any girl because I didn’t like her kiss), I believe this is one of the things we describe as “good chemistry” – we feel comfortable physically and emotionally with our partner.

3. It’s our instinct. I mentioned that other species kiss too, such as the bonobos (a primate ape who is closely related to us). Other animals lick each other in the face or touch noses. So maybe it’s just an integrated biological behavior that we may choose to adopt or suppress culturally.

Whatever the reason behind it, kissing is super fun and healthy.

It has all the advantages of being physically intimate like reducing stress hormones (Cortisol), elevating mood (Dopamine, Serotonin), and strengthening the bond with our lover by elevating Oxytocin (AKA the ‘love hormone’). Plus, let’s not forget Adrenaline, which makes your heart pump faster, dilates your blood vessels, and adds a lot of excitement to the cocktail.

So even if we’re not sure why we started doing it, we still have plenty of reasons to continue to do so, right?

We still have some explanation to do

So yeah, kissing is fun and healthy, and we assume it’s universal around the world. right?

Not truly.

Interestingly enough, kissing in public wasn’t part of the customs in many cultures until the Western occupation starting in the 19th century.

The ‘White Man’, who obviously perceived his culture as superior to this of the natives, believed that part of his job was to educate the locals in the ‘right costumes’. Since then, this habit spread out quickly and became the symbol of romance in many parts of the world.

Note: I don’t mean to say that the kiss was an entirely new concept to all foreign cultures outside of Europe, but it wasn’t so popular or was reserved for private occasions only.

Even today, there are many places in the world where kissing is considered an erotic activity, not suitable for public display (Japan, for example). As always. it wouldn’t hurt to check the local customs before trying your charms on someone.

Kissing & Attachment

Before we move on, check out this video of Vsauce on “why do we kiss” – he pretty much sums it up:

We looked at the reasons behind why we kiss, but since we’re in the interpretation of body language business it’s also a good idea to look at the different kiss types and their meaning.

It might look unnecessary since kissing is probably the trademark of romance and passion in many parts of the world. But not all kisses are love-related or erotic by nature.

We kiss in greetings, in religious customs, out of respect, and also to comfort and soothe. It’s important to make that distinction between the varied kiss types, especially if you’re the one who’s initiating it because you don’t want to send the wrong message by mistake.

Respect, Patronage, and Status

We need to remember that kissing is a type of touch and a very sensitive one at that, so the cultural rules related to our touching rituals define what is the kissing type and whether is it allowed.

This means social status and context play a big part in who’s allowed to kiss whom. The initiator of the kiss is usually the one who’s on top of things. That’s why men are expected to take the first step, they need to show confidence and control – attractive male characteristics.

A kiss can be a sign of respect, like an advanced form of bowing: A man might kiss a woman’s hand to show his admiration, A petitioner the priest’s hand in a religious ceremonyThe member of an Italian mob will kiss the don’s hand in sign of respect and submission. Notice that this type of kiss appears below the head and chest area, it’s a nonverbal cue that the participants are not equal in status.

Kissing on equal ground, like a kiss on the cheek, shows mutual respect, where’s no side dominates the other.

And lastly, when we kiss someone from above, like kissing their forehead – it’s a symbol of patronage and protection. That’s why we can see it in situations where one side comforts and supports the other. Like a parent soothing their crying child.

Kissing Objects

man kissing his medal

Kissing inanimate objects is often a gesture of religious respect, admiration, or gratefulness.

Kissing the ground of a holy site, show admiration for the place and thankfulness to be there.

A football player who’s kissing his medallion or shirt reflects his love or appreciation for whatever the object symbolizes.

We view the kissing gesture in high regard, kept for occasions when we truly like or respect something, don’t discard it or use it too freely as you can offend many others. That’s why “kiss my ass” sounds so offensive and absurd to us, we hold kissing in high regard and our asses in a much lower one.

Platonic VS Not-so-platonic Kiss on the Cheek

Suppose you met someone and want to take the next step, from mere friendship to something more, how should your greeting\departing kiss be different from the way you greet your aunt?

There are a few key differences:

Puckered lips VS loose lips – Puckering your lips is one of the main signals that this kiss is going to be platonic. When we pucker we tense and close our mouths – not an inviting environment for a kiss of passion. For a more romantic kiss, keep your lips looser and softer.

Kiss placement – In a platonic scenario the kiss should be in the middle of the cheek, not too close for the mouth, but not too close to the ear either. To play it even safer, you can do an air kiss – just touch cheek to cheek and do the smacking sound of the lips in the air.

When you do mean business, do place that kiss near the mouth or closer to the ear.

Timing  – like hugging, or any other type of touch – the longer you retain the touch the more intimate the meaning becomes. A platonic kiss on the cheek is brief, the nonplatonic is a little longer. I repeat, a little longer, you don’t need to count to 10 and then release.

The French Kiss

AKA the tongue kiss. Why is it French? Not because the French invented it, it’s just one of these things that were nicknamed long ago, and it stuck. Apparently, it started with US soldiers coming back home from WW1, describing the French as more sexually adventurous and lustful.

So when we talk about the French kiss we talk about passion, lust, and an erotic display of love. There’s no other hidden meaning here (unless of course it’s done as some kind of manipulation).

Because this kind of kiss is a symbol of how sexual and passionate a couple is, many feel they need to prove themselves and perfect the tongue kissing. This in turn can just put more pressure and insecurity rather than good performance. but I’m getting a little out of the subject here, in the next article we’re gonna explore just that.

So we have been talking about why we kiss and described some types of kiss and their meaning, but what about the actual technique? How to kiss the right way?

You’re right, it’s time to address the more ‘technical’ problems we might have when it comes to kissing. In this final part, we will focus on some practical kissing tips you can implement right away!

While it’s not something overly complicated or difficult, it still can be stressful and uncomfortable, as if it’s some kind of test that needs to be passed.

If you feel that way, worry not my friend, because:

A. Getting nervous and excited before a kiss (especially if it’s your first) is only our natural response, our body automatically releases adrenaline to stimulate us. Without some excitement it just wouldn’t be that fun, right?

B. To become a really good kisser you need to be sensitive and adaptive. Meaning, that you want to let the sensation from the kiss guide you to what is right. The best way to achieve this is by staying (relatively) calm and reacting accordingly to your partner’s actions. All you need is some confidence and a lightweight attitude.

These are the most important things to remember about how to kiss well, the rest comes from experience. But, to get this process even smoother, we will go through some crisp and important kissing tips that will help us prepare mentally. Let’s start with:

Prep Work

Before we actually get to the kiss itself, let’s make sure we’re ready. What’s ready means?

1. Relax and Keep it Simple. If there’s one thing that I want you to remember about kissing – this is it. Don’t overthink it. Thinking is bad, and reacting is good.  Even if you’re clueless and this is your first kiss, it’s better to go with the flow rather than to wonder if you’re making mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes, and thinking about them during the action can only cause you to make more of them. Why? because our mind can focus on a single task at any given point (except the things we do subconsciously of course), so it’s better to focus on your sensations from the kiss rather than on your performance, right?

candy mints

With time, experience, and some tips you can get to be the best kisser. But what’s the point of trying if you’re not enjoying it, right? Just keep it simple and have fun.

2. Your mouth should be a hospitable environment. If there’s a chance that guests will come by, you want to make sure everything is in place and smells good right?

This means that if you’re on a date, and you know there’s a chance for a kiss, avoid spicy and smelly foods like cheese, garlic, onions, and fish. Or, you can save and use some mint refresher (or gum, just don’t forget to spit it!).

Another thing is excess saliva. When we’re sexually aroused we often generate extra saliva in our mouths, it’s like we’re preparing to taste something really good (hence – lips licking). But you don’t actually want to kiss someone with an overly watery mouth because it gets very sloppy. So take a moment and swallow before you dive in for the kiss.

And of course, if you have chapped lips, you may want to use a chapstick, for obvious reasons.

3. Set the right atmosphere. If you think the time is right (see below) deliver with the body language that you’re preparing for a kiss. Maybe your date is into you, and maybe they’re not, but in order to discover that you need to send nonverbal signals and watch the feedback you’re receiving.

This means by creating eye contact and maintaining it, you want to focus on the triangle between both eyes and lips. Looking at the lips area is one of the strongest signs that you mean to go for the kiss.

Man and woman staring at each other's eyes

Keep your lips parted and soft. Clamped or puckered lips show a closed or evaluative attitude.

Keep your body loose and open. Ever tried to kiss someone with his arms folded?

Let the conversation subside to a minimum. You can’t just go for it if both of you just keep on blabbering.

How to know if it is the right time for a Kiss?

Okay, so we’re all set. How can we tell if our date is ready for the kiss too?

First of all, if you’re a guy, you probably will be the one who needs to initiate it. It doesn’t mean that girls cannot initiate kisses (this can actually show a lot of attitude and save the guy a lot of stress), but it’s one of those things that are expected from the role of the man.

So what are the signs? very similar to the signals you send if you’re ready:

1. Lips are slightly parted. Not clamped or swallowed.

2. She keeps eye contact.

3. Her body is loose and facing you.

4. She looks a little nervous and detached, as if her mind is not really in the conversation, but in preparation for what’s about to happen (hopefully).

The Kiss

How to kiss – The move itself, is very simple:

Note: Give a little smile before you actually go for the kiss, it helps reduce the stress and sets a positive and light atmosphere.

1. Tilt your head to the side (most people tilt to the right) 

Man and woman kissing

2. Touch softly with the lips. If it’s your first kiss on a date, don’t rush straight for the tongue kiss, test the waters first, and enjoy the moment. To make the kiss more passionate and enjoyable, vary the speed and rhythm of the kiss. You are also welcome to tilt your to the other side and enjoy kissing from a different angle. The keyword here is diversification.

What you probably want to avoid:

1. Hesitation. I know, it can be stressful, but the longer you hesitate the more awkward it can get.

2. Opening your eyes during the kiss. Not many things are scarier than finding your date staring at you while you kiss, it’s just plain too weird.

3. Kiss with puckered lips. It just doesn’t work. It shows a stressed attitude as if someone makes you kiss.

4. Fish lips. great for funny faces, not so for romance.

5. Bumping with teeth. It happens, especially if it’s a very spontaneous and passionate kiss, but do try to avoid such accidents.

couple's teeth bumped while kissing

6. Lack of air. Don’t forget to breathe! Yeah, it’s intense and fun. But breathing steadily and calmly is vital for your health. If you can’t seem to manage, just take a little break, it’s OK, it only shows you’re very passionate about it. What leads me to…

7. Don’t be afraid to take breaks. Really, unless you’re trying to break the Guinness record for the longest kiss (note: 58 hours and 35 min! Think about doing it without sleeping for more than 2 whole days. talking about the power of love huh?) taking breaks works very well for you. It gives you a moment to readjust, and perhaps stare deeply into your partner’s eyes and just feel lucky.

8. Smacking of the lips. This happens when you have too much saliva, everything just gets wet and your lips start to make sounds. Again, stop for a moment, swallow, and continue in your own pleasure.

two people smacking of the ops

The Tongue Kiss

How to kiss the French way? Easy.

The best way to get to French kissing is by starting slowly from the regular kiss.

Once your lips are ‘locked’ together, use the tip of your tongue to brush lightly the lips of your partner and enter their mouth. If they get the message and want to participate you’ll get the reciprocal tongue.

From that point, intertwine the tongues and play with the intensity as you will, but try to keep it balanced: don’t be the ‘too much tongue’ person by moving it like a windmill inside their mouth, and don’t be too limp with it either – a lying piece of meat inside the mouth isn’t passionate or stimulating.

two people kissing with their tongue

How to Spice Things Up

How to kiss with passion?

As I mentioned above, one of the things that makes a kiss good is diversification. So even if you’ve done it a thousand times before with your boy/girlfriend, try to add something new. You can try:

1. Kissing other spots. Try kissing the neck, and perhaps leaving ‘love bites’ (be sure they like the idea of this mark). You can also try kissing the face, or kissing and biting the ear lobe (very sexy!). Just be gentle, okay?

man kissing woman on the neck

2. Include biting in your repertoire, it makes a kiss more spicy and lustful, as if you actually taste your partner. Nibble softly the lower lips of your partner and pull back with your teeth. Use this technique as an intermission, not the main action.

3. Don’t forget to use your hands. Move them about your partner’s neck, head, and body. Needless to say that the amount of touching, and where it’s allowed, depends on the level of intimacy between the kissers, but don’t neglect this great opportunity to advance things further.

man holding woman's neck while kissing

Time to wrap things up

Phew, let’s take a break from all of this wet action and try to conclude what’ve learned in this series:

1. Kissing is something fun, healthy, and stimulating that most of us enjoy.

2. The study of kissing is called Philematology. Researchers believe that we started to kiss from mouth feeding and as a biological match-finding test.

3. Even so, kissing is not as popular or widespread as we might believe, and there are places in the world where it can get us into trouble if we attempt it in public.

4. Not all kisses are romantic, and there is a connection between where you kiss and the connotation of the gesture.

5. We talked about how to kiss and how to identify ‘that moment’. The main thing is to remember to enjoy it and to keep it simple. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

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Stefan Speaks AI
Stefan Speaks AI
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