A kiss is the touching of one person's lips to another place, which is used as an expression of affection or to show respect, and as a greeting or a farewell; kissing can be used to express romantic affection or sexual desire. The word comes from Old English cyssan "to kiss", in turn from coss "a kiss". It is generally considered one of the strongest ways to show affection.

Biology and Evolution

Anthropologists have not reached a consensus as to whether kissing is a learned or an instinctive behavior. Kissing may lead to sexual behaviors. It may be related to grooming behavior also seen between other animals, or arising as a result of mothers premasticating food for their children.Premastication - Langmaker When mammalian mothers kiss infants, their bodies automatically recognize biological dangers to their offspring, and their bodies add resistant proteins to their milk. Kissing allows prospective mates to smell and taste each other's pheromones for biological compatibility. Women are subconsciously more attracted to men whose major histocompatibility complex portion of their genome is different from their own, leading to offspring with resistance to a greater number of diseases due to heterosis, and thus having a better chance of survival.

This explains why couples are more likely to bond if they have the right "chemistry." Also, a study by researchers at University at Albany found that women use kissing as a tool to find the right father for their children and to judge men on the quality of the first kiss that they share.

Non-human primates also exhibit kissing behavior.

Other than primates there are also animals, particularly many species of birds that exhibit beak-to-beak and mouth-to-mouth behavior which is typically interpreted by observers as kissing. Dogs, cats, and other animals display licking and grooming behavior among themselves, but also towards humans or other species. This is sometimes interpreted by observers as a type of kissing, but some may see this as anthropomorphising the actions of animals.

Kissing as affection in different cultures

In modern Western culture, kissing is most commonly an expression of affection. This is unlike many parts of the world where kissing may have different meanings. Some literatures even suggest that a significant percentage of humanity do not kiss.Affairs of the Lips: Why We Kiss: Scientific American An anomaly is India, where public kissing was once quite popular, as evidenced by the common portrayal of kissing apsaras and people in motifs commonly used around palaces and temples. British rule, and a Victorian ethics system pushed public kissing into a taboo act. However, post-independence, public kissing is not uncommon in India.

In Middle Eastern countries until recent times, kissing was only considered proper when between two men, two women, or parents kissing their children. Kissing was not looked upon as a sexual expression in the Middle East.

In African, Native American and Polynesian cultures, kissing was unknown until introduced by European and Western influence.

With the Andamanese, kissing was only used as a sign of affection towards children and had no sexual undertones.Chapter: 9: A Traditional Society

In Eastern European countries until recent times, kissing between two men on the lips as a greeting or a farewell was as normal as the modern Western handshake . This custom has nearly died out due to Western influence. In the past, kissing wasn't considered sexual in Slavic and Muslim countries.

Between people of close acquaintance, a reciprocal kiss often is offered as a greeting or farewell. This kind of kiss is typically made by brief contact of puckered lips to the skin of the cheek or no contact at all, and merely performed in the air near the cheek with the cheeks touching. Such kissing is a common greeting in European and Latin American countries between a man and a woman or between two women but also by two men in parts of Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, such as Argentina. However, in most Western societies, it is often more acceptable for women to kiss each other than for men to kiss each other. People sometimes kiss children to comfort them or show affection, and vice versa. This usually takes place on the forehead or cheek.

As an expression of romantic affection or kissing involves two people pressing their lips together, usually with much more intensity, and for a considerably longer period of time. In more passionate kissing couples may open their mouths, suck on each other's lips or move their tongues into each others' mouths (see French kiss). Sexual kissing may also involve one person kissing another on various parts of the body (see Foreplay).

In some countries kissing booths exist; often at carnivals a person kisses people for money.Pasco: A fundraiser in the | Alberta's bear-kissing booth back in business

The anatomy of kissing

Kissing is a complex behavior that requires significant muscular coordination; in fact, a total of thirty-four to thirty-six muscles working cooperatively. The most important muscle involved is the orbicularis oris muscle, which is used to pucker the lips and informally known as the kissing muscle. The tongue can also be an extremely important part of the kiss. Lips have many nerve endings so they are sensitive to touch and bite.

Kissing body parts

Kissing lips is common, as are other body parts such as the cheeks, forehead, neck, hand, etc. Kissing the hand is common practice when proposing marriage. Kissing body parts is common during foreplay.

Symbolic kissing

A kiss can be "blown" using actions of the hand and the mouth. One person kisses their fingers and then pretends to blow it to the other person. This is used to convey affection, usually when parting or when the partners are physically distant but can view each other. Blown kisses are also used when a person wishes to convey affection to a large crowd or audience. In written correspondence a kiss has been represented by the letter 'X' since at least 1763.

Screen kiss

A screen kiss is one portrayed in a film (the equivalent act in a play is known as a stage kiss). The plot of a film or play may involve characters falling in love with each other, but the actors playing the roles might not have any personal relationship with each other whatsoever, though it has been known to happen that real-life lovers will star in films together.

Stage and or screen kissing may be performed by actually kissing, or by creating the illusion of actual contact. Methods involved in the faking of a stage/screen kiss include using one's thumbs as a barrier for the lips, and turning so that the respective audience is unable to fully see the kiss itself.

Disease transmission

Diseases which may be transmitted via kissing include mononucleosis and herpes, in which the infectious organism is present in saliva. Research indicates that contraction of HIV via kissing is extremely unlikely, however a woman has been infected with HIV by kissing in 1997; both the woman and infected man had gum disease (so transmission most likely was through the man's blood, not saliva).Case of H.I.V. Transmission Is First to Be Linked to Kiss - New York Times

Notable kisses

In history

In religion

In folklore

In art

In film

In theatre

In photography

World Records

See also

Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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