To many people kissing is a common occurrence and usually signifies that a person cares for another or has some sort of affection towards the one they are kissing. However it is done, a peck on the cheek, a quick kiss on the lips, or even a kiss on the palm before one “blows a kiss”, the gesture is considered to be quite common and even pleasant. In different cultures however kissing can be very different and in some cases considered even filthy.  Kissing is not a universal gesture among all cultures.

The origin of kissing has scientists and historians alike divided when it comes to proclaiming why kissing became popular. In a more romantic sense it is thought to have been an instinctual act, a way to promote pair-bonding and eventual reproduction. Others believe it might stem from kiss feeding, which was how mothers used to feed their children mashed-up food long, long ago. While neither explanation truly pins it down, the former seems a bit vague while the latter seems a little disturbing considering how the kiss has evolved.

At the biological level, kissing might turn a great number of people off if they understood exactly what was happening in terms of their body. When a person kisses another person it can transmit up to eighty million new bacteria to their body, and will activate nearly one hundred and forty-six muscles in each kiss (Bever, 2015). Plus, the average person that does kiss another will kiss for up to twenty thousand minutes, roughly two weeks, within their lifetime. These numbers usually vary from person to person depending on the type of kiss and the duration. However, that seems like an excessive amount of time puckering up to another person considering what is shared from one set of lips to another.

Scientists have discovered that among the one hundred and sixty-eight different cultures

that have been observed over the world, well over half of them do not engage in kissing at all. It

is also interesting to note that North America is not the kissing capital that many might think it to be. The Middle East is the prime kissing zone when it comes to this gesture, followed by Asia and then Europe (Farkas & Peterson, 2016). North America is actually fourth on the list in terms of how many cultures actively kiss one another. While it might seem a little strange it is also worth noting that in America alone many cultures that do not engage in kissing are present and can therefore drive the number down.

I had a chance to witness this more than once while in the city in which my university

resides, and found it to be quite interesting. It took a while to observe considering that respecting people’s privacy is rather important, but what I did see is that among different cultures, several people seemed to disdain open or even close-mouth kisses. Some people would rub their noses together; others would show affection with a gentle touch or caress that was tasteful and quite meaningful. When I decided to ask a couple that I had been observing for a short time I stated my name and intention so that they might feel a bit more comfortable about my asking, and then proceeded to question them.

The people told me that in their home country, India, it was not common for others to be seen kissing and groping one another endlessly as they had seen in America. Instead they remained close, but did not touch nearly as much as they stated they had seen others doing.  When I asked, politely, if they left their more amorous intentions at home in and in private quarters they actually seemed a bit embarrassed. I apologized for my blunt manner but they went on to tell me that they had been raised not to speak of such things. In fact, the husband told me that kissing in their country is not illegal, but kissing in public could be seen as an obscenity that could very well offend someone and cause trouble to those performing the act (Nunez, 2014).

We began to talk about PDA (public displays of affection) and what was seen as

acceptable to one person as opposed to the view of another. Not surprisingly we came up with

very few differences. My own personal opinion on PDA is rather conservative as I was raised to

believe that public displays concerning affection of any type should be confined to small,

appropriate gestures that are able to be shared around others. The couple agreed with for the

most part, but we tended to disagree on the aspect of kissing. In their opinion, kissing is an act

best left between those that are romantically engaged, and behind closed doors where no one else

can see.

During my time observing others I noticed many other behaviors that involved affection between consenting adults that did not involve kissing. I asked only one other couple, this one a younger man and woman that I saw touching noses and foreheads together but never touching lips. Once again I explained the purpose behind my asking, which thankfully lessened their chance of refusing my questions outright. When I first spoke to them they had been engaged in this forehead-touching gesture and seemed a little embarrassed that I had caught them. I found this rather odd considering that moments of affection such as this in America are often seen as completely normal and quite heartfelt.

The couple were visiting the United States from Peking, China, and were quite used to the relaxed ideals of Americans when it came to PDA. As they told me however PDA in many parts of Asia is not so much forbidden but is discouraged and frowned upon. They told me that it is quite okay to hold hands and one’s significant other, but anything else, including kissing, is quite unacceptable. When they asked me on my thoughts I stated that while kissing is a very common form of affection in America, it can often be overdone to the detriment of the individuals and others around them. They heartily agreed.

As a form of PDA, kissing is for many people a very normal, natural way to express ones

feelings towards their chosen partner. But to several others it is a rather disgusting and pointless part of a courting ritual that seems to invite little more than disease and a useless sentiment. While it is the right of every person to agree to disagree, there are instances in which PDA, kissing in particular, can be quite overdone. It is the right of another person to kiss the one they love, but there is also such a thing as decorum that should be observed when in public.

For instance, when out in the midst of other people, it is not necessary to instigate a

make-out session with one’s partner (Mayne, 2017). This is not only rude, but it can make other people uncomfortable and even a bit angry if the spectacle is continued for more than a second or two. A peck on the lips, the cheek, or anything else is usually quite acceptable, but anything long and drawn out is generally enough to bother those in a close vicinity. The exception of course is if one is in a public place, then it is okay to allow the kiss to linger for a bit, but it is still considered lewd and even inappropriate to continue kissing in a public place.

While some cultures consider kissing to be romantic and even acceptable, others view it as a rather disgusting. A few cultures actually consider it to be similar to sharing one’s dirt with another individual, which is hard for many kissing cultures to imagine. Despite the differences between separate cultures and their view on kissing however, it is universally accepted that such a gesture is best to be done in private and behind closed doors. A quick or moderate kiss can be acceptable in public, but anything more is considered rather gratuitous and highly unnecessary.

Kissing is by far and large not universal gesture among human beings. The current role it

holds in many cultures often speaks of affection and not a means by which children are fed,

which is somewhat reassuring. While some cultures consider it repellent and have nothing to do

with it, others that do not practice it tend to show their affection with a gentle touch or by simply

being near their partner. Kissing is, in terms of affection, a very cultural gesture.

References

Bever, L. (2015). Romantic kissing not a universal behaviour. TheStar.com. Retrieved from

https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2015/07/27/romantic-kissing-not-a-universal-behaviour.html

Farkas, I. & Peterson, T. (2016). 5 Universal Experiences That Are Different In Other Cultures.

Cracked. Retrieved from

http://www.cracked.com/article_24461_5-insane-ways-your-culture-physically-shapes-your-perception_p2.html

Mayne, D. (2017). Etiquette of Public Affection. The Spruce. Retrieved from

https://www.thespruce.com/etiquette-of-public-affection-1216896

Nunez, C. (2014). 9 places where you don’t want to be caught kissing. Global Citizen.

Retrieved from

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/9-places-where-you-dont-want-to-be-caught-kissing/

 

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