Why do we kiss?
Kissing helps us size up potential partners and, once in a relationship, may be a way of getting a partner to stay around. Though some animals kiss—our primate relatives, chimps and bonobos, among them—humans are the only creatures that use kissing as part of courtship behavior.
To find out why this is so, researchers at Oxford University gave an online questionnaire to more than 900 adults, asking them about the importance of kissing in long-term and short-term relationships.
Women rated kissing as more important in relationships than men, according to survey responses. Men said they were more likely to initiate kissing before sex, possibly to spark arousal, and women tended to initiate kissing after sex, where the practice serves to keep the spark alive in a long-term relationship.
“Mate choice and courtship in humans is complex,” says Robin Dunbar, an Oxford professor and one of the study’s researchers. “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.”
The survey also found:
In short-term relationships, kissing was most important before sex, less so during and after sex, and was least important at times that had nothing to do with sex. In committed relationships, kissing was equally important before sex and at non-sex-related times.
Frequent kissing in a relationship was linked to the quality of a relationship. Lots of kissing, in fact, was associated with healthy, long-term relationships.
Women’s attitudes toward romantic kissing also depend on where in their menstrual cycle and their relationship they are. Women valued kissing most at initial stages of a relationship when they were in the part of their cycle when they are most likely to conceive. The researchers believe kissing a romantic potential partner at this time helps women assess the genetic quality of a potential mate.
Our takeaway? Keep your lips in kissable condition!