Recent research reveals that many people have found themselves attracted to someone, only to discover after they kissed them for the first time that they were no longer interested. In other words, while many forces lead two people to connect romantically, the kiss, particularly the first kiss, can be a deal breaker.
The study also found sex differences in the importance and type of kissing. Males tended to kiss as a means to an end — to gain sexual favors or to reconcile. In contrast, females kiss to establish and monitor the status of their relationship, and to assess and periodically update the level of commitment on the part of a partner.
In a sample of 1,041 people, researchers found only five who had never experienced romantic kissing and more than 200 who estimated having kissed more than 20 partners.
According to the researchers, not only do females place more emphasis on kissing, but most would never engage in sex without kissing. Females were more likely than males to insist on kissing before a sexual encounter, and more likely to emphasize the importance of kissing during and after sexual encounters as well. By comparison, males said they would be happy to have sex without kissing, and far more males than females expressed a willingness to have sex with someone who was not a "good" kisser.
Males, however, were more likely than females to initiate open mouth kissing and kissing with tongue contact. The researchers speculate that the exchange of saliva during kissing may have biological consequences in its own right. Male saliva contains measurable amounts of the sex hormone testosterone which can affect libido.
The authors conclude that the study provides evidence that romantic kissing evolved as an adaptive courtship strategy that functions as a mate-assessment technique, a means of initiating sexual arousal and receptivity, and a way of maintaining a bonded relationship.
This story is from a press release issued by University at Albany and was published in the August 2007 issue of Evolutionary Psychology.