July 17, 2015 1:52 am

Where Did The Act of Kissing Come From?


Recent study looks into the act of kissing history in romantic human societies and explores where did the act of kissing come from.

A new study finds that half of the human cultures do not practice lip-to-lip kissing. And it also applied on animals too. Eventually kiss rather rarely, so how did the concept of romantic act of kissing arose in the first place?

According to a new study of kissing preferences, which looked at 168 cultures from around the world, only 46% of cultures kiss in the romantic sense. Previous estimates had put the figure at 90%. The new study excluded parents kissing their children, and focused solely on romantic lip-on-lip action between couples.

William Jankowiak says:

“The study overturns the belief that romantic kissing is a near-universal human behaviour”

Many hunter-gatherer groups showed no evidence of kissing or desire to do so. Similarly, some cultures see the act of kissing as purely  ‘western’ and ‘modern’. Many traditional set-ups do not practice kissing or even bother about it. Some cultures even see it as ‘gross’ and revolting.

The big question which arises “Is kissing natural or is it learned?”

Rafael Wlodarski of the University of Oxford in the UK goes through records to find evidence of how kissing has changed. The earliest historical records dates back to as long as the 2nd century in Hindu Vedic texts of ancient India, and the Kama Sutra which devotes and entire chapter to the modes of kissing. Some anthropologists have suggested that Greeks learned about romantic kissing when Alaxander the Great invaded India in 326 BC. But this still does not indicate the fact that kissing originated from India.

Some theorists believe that back in early days, mothers may have chewed food and passed it from their mouths into those of their toothless infants. Even after babies cut their teeth, mothers would continue to press their lips against their toddlers cheeks to comfort them. But it still doesn’t explain where did the concept of  lip-to-lip partner kissing came from.

Well, maybe we could learn the answer from animal kingdom.

Our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, do kiss. Primatologist Frans de Waal of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, has seen many instances of chimps kissing and hugging after conflict.

For chimpanzees, kiss is a form of reconciliation, and to establish social bonds rather than romantic foreplay-like humans. Their cousins, the bonobos kiss more often, and they often use tongues while doing so. That’s perhaps not surprising, because bonobos are highly sexual beings.

Do animls kiss?

Apart from these apes, animals not using kiss at all. They may peck or touch but they do not engage in the form of social kissing-like humans do. The primatologist Frans de Waal says :

“As far as we know, other animals do not kiss at all”


Those who do, is because of emotional comfort, social bonding, or reconciliation after a fight, rather than as a romantic gesture.

Many theorists report that kissing might play an important part in the evolutionary biology. The act might have helped humans to ‘sniff off’ good potential mates for reproduction.

A study published in 1995 showed that women, just like mice, prefer the smell of men who are genetically different from them. This makes sense, as mating with someone with different genes is likely to produce healthy offspring.

Kissing is a great way to get close enough to sniff out your partner’s genes. On that view, kissing is just a culturally acceptable way to get close enough to another person to smell the potential genes.