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Science
THE KISS
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The origin, chemistry, physiology and cultural significance of the kiss.
Sunday 22 June 2003 1.30-2.00pm

Kissing is a symbol of desire romance, love and affection, an accepted greeting between friends and family. Kissing plays a role throughout our lives from cradle to grave. But to press your mouth against another’s is a really bizarre thing to do: and the origins of kissing are still something of a mystery to scientists. In this intriguing, informative and entertaining journey beyond the lips, Dr Gillian Rice investigates the theories about the origins of the kiss and the sexual chemistry, physiology and cultural significance of this most powerful symbol of trust or betrayal. A kiss is not just a kiss - it’s a unique form of communication.

Auguste Rodin's 'The Kiss'
Auguste Rodin's 'The Kiss'

“Sparks literally jumped between our noses and you need 10,000 volts of static electricity for every centimeter of air, so I was pretty High Powered!”

“There are over 250 references in the Kama Sutra to different types of kisses, when to kiss, how to kiss…..”

“The earliest written references to anything approaching kissing come from the Vedic Sanskrit texts of in India …1500 BC…”

“.. what (Desmond ) Morris said was that the everted lips may be sexual advertisement that was reminiscent of the everted genitals”
(as part of the evolutionary thinking about evolving to upstanding creatures).

“Larger lips are better looking than smaller lips … up to a certain point! … generally speaking big is better than small”

“.. I think the best kiss you ever have is the first time you kiss your first girlfriend (or boyfriend) … didn’t quite know what to do with your tongues or your mouths or whatever… but just that first meeting, lip upon lip and that fluttering in your heart, I think that’s pretty unbeatable actually!”


We are people of lips – something that sets us apart from almost all other life: and our lips are everted making them the most exposed erogenous zone of our body. The area of the brain stimulated by a brush against the lips, is larger than that concerned with the reproductive organs!

As to its origin: some anthropologists believe that kissing evolved from sniffing, some indigenous cultures do rub noses rather than kissing. It is a primal urge to sample another person’s scent, and test their sexual chemistry so could touching lips have extended from rubbing noses? Sounds crazy, but we‘re not alone, moles rub noses, turtles tap their noses, dolphins rub noses, dogs lick each others face, and some birds display with beak clapping or “kissing” displays. Alternatively, kissing may evolved from “kiss feeding”: in which mothers masticate food before passing it on to a baby.

The programme explores the role of the lips when it comes to attraction: and the sexual chemistry and physiology of the kiss. Over 34 facial muscles are involved in making a pout and for most of us, the first romantic kiss is, an unforgettable experience.

But is all this kissing good for you? After all, in well over 5 million bacteria are exchanged between you and your partner in one long, lingering passionate
kiss!

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