An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Kiss: Its evolution and usefulness

Since we are in the global “love/romance” season until this weekend, here is something on that very loving act of kissing. An act which involves roughly 42% of our cranial nerves which are busy transporting nervous messages between lips, tongues (depending on the depth of the act), cheeks, nose, eyes (if they are open) and the brain. The muscles also play an important part – a total of thirty-four muscles working cooperatively. The most important being the orbicularis oris muscle, which is used to pucker the lips and informally known as the kissing muscle.

As simple as an act it seems to be it affects the male and female in different ways. In a study where psychologists from Lafayette College were checking out the hormonal levels in couples after and before kissing, and had predicted an increase in oxytocin – which influences social recognition, male and female orgasm, and childbirth. Since females in the study had higher levels of intimacy in their relationships, they thought this hormone would hit them more. Naah. It was the males who scored higher on that front. Possible reason: females must require more than a kiss to feel emotionally connected or sexually excited during physical contact. Something like a romantic atmosphere.

Prof Gallup believes kissing goes “deeper” than that! It helps in gauging the mate selection and also gives information on the extent to which a partner is willing to commit to raising children, a central issue in long-term relationships and crucial to the survival of our species.

However, Kissing has not always had this close linkage with sensual world and the act of mating. It was very common in Middle Eastern and Eastern European countries in a very asexual way. In fact it was considered proper only when between two men, two women, or parents kissing their children in the Middle east. In Eastern Europe it was the way two men would greet or bid farewell to each other. This asexual nature of kiss was destroyed by the Western European morals that intervened and brought their own baggage along.

The above picture from LIFE magazine taken at Times Square (NY) at the end of WWII (Aug. 14, 1945) is probably the most famous illustration of a passion act yet lacking sexual overtones. It was a spontaneous expression of happiness by the sailor. The picture was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt (a Houston forensics expert verified the identity of the sailor as Glenn McDuffie).

Evolutionary history

In 1960, British zoologist, suggested that kissing may be an evolutionary remnant of our ancestors. It may have, he suggested, come from the practice of mothers chewing up food before giving it to their kids through mouth-to-mouth mechanism. Chimps show this behavior.

Strange as it may seem our past requirements may be influencing our current passions and entertainment!

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