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Why Do We Kiss?

Janet Jackson and Tupac kiss in the movie “Poetic Justice”

Most people can recall their first kiss. There’s an electrifying feeling of excitement when two people kiss for the first time, as it Is recognised as the first intimate physical connection, which sometimes determines compatibility. While many believe kissing to be natural and intuitive, other anthropologists argue the practice is derived from “kiss feeding”, an old school process used by mothers to feed their infants by passing food to their baby’s mouths.

The kissing culture dates all the way back to the 2nd century in the Vedic texts, and the Kama Sutra which originated from ancient India devotes an entire chapter to modes of kissing. History suggests that the practice of kissing has been passed on and adopted from one culture to another until it became super normal and eventually gained significance and purpose in our society. So why do we kiss? To what end and are we the only ones that do it?

Is it a basic natural human instinct?
We can always blame it on nature but perhaps not for this one as scientists haven’t been able to conclude on if the practices are natural or learned. If you really think about it, imagine putting two people who have never been exposed to or know absolutely nothing about kissing together, what are the chances that it would come naturally? But then again, approximately 90 per cent of cultures kiss, which makes it a strong case for the act being a basic human instinct. And what about the other 10 per cent? Instead of kissing, they engage in other “kissing-like” behaviours like rubbing noses together.

Elephants kissing

What’s the purpose of kissing?
When you meet someone you like and the vibe is right, we tend to have that nagging thought at the back of our minds, asking are we going to kiss?

The first kiss is always a test and almost a teaser on how awesome or not the physical contact is going to be. Because a lot of things happen when you kiss. Your brain essentially gives off a chemical, which gives us a natural high. Different feelings are unleashed, from love and affection to feelings of euphoria and addiction.

When you kiss, you’re looking for someone to match your gene, another more scientific reason called the MHC (major histocompatibility complex). MHCs are genes that form part of our immune system and give us our natural scent. You know that awkward moment when you get slightly aroused after perceiving scents from the opposite sex? Everyone has a different MHC produce by their immune system so this means we’re all looking for a match! This also explains why we prefer kissing one person to the other.

Monkeys showing affection

Do animals kiss too?
Well… it’s possible. The main idea behind kissing is showing some kind of affection, whether it’s sexual or emotional. Dogs tend to sniff and lick each other, elephants put their trunks in each other’s mouth and believe it or not, the bonobo ape kiss just like we do! Seeing as they share 98.7 per cent of our DNA, it shouldn’t really be shocking. Sometimes they kiss to socialise, for comfort and other times, they kiss to make up after fights. So perhaps it could be natural but just unique to different species.

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