Why Do We Kiss With Tongues? The Science and Psychology of French Kissing

Why Do We Kiss With Tongues? The Science and Psychology of French Kissing

French kissing is widely regarded as the most passionate, intimate, and erotic style of a kiss. But if you stop to think about it, it may sound kind of…. disgusting. After all, the human mouth is home to perhaps 1,000 different types of bacteria, and scientists estimate that 80 million bacteria are swapped in one 10-second kiss. So why would anyone want to taste someone else’s dirty tongue?

According to some researchers kissing began millions of years ago as a result of mouth-to-mouth feeding, with mammal mothers chewing food and then “forcing it” into the mouths of their young.

“From these observations, it is claimed that humans also learned kissing from exchanging food between mothers and their offspring,” Texas A&M University anthropologist Vaughn Bryant, who has long researched the history and spread of kissing, told Discovery News.

“However, if this were true and it was innate, then why didn’t all humans kiss? We know that many cultural groups did not kiss and knew nothing about it until they were shown,” Bryant said.

While the true origin of kissing remains a mystery, historians have found in India the earliest references to the practice.

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Four major texts in the Vedic Sanskrit literature suggest an early form of kissing. Dating from 1500 B.C., they describe the custom of rubbing and pressing noses together.

“Eventually, someone slipped and found that the lips were very sensitive and found it pleasurable. That’s one theory on how it started,” Bryant said.

About 500 years later, the epic poem Mahabharata contained references to lip kissing.

“She set her mouth to my mouth and made a noise and that produced pleasure in me,” it said.

The historic reference continues with the Kama Sutra, a classic text on erotica written during the early fifth century A.D, where descriptions of kissing techniques abound.

Around 326 B.C., kissing began spreading from India, thanks to the conquering armies of Alexander the Great.

“They learned about kissing from the Indians. After the death of Alexander, his army split up and his generals went to various areas of the Middle East,” Bryant said.

In a French kiss, the boundary between you and your partner becomes blurred. It involves penetration and receptivity, vulnerability, and assertion. It’s a simple, playful way to test interpersonal chemistry and physical compatibility. Below, you’ll find a list of reasons why people like it so much.

1. Because It Feels Good

According to Sheril Kirshenbaum, who wrote The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, the lips are your largest “exposed” erogenous zone (because she assumes you’re wearing pants). Because some people’s mouths have even more nerve endings than the tips of their fingers, they might get even more information and pleasure from kissing than they get from other kinds of touching. And not only is there a huge concentration of nerve endings in your lips, but the lips also have one of the thinnest layers of skin on the body. This means for extra-extra, amplified sensation.

Kissing also stimulates the release of hormones in the brain—dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin—which promote attachment, happiness, pleasure, relaxation, and bonding. As a drug, if it had a label, a kiss boasts a long list of positive—and relatively few negative—side effects.

So whether the kiss is hard, soft, slippery, or penetrating, it lights up those receptors of your brain like a jackpot on a slot machine. In fact, Kirshenbaum says that even the lightest stimulation on the lips can engage more of the brain than genital stimulation can.

2. Because It Gives You a Lot of Information About Your Partner

You can learn a lot about a person with a French kiss. One kiss can offer probing, tangible insight into what your partner is really like inside: playful, aggressive, daring, tentative, curious, creative, empathetic, a kiss can speak a thousand words. It’s like tasting another person’s essence. A French kiss can be a fairly quick and accurate test to see if there’s any compatibility—physical, interpersonal, or chemical—between you.

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During a kiss, you learn a lot via your partner’s smell, touch, and taste. A French kiss involves so many different types of receptor cells—olfactory via the nose, touch via the skin’s tactile corpuscles, taste via the tongue. Not to mention all the things your other body parts are doing during the kiss. And the more types of receptors that are involved, combined with the number of receptors cells activated, all serve to increase and heighten the pinnacle of sensitivity achieved in a French kiss.

The Kiss Test

A 2007 study suggests that females might be more inclined than males to use kissing as a means of assessing a mate’s compatibility and initiating, maintaining, and gauging a relationship’s current status. In other words, for many women, a kiss can be a test.

What can you learn from a kiss?

  • Hygiene: A kiss reveals up-close basics about your personal hygiene, like do you bathe and brush your teeth regularly?
  • Taste: If the kiss tastes good to you it might be a sign of compatibility, and it’s certainly a factor in your decision to kiss them again.
  • Biological compatibility: When we share saliva, hormonal and biological information is passed back and forth, chemical cues that work on a subconscious level to alert and assess biologically compatibility.
  • Personality: You can get a lot of information about your partner’s personality style from how they kiss.
  • Mood or intent: Through body language, you can gauge a lot about each kisser’s reasons and intent for kissing. For example, their speed and audacity might say something about how serious they take you and how much time they are willing to invest in the relationship.
  • Level of expertise: When a person is a really good French kisser, we often assume that they might be good at other things, as well.
  • Level of empathy: When the person you’re kissing seems tuned in and attentive during the kiss, when they notice what you like (and don’t like), take turns, and seem to “listen” to your response, this is all good insight into how empathetic they are in general.
  • Level of interest: A lame kiss is like a limp handshake. If they seem bored during the kiss, it’s just not a good sign.

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3. Because Kissing Is Good for You

Kissing is good for your health in many ways:

  • Kissing reduces pain and stress. A kiss triggers the release of endorphins (natural painkillers which also enhance pleasure) and lowers cortisol levels (which influence stress).
  • It builds immunity. Studies suggest that sharing bacteria with another person can strengthen immune systems and prevent illness. In fact, researchers have found evidence that swapping spit can reduce a person’s risk of catching a cold.
  • It increases attachment and bonding which promote health and help you live longer. Oxytocin, which is linked to pair bonding, triggers feelings of attachment and affection. Kissing can improve relationship satisfaction and may promote longer and happier relationships, and possibly longer lives.
  • It makes you happy (and happiness is good medicine). Kissing triggers the release of a magical cocktail of chemicals that stoke the pleasure centers of your brain. Oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine release feelings of affection, bonding, and euphoria, all of which promote health and longevity.

Kissing can promote the health of future generations.

Some researchers have focused on the fact that kissing allows a couple to get close enough to smell each other. And, since our scent is an indicator of our particular immune system (and our unique collection of histocompatibility complex genes), some theorize that we use our sense of smell to sniff out the best biological partners. Genomic differentiation increases our chances of producing offspring with more diverse immune systems. In other words, you may be more attracted to those who have different genes from you, and this difference is detected with a kiss.

What Happens to Your Body When You French Kiss

During a deep, enthusiastic French kiss with someone you like. . .

  • pulses quicken, blood vessels dilate, and you get a little swoony
  • you start to feel hot; cheeks flush, other body parts heat up
  • pupils dilate, breaths quicken and deepen
  • oxygen floods the brain
  • chemicals spike, increasing levels of dopamine, adrenalin, serotonin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine
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Why Do We Call It “French” Kissing?

The term “French kiss” was first included in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1923, but exactly when and where it was coined is unclear. In The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, author Sheril Kirshenbaum says that French kissing became more popular after World War II.

“It’s possible that ‘French kiss’ was adopted because American travelers were impressed by the affectionate nature of French women, who were more comfortable with open-mouthed kissing than their counterparts. According to anthropologist Vaughn Bryant, this led to a popular saying: ‘While in France get the girls to kiss you,’ which later turned into ‘get a French kiss.'”

Dr. Arthur Szabo did a study that showed men who were kissed by their wives live about 5 years longer and earn 20 to 30% more.

Dr. Arthur Szabo did a study that showed men who were kissed by their wives live about 5 years longer and earn 20 to 30% more.

JD Chow via Unsplash

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Author: Uwem Usen

I'm a passionate technological blogger. The administrator of Mumutechnology (technology solution blog), prolific speaker at both local and international forums. My mission is to provide a technological solutions to the world.