Why Do We Kiss? In Science, Politics, and Philosophy

in GEMS2 years ago (edited)

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Have you ever wondered why do we kiss? I know it is a weird question but seriously, where did this weird act originate? Why do we do it? How did it come to be a symbol of love, bootlicking, romance, and in some cases, humiliation?

We start our journey with Oxford affiliate, Rafael Wlodarski, a philematologist. Philematology is the study of kissing to those unaware. Yes, that is a real thing.

Even though this is something we do and see every day, I would like to take a moment to discuss the significance of it. Let's wear our Sartre glasses in his book "Being and Nothingness", or Albert Camus' "The Stranger", and really think about it.

Kissing is an act that should horrify you. French kissing in specific is horrifying. During one French kiss, there's an exchange of around 80 million bacteria of 300 different types. Something that disgusting if you really think about it as it could transfer some type of viruses like Herpes. I am not trying to gross you out, but I am just wondering here about the reason that despite all these things, kissing is still something that continues until our current day.

Before we talk about humans we must go through a journey into the animal kingdom to see whether they do the same or is it something that is human-exclusive. To be honest we can't find out for sure whether they do since not all animals have the physical ability to perform the lips movement we do while kissing. But there might be a similar action.

To answer this question, we go to the primatologist Frans de Waal, primatology is, according to Britannica

The study of the primate order of mammals—other than recent humans (Homo sapiens). The species are characterized especially by advanced development of binocular vision, specialization of the appendages for grasping, and enlargement of the cerebral hemispheres.

Simply put, primate animals are closer to us as humans than any other animals. In his book "Peacemaking among primates", Frans de Waal noticed throughout his 40 years of studying primates that some of these animals do in fact kiss. Especially a type of chimpanzee called Bonobo.

Bonobo is the only animal in the primates that is ruled by a matriarchy. In the Bonobo society, we find the actual manifestation of the saying "Make love, not war". Under the Bonobo matriarchy, and unlike in other chimpanzees societies, when the levels of testosterone go up, they actually have sex instead of fighting. It's not that they don't fight, they just go from fighting to fucking rather quickly.

Males fuck females and males, females fuck males and females, to Bonobos, sex is something that is like meeting someone and giving them a handshake. So much so that the term "Bonobo Handshake" was coined to describe that action. You can google the term to read about it, maybe google image it just for an idea, but just don't search it on a porn site. Just don't, trust me, don't. Considering how horny bonobos are, it wasn't surprising to find out that they do French kisses.

Back to humans, does the way bonobos interact with each other explain why we as humans kiss? It is still a bit more complicated matter. We as humans kiss for different reasons. Some scientists suggest that this is a way for females to get close enough to smell their partner. In the animal kingdom, the smell of the partner or lover is very important as through it females could determine the level of testosterone, bears are a great example of that. Animal females love a male with a high testosterone level, so they would fight for them. The way they identify that is through smell.

Male spiders on the other hand have to smell female spiders to identify whether they have eaten or not because if they didn't, they might eat him. Those smells are called "pheromones", some scientist suggest that those pheromones are the reason we kiss since the human sense of smell isn't strong.

I know this doesn't explain much about kissing, especially since in many societies, kissing starts after marriage. But, that might be different in the old days, they must have kissed before marriage, right? Well, in a study conducted in 2015 on 168 societies worldwide to see whether they French kiss or not. A surprising result was that most people in the world don't actually French kiss, only 46% do.

While some societies see a kiss as a symbol of love, others find it repulsive. Which begs the question; why do we still kiss? Who suggested we start? Since most people don't do it, most animals as well. Why is it still happening? Who invented it? To be honest, I have no idea (Then why the hell are you writing a post about it?)

I am just thinking about the concept as a whole, just picking the worms out of my brain while forcing you to watch. We know that some humans do it, some animals do it. We know that kissing could contain some aspects of danger considering the number of bacteria and viruses that could be transferred through kissing. We still don't know how it started. Which might be important considering the many societal implications it has.

Kissing is a simple action, but it could affect the politics and histories of countries. It could result in death in some countries, it could ruin people's reputations, and it could even affect presidents. In 2007, Iran's former president was accused of indecency when he kissed his previous teacher's hand in public.

In Conclusion

While exploring the subject of kissing, we come across a seemingly naive action, an action that could have major medical and social implications. An action that could be a symbol of love, peace, and humiliation. Some actions, in general, lack any meaning or value, we as humans add those meanings and values to such actions.

Societies have an odd ability to create meaning to actions. We know that as people we wouldn't die for the lack of money. However, we decided to give money such value in our daily lives. Societies can give great meaning to something that doesn't have a universal reason to exist, whether it was money or kissing.


My wife is usually asking questions like this and for this one i have an answer. thank you :)

Very interesting. I agree with @dadspardan that now I will have an answer for my wife. Thanks for sharing on ListNerds.