Perhaps you’ve been somebody’s best kiss. You won her over and made her swoon. You’ve probably also had your share of make out disasters – either you didn’t put in the effort or your mouth tasted like beer. The difference between the two? Chemistry – both literal and figurative.
“A whole host of parameters converge at the moment your lips come together,” says Gordon Gallup, PhD, a psychologist at the University at Albany. “We subconsciously decipher this information in terms of the health and compatibility of the other person. Kissing has a lot of power – it can either promote or negate the continuation of that relationship.” If you don’t respect this power, your subpar canoodling can earn you an unequivocal kiss-off from her.
In Gallup’s 2007 study of 1,041 college students, 66 per cent of the women reported being so turned off by kisses that their interest in the men evaporated. On the other hand, being a great kisser – mastering those lingering, luxuriant lip-locks that she loves but men tend to shun – can dramatically boost the frequency and quality of your bedroom action, studies suggest.
“Kisses can help lovers stay intimately connected and put erotic energy back into the relationship,” says clinical sexologist and Men’s Health Advisory Board member Dr Martha Lee. “I really believe that if couples kiss and have sex more often, there would be less issues and fights, because it is hard to stay mad with love being expressed.”
Clearly, you can’t afford to take chances. So spend your bonding time honing this vital mating skill, whether you’re targeting the promise of a vacation fling or sidling up to your long-term mate. What follows is our guide to the many things a little lip can do.
PAY ATTENTION TO DENTAL HYGIENE
When she’s sizing up your potential as a suitable and genetically compatible mate, her attention will linger on your mouth. The University at Albany study showed that the appearance of a man’s teeth helps determine his “kissability”. Women in the study were also more likely than men to factor in chemical cues – his breath, for example, and the taste of his mouth. Gallup argues that this is because kissing provides information about a person’s health and hormonal status, because the sebaceous glands (which are densely concentrated on the face) are regulated by sex hormones.
TIP: KEEP BREATH MINTS HANDY
Don’t try to telegraph your genetic suitability right away. Instead, wait until the second or third date. “I love it when the tension builds up so much that it feels like we’ve been waiting ages for the kiss, and then we can’t stop for hours,” says brand manager Laura, 29. “If you kiss on the first date, it’s usually a boring peck and there’s no tension behind it. The best ones are worth waiting for.”
When it is “go” time, a little preparedness will pay off. Duck into the restroom after dinner to wash your mouth and pop a mint or two. Then take the initiative. “If a man is coming off as self-assured, this will make him appear more attractive at the moment of the kiss,” says Kandi Walker, PhD, an interpersonal communication expert at the University of Louisville in the US. Most important, start off easy. “Kiss lightly around her mouth, on her cheeks or on her neck – that’s a very sensual thing to do,” says Andrea Demirjian, who interviewed 250 women and men for her book, Kissing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About One of Life’s Sweetest Pleasures. “Then when you reach her mouth, kiss her very softly on the lips – no insert-tongue-here kisses. Going slowly is sure to entice her.”
KISS HER CONSTANTLY
Once she’s yours, going face-to-face on a regular basis is vital for the health of a long-term union. “The frequency of a couple’s kissing has implications about issues like abandonment, divorce and infidelity,” Gallup says. “If you kiss her often, it telegraphs your commitment.” But according to the women surveyed, men aren’t delivering the goods as often as they should. Gallup’s study found that men use kissing primarily as a means to an end – to advance sexual relations. Yet women mainly use kissing as a way to monitor the status of the relationship, and especially a partner’s commitment level.
TIP: KISS HER, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO HAVE SEX
“Make an effort to kiss her even when sex isn’t on the cards,” suggests Gallup. “That way, there’s an affectionate and sexual component to kissing.” After sex, he says, is another key time: Women usually initiate post-romp kissing, the study showed. And in the long run, the more persistent you are with the kisses, the more sex you’ll have. “Male saliva has trace amounts of testosterone – and testosterone is an aphrodisiac,” Gallup says. “So passing saliva during open-mouth kissing over extended periods might help raise her testosterone levels and affect her sex drive.”
KEEP HER RELAXED
Kissing can help melt away tension. When researchers from Lafayette College in the US studied couples who either kissed, held hands or talked for 15 minutes, they found that the kissers had the lowest blood levels of cortisol, a hormone that contributes to feelings of stress and anxiety. Additionally, there was a rise in oxytocin – the “cuddle drug” associated with attachment and the sense of calm and security we feel in relationships – in the men.
TIP: MAKE IT ROMANTIC
To make sure your partner harnesses the same positive effects from a make out session as you do, jack up the romance. “The setting of a kiss can affect how women perceive it,” says Walker. In fact, in the Lafayette study, women’s oxytocin levels decreased during kissing, when the environment was clinical. W hen the researchers switched to a more attractive environment, the women reported feeling greater intimacy with their partners.
KISS YOUR PROBLEMS AWAY
When things go awry in a relationship, kissing can be your cavalry. A study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy showed that kissing her on the lips could make resolving conflicts easier. “It’s much more powerful than we realise,” says Gallup.
TIP: KNOW WHERE TO KISS HER
Punctuate your impassioned mea culpa with kisses elsewhere on her face, as well as on her hands, neck and stomach. When Princeton University psychologist Michael Graziano, PhD, conducted research on people’s defensive flinching and blocking mechanisms, these areas proved to be the most heavily defended parts of our bodies and the most erotic to kiss. A lot of mating behaviour, he argues, is an exaggerated way to show the status of your defensive radar.
“By allowing her partner’s teeth near her throat, she is in effect communicating that she’s turning her radar down, and that she’s doing it intentionally for him,” Graziano says. “That is a very encouraging message.” He adds: “There’s nothing more vulnerable and more erotic than kissing someone’s eyelid – you have to really trust someone to let them kiss your eye.”