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February 17, 2009


Swapping spit

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman kiss in Notorious

[composite from Notorious by Solitaire Miles]

One of my favorite hilarious anecdote generators is: What was your all-time worst kiss? Everyone seems to have a good answer to this question, and the story they tell will almost definitely be characterized by some combination of surprise, embarrassment, misunderstanding, and physical repulsion.

And saliva. My research suggests some overlap between the worst kisses and the sloppiest, spittiest kisses, which brings us to an interesting study on Wired.

A Rutgers biological anthropologist, Helen Fisher, spoke at a science conference about kissing as a process of mate selection and the chemistry that partially determines whether we like kissing a certain person or not. Yes, we assess each other by our spit.

And check this out: saliva has testosterone in it. So, Fisher suggests, men tend to like sloppier kisses because they are unconsciously trying to dose their dates with testosterone to get their partners turned on.

OK, hold on a second. While this chemically makes some sense--getting a boost of testosterone will probably get one's mojo running--there should be an urgent warning attached to any suggestion that one's kisses should be as wet and slobbery as possible. You can douse your partner with a bucket full of super-testosterone-spiked drool and your date might not become frenzied with lust.

Fisher talks about this concern:

One male reporter asked, "Should I drool more when I kiss? Are you suggesting men would be more successful if they passed more saliva?" he asked. "People will want to know that."

After Fisher first mistook "drool" said with an English accent for "drill" and asked if it was some sort of British kissing technique, she dodged the question saying she's not in the "should business," about what you should or shouldn't do.

But, she did offer the advice that "you don't want to turn your partner off."

Helen Fisher's other works look good too. She's got articles on the neurobiology of stalking and the science of love, lust, and rejection among college students.

categories: Science, Sex
posted by amy at 3:22 PM | #

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