One of my favourite historical accounts of kissing comes from the 1864 book Savage Africa. The British explorer William Winwood Reade described falling in love with the beautiful daughter of an African king. After pursuing her for many months, he dared to steal a kiss. Unfortunately things didn’t go so well. The girl, having never encountered this before, screamed before running away in tears. Only later did Reade find out that this princess had interpreted his kiss as an intention to eat her.
Not all people express love and adoration through their lips. In fact, new research published in American Anthropologist reports that only 46% of cultures kiss mouth-to-mouth as most of us would recognise a romantic kiss today. The study contradicts previous anthropologists who claimed the behaviour was near universal. Still, while it’s clear we’re not all connecting this way, it’s important to consider how we define a kiss before jumping to any broad conclusions.
Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary biology, described kissing in his 1872 book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. He made an important distinction between kissing with the lips and various “kissing-like behaviours”, noting that rubbing noses and other related practices often serve a similar purpose and might be a precursor to modern romantic mouth-to-mouth kissing.
Darwin’s list of “kissing-like behaviours” included a series of exchanges between individuals that focused on the use of the lips, face and sometimes other body parts. He grouped kisses with similar activities that included “the rubbing or patting of the arms, breasts, or stomachs” and even an instance of “one man striking his own face with the hands or feet of another”.
After collecting so many accounts of similar exchanges all over the world, Darwin assumed that they must reflect an instinctual desire to receive “pleasure from close contact with a beloved person”. He concluded that the drive for humans to “kiss” is innate and, by broadening the definition of kissing to include related behaviours, it can be considered truly universal.
Some anthropologists disagree, maintaining that the kiss is simply a cultural phenomenon – something we learn in our own communities or see in the media and copy. And, of course, a European-style kiss is certainly not a required intimate activity from a reproductive standpoint.
The anthropologist Donald Marshall memorably described the people living on the Pacific island of Mangaia as the most sexually active culture on record. Men spent their late teens and 20s having an average of 21 orgasms a week (more than 1,000 times a year) without a single mouth-to-mouth kiss before Europeans arrived. Clearly human beings do fine with or without locking lips.
However, after an exhaustive exploration of the scientific literature and research, I am convinced the kiss is a wonderful example of a human behaviour where “nature” complements “nurture”. We seem to have an inborn drive to connect with another individual this way, but the shape it takes is influenced by our cultural mores and social norms. Just as Darwin observed nearly 150 years ago, kissing-like behaviours appear to be part of our evolutionary heritage, but the way we express them at any given time and place is heavily influenced by what’s familiar in our own societies.
As the anthropologist Helen Fisher points out, even in societies in which kissing wasn’t done, people “patted, licked, rubbed, sucked, nipped, or blew on each other’s faces prior to copulation”.
The most unusual kissing-like custom I’ve come across was described by the anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski in 1929. Lovers in the Trobriand Islands near New Guinea would bite off one another’s eyelashes during intimacy and at orgasm. “I was never quite able to grasp either the mechanism or the sensuous value of this caress,” he wrote.
Unfortunately, many historical accounts of kissing behaviours assume European kissing had been a mark of “civilised” culture, while not using the lips implied people were “savages”, “primitive” or “barbaric”.
In 1898 the Danish scholar Christopher Nyrop wrote that kissing was unknown in Polynesia, Madagascar, and among some tribes in Africa. He described the European mouth kiss as “a way of salutation vastly superior to the one in vogue among those savage tribes who salute with the nose”. Similarly, in 1929, the anthropologist Ernest Crawley reported that lip kissing was not found in much of the world, outside the “higher civilisations” such as Europe and Greece. Fortunately, a century later, scientists now know better than to make these kind of racist assumptions about behaviours they do not understand.
So when and why did lip kissing begin? It’s impossible to know. And, in reality, locking lips is likely to have arisen and disappeared all over the world for a variety of social reasons, including the discouragement of female sexuality.
The first literary evidence for kissing dates back 3,500 years to India’s Vedic Sanskrit texts. No word exists for “kiss” but there’s a reference to lovers “setting mouth to mouth” and a man “drinking the moisture of the lips” of a slave woman. From there we can follow historical accounts of social kisses in ancient Greece by Homer and Herodotus to the avid and passionate kissing practices in the Roman empire. Over millennia, the behaviour flourished in some parts of the world and nearly disappeared elsewhere because of religious doctrine and, at times, disease.
Romantic kissing as we recognise it may not have been as common in the past, but it’s certainly only one means of expressing a universal sentiment. And, when you think about it, mouth-to-mouth kissing probably seemed very odd and unpleasant to many ancient peoples, especially before the advent of toothbrushes and mouthwash.
The European-style kiss was spread through globalisation by way of military conquests, the arrival of ships in new lands, and the works of writers including Shakespeare and Dickens. Today it’s a social expectation for many of us because we have inherited a legacy of kissing celebrated through art and literature and amplified over time.
By 2015, kisses continue to look different depending on where you are. In places such as Mexico, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Argentina, Belgium, Switzerland, Lebanon, Haiti and beyond, both genders greet each other with a kiss on the cheek one to three times to express warmth and respect. The number and direction can vary by country, community or individual. Elsewhere, for example in Finland and Britain, a handshake or nod is more common. Many Germans save kisses for those they are closest to, while it’s a private matter in India, Bangladesh and Thailand. The Maori of New Zealand and the Canadian Inuits practise a kind of nuzzle-sniff. And in Japan and China public kissing was formerly taboo, but is now increasingly common among young people. All of these examples are generalisations, of course, but it’s clear that we can see tremendous differences in how people express themselves through kissing customs.
While we vary in language, skin tone and social mores, the kiss has become a kind of universal language. It takes many shapes and forms, but remains the single most humanising practice that we share. And when we define the kiss broadly as a means to connect with another individual in this big wide world, I’m with Darwin.
Sheril Kirshenbaum is an academic at the University of Texas, Austin, working to enhance the understanding of science and energy issues
What Does It Mean When a Guy Kisses Your Forehead?
You can tell a lot about what a guy think about you just by observing the way he looks at you. Similarly, the way a guy kisses you also tells you a lot about how he feels towards you and what place you hold in his heart. There are several meanings a forehead kiss can have; let’s take a look at them.
Usually, when a guy kisses a girl on her forehead, it means that he respects her a lot and he is not with her just for sexual reasons. It means he respects who you are, what your dreams are, your likes, dislikes and all your wishes—he respects the aspects that make you who you are.
A forehead kiss also implies that your boyfriend cares a lot about you. He is not interested in just making out or having sex but he wants to spend some quality time with you. He wants to make sure you are happy and looked after. It makes him sad to see you sad and he can go to great lengths to make you smile.
A forehead kiss also means that your man is very protective of you. A very tight hug followed by a kiss on the forehead is usually his way to tell the world that you are his and he will protect you from any and all harm. A kiss on the forehead is his means to make you feel safe.
Further, if your man kisses you on the forehead in a public environment, that probably believes he loves you. It is his way of showing his love to the world while also making you feel comfortable. Sometimes, he may kiss your forehead just because he feels like it.
Secrets of the Forehead Kiss
A kiss on the forehead—ideally, right in the middle of the forehead—can make you feel light and happy and special. There is a logical reason behind this. Basically, our forehead is rarely if ever touched by other people. So when a person kisses you on the forehead, your senses are heightened and your pineal and pituitary glands wake up. Because of the added blood flow in the lips, they are slightly warm as compared to the rest of the body. The heightened senses and slight warmth from the kiss help in awakening these glands.
The pituitary and pineal glands are responsible for the secretion of melatonin and serotonin in the brain. These two hormones are responsible for sleep, bliss, mental well-being and euphoria. So, whenever someone kisses you on your forehead, these factors combine to make you feel light and special. The pineal gland is also referred to as the third eye of our body. So you can also call a forehead kiss a third-eye kiss.
Forehead Kisses: A Sign of Deep Affection
There are a lot of reasons why people kiss on the forehead but the most important is to convey their affections for the person they kiss.
A father kisses his daughter to tell her that he loves her. It shows that he will always be there to fulfil her every wish. It is his way of conveying to his daughter the sense of safety from the world.
A mother kisses her children to show them her unconditional love. She doesn’t expect anything in return. She shows through her kiss how much she cares for her children. It shows that she is willing to fight the whole world to keep them safe.
If your friend kisses you on your forehead, it means that he wants to be there for you even if you are just friends. It reflects that you mean a lot more to him than his other friends. It shows that he adores you, that he wants to be with you without any condition, without expecting anything in return.
Why Forehead Kisses are Important?
A kiss on the forehead is important because it marked by love and respect. A forehead kiss is more beautiful and sweet than hundreds of lip kisses. People who kiss others on the forehead and the ones who receive forehead kisses are usually a lot happier than other people. A boy can kiss his girlfriend on her forehead to stop a fight. A father can kiss his daughter on her forehead to make her feel safe.
If your guy kisses you on the forehead, it means that he doesn’t need a reply to it. It is a means to show you his love and respect. It means he cares about you. It means he wants to guard you from the world and is willing to protect you physically. It implies his love for you, and it shows that he trusts you fully.
Why the Forehead Kiss is Considered More Sincere?
A kiss on the forehead is a lot more sincere than a kiss on the cheek or lips. A kiss on the cheeks is often without any feelings. It is platonic, without any attachment. A kiss on the lips is most definitely sexual, it means your partner wants more of it and expects you to reciprocate. A kiss on the hand is usually done either as a formality or for romantic purposes with the hopes of leading to something more.
But a kiss on the forehead is his way of saying that he doesn’t need anything from you, that he is totally committed to you. It is his way of saying how much he cares for you, how much he loves you. It is his way of saying that you are not alone. He has decided to walk with you, he wants to give you a sense of security. He wants to tell you that you have someone special in your life. It is his way of connecting to your heart and communicating with you without the need of words.
Body Language Helps You Understand Your Guy Better
You can tell a lot about what your guy is thinking when he kisses your forehead just by watching and observing his body language. You can find what he is feeling and what he wants to convey. There are some ways in which you can read body language within the context of a forehead kiss. Let’s take a look at some of them.
If a guy holds your head in his hands, looks in your eyes and then kisses you on your forehead, it means that he’s connecting to you on an emotional level. It means that he is with you and just you in that moment. It means you are the focus of his undivided attention.
If he places his hands on your cheeks before he kisses your forehead, it is his way of showing his affection for you. It means that he wants to form a connection with you.
If he hold your hands while kissing your forehead, it means he is feeling protective of you. It means he doesn’t want you to go away. He wants to stand with you.
If he hugs you first and then kisses you on the forehead, it means that he is trying to comfort you, offering you his protection and warmth.
Forehead Kiss, Lip Kiss or Cheek Kiss: Which one is Better?
A kiss on different parts of the face symbolizes different things.
A kiss on the cheek is often used when greeting someone. It is mostly platonic. But it can also be seen as a sign of friendly affection. A kiss on the cheek is reserved for friends and family.
A kiss on the lips is usually for romantic purposes, mostly accompanied by erotic thoughts and actions. This kiss is mostly powered by lust. Even if you love the person kissing you, a kiss on the lips conveys a feeling of lust.
A kiss on the forehead, on the other hand, implies a form of affection. It means the person cares for you, respects your feelings, trusts you and wants to be emotionally involved with you. It shows his concern for you and his comfort in being near you. It is a form of silent communication in which he shows how much you mean to him.
You must have asked yourself: What does it mean when a guy kisses your forehead after making out? It means that he feels connected to you both physically and emotionally. It means he wants to stay with you and feel all the wonderful things he is feeling at the moment.
5 Unknown Benefits of Forehead Kiss
Kissing is not just a pleasure-based activity. In fact, there are some lesser-known health benefits of kissing as well. Here are a few:
1. Kissing helps lower blood pressure. Our lips are made of blood vessels. And kissing the forehead dilates our lips, thus lowering the blood pressure by allowing the blood to flow to important parts of the body, resulting in less demand by the body for the heart to pump blood faster.
2. Forehead kisses lower anxiety levels. The act of kissing decreases the levels of cortisol, which is commonly known as the stress hormone. At the same time, it increases the levels of serotonin, the hormone that is responsible for maintaining our mood balance. Sometimes the effects of forehead kissing are similar to that of meditation because both activities help in releasing large amounts of oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone” that helps our mind become calm in the presence of another person.
3. Forehead kissing is believed to help improve the body’s immune system. It is known that there are more than 700 different types of bacteria in our saliva. When we kiss someone on their forehead, new and different types of bacteria are introduced to our saliva. And it is widely believed by doctors and scientists that being exposed to different types of bacteria actually increases bodily health and boosts the immune system.
4. Kissing someone on the forehead is like doing low-calorie burn exercises. Kisses can burn 5 to 26 calories a minute. Just for a simple forehead kiss, a few vital muscles in our face are utilized, which also has the added benefit of keeping our cheeks tight.
5. Forehead kissing can delay the signs of aging. Kissing increases the blood flow in our face which makes it behave as if a collagen, an important protein in our body, is being produced in large amounts. It helps you appear young for a long time.
Psychology Behind the Forehead Kiss
Just kissing someone’s forehead is never seen in the same sense as the French kiss or the likes of it. It isn’t erotic. It isn’t intimate. Or is it?
We think a kiss on the forehead of a child from his mother is entirely different from a forehead kiss by a boy to his love interest. In both cases, it is a gentle and meaningful way of conveying affection and love. But while for a mother it is a natural instinct to shower her child with love and affection and to also convey a sense of safety, a kiss on the forehead to a girl from a boy usually means that he is comfortable around her. It also implies that is attracted to her in a non-sexual way. It conveys his respect for her feelings and thoughts, confirming his trust in her.
Bonus: Here are five of the most popular takeaways regarding forehead kisses.
- Kiss on shoulder, I want you. kiss on lips, I love you. kiss on forehead, I hope we’re together forever.
- Kissing a girl on the forehead is one of the sweetest things in the world.
- One kiss on the forehead is much sweeter than a thousand kiss on the lips. No lust but full of love and respect.
- A real lover is the man who can thrill you by kissing your forehead.
- A guy won’t kiss a girl on her forehead unless he’s really serious about her.