Kissing is Relative

Although most of us consider kissing part of common romantic behaviour, it isn’t so in all cultures. It is not long since Japanese considered kissing strange and exotic erotic technique professed by the wordly women.

In my own culture kissing is kind of private thing and kissing in public a statement of a kind. Usually people don’t kiss openly on the streets. When I was a little girl I used to hide my head in the pillows while there was a kissing scene in the telly. Still it makes me uncomfortable to see people to kiss in live, even if I am used to seeing it on the screen. You would not easily catch me kissing either.  While we are a bit inhibited in this sense, nobody in my culture considers kissing itself immoral or unnatural. It is just private.

Anthropology doesn’t offer clear answer to the question, whether kissing is learned or instinctive. Yet many primates kiss in their own ways. Bonobos (Congo Chimpanzees or so called Pygmy Chimpanzees) use kissing to soothing tension among them. On the other hand many Eastern Asian cultures have traditionally found kissing repulsive practice.

The Kiss by Francesco Hayez (1791-1882)“A surprising number of Asian (and African and South American) groups have learned to view mouth-to-mouth kissing as dirty, dangerous, and disgusting, something akin to sticking one’s tongue in another’s nose and wiggling it around. It turned off [an Asian woman, married to an American, Caucasian man] to imagine, anticipate, or experience it, and she felt confused and unhappy when she saw how much her husband enjoyed it.” [From “The Kiss,” A 50th Anniversary Lecture — The Kinsey Institute; October 24, 1998.]

You don’t see open kissing in the Bollywood (Indian Hindi) movies. Not because it would be considered disgusting, but because good girls don’t go around kissing strange men and actresses need to take care of their reputation. You may remember the fuss about Richard Gere kissing actress Shilpa Shettyin AIDS awareness rally. And he just kissed her face. Many Indians considered this incident vulgar. Some of the protesters shouted “death to Shilpa Shetty.”

When attitudes are this serious, one understands why kissing is not popular as it is not cultural norm to kiss others than family members. Yet kissing itself is known in Hindu tradition and it acknowledges at least 40 different ways of kissing, but as Prakash Javadekar, the spokesman of the nationalist Hindu party said: “Such a public display is not part of Indian tradition.”

The question comes even more difficult, when one reads about Pakistani religious leaders getting anoyed not about a kissing(which by the way cannot be shown in local television), but because one of the Pakistani Muslim actresses had kissed a Hindu actor in a Bollywood film. Suddenly what was a question of propriety turns to question of religion. Yet kissing is not prohibited in Islam and I’ve understood the Prophet Muhammad kissed his wives. Yet again as any other part of romantic behaviour this is not allowed in public.

The origins of the western kiss are ancient. 5th c. Athenian: Erastes and EromenosMan kisses woman in the altar after western wedding ceremony. Many don’t see that the origin of the ritual was less romantic and more religious. Traditionally man first kissed religious object and then forward its blessing to his wife with the kiss. Also southern European greeting kiss relates to catholic kiss of peace between parishioners.

Yet somewhere on the way this religious kissing turned more romantic. Gentlemen started to kiss hands of the ladies, because open kissing was not propriet among couples in love. This maybe due to idea of dangerousness of kissing. Unlike in the East we don’t find kisses repulsive, but instead dangerously tempting. I just red some one to blog about, what leads to cheating and (s)he agreed that kissing starts it.

Tiefer also talked about the dangerous kiss in his lecture. He described the western lore about the kisses that made wrong people to fall in love with each other (like Romeo and Juliet) or were vessels of betrayal. Kisses were seen potent in messing people’s sensibilities. He saw kissing as a bonding instrument, just like most women do. It is modern folklore that prostitutes don’t kiss because of this; kissing would make them more emotionally vulnerable and used.

Few Links:

Kissing Explained (for teens)

How Kissing Works


4 Responses

  1. Yet kissing itself is known in Hindu tradition and it acknowledges at least 40 different ways of kissing !!!!!

    Lol.. Good one! 🙂

  2. good post! 🙂

  3. It’s funny now that you think about it but in my culture (i’m latina) it’s incredibly normal to see a couple kissing on the street, restaurants, at mass (unbelievable, i know) almost anywhere!
    who would’ve thought of something as kissing to be considered dirty? Even though, the human mouth is supposed to be the dirtiest part of the body (maybe that’s why it’s so good to kiss)

  4. I consider kissing to be good only indoor not in the public

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