Philematology – The Science of Kissing


Philematology is the study of kissing. Anthropologists estimate that kissing is practiced by more than 90% of cultures in the world and by many animal species as well.  Scientist Sheril Kirshenbaum (The Science of Kissing), theorizes that humans’ earliest kisses were “delivered via the nose, the kind of “nuzzle-sniff” popular in Eskimo culture. Nose kisses were used to “recognize and reconnect with relatives and friends and perhaps even provide clues about a person’s health”

The kiss was first document in 1500 BC from India’s Vedic Sanskrit texts before the word “kiss” existed. In the 3rd century AD, the Kama Sutra, devoted an entire chapter to kissing, and records of kissing began appearing in Greek and Roman texts such as Homer’s Odyssey, The Iliad, and even the Old Testament.  “Christianity hoped to bridle the passions of their devotees by relegating kissing to acts of reverence or charity, not out of sexual passion.”

In the Middle Ages, kissing was used as a legal way to seal a document for illiterate men who would draw an X and kiss it to make it legal. This is where the symbol “X” for kiss originated. In the 17th century, during the Great Plague in London,  people opted to tip their hat, wave, or bow to avoid making physical contact.

From a biological standpoint, theories as to why we kiss are varied. “Kissing can remind us of the calmness, comfort and attachment of nursing, a Freudian thought that might actually have some validity, Kirshenbaum says. Another theory along the same lines says that kissing reminds us of an old habit of “premastication” wherein a mother chews the food and then feeds her baby via the mouth.  But the most important and obvious reason why we kiss is that it facilitates reproduction.”

In studies, women place more emphasis and importance on kissing and use it as a way to judge the taste of the tongue, lips and saliva to see if she is with an adequate mate.  For men, kissing passes along small amounts of testosterone through their saliva, priming their mate for sexual intercourse.  (New York Post)