Kissing is one of life’s greatest pleasures that can be shared by two. But not everyone is a perfect kissing match, and certainly not all kissers are created equal. Sadly, we encounter over a lifetime of kissing quite a few kissers who make elementary—or truly awful—kissing faux pas, and it makes us wish that everyone with a pair of lips got their own user’s manual.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a mandatory kissing politeness class in every high school? Here students would learn that kissing isn’t a face-chewing contest. You do not get points for trying to box the tonsils with your tongue. Licking your lips too suggestively before a kiss looks really scary and gross. And above all, kissing is something you do together, rather than to or at another person.
It might be a very long time until kissing etiquette becomes required for graduation into the real world. Until then, there are a few things to know that will keep you and those you kiss happy to be smooched. Show the following list to anyone you know who might benefit from the advice it offers. Even a friend who’s dating someone she just discovered is a bad kisser—it might give her some ideas.
- Beautiful, brushed teeth, fresh breath, and supple, moisturized lips make you a delight to kiss. Anything less is a drag.
- It’s okay to pull away and take a break from kissing without saying anything. It’s okay for someone to want to stop completely and offer no explanation. You can talk about it later.
- It’s not okay to expect a kiss in return for anything. Kisses are gifts, not currency.
- Cradling your partner’s head and face feels wonderful. As long as you’re not trying to prevent escape or contributing to claustrophobia.
- Kissing isn’t the checkered flag and starter gun to feel up your date. Lip contact is not an invitation to ass grabbing or unhooking a bra. The good bits aren’t going anywhere, and it is in your best interest to take your time.
- A kiss does not signify a willingness to have sex, ever—no matter what kind of kiss.
- Never approach a kiss with an open mouth, or with an extended tongue.
- Never open your mouth wider than your kissing partner’s lips.
- Poking with your tongue is annoying. You are not trying to make a phone call.
- Not everyone will like the things you like, and that’s okay. You may love to have your sensitive ears licked and breathed on, but he might hate it with a passion. Be open to all kissing styles.
- Whenever you’re in doubt about how things feel for your kissing partner, or even if it’s the right time to kiss, ask. Your partner will be happy you care enough to ask.
About Hickeys and Love Bites
I’ve cautioned about leaving marks on his skin, also known as hickeys or love bites. These marks happen when teeth bruise the skin or suction leaves a rashlike discoloration on the skin. The suction created by your mouth draws blood to the surface of the skin, breaking the little capillaries, and scraping your teeth over the skin makes them break even more, blossoming into blood bruises that can range in color from pink to purple.
Overall, it’s very bad for your skin and the nerve endings, and some say it can cause nerve damage. But for people who love these marks, and the way it feels to get a hickey, it’s not a huge concern. Often these marks are made unknowingly—it can be totally unintentional, a result of passion. People with sensitive skin or those who bruise easily will get hickeys often from little stimulation of their skin.
Not everyone wants marks from kissing. The reasons can be many, including looking improper at work—bosses, office mates, and customers may find hickeys offensive or unprofessional. If he asks you not to leave visible marks on his neck, do not take it personally or try to second-guess his reasons. It may seriously compromise his work environment or professional reputation, or he just may not want marks on his neck for the entire world to see. Family members tend to frown on hickeys, as do officials, so if he’s going to be appearing in court, seeing valuable or new clients, working in sales, or visiting relatives, be careful.
In general, it’s a no-no to leave marks in visible places but forgivable in hidden spots. This varies from person to person. He simply might not like the way they look. Be sure to ask him how he feels about love bites before your kisses start to stray away from his mouth, and he’ll be able to relax knowing he’s with a considerate kisser.
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Violet Blue is an award-winning author and editor of dozens of books, including Kissing: A Field Guide. She is the foremost expert in the field of sex and technology, a sex-positive mainstream media pundit and is interviewed, quoted and featured in outlets ranging from ABC News to the Wall Street Journal. Visit her at www.tinynibbles.com. Follow her @VioletBlue.