The importance of kissing in relationships is well-documented. In fact, research shows that 59 percent of men and 66 percent of women have found themselves less attracted to a potential partner after a bad first kiss; further, Butler University’s John Bohannon surveyed 500 people and found that most people can remember up to 90 percent of the details of a first romantic kiss. That’s a lot of pressure during the early days of courtship, no?
Whether you refer to it as smooching, snogging, tonsil hockey, or making out, here are some crazy facts about kissing you likely never knew, from the surprising health benefits of locking lips to details on the first-ever kiss in film history.
1. Your kissing style originates in the womb.
See a kiss in any Hollywood movie, painting, or sculpture and more often than not, you’ll see couples leaning in to the right. Why is that? A German researcher observed over 100 couples and noted that two-thirds of them tilted their heads to the right. The scientific community at large theorizes that this instinct originates from the womb when we naturally tilted our heads to the right.
2. Kissing takes serious muscle power.
One kiss requires 146 muscles to coordinate, including 34 facial muscles and 112 postural muscles. A team of British researchers — Elaine Sassoon, Annabelle Dytham, Robert Scully and Professor Gus McGrouther from the Rayne Institute in University College, London — studied kissing couples under an MRI scanner and found that a kiss mostly involves the orbicularis oris (the muscle around your mouth).
“Not only do you use your facial muscles in kissing, but approximately 112 postural muscles as well,” Professor McGrouther said to The Telegraph. Yikes, sounds like a serious facial workout!
3. Our love of kissing comes from … rats?
Kazushige Touhara and colleagues at the University of Tokyo believe that our affinity for kisses descends from an ancient rat. Mice and men have a surprisingly similar genetic makeup — sharing a common ancestor that lived sometime between 75 and 125 million years ago. This ancient rat-like creature went by the name of Eomaia scansoria (Eomaia, Greek for “ancient mother,” and scansoria, Latin for “climber”). The science team theorizes that this creature would rub noses with a mate to sample his or her pheromones and signal desire. So, basically, human kissing is really rodent behavior. Who knew?
4. The history of “X” behind XOXO traces back to the Middle Ages.
We use “XOXO” as an affectionate afterthought to our signature all the time in cards and love letters, but not many people know its origin story. Historians trace it back to the Middle Ages when most people couldn’t read or write. The peasants used to mark “X” as a stand-in signature and then kissed the document as an added gesture of sincerity.
5. A king once decreed that kissing be outlawed.
On July 16, 1439, King Henry VI banned kissing in England. (I know, seriously, what a buzzkill.) His reasoning? It was to curtail the spread of disease in the kingdom. Duly note that his mental breakdown around 1453 required his wife, Margaret of Anjou, to assume control of his kingdom. (So that’s the level of crazy we were dealing with at this time.
This went on to spur a lot of other weird smooching bans all over the world. Later in 16th-Century Naples, not only was kissing in public banned, but it was punishable by death as well.
6. French kissers caused commuter headaches.
Oh, the French. Apparently in the early 20th century, so many French commuters were getting frisky on the train that they had to ban kissing altogether. So whenever you feel the train slow to a stop and hear the conductor’s drone voice call out over the intercom that the train has stopped “due to a sick passenger aboard the train ahead”… you might have an idea of what’s up.
7. The luck of the Irish comes with a kiss.
Call it the (germ-infested) luck o’ the Irish. Over 400,000 tourists gather to kiss the Blarney Stone near Cork, Ireland, every year — dubbing it the most “unhygienic” tourist attraction in the world. According to local legend, those who bend over backward to kiss the stone are “greatly” rewarded with “the gift of the gab” — essentially meaning flattery. So if you’re looking to obtain the name of sweet talker, you might want to take a trip to Blarney Castle. But be warned! It’s been said that people have fallen to their deaths attempting the superstitious feat.
8. We almost didn’t have epic movie kisses!
Titanic. Casablanca. Gone With The Wind. Spiderman. Some of the greatest kisses in Hollywood history almost never happened. Why? Back in 1930, a set of censorship regulations called The Hays Code prohibited acting couples from kissing in a horizontal position (as in, lying down). Also, married couples had to sleep in twin beds on screen and, if kissing action did happen on beds, one actor had to have their foot on the ground. Oh yeah, and they couldn’t kiss for longer than three seconds. Not exactly the picture of romance, right?
Well, directors had a way around this. While filming the 1946 film Notorious, Alfred Hitchcock had Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant repeatedly kiss, briefly disrupted by dialogue and movement. It’s now considered one of the sexiest movie scenes of the time. Luckily, this pain of a ban dropped in the late 1960s.
9. People make careers out of the science Of kissing.
Just in case you were so into kissing that you wanted to make a career out of it, the study of kissing is better known as philematology. And, someone who studies kissing wears the title of osculologist. (That sounds like a cheesy bro T-shirt.)
10. This couple’s record-breaking kiss is incredible.
According to the Guinness World Records, the record for the longest-lasting kiss goes to Ekkachai and Laksana Tiranarat of Thailand. These champion smoochers locked lips for 58 hours, 35 minutes, and 58 seconds. (No word on if they got bathroom breaks, but we’re thinking that would have been a mood-killer.)
11. Kissing saves lives.
If your man isn’t big on PDA, this might convince him otherwise. A famous study once determined that men who get a peck on the cheek from their wives before heading out to work lived five years longer than their kissless counterparts. (We want a follow up on this to see if the same is true for working wives! Lady breadwinners, can I get a ‘hell yeah’?)
12. The Italians are expert kissers … everyone else? Not so much.
13. The average person spends two weeks of his or her life kissing.
Experts estimate that the average person will spend 20,160 minutes of his or her lifetime kissing. In other words, that’s your senior spring break in college. So what happens in Cabo becomes a statistic.
14. Looking for The One? Kiss this many guys …
That’s a whole lot o’ frogs to find your prince. But that’s the price of true love, right? A British study commissioned by eHarmony to release with The Rose Project tracked the number of dates, breakups, and one night stands it takes for men and women to find lasting love — and kisses weren’t left out of the equation. It determined that it takes 15 kisses for women and 16 for men.
15. Kissing has amazing health benefits!
Making out with your partner is just what the doctor prescribed. Kissing burns calories (specifically, about two to three per minute), strengthens your immune system, relieves aches and pains, and prevents cavities! I mean, who knew how healthy swapping spit could be?