Posted by: bridget | 5 December 2007

Hold me, thrill me, kiss me….

CNN reports that people – women especially – are unlikely to date bad kissers.  (Hat tip: Althouse.)  In other news that isn’t really news, organic food is nutritious.  The evolutionary psychologists (for the kissing study, not the organic broccoli study) based their findings upon surveys given to college students.  Now, studying college-age males for hints of our evolutionary behaviour is a bit like studying mud huts to learn about the internal structure of skyscrapers, but onwards through the study. 

One speculative possibility is that men may unwittingly use kissing to introduce substances such as hormones or proteins into women’s mouths, thereby manipulating their mating psychology, and perhaps making them more likely to have sex. It is also possible that males may perceive a greater wetness or salivary exchange during kissing as an index of the female’s sexual arousal/ receptivity, similar to the act of sexual intercourse.

Dry mouth is a symptom of nervousness and dental disease, neither one of which is particularly sexy.  The concentration of hormones in saliva is in the picogram/mL range, which makes it unlikely that a woman’s body would respond to the salivary exchange in any meaningful manner; furthermore, most of the hormones present in the male body are also in the female body, which makes the researchers’ conclusions untenable.  Wow – a whole tenth of a nanogram of male hormonal goodness!  Let’s do it, big boy! 

Um, no. The authors hypothesise that women use kissing to detect mate fitness (such as health).  Actually, it’s a “fuckwit assessment:”the men who are unpleasant about kissing are often unpleasant as people.  (The opposite is not necessarily true).  Our intrepid authors don’t bother with those pesky emotions, though:

Kissing could provide information about a person’s health and hormonal status…. Our first hypothesis was also supported by the fact that fewer females than males were willing to have sexual intercourse without kissing their partners first. Females also felt that a male who is a bad kisser is less attractive/desirable. Together these findings suggest that females place more importance on kissing, and are more reliant on kissing as a mate assessment technique.

From an evolutionary standpoint, men, not women, should care more about the health of a potential partner.  A woman who is in bad health will likely produce a child who is in bad health.  In addition to the fact that said child may be weeded out of the gene pool (an undesirable Darwinistic and emotional situation), a sickly child will be a drain on the community; therefore imperiling everyone’s survival.

Just another day in the wacky world of evolutionary psychosis.



  1. I dunno… I’ve seen some studies which suggested that women responded to extremely subtle hormonal or pheremonal signals in t-shirts which had been worn by men.

    Here’s one study which found that women found more pleasant the scent of t-shirts which had been worn by men with higher body symmetry (assumed to be a marker for evolutionary fitness) than the scent of t-shirts worn by men with lower body symmetry. Men, however, could not tell the difference between t-shirts of various women of different levels of body symmetry. Moreover, the women’s preference diminished, and ultimately disappeared, the farther away they were from the most fertile period of their cycle.

    I think you may be dismissing too quickly the possibilities of the body to respond to even extremely minute molecular signals.

    I do agree, however, that kissing is often used by both men and women as a “fuckwit assessment.” As one friend of mine put it, even when you’re 90, you can still kiss.

  2. True, true. (Sigh.) There’s another study which shows that women don’t like the smell of T-shirts worn by their family members.
    IIRC, symmetry of features is associated with genetic diversity – there is an evolutionary preference for people who are not inbred.

    If you read the entire article, the conclusions are somewhat mutually contradictory. On one hand, it says that women are more able to pick up the subtle hormonal cues than are men; then it goes on to say that men douse women in saliva because, well, women need all that spit to get the hormonal cues. This is also the same article that says that women apparently care more about mate health than do men, which just doesn’t make any sense. ;)

    Besides, any study done on college-age men which purports to explain our evolutionary history is just… limited. After all, men retain their fertility throughout their older years, and, hey, priorities change.

  3. Oh, and then there’s the study discussed here, where women were found to find sexiest the scent of t-shirts worn by men whose MHC (major histocompatibility complex) was most different from theirs (mating of different MHCs apparently promotes stronger immune systems).

  4. Is this study by men? I mean, is it just designed to provide guys with another excuse to try to make out with a girl? “Hey, baby, like, you need to kiss some more. It’s not for me, no, it’s so you can find out if we’re hormonally compatible…” Yeah, that’s the ticket!

  5. That study is, I think, part of the one to which I referrred. The women also really disliked the scent of their own family members, for pretty much the same reason.

    Actually, Pat, if you read the rest of the study, more than half of men would sleep with a woman without kissing her first. (See comment about problems with using college men for these studies. “Wait, I don’t even have to kiss her first? SWEET!”)

    Blum quotes studies that show men’s testosterone levels rise simply by hearing a woman’s voice, even if she’s talking about something as mundane as work.

    See, now y’all can’t complain about us wanting to talk about our feelings. It’s for your own good (and men with higher testosterone levels tend to be more successful, right?).


  6. As a very random question: aren’t there things in sweat glands (phermones, etc) which would not be present in saliva?

    The problem with the saliva theory, as I see it, is that the hormones in male saliva are the same hormones in the female body, just in different concentrations. You’re introducing so little of it into the body that it’s not going to make a difference, really. Olfactory sensation is different – you’re not introducing that into the nose which is not already there. It also doesn’t explain why women enjoy non-salivary exchange kissing – either closed-mouth or on the cheek, for example. Finally, the researchers didn’t point to evidence (unless I missed it) that the introduction of those hormones makes women want sex.

  7. So, I need to forget about after shave lotion and mix up some special mouthwash with hormones or phermones or some kind on mones in it.

    Sounds like a great business opportunity for a bio-chemist.

    It shouldn’t be too hard to get some college students to help with the testing.

  8. SST,

    I still don’t know why you don’t blog, although I’m happy that you grace H,aP with your presence. ;)

    Hormone/phermone mouthwash – I like it. Now, you won’t have any problems with guys who will want to see if the saliva/mouthwash/hor-pher-mone bath works to get girls in bed, but they might have problems finding girls who are willing to have guys try to get them in bed. ;)

    It also may be difficult to do a controlled study. Would you distribute questionnaires to the women afterwards? How would you even get them into a lab? Would a IRB go for this?

    So many questions. Sounds like you’ll need a lawyer once you develop this stuff.

  9. Leave it to boneheaded scientists and “experts” to make kissing sound unsexy and mind-numbingly boring. What’s next: stealing the joy out of roller coasters, petting kitty cats, and cheese dip?
    Oh, the humanity!!!

  10. LMAO. Um, well, since there’s no longer any joy in camel beauty contests, I guess so. Actually, babe, the Health Gestapo already tried to take the fun out of cheese dip, so you’re left with roller coasters (which are a liability if someone gets hurt) and asthma-inducing cats*.

    Let me put some fun back into your life:

    My site tracker said you were stalking me. I was wondering how you would rsepond to this. One theory was that you get all upset about the idea of using reproduction to explain higher-level human emotion.

    *Excepting, of course, my niece-kitty, Miss Margaret, who is perfect in every way.

  11. My wife already thinks I spend to much time reading and responding to blogs, and I don’t type very fast.

    As to the mouthwash study. I use the latest research techniques, the report will already be written. All that will need to be done is put in the number of volunteers and make up some appropriate statistics.

    I somebody wants to knock my product let them pay for their own study. In research, the one with the deepest pockets usually wins.

  12. Also, I don’t type too well apparently.

    That should be If somebody wants…..

  13. Got it. Sounds like a plan.

    You may have to substantiate your claim to the FDA, as it would affect the “structure or function” of the body. I’ll look into that.

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