A new study shows just how much kissing matters.
Kissing can mean so many different things in different contexts. It can be sweet, loving and caring. It can be fiercely passionate and highly erotic. You can take your time and luxuriate in kissing. Kissing can also be rushed, signaling a severe hunger for more. Kissing can go on for hours. Or it can last just a minute.
Then there’s the somewhat philosophical question of what makes a person a good kisser. Most of us can agree on what makes a person NOT a good kisser. But beyond that, is it just chemistry? Finally, just what is the link between kissing and sex? Do people who kiss more during sex have it more frequently? Is sex that involves kissing somehow better?
A New Kissing Study
A new academic journal article sheds light on how kissing relates to our sexual and relationship experiences. Researchers recruited 878 participants (433 men and 445 women) who reported being in a relationship for at least six months. Participants were first asked to indicate two things. First, they were asked how consistently they kissed (on the mouth) during sex. This, the researchers referred to as “specific kissing.” Second, participants indicated how consistently they kissed their partner when they were NOT having sex—just day to day. This measure was labeled “global kissing.”
Next, participants indicated a) how frequently they had sex with their partner, b) how often they orgasmed during sex, c) how satisfied they were overall with the sex in their relationship, and d) how satisfied they were in their relationship overall.
The study reported that specific kissing (kissing that happens during sex) was highly correlated with higher sexual frequency for both women and men. The participants in this study who kissed more during sex had more sex with their partners than those who didn’t.
Additionally, more kissing during sex also correlates with higher orgasm frequency for women during sex. Taken together with the first finding, this means that, for women, kissing improves both the quantity and quality of their sexual experiences.
Why does kissing seem to increase orgasm frequency more in women than in men? According to the study’s researchers, it could be that for women, kissing signals more emotional closeness during sex, which increases a woman’s level of arousal. Kissing during a sexual experience may also indicate that the pace is slower and that more foreplay is occurring which could be specifically more beneficial for women. Men, alternatively, may be more stimulated by different types of arousal (e.g., touch, penetrative sex) and don’t depend on the pace of sex to orgasm.
The study also found that global kissing (kissing that happens day-to-day) was a sign of good relationship health and indicated higher relationship satisfaction for both partners. The more satisfied people were in their relationship overall, the more likely they were to kiss their partner in contexts other than the bedroom, increasing non-sexual intimacy and feelings of desire. This suggests that as couples become more dissatisfied in their relationships, over time, kissing decreases. It becomes a warning sign, per se.
It is well established that among heterosexual individuals, men orgasm more consistently during sex than women. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “the orgasm gap.” The findings from this study suggest that encouraging kissing during sexual activity could be one method to close the gap, as well as improve sexual frequency and overall satisfaction, especially for women. However, the power of kissing extends beyond just sex and into our relationships. Partners in happy relationships tend to kiss each other regularly as simple forms of affection. The evidence is clear: Kissing matters.
Dean M. Busby, Veronica Hanna-Walker & Chelom E. Leavitt (2021) Is Kissing a Bellwether of Sexual and Relationship Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction?, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy