Many of us can remember our first romantic kiss; most likely it was combined with feelings of awkwardness. Kissing can be an intense, erotic, profound experience. The lips and mouth are generously endowed with sensitive, pleasure-producing nerve endings that make it feel good to kiss and to be kissed in infinite variations. The classical Indian text on eroticism, the Kama Sutra, describes 17 kinds of kisses (Ards, 2000). Kissing with closed mouths tends to be more tender and affectionate, whereas open-mouth or deep or French kissing is usually more sexually intense. Kissing can also run the gamut of oral activities, such as licking, sucking, and mild biting. All places on the body are possibilities for kissing.
Western practices and attitudes about kissing are by no means universal. Mouth-to-mouth kissing is completely absent in the highly explicit erotic art of ancient Chinese and Japanese civilizations. In Japan in the 1920s mouth kissing was viewed so negatively that Rodin’s famous sculpture The Kiss was concealed from public view when it was displayed there as part of an exhibit of European art. Other cultures—the Lepcha of Eurasia, the Chewa and Thonga of Africa, and the Siriono of South America—consider kissing unhealthy and disgusting (Tiefer, 1995).