The cultures where kissing doesn’t exist
IT HAS been decades since anyone questioned the idea that romantic kissing is a universal human practice.
Yet sweeping new research from the University of Nevada’s anthropology department has revealed that many cultures find the thought of a pash extremely distasteful.
The Mehinaku of Brazil, for example, told one ethnographer that they thought kissing was “gross”, asking why anyone would want to “share their dinner”.
This isn’t really a surprising response, the experts say, when the primary purpose of mouth-to-mouth contact worldwide is for “kiss-feeding” from parent to child.
Researchers William Jankowiak, Shelly Volsche and Justin Garcia discovered that more than half of 168 diverse cultures did not use the romantic-sexual kiss.
“There is a marked absence of kissing in the equatorial and sub-Saharan hunter-gatherer societies such as the Hadza, the Turkana, the Maasai, and the Yanomamo,” Volsche said.
In fact, it looks as though kissing only evolves where humans develop a complex society. The “ancestral state” of human sexuality, Volsche believes, is a basic mating practice focused on reproduction.
Many societies that do not have romantic kissing use other physical expressions of endearment, usually an exchange of breath or mutual sniffing of cheeks and necks.
Parents will often kiss children’s body parts, and people will use pecks on the cheek or lips as greetings, often ritualised to indicate who is the subordinate.
The Oceanic Kiss involves the passing of open mouths past each other, with no contact. It is usually a greeting, occasionally part of the sexual repertoire.
The anthropologists claim that the conviction that romantic kissing is universal dates back to a large body of unverified and unchallenged researched from the 1950s and 60s.
Ethnocentrism – where we assume other cultures are just like ours – is likely to have contributed to the confusion as well.