And train your SO to do the same (it takes two, baby).
In theory, kissing should be easy. In the words of Ted Danson’s demon-in-human’s-clothing character on NBC’s The Good Place, you just mash your food holes together. But for those of us whose personal torture chambers (watch the show, it’ll all make sense) are home to a Ryan Gosling doppelgänger with the kissing aptitude of a freshly caught bass, firsthand research shows just how hard good lip service is to come by.
I dove down a YouTube rabbit hole of kissing videos this week, and amid the clickbait titles and cringe-worthy executions (file this video under things I can’t unsee), a unifying theme emerged: Some people are naturally just better kissers than others, and we could all stand to put in a little more grunt work (lesson one: ew, never grunt).
We chatted with Andréa Demirjian, The Kissing Expert—yes, that’s her official title—and author of KISSING – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About One of Life’s Sweetest Pleasures, about keeping the spark alive, training our partners in the art of lip service, and how we can be more conscious kissers in the wake of #MeToo.
First off, what do you think makes a bad kisser?
Andréa Demirjian: “Apart from kissing someone else when you’re supposed to be only kissing one person, there are a handful of cardinal sins. Chapped lips and dodgy breath can be a deal-breaker. I tell people, ‘Your mouth is your instrument. You need to “Floss & Gloss” daily—don’t let your kissing get dinged on a technicality.’ Another turn-off is being too aggressive—going in too fast right out of the gate at a high crescendo versus starting slowly and letting the passion and intensity build. Then there’s using the tongue too forcefully… The tongue is a muscle, and a very powerful one at that. It should be finessed softly—keep it supple. Last, there’s the saliva factor, that’s something that must be controlled. No one enjoys the slop ’n’ schloss of a wet kiss.”
How do you keep kissing interesting in a long-term relationship?
AD: “This is a universal challenge. So often when the relationship progresses, the long, languorous make-out sessions wane—but you can keep the spark [alive], and honestly, a little daily dab will do. Come up behind your honey and give a little cheeky kiss on their shoulder or other parts of their body. Or give a juicy kiss goodbye—it doesn’t have to be a long one, but just enough to signal it’s not your usual perfunctory goodbye. And talk about it! Talk about what you miss and how you want to find it again together.”
Do you have any go-to techniques for more sensual kisses?
AD: “The Kama Sutra has a complete chapter dedicated to kissing (17, to be exact!). Many of the kisses have lovers focus intently on one part of the mouth, such as giving all attention to your lover’s lower lip…then their upper lip…and first kissing those areas with just the lips…then exploring sensually with tongue… Tell them to lay their head back, close their eyes, and keep their hands to their side while you enjoy this slow discovery of their mouth and their senses—the way they smell and taste. It’s tantalizing foreplay, and not being able to touch you in the process will build a frenzy of anticipation!”
How can you subtly train your partner to become a better kisser?
AD: “While kissing is the barometer for attraction and sexual compatibility (and you shouldn’t spend too much time with someone whose kissing doesn’t give you that za za zoo), if you have feelings for them, it’s worth the whirl to try and improve the lip-to-lip action. My suggestion first is to make a game of it: Take control. Tell them you have been thinking about your kissing, and you want to try a few different things to mix it up. Then take the driver’s seat—kiss them the way you want to be kissed, and be vocal about what you are doing when you are kissing them, and why you like it/how it makes you feel. Then ask them to kiss you back in the same manner. Most of the time, the person is eager to please, and with a little practice, things could get better. If they don’t, cut bait. Life is too short for mediocre kissing.”
With #MeToo and consent being top of mind, how can you make sure a first kiss is “good” for both parties involved? What are some cues that it’s best to start slow, or when someone wants more of a passionate approach?
AD: “#MeToo has been a critical watershed for many reasons and should change the way we interact in various social situations. At the same time, there are still some fundamentals when it comes to social fun and interaction that shouldn’t necessarily be tossed out like the baby in the bathwater. Balance is important too, and we are our best guides on that equilibrium. We are all equipped with an internal mechanism that lets us know when things are right and when they’re not—we were hardwired that way. So pay attention first to how you feel… If you’re relaxed and excited, and the other person is smiling and laughing and doing little things like touching your hand or shoulder, and you in turn are doing and feeling the same, nine times out of 10, a mutually desired kiss is imminent. Our gut will tell us when the light is green and both for how we feel and how the recipient of your intent is vibing…”
SIDEBAR: HOW TO KISS AROUND THE WORLD
Demirjian’s guide to navigating other countries’ kissing customs.
- EUROPE: “The continent is big on kissing both cheeks. France kisses three, four, or five times depending on the region; Switzerland & the Netherlands kiss three times.”
- JAPAN & CHINA: “Tend to frown on kissing in public. Over the years the younger generation has pushed back against convention, not only kissing more frequently in public, but staging kissing contests and events (in part to rattle the cage of their elders).”
- LATIN AMERICA: “Kissing is a universal form of greeting. It’s not necessary to know the person well to kiss them on the cheeks.”
- SUDAN: “The Sudanese still hold certain superstitions, including not kissing on the mouth, believing it’s the portal to the soul and a kiss can invite in disease and/or steal your soul.”
- NEPAL: “People shy away from kissing on the mouth, believing it’s filled with bacteria (which it is) and as such, not healthy—however, some of that bacteria is good for you and boosts your immune system! They tend to do more of what we think of as ‘Eskimo Kissing’–rubbing the nose against the cheek and neck to take in the natural scents and oils of the object of their affection.”
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