Nothing haunts you quite like a terrible kiss. Years later, I can still summon up the physical revulsion of past kissing fails in my immediate sensory memory. How could I ever forget the lawyer who went in for what I thought was a peck and instead bit me on the cheek? Or the writer who licked my chin like he was a cat? And, of course, honorable mention and lifetime achievement award goes to the good doctor who straight-up molested my inner ear with his tongue.
The only thing grosser than a kiss gone wrong? The icky science behind them.
Saliva exchanged during kissing contains about 80 million bacteria (from 300 different species) along with 9 mL of water, .7 mg of protein, .18 mg of organic compounds, .71 mg of fats, and .45 mg of sodium chloride.
So … who’s horny?
Well — me, to be honest. Which can also be explained by science. Because kissing someone you love or are attracted to bonds and synchronizes you with your partner like nothing else, which is why, even in the face of this insurmountable bacterial data, we are so drawn to it again and again.
Last weekend, dressed in a cream bathrobe and wearing my knotted locks of hair swept up in a towel, I called out to my husband minutes before he headed out the door, “Wait, wait — come here, I want a real kiss! Not one of those quickie good-bye kisses.”
He laughed at the specificity of my request. “So demanding,” he teased.
We proceeded to lock lips and I must say: The bacteria exchange was pretty spectacular.
He knows exactly what I like in a make-out sesh: long, luxurious, sweet, tender, sexy, responsive, and filled with give-and-take. No weird lizard-tongue darting. No attempt to clean my teeth like a dental hygienist. No vampiric wounds inflicted on my lower lip.
A good kiss is like the quintessential Goldilocks tale — you don’t want too much aggression, too much hesitation, or too much tongue, for that matter. It needs to be just right.
The incredible importance of a kiss well done in predicting relationship success is the basic premise behind a new show on the FYI network called Kiss Bang Love. In the series, contestants are blindfolded and asked to kiss a bunch of different strangers also wearing blindfolds to better determine compatibility. The results are pretty fascinating at times, other times erotic — and as expected, frequently downright cringeworthy.
I decided to talk to the host of the show, Rachel DeAlto, to break down what she thinks are the top ten kissing types — and why we love or hate them.
1. “The Walking Dead Kiss.” Biting, slobbering, mild cannibalistic aggression, this kiss has everything. Bonus points if your partner actually makes a low growl like a zombie while doing it. “This is my biggest pet peeve,” DeAlto said, “when it feels like someone is eating your face.” Sadly, much like a reanimated corpse, so often the person baring their gums and their lust for you simply doesn’t take the hint. Zom just not that into you.
2. “The FOMO Kiss.” Short, punctuated, distracted, and ultimately eager to get back to scrolling Instagram. The Fear-of-Missing-Out Kiss is oh-so perfunctory, to the point, and always scanning the room for “who’s there.” It can be an air kiss, it can be a greeting kiss, it can be the last kiss you’ll ever have before someone drops dead and you don’t even know it. “Kisses where you’re not presently into it,” DeAlto said, “almost always fall flat.”
3. “The Make-Up Kiss.” I’ve done this one quite a bit, and it’s possible that some sick part of me instigates fighting because “forget about all that shit we’ve been arguing about” kisses are so hot. The Make-Up Kiss is saying, “I love you, I need you, I’ll do anything to make this better.” There’s nothing sexier than that. “A Make-Up Kiss feels like you’re all about the other partner’s satisfaction,” DeAlto says.
4. “The Tease Kiss.” The most fascinating part of Kiss Bang Love is the reliance on all the other senses (besides visual) to create a kiss. There are the outstretched hands, the hesitant approach to someone else’s body, one face approaching closer to the other, and then finally the lips meet. It’s fairly hot, which is why the Tease Kiss is a personal favorite. Slower is better. There’s tension and stakes. You can even feel someone’s heartbeat. “Patience is key,” DeAlto says. “Jackhammering is not doing you any favors.”
5. “The Gravity Kiss.” This is the kiss you see every time you turn on TV and watch characters on Scandal — it’s like the characters are drawn together uncontrollably. “You lose all rational thought,” DeAlto says, “because of the chemistry.”
6. “The Over-Aggressive Kiss.” You see a lot of this on Kiss Bang Love. Too much familiarity or even just a too-long French overall. Nothing kills the mood like someone who can’t read the room — or the kiss. “Those kisses that are most problematic are the over-aggressive ones,” DeAlto says. “They can really span the gamut, too: biting, body touching, butt grabbing.”
7. “The Scaredy-Cat Kiss.” A good kisser has confidence. Which is why an SCK is such a lady-boner killer. “It’s almost like the timid kisser doesn’t fully own his sensuality,” DeAlto says. Exactly.
8. “The Ghost-Pottery-Wheel Kiss.” No, you do not need clay and the Righteous Brothers. (But it doesn’t hurt.) This is just a metaphor for the kind of kiss that involves a true give-and-take, a rhythmic responsiveness to someone else’s vibe. “The ideal kiss is like a dance,” DeAlto says. “You feel what the other person is into and you respond to that accordingly.”
9. “The Look-At-Me Kiss.” Have you ever made out with someone who seemed like they were auditioning for America’s Next Top Snogger? It’s like they’re doing some weird performance-art piece and don’t even need you there at all. You can almost hear them saying, “Don’t worry, I got this.” It’s a form of masturbation, really. “When a person is free-forming during a kiss, they’re not even paying attention to what the other person needs,” DeAlto says. “It’s like they’re showing off their range of skills.”
10. “The Secret Kiss.” Sneaky stolen kisses are exhilarating. Caught in the rain, in the other room, or even blindfolded on national TV, the illicit nature of a kiss is intoxicating. “There’s a next level of eroticism when the only thing you’re focusing on is the kiss,” DeAlto says. “Adding a layer of mystery creates this amazing heightened feeling.”
And you really do need that mystery. Because otherwise, when you’re too aware of the science of it all — or even the constant categorization and ranking going on in your head — it’s very easy to quickly kiss that sense of romance good-bye.