science of us

This Study on First Kisses Is Basically a Teen Movie Script

Photo: SuperStock/Getty Images

There are some studies that sound like studies, and there are some studies that sound like preliminary sketches for a very earnest teen movie. This is the latter: In a paper literally called “Never Been Kissed,” a team of researchers pulled together a picture of kids who have made it all the way to college without a first kiss. Its findings are — well, if you’ve ever seen a very earnest teen movie for yourself, the findings are pretty much what you’d guess them to be.

For the study, recently published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, the authors surveyed more than 700 college freshmen — an even split between men and women — about their sexual histories, personality traits, health habits, and other general background questions like how often they went to religious services and how they got along with their parents. Within the sample, 14 percent of volunteers said they’d never kissed a partner on the lips.

A few things the members of that group had in common: Personality-wise, they tended to be more neurotic and less extraverted. They drank less frequently than their peers. They had more overbearing moms and lower self-esteem. And, rounding out the whole thing, they were also more likely to be in their school’s honors college.

There are couple caveats. First, the study sample was overwhelmingly heterosexual (98 percent). And second, as the authors noted, they didn’t distinguish between those who made a conscious choice to abstain from kissing altogether and those who just hadn’t yet found someone to kiss. Overall, though, the traits of those 14 percent come together to form a pretty cohesive portrait. “It is possible,” the researchers wrote, “that delayed participation in normative sexual behavior is indicative of an overall pattern of more withdrawal from normative social activities.” In other words: The late kissing bloomers tend to be a little bit shy and a little bit awkward. On a happier note, though, this world has no shortage of montages featuring scrappy nerds who finally get theirs.

This Study on First Kisses Is Basically a Teen Movie Script