Since my last post was about two guys kissing, I wasn’t planning to address the topic again so soon. Then I read this passage in How to Write Sexy Descriptions and Sex Scenes by Val Kovalin:
The ultimate romantic action is kissing. Sometimes males who do not self-identify as gay will interact on every sexual level, including penetration, but draw the line at kissing.
To paraphrase Kovalin, one man sticking a certain part of his body into the body of another man is, to a lot of straight dudes, “Like, whatever.” But two guys’ lips touching? That’s like, “What?”
I had to think about that because, I’ll admit, while I think two dudes should be able to kiss, it’s not something I’m interested in seeing on a daily basis.
But when I saw two-year-old twin dudes running around their yard with sticks in their hands, I put two and two together. The heterosexual male aversion to two men kissing derives from the male desire to explore and conquer the world. We lead with our phallic things—sticks and whatnot—but kissing another person eliminates the comfortable distance that our rods and swords create.
More to the point, kissing involves relinquishing control. Sure, one person might be working the tongue a little harder, but in general, kissing is egalitarian. No one’s in charge. A straight male is cool with that if it offers a pathway to the conquest of a female sexual partner. But surrendering control to another man who in many cases would be seen as a threat to sexual dominance is disturbing. Shaking hands is risky enough—but at least the enemy is still at arm’s length.
Men. We are such mysterious creatures.
I did hastier and less complete research on this topic than usual, because one Psychology Today article covered everything. The article, “In sexual politics, the kiss is both ambassador and spy,” by Noam Shpancer, Ph.D., confirms what those stick-wielding little dudes taught me.
“The tongue, it is difficult to deny, is a phallic organ,” Shpancer says. “When we kiss someone, we bring that person into our vulnerable personal space. A wet kiss [from a man] may deposit testosterone into the woman’s mouth, thereby acting to increase her sexual arousal.”
Furthermore, he cites a Gallup study in which women ranked kissing as important in the short and long term, while men think it’s important initially, but not so much later on. “The study shows that the concept of the kiss as a distinctly sexual act is more common among men,” Shpancer writes. “Women, in general, attribute more meaning to the kiss in the process of choosing a partner and maintaining a relationship. Men tend to use kissing as a potential gateway to intercourse. They are more willing to forego kissing for intercourse, and their interest in kissing their spouses decreases over time.”
In other words (with the standard disclaimer that individual mileage may vary), for women kissing’s a relationship thing; for men, it’s a sex thing. Sex is often described as “conquering,” and no doubt lots of men see having a relationship as being conquered.
It brings us back to Kovalin’s assertion, which she follows with, “To heterosexual males, kissing introduces romance, whereas everything else is just guys seeking to satisfy their high sex drives.”
And I thought it was just the eight-year-boy in me acting up every time I see two people—be they Adam and Eve or Adam and Steve—swallowing each other’s tongues.
Of course, there’s plenty of kissing in my romance novels. In every case, kissing leads to sex and to long-term relationships. Which is fine with my heroes because they don’t see committing to a woman as a defeat. That, I hope, makes everyone happy. Because, as Shpancer says, some research suggests “the kiss functions primarily on the level of psychology, as a way to express and reinforce feelings of trust, closeness and intimacy with another.”
And that is what romance—in books and in life—is about: Letting that one special person into our most vulnerable personal space, making our world a much nicer place.