Saturday, May 26, 2012

Kissing--A Universal Language?

When you're kissed by someone, either on the cheek or on the lips, you get a surge of electricity flowing through you. 
You get aroused, and you think it's the universal language of desire.
But who started kissing first? How did different communities around the world come to the same conclusion that the occasionally disgusting act of  pressing lips against the lips or other body parts of another person signifies love? In this modern age kissing is ubiquitous we think it's natural for humans to kiss.
But we don't see chimps kissing.

The origins of the kiss were studied in the early 20th century by natural historian Ernest Crawley. He wrote that the act of kissing was very rare among the lower and semi-civilized races but was fully-established as instinctive in early Greece. In 1500 BC India, sniff-kissing--an act of smelling with the mouth was described in the Vedic Sanskrit texts.

But other highly advanced civilizations like Egypt and China were were oblivious to the act of kissing. The Japanese society, before the 20th century, was unaware of the kiss except as applied by a mother to her infant. It was often observed among less civilized African tribes that neither husbands and wives, or lovers, kissed one another.
We DON'T kiss yo~. Image:
So we can safely say that the act of kissing is a culture assimilated from the west. The Greek passed on the practice to the Romans, which brought it everywhere their military went. Then it became so widespread in the western world the Catholic priests were unhappy and sought to prohibit the practice, though they still accepted kissing for strictly religious reasons if it occurred outside of church. By the turn of the 20th century British colonizers brought the practice to the east.

And today, thanks to cultural assimilation we kiss so much that we forget that our ancestors had never kissed. So kissing was not a universal language after all.

Crawley, Ernest. Studies of Savages and Sex, Kessinger Publishing (revised and reprinted) (2006)

1 comment:

  1. YIKES. "We can safely say that the act of kissing is a culture assimilated from the west." Well, no, no we can't. Most Greek culture was learned from the Near East (so-called because it's near Western Europe) and considering the Vedic source we can easily suggest that kissing was well-established throughout Eurasia by the time of the Romans.

    It's also possible that early observations of African cultural groups were conducted with Noble Savage or Ignoble Savage outlooks in mind.

    That is, you're reaching conclusions that are informed from the speculations of outdated natural scientists who worked from a theoretical framework of scientific racism.

    As an aside, the picture you cite as an example of a 'less-civilized African tribe' is actually a photograph of Bathurst Island Indigenous Australians and it is ENORMOUSLY insensitive to genericize their heritage because you fucking think black skin & topless = native African.



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