FOXSexpert: Pucker Up - Are You a Good Kisser?

Are you a good kisser?

I like to think I am. I've been told, on several occasions, that I am.

But ... how much credence should lovers give to their puckering portfolio?

A lot, according to science, since men and women size up this mate-assessment technique a little differently.

If you haven't given much thought to your kiss-ability, it's probably time you did.

A kiss isn't just a kiss. Research has confirmed what many of us have long known: That first kiss can make or break a budding romance for both sexes.

I've always had this kissing compatibility theory: We are already biologically "programmed" to lock lips better with certain individuals.

Sure, some poor people out there are just really bad kissers in everyone's black book. Almost all of us have had the misfortune of coming across one – that person who swallows half of your face or who shoves a tongue down your throat.

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But when it comes to your "average" smack, I think that what's judged by one as an "oh, but no – game over" kiss is another's dream. It wasn't until recently, though, that I learned that my theory may actually have an inkling of truth.

Investigators at the University at Albany SUNY found that 59 percent of men and 66 percent of women were attracted to someone — and then totally lost interest the moment they had that first kiss.

They also found there were gender differences in the importance and types of “snogging.”

Men are likelier than women to:

— Pucker up as a means to an end – namely, as a way to advance sexual intimacy or to reconcile

— Expect kissing to lead to sex, regardless of if they were in a short- or long-term relationship

— Be up for sex that doesn't involve kissing

— Oblige a not-so-good kisser with sex

Men are also much more into swapping spit than women. They like to initiate French (tongue) kissing and wet, open-mouth kissing. Researchers speculate this may be because males have less acute senses of taste and smell than females. A man may need more saliva when assessing his mate. Since previous research indicates a woman's breath actually changes throughout her menstrual cycle, the male may, on a subconscious level, be determining the female’s fertility.

Women, on the other hand, are likelier than men to:

— Use kissing as a way to establish and check in with their relationship

— Never engage in sex without kissing

— Insist on kissing prior to a sexual rendezvous

— Place more emphasis on the importance of kissing before, during and after a sexual "encounter," as well as on the taste and smell of their mate

For women, there's a lot at stake in making-out. The kiss helps females to assess the relationship, particularly a partner's level of commitment. If the frequency or style of kissing changes, especially suddenly, she'll read it as a sign that his interest is lagging.

Given its importance, it's a bit mind-boggling that our sex-focused society doesn't give this ultimate relationship deal-breaker more attention. This courtship ritual between romantic or sexual partners occurs in more than 90 percent of human cultures. It's a mating strategy that initiates sexual arousal and one's receptivity to sex.

Researchers from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania found that kissing also provides stress relief by reducing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in both sexes. And in the long-term, it serves to maintain the bond lovers feel for one another. Forms of it have also been observed in other species – for example, elephants shove their trunks in each other's mouths.

So much rich information is exchanged when lips meet, with potential lovers unconsciously tapping into chemical, tactile, and bodily cues. Regions of the brain also go crazy when we get a good kiss, given that a huge amount of our brain is dedicated to picking up information from our mouths.

Evolutionary psychologists have speculated that the kiss may be one way we determine reproduction and whether a would-be lover is genetically compatible. The exchange of saliva during kissing may have biological ramifications, helping to explain why men like to go for the moist kiss. This is even more fascinating when you consider that male saliva contains measurable amounts of testosterone, one of our sex hormones, which can affect libido.

Despite the fact it is such a common expression, kissing has received very little scientific scrutiny over the years. The nice thing about this disservice is that you can pucker up for some investigating of your own . . .

BLOG: What is Orgasm Paralysis? Click here to find out.

Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."

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