Bad kissers -- we've all locked lips with one: the lizard, the washing machine, the cannibal, the spelunker.
"I knew this girl that I'll call Big Tongue," recalls Craig Hinkle, 38, a Westminster, California-based network administrator. "Her tongue was massive, and she insisted on trying to put the entire thing in my mouth. She was very forceful with it, and I started choking."
You can guess that relationship didn't last. And now, what Hinkle knows from experience is actually backed up by science: Bad kissers have little chance of getting to second base.
In a study published recently in the scientific journal "Evolutionary Psychology," 59 percent of men and 66 percent of women said they've been in the position of being attracted to someone -- until they kissed the person.
"At the moment of the kiss, there's a very complicated exchange of information ... that may tap into underlying evolved mechanisms" cluing us in on whether we're genetically compatible, explains Gordon Gallup, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany. "A kiss can be a deal-breaker in terms of whether a relationship will flower or flounder, so to speak."
Rachel Myeroff, 26, can attest to that. On a second date with a guy, says the New York City-based sales manager, "he just went in for it and attached himself to me in the sloppiest, most horrible kiss ever. He was just consuming my mouth. I most definitely did not call him again."
Why we kiss
Gallup's research suggests that men and women have different agendas when it comes to kissing, an act that occurs in 95 percent of human societies and is believed to have been first recorded in Vedic Sanskrit texts around 1500 B.C. in India.
For men, kissing is more often used as a means to an end -- namely, to gain sexual access. Men also are more likely to literally kiss and make up, using kissing to attempt reconciliation.
Women on the other hand use kissing as a mate-assessment technique, Gallup notes. They subconsciously evaluate mating potential from the chemicals in their partner's saliva and breath, for instance.
Women also use kissing as a bonding gesture, as well as to monitor the status of the relationship. If her partner's kissing frequency or technique suddenly changes, that perhaps is a sign of his waning interest.
Other gender differences uncovered by Gallup's research:
- Men show a greater preference for tongue contact and open-mouth kisses.
- Men are more willing than women to have sex with someone without kissing, as well as to have sex with someone they are not attracted to or consider to be a bad kisser.
- Women place more importance on kissing throughout a relationship, whereas men place less importance on it as the relationship progresses.
Improve your kiss
If you've ever been told to kiss off after smooching someone beneath the holiday mistletoe, fear not. Like other skills, one's kissing technique can be improved upon. Michael Christian, author of "The Art of Kissing" (under the pen name William Cane), offers classes, and there's a myriad of how-to books and DVDs.
To improve your technique, Christian suggests switching up your repertoire with different types of kisses:
- Vacuum kiss, in which you suck the air out of your partner's mouth while kissing
- Neck kiss, in which you kiss up and down your partner's neck
- "Lip-o-suction," in which you kiss the upper lip while your partner kisses the lower lip, and then you reverse.
Bad kisses, on the other hand, are relatively easy to pinpoint. "Bad kisses trigger the gag reflex," Christian says. "Bad kisses are also static and repetitious. Varying the speed, intensity and style can help."
Spontaneity also can help you get out of a slump.
"The best kisses are always the ones that happen accidentally," observes New York City resident Benjamin Kayne, 25, a digital media sales director. "(Planned kisses) are just tedious, and I'm sitting there thinking, 'Is this over yet? The commercial is over and I'm missing "CSI".' "