Friday, March 31, 2006

Kissing: it's a primate thing

I have a friend who was contemplating the situtation where an ex wife maligned her ex-husband's quality of kissing.

There is something to be said in terms of kissing and human relationships, but it is because there is something more generally to be said about kissing and primate relationships in general. I once read an article by a professor de Wall (Emory Univ.) who had studied primates both in captivity and in the wild, and he was very clear that Chimpanzees embrace and kiss after fights. Here is paraphrase of what DeWall found:

  • "Chimpanzees live in patriarchal societies where shifting alliances between males -- and often the sympathies of females -- can bring about major changes in the governance of a group. The controlling males settle disputes and distribute food. There is a great deal of fighting, especially between males, and very clear rules for how fights should be pursued. Adult males confront one another with raised hair and bite one another's hands and feet with their large canines. Against females, however, they generally use only their hands and feet. Even in male fighting, it is rare that lasting damage is done, for what counts above all is the capacity to fight effectively within the rules, employing speed and agility (de Waal, 1998: 104). At the end of a fight, the loser is expected to ask for reconciliation. This is generally followed by fervent kissing and embracing and perhaps a lengthy grooming session (Ibid., 27-9). "[1]

Perhaps that an "ex-"wife was dealing with guilt after making remarks about her ex-husband's kissing style is more than just coincidence, for the default activity of primates -- namely kissing -- used for reconciliation was no longer available (and in this case desirable) to resolve the relationship. Thus, the main avenue that evolution provided for that small island of social harmony among the most advance primates on the planet, humans, was blocked.

Finally, if a quick search on Google is any indication, kissing is a muscle motor technique that can be improved over time; thus, even bad kissers have as much hope that disicipline and practice may provide. You just have to have a partner that is willing to take the time to wait thru the learning curve and give honest feedback. Note, however, it's probably best to avoid dental Novocaine during training sessions ....

Works Cited:

[1] John Ryan Haule Evolution and Archetype: The Biology of Jung 2004 (Accessed March 31, 2006)


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