Is Porn Changing the Way We Kiss?

January 14, 2009

 

Porn Kiss

Porn Kiss

“Kissing-and I mean like, yummy, smacking kissing – is the most delicious, most beautiful and passionate thing that two people can do, bar none. Better than sex, hands down.”

Drew Barrymore

 

 

I’m afraid that young people aren’t kissing as much as they used to, especially during sex. Last weekend I watched Rules of Attraction, a 2002 cult film based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis. Though it’s seven years old, its portrayal of sex-based relationships on college campuses is still accurate. There is plenty of sexual attraction, but not much emotional connection. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised then, when I realized about halfway through the movie that there wasn’t any kissing in the sex scenes. I thought it strange; when I was growing up in the 70s, making out was an essential precursor to even the most casual sex.

In thinking about what’s changed in the last 30 years, I quickly hypothesized that the ready availability of porn might have something to do with this. Technology has made it possible for many young men to view explicit porn every day. It is a popular male bonding activity among college guys. In recent years, porn has showcased behaviors that have quickly become part of the mainstream young heterosexual scene, including Brazilian waxing and girl-on-girl kissing. Now it appears that the practice of anal sex is increasing dramatically among young people, thanks to its popularity in porn. Today, there is evidence that girls feel pressured to participate in threesomes, and to allow their partners to ejaculate onto their faces, the quintessential porn flick money shot.

I decided to do a little, ahem, research, and checked out a few porn sites to see for myself. Bingo. Lots of banging, very little kissing. And that was true even on the amateur sites, where regular folks upload videos of themselves having sex to share the love with the viewing public. Though I wasn’t a big consumer of porn thirty years ago, I suspect there wasn’t much kissing in those movies either. What’s different today is that porn is now the primary form of sex ed for young men, and they’re mimicking those behaviors in their own lives. What kissing I did find online was strange, almost reptilian. I learned that this is called pornkissing:

To kiss someone with tongue but no lips, as in adult movies (UrbanDictionary.com).

(As an interesting aside, I found far more passionate kissing on the gay [male] porn sites. It wasn’t the norm, but plenty of videos were named to imply that the actors were in love, so it was clearly a draw for some viewers.)

Surprisingly, very little research has been done on the subject of kissing. A 2007 study of 1,041 college students at the State University of  New York at Albany did reveal some interesting things about how the genders differ in their view of kissing.[1. Susan M. Hughes, Marissa A. Harrison, and Gordon G. Gallup, Jr., State University of New York, Albany, NY, Sex Differences in Romantic Kissing Among College Students: An Evolutionary Perspective, Evolutionary Psychology Journal, 2007, 5(3): 612-631.]

  • Men consider kissing a means to an end, such as gaining sexual favors or reconciling after a fight.
  • Women kiss to establish and monitor the status of their relationship, and consider it a crucial element in finding a partner.
  • Kissing is biologically powerful; it releases feel-good dopamine and endorphins to the brain, reduces cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and floods the brain with oxytocin.
  • Women value kissing before, during and after sexual encounters.
  • More than half of the men said they would be happy to have sex without kissing, compared with fifteen percent of the women.
  • Men expect kissing to lead to sex half the time, compared with one-third of the time for women.
  • Men are more likely to initiate French kissing, perhaps hoping to arouse the woman with the testosterone in their saliva.
  • Tasting another’s saliva gives you their “chemical fingerprint.” Saliva and sweat contain pheromones, and help you determine your level of attraction and compatibility to a person.

 

Because the vast majority of porn viewers are men, and because most porn is produced by men, it is not surprising that porn focuses on what men want. But what are the long-term implications for emotional intimacy and relationships in our culture when young men are learning most of what they know about courtship from porn? How do women feel about the norms of porn becoming part of the mainstream sexual script?

In 2003, third-wave feminist Naomi Wolf wrote a seminal piece for New York Magazine called The Porn Myth. She made the point that the onslaught of porn is deadening the male libido, who see fewer real women as “porn-worthy”:

“If your appetite is stimulated and fed by poor-quality material, it takes more junk to fill you up. People are not closer because of porn but further apart; people are not more turned on in their daily lives but less so.”

She believes that young women on college campuses worry that if they do not offer what porn offers, they won’t be able to hold a guy.

And now it appears that they may not be able to kiss him either.