The Return Of Kissing: Why Everyone Is Suddenly Playing Tonsil-Tennis Again

·6-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

How did Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck confirm they were - just like we had all hoped and dreamed - back together? A red carpet photo? a PR-approved statement? No. They broadcast their reunion to the world through the medium of a kiss.

The Bennifer public display of affection and a whole load of other steamy, public snogs (hello Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly and Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker) - have confirmed what I already suspected: that kissing, in all it's sloppy, slurpy glory, is back.

For most people, kissing is the first experience of sexual intimacy. It's a special stage for hormone-fuelled teens, as we begin to embrace the first flushes of arousal, get finally close enough to a crush to breathe in their pheromones, sense hearts racing, and feel thrilled for affection to be so palpably reciprocated. A kiss, at this stage of life, can be enough to dine out on for weeks, in the stories that we regale our friends with, and in our memories as we replay the moment over and over again.

But as we get a little older, the rush of first kisses wane; we begin looking to the next stages of eroticism, gunning for nudity and the things that can be done behind closed doors. Soon, a kiss becomes just a stepping stone. A ticket to the big show. All eyes are on sex.

For some reason though, in the last few months we've seen a change of behaviour. Kissing is suddenly to be celebrated again - publicised and performed here, there and everywhere.

The proof is in the picture. The many, many pictures. It's not just Lopez and Affleck - who continued their kissing aboard a boat to the Venice Film Festival this last week. In fact, the film festival was a hotbed of tongue-on-tongue activity. There was Adrianna Lima and her boyfriend, Andre L III, and directors Mario Martone and Gabriele Mainetti, who kissed their spouses in front of the flashing cameras while celebrating their latest films. It was the same during the Cannes Film Festival, despite the no kissing-on-the-cheek rule due to the rising Delta variant of Covid-19 spreading in the country.

Photo credit: Stephane Cardinale - Corbis - Getty Images
Photo credit: Stephane Cardinale - Corbis - Getty Images

We saw it in the fashion world earlier this year, when the consistently ahead-of-the-curve designer Jacquemus devoted his SS21 L'Amour campaign to kissing, featuring models kissing in bed, on the floor, against the wall, on push bikes and motorbikes.

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Oh how very European, you might be thinking. But you would be wrong. That awkward, British, PDA-averse attitude seems to be dead in the water, for now. Kissing is alive and kicking in the UK too. As well as noticing more and more people than ever before kissing on the streets of London, before masking up for the kissing-free zone of the tube, kissing enjoyed the limelight on Love Island, which is a show usually more focussed on the ins-and-outs (and ups and downs) of 'The Hideaway.' Never before have I seen on the series such feverish discussion of snogging. When one islander would reveal a kiss to his or her fellow cast mates, ten minutes of questioning would ensue: 'Where?', 'How long?', 'Tongues?'

So, why now? Of course kissing didn't really go anywhere. It just hasn't enjoyed much attention, save for the odd stunt à la Madonna and Britney in 2003. Except, for the past 18 months, people haven't really been kissing. Quarantine put a firm stop to snogging strangers, or actually, anyone that you didn't live with. Starved of human contact, and the comfort, joy and rush of endorphins that kissing provides for so long, it follows that when the world opened back up again, there would be a rush on every little bit of intimacy we can get and lip-locking is once again enough to send spines tingling. With 'hands, face, space' playing on loop in our heads, being nose to nose with someone feels delightfully perverted. A middle finger to a year and a half of safety measures.

'After so long deprived of touch, there seems to be a real feeling of YOLO,' says writer and founder of Kissing And Other Stories - the Instagram account and content platform devoted to all things kissing - Emma Firth. 'We all want to indulge in those moments of connection when they do occur. Lots of people have felt in the romantic waiting area. Now, we want to get on the flight and share our findings.

'I remember LOLing at those pre-pandemic photos of Timothée Chalamet snogging Lily Rose Depp’s face off on a boat in Italy in 2019. Today, I just think – bravo. They seemed to be having a good time. And, quite frankly, I can’t imagine many people who wouldn’t like the idea of making out with someone you fancy on holiday. Which is to say, free the PDA. There are far more important things to eyeroll at in the world than other people’s pleasure.'

Firth came up with Kissing And Other Stories - where you can find all kinds of kissing content, from images to audio, to exclusive beautiful writing, like The Cut's Avery Trufelman recalling her last post-pandemic kiss, and designer Henry Holland looking back on his first kiss with his husband - as an antidote to the endless Covid doomscrolling.

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'It's a hopeful and joyful reminder of our universal desire to connect,' says Firth, who has also noticed more and more kissing around her home city of London (' Everywhere: on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Hampstead Heath. Outside pubs that have closed in Soho. On park benches.').

'Those electric bolts of unexplainable something that pulls us to want to explore another person where words fail us. I wanted to celebrate that. The kiss is often the entry point to a romantic journey: the mere thought of it is a gift in and of itself.'

So, is the relishing of a kiss here to stay? Has there been a turn in the tide of the tutting at teenagers snogging at the local bus stop, or is this just a temporary post-Covid horniness-fuelled trend? Only time will tell. But it's got to be said, one of the only positive take-aways from being so long shut off from new love, sexuality and friendship, is that we might have a renewed sense of value for smaller expressions of intimacy. After all, big love, intense flings, wild romantic memories... it all starts with a kiss.

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