Is A Kiss Just A Kiss?

The Denver Post
November 17, 2002 Sunday 1st Edition Aection: LFS; Pg. L-01

Is a kiss just a kiss?
Random lip lock – sometimes with multiple partners – the latest social twist
by Elizabeth Aguilera , Denver Post Staff Writer

It’s the new handshake, the new whisper in your ear. It is straight passion, all 30 seconds of tongue-twisting spit-swapping between friends or strangers.

Some young women randomly kiss one guy, suck face with another, snog a third and then dish about him with their friends after a night out. Women detail the lip lock, share his name if they have it, rate his dancing and the drink he bought. And that’s it. There is no pending date or exchange of numbers with the men young women smooch at parties, bars or clubs. It’s casual fun with an added bonus: Weeding out the bad kissers.

This definitely is not the way men and women courted on television’s ‘Happy Days,’ but surveys and experts say it’s part of new way some teens and college students are finding quick, easy intimacy with no strings attached.According to a recent Cosmopolitan poll, young women kiss randomly more often than ever before. Sixty-two percent of the poll’s respondents say they casually kiss a man within minutes of meeting him. A study by the Independent Women’s Forum found that 40 percent of college women surveyed have randomly ‘hooked up,’ which could mean kissing, oral sex or intercourse.

‘It’s just the fun, flirty thing to do,’ says Amy Miller, 26. ‘I don’t consider it too intimate.’Miller, who has kissed as many as three guys during a night of drinking and dancing, says the lip locking usually happens after a few fruity drinks.

‘Sometimes you don’t know their name,’ she explains. ‘It’s just a fun part of going out; nobody expects anything from it.’Random kissing is considered by some young people as a more affectionate way of flirting, said Dr. J. Michael Faragher, Dean of the School of Professional Studies at Metropolitan State College Denver. He has an extensive background in studying sexual practices.

‘It is difficult for older people to understand because the meaning of kissing has changed,’ he says.Kissing once signified a special part of a committed relationship, indicated an ongoing interest and provided hope that more intimacy would follow, Faragher says.

Today it’s just a kiss – flirty, pleasurable and sexual.

‘Kissing used to imply that there would be something more, whereas now it is ‘here and now’ kissing,’ Faragher says. ‘There is no shock when you’ve been making out with someone heavily and they have no intention of seeing you tomorrow.’Random kissing, though perceived as safe by young women, can produce a wide range of bacterial and sexually transmitted diseases, including Herpes and HIV, says clinical sexologist Ava Cadell. Her book, ’12 Steps to Everlasting Love’ (Peters Publishing, $ 17.95), hit bookstores Wednesday.

‘The mouth is not the cleanest part of the body. It is filled with bacteria,’ she says. ‘Kissing is the most intimate sexual activity. I call it facial intercourse.’

Kissing is too intimate to take lightly, argues Cadell, who considers random kissing a ‘big tease’ because the relationship is not consummated.

‘Kissing is not flirting; that’s crap,’ she says. ‘Kissing is foreplay.’

Cadell says kissing is an activity that should be shared between two people who intend to have sex. ‘Kissing is something you save for someone you want to have intercourse with, not someone you just want to tease and make brownie points with.’Still young women insist kissing is a low-key activity, and a new way of playing ‘spin the bottle.’Friends Shannon Flahive and Zoraide Polidori, both 16, have randomly kissed most of their guy friends. Never at the same time, they say.

‘It isn’t a big deal, kissing is not that intimate. Maybe once you get to oral sex it’s a bigger deal,’ says Flahive, who kissed her recent homecoming date and by the end of the night was making out with someone else.The acceptance of oral sex also has increased after the Bill Clinton escapade with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Faragher observes.

‘As a population we seem to have given ourselves more permission to do things orally.’ he says.Not to say that casual contact wasn’t already going on. It has just become more acceptable to talk about and practice outside the confines of a committed relationship, he says.

But not to parents.

Polidori calls random kissing a game. ‘It’s only a big deal to our parents.’Flahive chimes in, ‘Yeah, to our parents it’s like, ‘You kissed! Oh my god, you have to get married now.”Even Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman, a prostitute, refused to kiss clients while having sex with them because ‘kissing is too personal.’

But it’s apparently not personal enough to make some flirtatious young women keep their lips to themselves. This troubles Joan Allen, author of ‘Celebrating Single and Getting Love Right; From Stalemate to Soulmate’ (Capital Books).’It’s bad for their self-esteem; it breaks women down spiritually,’ Allen says. ‘Kissing is an expression of affection, and I think it means a lot more than these girls are saying.’

Women argue that the guys they kiss know it’s just for fun. And if the young men don’t see the kiss that way, the girls give them the silent treatment, ignore them or kiss someone else.The guys are ‘there for whatever you want to give them,’ Flahive says. ‘Sometimes they get the wrong idea, but you just forget about it.’

Evan Friedman, 19, unexpectedly received a kiss from one of his gal pals on Halloween.

‘When a girl makes out with you, there’s no obligation; you know that,’ he says. ‘After you make out with a girl, you’re like ‘Yeah, dude. I made out with her.”

Alcohol has a lot to do with all the free kissing going on, say Friedman and friends Blair Banker, 20, and John Cheney, 20.Most of the time, when this happens to them or their friends, it is after the women have had a few drinks, Banker says.

Regardless of the alcohol-quotient, the men don’t usually back away from a girl who wants to snog.’Girls just have the power to kiss whoever they want,’ Banker says.

It also doesn’t irk the guys when a girl they are hot for randomly kisses other men.

“If she is someone you like and she’s kissing someone – but you know it’s random – then when she’s by herself,” Friedman says, “it’s ‘Game on.’ ”