Mouth-to-Mouth Resuscitated

Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle, Kissing Artists
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Researchers at the State University of New York at Albany recently published the results of their study about kissing in Evolutionary Psychology. Many of the findings reflect gender differences and back up common stereotypes about male and female sexuality. Women emphasize kissing more than men; men like tongue- kissing more than women. Women are more likely than men to kiss their partners after intercourse. Men feel that kissing should lead to sex more often than women do. The researchers posited that one of the functions of kissing is to "promote, maintain, and assess the status of bonding." Citing two other sources, they wrote: "If kissing serves to create a bond between two partners, one would not expect to see kissing in situations where bonding is not wanted. . . . For example, prostitutes often refuse to kiss clientele . . . [which] is thought to be an emotional distancing technique." There is this notion out there that kissing is seen as "too intimate" by sex workers, but is it truth or misconception? What do people who have sex for a living really think about kissing?

When it comes to porn, especially non-feature movies, kissing is often absent from a sex scene. Before I produced porn, I thought that locking lips was overlooked by directors who wanted to get to the "action" faster. Especially these days, with such extreme activities as double penetration and gang bangs, who needs kissing? But then I found out that some porn stars don't want to kiss. Last year, when I informally polled the cast of one movie, half of them said they don't smooch their co-stars. Jack Lawrence (, an ex-cop turned porn star, is pro-kissing: "To me, kissing is the single key that unlocks a great sex scene. If you're going to give yourself to the scene, it should be all the way. There isn't going to be any real heat unless the performers like each other enough to kiss. I go into every scene hoping that the female performer is a kisser, and as soon as I hear that they don't kiss, I know it's not going to be a great scene."

Each performer has reasons why they do or don't swap spit on set. "I like kissing people who are good kissers. Porn or non-porn, I like to kiss," says Roxy DeVille, who has been a performer for about two years. DeVille's opinions contradict the general notion that kissing is off-limits because of issues about intimacy: "I guess for me, it just depends on the individual. Some adult performers will not kiss at all, no matter what. I think that's ridiculous. You're still having sex—why not make it hot? I've totally kissed people in a scene and wish I hadn't. Not because it 'got too personal,' but because they were gross and kiss-raped me."

DeVille raises the issue of skill, and I think we've all had the experience of kissing someone who just didn't do it well. "While just about everyone uses kissing as a part of sex, a surprising number of people don't take the time to learn how to do it well," says Elkor, who has been with his partner Margo Eve for more than seven years. Together, they teach workshops at sex and BDSM events—including a class on kissing. Margo Eve believes that kissing is underrated by many people and ignored by most sex ed: "Personally, I have a hard time getting in the mood without kissing. I'm amazed to find how many regular people can fuck and suck without thinking twice about it, but kissing is too intimate for them. I do, however, think that as a skill, it is often glossed over. In fact, out of the hundreds of books about sexual techniques out there, most only give a paragraph or three about kissing."

Another couple who has thought a lot about kissing is Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stevens ( The duo has developed the Extreme Kissing Workshop, a love-experiment-cum-performance-art-piece based on something they did at a 2005 art show called "Public Privates," where they kissed each other for three hours uninterrupted. In San Francisco (where the show was held), "people do a lot of public hardcore sex, which is getting kind of passé," says Sprinkle. "The hard part is not going further than the kiss. We wanted it to be just kissing."

In the workshop, which debuts in London this week, Sprinkle and Stevens will make out in public for several hours along with other participants in a giant kiss-in. For Stevens, kissing can be more complex than people give it credit for: "Everyone is focused on the big orgasm. Kissing can definitely be the gateway to other sexual activities, but it is also quite wonderful as its own thing. No matter how many times you fuck, the satisfaction of that fuck or that orgasm is often forgotten the next time you fuck, whereas a kiss—a real, deep, delicious, long-drawn-out kiss—is a memorable thing. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but kissing is special. Kissing stops time, whereas fucking speeds time up."

Says Sprinkle: "For a gal who has 'done it all,' less can be more. I like the minimalism. I think kissing can be more transgressive in a way these days than fucking. It's kinky because it'snot kinky. Kinky is so mainstream now. Kissing is radically traditional!"

But radically traditional or not, kissing doesn't get much glory in the world of sex. It is seen as sweet and modest rather than down and dirty. It can get lumped together with "foreplay," that vague category of activities that's ultimately supposed to lead to intercourse. Or it's considered something to skip altogether: According to the study, more than 50 percent of men said they would have sex with someone without kissing them, compared to only 15 percent of women. That's one of the stats where gender differences were extremely clear. Porn stud Jack Lawrence echoes the split: "You can tell if someone is a good lover or not by how they kiss. . . . Kissing is an art form . . . if it comes from the heart, you can express yourself and understand exactly what a lover wants in bed. . . . It's all about passion and being able to read a kiss. It's funny how most women understand that—and, from what I hear, most men don't!"

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