Some People Won't Kiss During Sex — Here's Why

Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Washington Post, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

Image by Michela Ravasio / Stocksy

Do you kiss during sex? The movies play it off like the two go hand-in-hand, but according to a recent study, some people find the act of kissing during a sexual encounter to be "too intimate."

Published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, the study examined the particular acts that happened during 1,493 people's last sexual encounter, focusing specifically on touch-based actions that don't involve the actual genitals—like kissing, cuddling, and massaging. Some 87 percent of people reported kissing their partner, 70 percent reported cuddling, and 23 percent reported massaging. Among those who did at least one of these three things, 20 percent reported doing all three of them, whereas nearly one in five reported kissing but no cuddling or massage.

Why some people won't kiss during sex.

Interestingly, among people under 30 who hadn't kissed, 20 percent said kissing during sex would have been too intimate with their last sexual partner. Relatedly, people who kissed were also more likely to cuddle, and people who did at least one of the three acts were three times as likely to say there was a lot of emotional intimacy during that sexual encounter.

"Kissing and cuddling appear to be critical aspects of postcoital affection and are associated with sexual and relationship satisfaction," the researchers explain in the paper. "Moreover, kissing, cuddling, and massage have been described as important aspects of sexual intimacy."

Overall, the two most common reasons for not kissing were not enjoying kissing (20 percent of non-kissers) and their partner not wanting to kiss (also 20 percent). A relatable 11 percent of people who hadn't kissed during their last sexual encounter noted they were worried about someone's breath, whether their partner's or their own.

Interestingly and perhaps depressingly, people in monogamous relationships were less likely to kiss their partner during their last sexual encounter and "substantially" less likely to cuddle. The researchers couldn't parse out from the data why that might be.

Some 10 percent of people who said they hadn't kissed at their last sexual encounter, however, later said they actually had kissed but "not passionately."

"Just as prior research has shown that people's meanings of 'sex' vary, our data demonstrate that a kiss is not necessarily a kiss, with some respondents only counting certain kinds of kisses as 'kisses,'" the researchers write. "This may suggest that some people feel that kisses should be or feel a certain way for them to 'count' as kisses."

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The unique benefits of cuddling.

While people seem to have some complicated feelings about kissing, one thing's for certain: Cuddling can be a seriously enjoyable experience for people. Cuddling was significantly associated with more sexual pleasure and more emotional intimacy, which wasn't the case for kissing or massages.

"We all know that feeling of comfort that washes over us when we enter the embrace of a loved one," writes William Cole, functional medicine practitioner and mbg Collective member. "Any kind of touch, including hugs and cuddling, releases the hormone oxytocin from your brain's pituitary gland. This hormone is often referred to as the 'love' hormone, as it's the primary hormone that peaks during orgasm and can actually increase bonding in couples."

Young adults and people ages 60 or older were more likely to report cuddling, which the researchers suspect is because it can serve as a pleasurable alternative to direct sexual intercourse, whether because you're still young and taking things slow or because you're older and may no longer be able to or interested in genitally focused sex.

Overall, these findings remind us that sex really does look different for everyone. We each have pretty unique interests, desires, and turn-ons, and it's important to never make assumptions about what a person wants from sex. As long as it's consensual, safe, and pleasurable, do your thing.

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