Why Some People Don't Like Kissing During Sex (Yes, It's Normal)
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator, relationship coach, and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
Do you like kissing during sex? The movies play it off like the two always go hand-in-hand, but in reality, it's normal to sometimes not enjoy kissing while having sex.
Why some people prefer sex without kissing.
Young people may be more likely to find the act of kissing during sex, in particular, to be "too intimate," according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. Among people under 30 who said they had not kissed during their last sexual encounter, 20% said kissing would have been too intimate with that person. Across all ages, one in five people who hadn't kissed during sex the last time they had it said it was because they just don't like kissing at all.
People's most common reasons for not kissing during their last sexual encounter:
- "I don't like kissing" (21%)
- "My partner didn't want to kiss" (20%)
- "I wasn't interested in kissing this partner" (16%)
- "I was concerned about my breath/my partner's breath" (11%)
- "We kissed but it was not very passionate" (10%)
- "Kissing would have been too intimate with this person" (7%)
- Other (10%)
How common is kissing during sex?
The study asked 1,493 people about what acts happened during their last sexual encounter, focusing specifically on kissing, cuddling, and massaging. Some 87% of people reported kissing their partner, 70% reported cuddling, and 23% reported massaging. Among those who did at least one of these three things, 20% reported doing all three of them.
Interestingly and perhaps depressingly, people in monogamous relationships were less likely to kiss their partner during their last sexual encounter: Just 61% of coupled-up people said they kissed their partner the last time they had sex. Monogamous couples were also "substantially" less likely to cuddle (just 32% of people in relationships said they cuddled the last time they had sex). The researchers couldn't parse out from the data why that might be, but it's common for sex in long-term relationships to change over time.
The age group least likely to report kissing during the last time they had sex were those in their 40s.
Different types of kissing during sex.
Interestingly, 10% of people who initially said they had not kissed during their last sexual encounter later said they actually had kissed but "it was not very passionate." In other words, these people had kissed during sex but didn't really "count" it as kissing because it wasn't that intimate.
"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."
How kissing during sex relates to sexual intimacy.
"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."
People who kissed were more likely to cuddle, and people who did at least one of the three acts (kissing, cuddling, or massage) were three times as likely to say there was a lot of emotional intimacy during that sexual encounter.
That said, only cuddling was significantly associated with more sexual pleasure and more emotional intimacy. Kissing during sex was not associated with more pleasure nor more intimacy. Clearly, more so than kissing, cuddling can be a seriously enjoyable experience for people.
"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 penetrative 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.
If intimacy is your thing, here's how to strengthen your emotional connection during sex.
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