Is the Romantic–Sexual Kiss a Near Human Universal?
Scholars from a wide range of human social and behavioral sciences have become interested in the romantic-sexual kiss. This research, and its public dissemination, often includes statements about the ubiquity of kissing, particularly romantic-sexual kissing, across cultures. Yet, to date there is no evidence to support or reject this claim. Employing standard cross-cultural methods, this research report is the first attempt to use a large sample set (eHRAF World Cultures, SCCS, and a selective ethnographer survey) to document the presence or absence of the romantic-sexual kiss (n = 168 cultures). We defined romantic-sexual kissing as lip-to-lip contact that may or may not be prolonged. Despite frequent depictions of kissing in a wide range of material culture, we found no evidence that the romantic-sexual kiss is a human universal or even a near universal. The romantic-sexual kiss was present in a minority of cultures sampled (46%). Moreover, there is a strong correlation between the frequency of the romantic-sexual kiss and a society's relative social complexity: the more socially complex the culture, the higher frequency of romantic-sexual kissing.