The world is full of bad advice—don’t save any money in your twenties! Buy gaucho pants!—but one piece of advice you should really never heed is to tell someone if they’re a bad kisser, especially at the beginning of a relationship. No good can come of it.
At The Guardian, a woman recently wrote in with the following conundrum:
I’ve just started seeing this guy. We get on really well and have chemistry – but he’s a terrible, terrible kisser. His lips are pursed, not tender, his tongue juts in and out and his nose digs into my face. Should I talk to him about it?
At first, the columnist seems to be saying the right thing—“No silly, you don’t have to say he’s a bad kisser!”—but then advises as much anyway:
You don’t have to tell him he’s a bad kisser – after all, we can presume he’s been kissing people in this idiosyncratic manner for several years, so others may have enjoyed it. Your best course is to gently let him know his style is not appealing to you, individually, and ask if he would be willing to try other methods.
This is a bad idea, which expands into an even worse idea as the advice continues:
Decide on the three most important changes you would like and ask for those specifically – “Please try relaxing your lips completely and simply brushing mine with them”; “Please don’t use your tongue until I ask for it, then use it slowly and sensually”; and “Can we please try different positions to avoid knocking noses?”
Seriously—when, ever, in the history of kissing, have you “asked for” someone’s tongue? I’ll accept your tongue now, honey. It’s possible the advice-giver means “until I’ve begun using mine,” but this critically important addendum is not included.
Next up, the columnist recommends treating the man in question like a dog:
Reward him with praise when he gets it right.
And then suggests bailing on it entirely if he doesn’t immediately comply with the aforementioned Fascist Kiss Requirements:
You will learn a lot about him via his response; if he fails to cooperate or seems unable to comply, you may want to think twice about taking things further.
Look, kissing matters enormously. In a way, it’s everything. It’s one of the first sensual interactions you have with someone outside early-courtship touching, and for me personally, a phenomenal kiss is the best sign of perfect chemistry. But this kind of sexual feedback straight out of the gate is not advisable.
For one, it’s needlessly inhibiting, which is the opposite of what you want with a boyfriend. Secondly, the columnist is acting as if people possess the ability to even take criticism of this sort. They do not! These people exist in the airtight world of advice columns because the hypothetical good person is secure, confident, and happy to brace for the blow of constructive feedback. But real people are a mess of neurosis and fears, one of which is being told you’re really bad at one of the most important gateway-to-sex things you can do with your body.
Third, I don’t even think you can tell someone how to kiss. There’s no one way to do it—I’m sure there are two hard-lipped, tongue-darting, sloppy aggro kissers out there right now, totally in love. It’s more that you’re trying to tell them how to kiss you in the way you want to be kissed. You want them to kiss compatibly.
So many things can go wrong when trying to kiss:
- Too-soft lips
- Too-hard lips
- Saliva overload
- Too much tongue
- Not enough tongue
- Teeth in the way
- Glasses in the way
- Weird rhythm
- Bad pressure
- Bad breath
- Nervous hands
Frankly, it’s a miracle it ever goes right, given the factors that have to align for a kiss to feel good. But one way to make sure it doesn’t is to condemn your partner’s kissing right off the bat.
The only answer here, then (unless it’s a hygiene thing: in that case, you’ve got to let them know) is to teach a person to kiss better by taking the kissing lead, which means doing it by responding to what feels good and redirecting what doesn’t. A person who is a good kisser may not kiss just like you, but a good lover will likely understand responsiveness, the same way you find what feels good with intercourse by paying attention when someone tells you what you’re doing is amazing.
Yes, being direct and upfront is important later on and in general—a big part of good sex is asking for what you want, and being explicit about it. But the first stage of courtship is about passion, spontaneity, and kindness, and no one should be doling out detailed, potentially ruinous feedback without trying everything else to guide it along first. And sure, if the kissing never gets off the ground, maybe it is time to walk away; sexual deal-breakers are a highly individual calculation.
But it’s important to remember that prior to now, these two mouths have never been jammed together before like this, so how about give it a minute?
Gif via HBO/Sex and the City.