- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 13, 2005

Bad breath is the No. 1 “kissing sin,” says a new survey, which also found that men kiss nearly 50 percent more premarital partners than do women.

The Valentine’s Day kissing survey, titled “Kiss and Tell,” included more than 2,000 respondents across the United States and was sponsored by the makers of Close-Up toothpaste. The average age of participants was 26.

Among the facts revealed:

• Most of those surveyed received their first kiss between the ages of 14 and 15. Southerners were the earliest kissers, at 14.6 years on average, while those in the Southwest waited longest for their first kiss, until 15.1 years on average.

• The most popular slang terms for kissing are “smooching” (22.6 percent) and “making out” (13.9 percent).

• Northeasterners were most likely to say they thought they were good kissers (69.7 percent), but Southerners were more likely to have been told that they were good kissers (88.9 percent).

• Asked to vote on “best make-out song,” survey respondents chose Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” (33.2 percent) over such also-rans as Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” (26.2 percent) and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” (10.2 percent).

• Those in the Northwest were least comfortable with “public displays of affection,” with 17.6 percent disapproving.

• The average man kisses about 24 different women before getting married — even though most men receive their first kiss about four years later than women. Women, on the other hand, kiss an average of 17 different men before marriage.

Eighty-five percent of respondents labeled bad breath as the leading “kissing sin,” a fact the toothpaste company sought to highlight.

But the survey’s results mirror historic attitudes toward bad breath, says Margaret Kent, author of the best-selling book “How to Marry the Man of Your Choice.”

Back in the 11th century, bad breath could have you labeled as a demon worshipper.

“In the medieval times, bad breath was the only grounds for annulment of a marriage,” said Mrs. Kent, who was not involved with the Close-Up survey. “Back then, if [the person you were kissing] had that bad of breath, you were kissing the devil and therefore you had to be some sort of satanic worshipper and therefore that would be grounds for annulment.”

Mrs. Kent said she was not surprised to learn that respondents to the Close-Up survey closely associated kissing and sex.

“Between a normal man and a normal woman, kissing is inciting the passions,” Mrs. Kent said, citing traditional beliefs about kissing.

“Think of the power of a kiss,” she said. “It can turn a frog into a prince, and it will make the hurt go away. It is a very powerful thing. We teach kids fairy tales about this, but rarely stop and think about just how powerful it is.”

So powerful is kissing, Mrs. Kent said, she worried that a toothpaste company’s lighthearted survey might trivialize the act.

“I think you can make humor out of anything, really, but I think that you can’t take this so lightly that you don’t understand the repercussions of kissing someone that’s wrong,” she said. “A kiss is as intimate as anything else.”

Michael Christian, author of “The Art of Kissing” and spokesman for the Close-Up survey, said the poll found “men and woman have different approaches to kissing.”

“When they are kissing, 40 percent of men are thinking about kissing somebody else,” he said. Women, on the other hand, generally are thinking about a past relationship, he said.

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