May 24, 2011 Leave a comment
Asking about the origin of kissing on the mouth to show affection is perhaps like asking about the origin of sex—it has always been there! But unlike sex, which has been part of human evolution since the beginning regardless of culture, religion or geography, kissing on the mouth has been isolated just to certain regions and cultures and even more so the public display of kissing one’s lover is still today seen as affront in many cultures, including mine, the Somali Culture. I find this subject fascinating, and wonder about this phenomenon and how it came to be the symbol of demonstrating one’s affection for another. I have not done any detailed research looking at established anthropological studies on this subject, however from the limited research I have done online, I gathered kissing on the mouth is traced back to long ago, well before the establishment of civilizations, when mothers with a kiss transferred food from their mouth into the mouth of their babies, and from this practice arose what we see today with adults displaying their romantic love. But kissing too has evolved from familial affection to the sensual/sexual nature form of affection. This evolution can be seen in movies-namely Hollywood, even with the more culturally conservative Bollywood, Nollywood the three movie industries I am familari with. I am not familiar with other large movie industries but taking a guess this trend is present with them too.
If we look at movies from the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s and compare them to the movies of 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and 10s we see a stark difference in the evolution of kissing, ie French kissing for example would never be seen in old movies, where did that ever come from and why is it attributed to the French anyways? Hmmm, that I do not know. Some people say, movies reflect the society in which they are made, I disagree with this notion, movies, like fashion or any other industry is a money making business, driven by a few people which thrust their version of what we want on us in order to make the most money they can, society has little choice in this matter, since it’s a monopoly and we are given very few choices to select from. But I digress and won’t get into that, nor get into the over sexualization that has happened over time, I am sticking with the kissing thing here, because slowly but surely its making its appearance into cultures that have otherwise been very unfamiliar and I find this aspect far more interesting. I don’t think kissing one’s spouse on the mouth privately in one’s home is a recent phenomenon, unless the culture is very remote/nomadic, and almost in every culture there is a segment of the population which lives in the city, so I think this practice has been going on for a long time, although I don’t think it went as far as what is common in the West (ie the full on lip-locking), the affection of kissing is not new.
According to those around me that I have asked about this subject, apart from those who mingled with the colonizers during the time of colonization (Britain in the North, Italy in the South), Somalis by and large were introduced to this subject after independence, and almost NEVER would one see a Somali kissing their spouse on the mouth in public EVER, this holds overwhelming true for most Somalis even today. Religiously and culturally, displaying affection in public has its restraints; modesty and decency are always encouraged, so while holding hands and hugging is normal, full lip locking in public even if done so with class, by this I mean it serves a purpose (ie after a long separation) rather than “I am getting it on with my boo” is affront and abnormal to most Somalis and Muslims, and I am sure to many other cultures and religions. There are extremes to everything, variations from one end to the other, for example in this topic, finding all affection even holding hands in public a no-no to the other extreme of finding making out in public a go-go. I personally disagree with both extremes and I find the latter very distasteful even when married and I think it’s discouraged Islamically, although I do believe it is haram personally, I like to stay away from saying the H-word to others unless its explicit in the Quran and I also realize not everyone in the deen knows the rules of Islam, but one would be hard pressed considering the importance of hayaa and privacy in the Islamic tradition to religiously make this practice of snogging as the British say okay. Outside of marriage it is haram, and within marriage there are rules when displaying intimacy. It is the middle not the extremes where things get interesting, well at least for me. Recently I have heard some Somalis after weddings kiss on the mouth, it doesn’t surprise me that some of us have taken the assimilation thing too far. I think it’s safe to say, most of us Somalis/Muslims will find that to be out of the norm and imitating an alien culture, but what I would like to know are the views on simple kissing on the mouth, you know like a peck that could be on the cheek but instead was done on the mouth, perhaps it is done after a wedding or after a reunion following a long separation, or after saying goodbye, would this religiously/culturally be okay with you? Hehe. I have a hunch that for most Muslims and Somalis, this too is a level of intimacy that should be done privately. Personally I find exchanging hugs, kiss on the cheek sufficient enough in public, going beyond that umm it just aint me.