Though the Western world may consider kissing to be a requisite aspect of romance, it’s not actually that universal. In fact, less than half of world cultures consider kissing between romantic and sexual partners normal, according to a new study published in the journal American Anthropologist.
In a study of 168 cultures, researchers from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and Indiana University Bloomington found that only 46 percent of cultures kiss in romantic situations (as opposed to other types of kissing, like in greetings between friends or between parents and children).
Only 77 cultures featured romantic kissing, while 91 did not. “Significantly, no ethnographer working with Sub-Saharan African, New Guinea, or Amazonian foragers or horticulturalists reported having witnessed any occasion in which their study populations engaged in a romantic–sexual kiss,” the researchers write. The cultures that did exhibit romantic kissing behavior tended to be more complex in nature, meaning they had denser populations, established systems of social classes, and centralized political leadership.
This finding flies in the face of a frequently cited statistic (both in popular and scientific sources) that 90 percent of the world kisses, which based on their new calculations, the researchers declare “arbitrary and factually incorrect.” Rather, kissing is a specific cultural custom, one that some societies regard as vital, and others regard as potentially gross or, at best, weird. So by all means, continue making out with wild abandon. Just know that vigorous smooching is not a universal aspect of human nature, no matter how often it happens in the movies.