New Study: 89% of Young Men Kiss Each Other on the Lips

This morning I woke up to a podcast of Thinking Allowed with Laurie Taylor. As usual, the episode was split into two halves, each dealing with recent news in the world of sociology. At the top of the programme, Laurie announced that one half of the show would explore Stephen Pinker’s contention that the violence across the world has been on a steady decline since the dawn of civilization. Okay, sure. That’s interesting enough. It was the other half of the show, however, that caught my ear.

Eric Anderson, a professor at the University of Winchester and the interviewee for the programme, recently published a paper called “I Kiss Them Because I Love Them”, about the increasing tendency for young, heterosexual men to kiss one another on the lips. And yes, you read that right. Heterosexual. Straight guys kissing—y’know, just cuz it’s the friendly thing to do.

Admittedly, Anderson’s study is a narrow one. He only interviewed 145 respondents, and mostly athletes; but 129 of them—all young, straight men—said they had kissed a boy at least once, often as a show of congratulations on the sports field. ‘‘It’s just part of sport now, isn’t it?’’ said one respondent, while another claimed, “Loads of guys kiss on the lips after scoring a goal; you’ll see it on TV, too.’’

Also interesting was Anderson’s reaction to his own work. On the radio, he described himself as coming of age in the 1980s, a time when he never would have dreamed of seeing this sort of behaviour (two guys kissing as a from of friendship or congratulations). The reason for this is that the trend has only surfaced in the past 5 or 6 years, meaning it would be probably be unheard of to anyone currently over the age of twenty-five, and that’s the whole point, really.

I wanted to blog about this not only because I found the results surprising, but also because of what it means to someone like myself and many of my peers, namely adults who write books for youth. Anderson’s study highlights how easy it is to fall out of step with the people you’re writing about.

Even still, I’m not sure it’s a trend the publishing industry will embrace all that quickly. Any bets on how long it’ll be before we see a YA book featuring two young football players who share a smooch after the game-winning touchdown? I’m thinking it may be a while.

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4 THOUGHTS TO " New Study: 89% of Young Men Kiss Each Other on the Lips "

  1. PS: If you’re interested, you can listen to the complete podcast here.

  2. Here is what is real sad. I presented the findings of these results to sociologists all over the country. Most of them shook their heads, ‘no.’ They proclaimed, ‘that’s not happening at my university.’ But, of course, they were mostly 50 year old women who had not been in a youth’s actual social space in 30 years. Instead, they assumed that their 30 year old experience was still valid.

    However, after the media picked up on my research, they would then say, ‘oh, I’ve heard about this.’ So, because the media took interest in my work, it made it real, in a way that when I told them directly, I was lying.

    At one conference, I felt like I was talking to a wall. After, one of the post-graduates emailed me to say that after my talk, they all went for a drink, where they theorized why I was so wrong, why I would fabricate such results. They then, (surprise surprise) saw two young men kiss.

    Only one emailed an apology.

    So, the answer – as you suggest – is that, no, I’m not expecting adults to catch-up to what youth are doing in any institution. If those whose job it is to stay up with culture (sociologists) can’t do it……

    Professor Eric Anderson

    • This was a surprise! How rare is it to blog about something of interest and then have the subject of your post hop in with additional insight? Thanks, Professor Anderson, fascinating to hear more about how the study was received.

      Very sorry to hear you had a hard time convincing your peers about the veracity of the research. I’ve told quite a few people about your findings, and a lot of them gave me the same response: flat-out rejections, or else something along the lines of “Oh, well, that’s Europe. It’s a topsy-turvy world over there”
      (“topsy-turvy” being used in a very pejorative sense). It does make me wonder about similar studies, looking into shifts in youth culture, here in Canada or in the U.S.

      Anyway, a really insightful and surprising piece of work; thanks for pulling the back the curtain. And thanks for taking the time to reply! rpw

  3. Harold says:

    I see nothing wrong with straight men kissing each other as long as each one is comfortable with it. My brother in law and I (our wives are sisters) will occasionally conclude our full body hugs with a kiss on the lips. I have several heterosexual (and married) male friends with whom I’ve shared kisses on the lips. I think you’ll see this happening more now that men are having fewer hang ups about sharing intimacy (something women have done with each other unashamedly for ages).