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November 16, 2009 12:16 AM   Subscribe

I've been told by several people that I kiss "like a high schooler," and that this is a bad thing. I'm a straight male in my mid-20s and relatively a n00b, sexually. What are ways for me to become more mature in my physical intimacy?

I feel like I "missed out" on the learning phase of high school relationships as well as participating in the sea of debauchery that college was supposed to been. I don't want it to become a fixation, or to get resentful, but am afraid that's what's happening. It seems to be very much a turn-off to girls, and is confounding my efforts to further explore my sexuality.

So, I guess I'm asking what things you mefites find have changed about your smoochin' and cuddlin' and medium-petting styles from your teen years to now.

Also, a corollary: Are there any common, "any moron should know this" signals that someone is not enjoying the way an encounter is going? I understand the rules of consent and asking if things are OK and that "no" means "no," but I'm talking more about the subtle signals for something like "change the way you're holding me," "use less/more pressure," etc.
posted by Spock Puppet to Human Relations (27 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
In two words: slow down.

In more words: without actually asking*, try and work out what the other person likes, rather than being all pokey tongues and fingers. As a general rule, people tend to as they would like have done to them.

If your partner makes noises/movements that signify enjoyment, there's a fighting chance she's enjoying it. If not, she's probably not. If in doubt, go slow and sensual rather than finding another mode of attack.

And don't get too het up about time missed out. Charlie Chaplin was still fathering children into his eighties, I believe. It's a long race, with no prizes for, pardon my pun, coming first.

*although sometimes asking works, and if all else fails, ask
posted by MuffinMan at 12:30 AM on November 16, 2009

Well wait, what sort of kissing are you talking about? Just simple single kisses, or full-on, horizontal, up against the arm of the sofa making out? There's a whole spectrum of kissing and people should be relatively well-versed in much of it.

I have NO idea what kissing "like a high schooler" means. Does that mean you're overly enthusiastic and stick your tongue down people's throats at the first moment and don't have any rhythm and don't pay attention to the other person's signals and needs? Or does that mean you're very nervous and don't even open your mouth at all?

Personally, in college, I found out I'm a biter, and enjoy being reciprocated upon. But I know I'm a total weirdo in that respect and always ask for it, first. I also went from more tongue to a lot less tongue, on average, but I think that was a function of my boyfriends at the time, and not so much my own desires. I always think that there's a time and a place for french kissing, and most of the time it isn't needed.

If you could be more specific for how you DO kiss, people here could probably give you pointers for where you may be going wrong. Mostly, though, the key seems to be paying attention to the other person's signals. People tend to kiss you how they would like to be kissed in return.
posted by Mizu at 12:35 AM on November 16, 2009

Who are these people who are criticizing your make-out skillz without any tact or constructive ways to help you improve? They sound like mean jerks.

You should know that it's totally OK to ask someone while fooling around, "do you like this?" or "what do you like?" or "show me what you like". There's no need to pretend to be experienced at things you're not experienced at- actually, asking how she likes it will usually be seen as sweet and endearing. Maybe limit the asking to one or two times per encounter just so you're not overanalyzing, but don't be shy to ask!

More importantly, quit fooling around with people who are mean about your fooling-around technique. Anybody who would hurt your feelings in that way is awful. Period. If someone doesn't like your approach, the proper way for them to handle it is to say, "Hey, can you try it like this? Oh yeah, that's amazing, I love it when you do that." If they handle it any other way, it pretty much means they're a jerk.
posted by twistofrhyme at 12:47 AM on November 16, 2009 [7 favorites]

We don't know what kissing "like a high schooler" means, although it certainly suggests that the partner you've chosen lacks tact. Nevertheless, here are the two extremes that come to mind: you're extremely tentative and awkward, or you're over-aggressive and insensitive. Given those extremes, I'm sure you know which one you are.

So: if you're tentative, and your partner is complaining, then they must be trying to be more aggressive than you, and you're not following their lead. The way to be good at anything done in partnerships: start out small, pay attention to your partner, and respond to them in kind. This works for kissing and such, certainly, as well as other emotional and artistic things, like playing jazz. If you're tentative, you're already starting small, so you just need to start paying attention and following your partner's lead.

Now, if you're over-aggressive, your partner must be trying to slow you down, and you're not responding appropriately. It's a lot harder to follow someone's lead when you're being aggressive, of course, so the same course of action applies as if you're tentative -- you just have to get small and tentative first. Keep your mouth shut, keep your kisses soft, and let her lead a bit to see what happens.
posted by davejay at 12:50 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Who are these people who are criticizing your make-out skillz without any tact or constructive ways to help you improve? They sound like mean jerks.

This. Comments like "you kiss like a high-schooler" are bound to make an inexperienced kisser even more awkward and uncomfortable.

Sadly, I don't think there are universal vocal or body-language cues to tell you how you're doing. For instance, if I sighed during a make-out session, it would be a very bad sign. But for several of the people I've made out with, a sigh is akin to a tiny moan of pleasure. The only concrete bit of advice I can give: make sure your movements aren't too repetitive. Vary the angle, amount of pressure, and amount of tongue every so often. Slightly. And there really isn't any harm in asking your partner for a little guidance, provided you're not doing it every ten seconds or anything.
posted by arianell at 1:01 AM on November 16, 2009

Response by poster: good points, all. I guess I'm probably being too aggressive, but I'm also likely misreading signals/have no rhythm. The scenario I think happens often is that I'm kissing a girl in a manner that I think is passionate and enthusiastic, and she goes along with it but would rather slow down. I don't understand, and instead think she's into going further in the direction I'm going. I suppose I should chill out a bunch.
posted by Spock Puppet at 1:05 AM on November 16, 2009

Chilling out is probably a good plan, and kind of goes with the "slow down" advice above. My best kisses have been based more on going slow and enjoying the process, and sort of (cheesy as it sounds) exploring the other person. More lips, less tongue, more variation in angle and pressure. Slow down, enjoy it, and get out of your head. My worst kiss ever was, unsurprisingly, my first real kiss, which involved a lot of tongue jabbing from him with no particular interest in what I felt like doing.
posted by MadamM at 1:25 AM on November 16, 2009

In high school they told me there were three bases with prizes for getting to each one.

Later I learned that there were an infinite amount of bases and finding them was the prize.

So just pay attention to their body language and play and explore! Non-verbal negotiation is a large part of it all.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 2:33 AM on November 16, 2009 [5 favorites]

I know a fun game that can make you into a better kisser. It's called "Don't kiss back". You tell your partner that you are going to kiss her but she must do her best not to return the kiss. Then, you do everything in your power to seduce her into returning the kiss.

Run your tongue delicately across her lips. Explore them with your lips. Gently bite her lower lip. Go slow. That part is important. Sloooow down, discover, enjoy.

I have found this game has two wonderful benefits. One, this is a form of teasing foreplay that drives (some) women crazy with desire. Two, it is a fast way to learn what "works" for someone when you're kissing them. She'll make sexy noises when you do something she likes. Keep doing that thing. Pay attention to her reaction.
posted by Lieber Frau at 4:26 AM on November 16, 2009 [6 favorites]

Hey Sock Puppet--I agree with kathrineg that you should model the behavior of the person you're kissing. Let them kiss you and set the pace.

That being said, I didn't get kissed until just after high school, and the first guy I kissed told me that he could tell I wasn't experienced, which hurt because (despite his extensive experience) I thought his kissing style (tongue forced down to tonsils) sucked. Turns out, once I kissed more people, the problem wasn't with me, but with him, or, rather, a lack of physical chemistry between us.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:04 AM on November 16, 2009

Kathrineg nailed it.

I do want to raise a slight disagreement with twistofrhyme's assertion that it's ok to ask what the other person likes. Now obviously, in most cases, it's ok and even preferable to ask about some things.

Unfortunately, many people go way overboard with the asking. You don't want to sound like you're asking your coach for make out advice. Nor do you want to sound like you're constantly asking for permission.

Being a guy is tough because you have to finely balance not being a milquetoast pussy with not being an arrogant douche. Unfotunately guys try to over correct in one direction or another. As with all aspects of dating, you want to seem like you're confident, or having a good time. You want to minimize the potential awkwardness. It's like dancing, even if you suck at it, you'll do ok as long you're having a good time.

One of the best skills to develop, is reading body language. This sounds tough, but there are about 7 billion other people to practice on everyday. I don't just mean in bedroom situations either, though you're free to try it.

So in short, moderation is king. Don't be too gung ho, don't be too wishy washy. Have fun, pay attention to non verbal communication, don't give off any rapey vibes.

The advice was presented in a harsh way, but might save you anguish in the future.

These things become easier over time.
posted by Telf at 5:36 AM on November 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I imagine that either you're being too aggressive or too passive. Kissing (and sexual/romantic relations in general) need pacing just as much as a movie does. Start out with a little peck on the lips, then pull back for a second or two to let it sink in. Then give another peck, but this time a little longer. After doing that two or three times, go in for another long peck, but proceed to an open mouth kiss after a couple seconds in. At this point a sort of crescendo will start and if it's your first time kissing someone, both of you will probably start to unleash some pent up passion that was hidden under all the dinner and a movie polite dating chatter. Do that for at least a few minutes before the tongue comes out. Don't be like the dude in the movie But I'm a Cheerleader and just come at someone with your tongue.

How to know if they like it? I'm pretty sure it's hard to miss as long as you're paying attention. Are they enthusiastically kissing you back, gripping a hand on your shoulder perhaps, or running a hand through your hair? Or are they hesitantly pulling away somewhat? Some more submissive types will neither push in or pull away as they kiss, but just sort of surrender to you kissing them, but they will still show the body language. You will see and feel their body rise as they kiss you and their hands are likely to be doing something that expresses affection.

Tension is a good way to show how they are feeling. People feeling passionate tend to grab onto things with their hands, either onto you (like your back, shoulder or hair) or onto the bed or couch or whatever they're sitting on. They may even be grabbing onto themselves. The body rising in response to a kiss or a touch is a big positive sign.

Tension in the shoulders or hands gripping into fists (not the same as passionately grabbing at something) are bad, bad signs. Closing in, by hunching the shoulders forward, lowering the head and closing the legs are also bad. This person is definitely not comfortable with the situation. They could just be nervous that they are getting heavy with someone they like, but a lot of times this means that it's going too fast or they would like to withdraw consent but aren't brave enough to stand up and say so.

A relaxed body but looking away is probably either boredom or something is on their mind. If you're not getting the right signals, it's important to ask what's up before you continue. Kissing someone when the mood isn't right seems pretty high school to me, so it's very important to get your signals straight.

I would definitely join the chorus on recommending that you go ahead and ask someone you kiss. Next time you're in a position to kiss someone, don't be scared to tell them that you're unsure about kissing and ask for some pointers. I did this myself with a new boyfriend after I had been (pretty untactfully) told by a previous boyfriend that I was a bad kisser. It turned out that my only problem was that I kept my lips too stiff which the new boyfriend could tell me right away and I haven't had any problem kissing ever since. If you dare, maybe next time you're flirting with someone at a bar, you can mention that you're unsure about your kissing skill and wish there was a way you could figure out how to improve it. If you're lucky, your flirtee will offer to find out what you're doing wrong so that s/he can tell you.

Hope I helped. Happy kissing!
posted by giggleknickers at 6:04 AM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Kissing is about sensuality. It's a conversation between the nerve endings of your collective lips and tongues (and hands, and neck, etc.). Just like in a regular conversation, picking up cues is crucial. You don't make passion happen by groping for it or thrusting at it, you inspire passion it to happen by, well, dowsing basically. Kissing is like dowsing.

I have totally been on the receiving end of the "kiss like a high schooler" experience. I think a lot of it might have to do with someone getting really caught up in the moment and not realizing how what they're doing feels to the other person. If they don't really respond or immediately urge you in a different direction, then what you're doing isn't working.

Kissing is like dancing in that you should always try mimicking the style of your partner, because it's possible that they're better at it than you are and you could stand to learn a thing or two.
posted by hermitosis at 6:46 AM on November 16, 2009

Response by poster: Being a guy is tough because you have to finely balance not being a milquetoast pussy with not being an arrogant douche.
posted by Spock Puppet at 7:25 AM on November 16, 2009

It's not just about kissing well, it's also about receiving a kiss well!

A former boyfriend had a similar dilemma, and, like you, he was aware that there was room for improvement. We decided to experiment by just letting me kiss him for a while, and then see if he could mimic what I was doing in a way that was enjoyable for both of us. What a great game! He would keep his lips and mouth relaxed and responsive, (not relaxed and flaccid, and certainly no tense, hard, fishy-face kisses) and just let me smooch him, reciprocating a bit but mostly just experiencing for a while.

I think a great makeout session has a lot of give and take. If you're nervous about directly asking someone to help you practice like I did, you don't have to voice it. Just back off a bit and let it go slow- follow her pace for a while. Take turns being the smooch-initiator and smooch-reciever.

Remember, too, that when your partner is upping the pace or intensity of a kiss, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to reciprocate with equal intensity. This can sometimes lead to an uncomfortable sort of kiss-war, where both partners seem to be trying to squash each others mouths and it can become more slobbery than fun. Keep the touches sort of gently teasing to keep your partner fired up. If things seem "off," back up for a second and make eye contact to get a vibe for what she's feeling.

Oh man, I hope you have an awesome time practicing!
posted by alight at 7:32 AM on November 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: also, an anonymous person sent me this answer via MeMail and I figured I should post it:

When it comes to heavy petting, there's one major way women differ from men that's counter-intuitive, so it bears mentioning. Men will gasp and inhale with pleasure- but on a woman, a gasp usually means discomfort. For third-base type stuff, you're doing a good job if the woman is making sounds on an EXHALE. Moaning or saying "oh god" or breathing OUT is good. But! If she is making sounds on an INHALE, you're hurting her. Sharp intakes of breath or gasping usually means you're going too rough, or you scratched her with a fingernail, or she's not wet enough for what you're attempting. So if she gasps, ease up a bit until she moans again. As long as her sounds are all on her exhalations, you're probably good though.

Also, The Vice Guide to Eating Pussy is a great resource.

posted by Spock Puppet at 7:32 AM on November 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

The passion in a moment is like surfing a wave that you are both creating. You want to build the passion, but you don't want to go too far or too slow and fall off. And you have to emotionally work with your partner to keep the wave going.
posted by gjc at 7:42 AM on November 16, 2009

When you're kissing, only your hands and mouth should move. Even if youre making out passionately resist the urge to squnch your whole body up against hers or throw on leg around her like a blanket. Move your hands slowly. Start with them on her back and move them up and/or down deliberately, say, to the back of her neck which you should cup firmly but don't fuck with her hair unless you know what you're doing. Don't be flighty or tentative. Take a break evetually and kiss her ears and neck. Don't kiss anywhere else like her chin or eyebrows, that's weird. Slow and inevitable is the goal.

Finally, don't ask for advice about what someone wants early on. What she wants is for you to know what you want and to go for it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:45 AM on November 16, 2009

Finally, don't ask for advice about what someone wants early on. What she wants is for you to know what you want and to go for it.

Ah, I guess it is harder for guys to find the balance between milquetoast and douche. I've never understood what's so hard about that.

What she wants is for you to listen to what she wants and respond. She knows what you want. Take it easy.

The first part of your advice, Potomac, I agree with. Which is "don't ask for advice about what someone wants early on." Just like we don't like issuing precise directives on how not to be a douche (who raised you?), we also don't want to be 100% responsible for every aspect of the romance ritual. The advice about it being a 50-50 game is so right on. Start slow, take it easy, concentrate on her response. Back off, let her come to you. Gentle and teasing is often far more erotic than aggressive passion.

Let the first and second make-out sessions be playful and exploratory. After the third, you can start asking what she likes and sharing what you like. It's really hard for people, I think, to verbalize what they like and don't like and it requires some trust built up. You just don't have that trust right off the bat so it would be awkward to try to force it.
posted by amanda at 9:06 AM on November 16, 2009

I associate "high school kissing" with being too aggressive/forceful and kissing too hard and perhaps with too much tongue.

I think a good technique (at least at the beginning of the make-out session) to pace yourself is to take a full inhale/exhale between each kiss and don't use your tongue.

Use that time (say, 3 minutes) to kiss different areas. Don't give a full kiss-on-the-lips every time but kiss the corner of your partner's mouth, their bottom lip, their cheek near their lips, their cheek near their ear, their upper neck, etc. Travel around a bit and keep breathing.

After a while, you can move on to more deep kissing but you can always return to these types of kisses to calm yourself down if you feel like you're getting aggressive, or just to vary things for your partner.

Another tidbit of advice is: don't get caught in the trap of thinking you have to go: lips, neck, breasts, stomach, legs, vagina. Switch it up! Tease your partner.
posted by cranberrymonger at 9:18 AM on November 16, 2009

Just a thought: perhaps you have in mind a model based on kissing in film and TV. Outside adult movies, Hollywood kissing is an exaggerated, unrealistic super-snogging. This is because it's a proxy for sex, which can't be shown in a G movie.

By the same token, porn sex is not like real sex either. Bear that in mind when you get there too.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:26 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

The most common issue with guys is that they're too aggressive of kissers and don't catch the feeling of the moment. Ramming your tongue into someone else throat is a huge turn-off. Also, beards/stubble can be scratchy and annoying so even if you kiss gently you may abrade their face. If you don't have a full beard, shave beforehand. Basically what you want to do is play and follow along. You don't want to push too hard, but you don't want to be too soft either as that can be boring. If you've been doing the same thing for about five minutes then it's time to switch it up, unless for whatever reason the intensity of the passion in the one act has been increasing.
posted by empathy at 10:48 AM on November 16, 2009

I would also add that you could very well be opening your mouth oppressively widely.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:54 AM on November 16, 2009

You've gotten some good advice above. I would add that it would be a good idea to make sure that you have shaved (stubble is ouchy) and that your teeth are really clean and your breath is nice. Then, the key words for you are, "stay responsive to your partner" and "start small and build."

Oh, and a little tongue goes a long way. Don't overdo.
posted by oblique red at 12:42 PM on November 16, 2009

you could very well be opening your mouth oppressively widely.

Yes. If she has slobber on her face, outside of her lips, you are doing this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:03 PM on November 16, 2009

Wow, there's some awesome advice here! Nthing "don't overdo the tongue".

One more thought, not to supplant what other people are saying -- pay attention to what she's doing to you. Not so much with kissing itself, but with other stuff, like where she touches you, how hard or soft, etc. It's often a good sign of what she likes, especially when it's early days and she doesn't know what you particularly dig. This is gender neutral, by the way. And certainly not guaranteed.
posted by kestrel251 at 1:43 PM on November 16, 2009

What she wants is for you to know what you want and to go for it.

H'm. That's certainly not what I want (though I'm not the person the OP is kissing, I am a woman who likes to kiss). "Know what you want and go for it" often translates to "ram tongue down my throat and not notice that I'm squirming with discomfort, not delight."

Good kissing is a back-and-forth thing, like good dancing. You follow the other person's cues.

kestrel251's point is a good one: you can often tell what someone likes receiving by what they're giving.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:50 PM on November 16, 2009

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