Sex File: I don't like kissing my husband but I still enjoy sex 

Sex File: I don't like kissing my husband but I still enjoy sex 
Is the reluctance to lock lips on account of hormonal changs?

I am 50 and recently have totally gone off kissing my husband. I still enjoy sex, but find his wet kissing quite unappealing. Is it to do with a hormonal change?

It is interesting that you use the word "wet" to describe your husband's kisses. It implies sloppiness and an excess of saliva, which is kind of icky. The ick factor is particularly pertinent to kissing: when you have the hots for someone, the thought of kissing them sends an electric sex current straight down your spine; when you are not sexually attracted to someone who is trying to kiss you, the thought of having their tongue in your mouth is repulsive.

This dichotomy has been explored by Val Curtis, who studies human behaviour from an evolutionary perspective at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She describes the sensation of disgust as an adaptive system that evolved to help humans to avoid disease and reduce contact with dangerous parasites.

Although it is considered one of the most innocuous erotic interactions, kissing is a high-risk behaviour - a 2014 study by Remco Kort at the University of Amsterdam found that a ten-second kiss on the lips can transfer 80 million bacteria into a person's mouth. Because kissing requires a degree of trust, Curtis believes that it evolved as a way of demonstrating relational commitment and, by extension, she warns that one of the first signs that a marriage is in danger is one partner feeling disgusted by kissing the other.

Many women over 50 experience changes in sexual desire, and there is some evidence that midlife hormonal change may lead to less kissing. However, it is not particularly compelling.

Rafael Wlodarski and Robin Dunbar from the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford explored the relationship between kissing and the menstrual cycle, and found that women placed much more emphasis on kissing when they were about to ovulate.

If kissing is in some way reproductively critical, it would make sense for it to become less important to women over 50, and that is what Rachel Hess at the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Medicine found in her research. Hess's results showed that post-menopausal women engaged in less kissing and sex than women who were still fertile. However, older women who were physically active and got about nine hours' sleep a night engaged in more frequent kissing and had more sex. Managing your stress levels better, exercising and getting enough sleep could make a difference.

You may think that kissing constitutes a small part of your otherwise satisfying sex life, but it is a peculiarly important omission. Several studies have established the relationship between kissing and relational and sexual satisfaction. Wlodarski and Dunbar found that having a partner who was a ''good kisser" was associated with more sex and a happier relationship. At Southern Illinois University Kristina Dzara discovered that kissing was a predictor of frequent sexual intercourse and positively associated with marital satisfaction. Dzara also found that when kissing decreases in a relationship, sexual frequency and marital satisfaction do too.

The scientific message about the importance of kissing is unusually consistent. In 2009 Kory Floyd at Arizona State University conducted a trial with 52 adults. For six weeks the participants were instructed to increase the frequency of kissing in their relationships while the control group did nothing. At the end of the study the kissers reported feeling more satisfied with their relationships - they fought less and communicated better. A prescription of kissing could be good for us all. It's worth giving it another try.

Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com 

More in this section

Lifestyle
Newsletter

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up