How To Reform A Bad Kisser

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
In 2017, an essay in the New Yorker titled "Cat Person" went viral, because it spoke to the issues of bad sex, consent, and dating that so many people could relate to. But the image that was used in the essay was equally memorable, because it depicted a bad kiss.
While it's hard to describe a bad kiss, you know it when you feel it. Maybe it's something about your partner's lips, or the amount of saliva exchanged, but sometimes a kiss just doesn't sit right. But are some people born bad kissers, or can you teach a bad kisser how to do it better?
"Great kissing is part knowledge, part attitude, and part skill," though they're not all equal, explains Eric Marlowe Garrison, an AASECT-certified clinical sexologist and author. Some people's kissing skills can overcome their lack of chemistry, and for others, chemistry overcomes their commitment to a great kiss, he says. The good news is that there are some techniques that can help improve anyone's kissing abilities — whether you're good, bad, or just plain sloppy. Here, Garrison and other experts explain:

Show, don't just tell.

"There is also no universal definition of a great kiss, so learning how to kiss well is a game of show and tell," Garrison says. Sometimes, it's more effective to demonstrate what you want your partner to do, rather than just tell them. For example, if you know you enjoy neck kissing, you could gently guide your partner's face to your neck.


Kissing requires consent. As always, you should communicate with your partner about what you are and aren't comfortable doing when it comes to kissing. Have a conversation about it in a kind, direct, and specific manner, says Lisa Schwartz, PhD, a AASECT-certified psychotherapist in Philadelphia.
If that makes you nervous, Garrison suggests an exercise he uses with his clients, called, "I need less, I need more, and I really loved it when." Basically, you can use those prompts to tell your partner what you were into and what, well, sucked. For example, you could say, "I need less hair grabbing. I need more face cradling. I really loved it when we kissed the other day, because of the way our bodies touched, our tongues played together versus fighting against each other, and it felt like all time had stopped right there." The reason why this works is because it incorporates "I" statements, it emphasizes what you value, and provides a concrete reference of when it went swimmingly, he says.

Do your research.

Watch an episode of The Bachelorette. Read a book or erotic story together that features a lot of kissing. Watch YouTube tutorials. There are so many different ways that you can research, watch, and learn about different kissing styles, Dr. Schwartz says. When you observe something that you like, you can tell your partner that you'd want to try it, and see if they're receptive. Often using a third-party example is gentler than straight-up telling your partner what you want them to do.


Over time, you and your partner will find your flow and a kissing strategy that works for you both, Dr. Schwartz says. Consider playing a kissing game, or having a makeout only session until something clicks. "Practice, practice, practice, and make sure it's fun when practicing."

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