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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

The Art of Kissing

“Arrange it so that the girl is seated against the arm of the sofa.”

Back in high school I came across The Art of Kissing, a reproduction of a booklet first published in 1936, and seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day I thought I’d dust it off and blog about it. As the following passage will show, it has very little to offer in the way of practical advice:

“For a kiss can never be absolutely defined. Because each kiss is different from the one before and the one after. Just as no two people are alike, so are no two kisses alike. For it is people who make kisses. Real, live people pulsating with life and love and extreme happiness.”

Gotta love that florid old-school prose, especially when applied to the subject of “osculations”; we are also provided with a very illuminating definition of the word tumescence. Every time I rediscover this book I wonder about the author, ‘Hugh Morris.’ Debonair man-about-town, or middle-aged pervert hunched over a typewriter in a terrycloth bathrobe? (Two guesses and the first doesn’t count.)

“Different Sizes of Mouths Require a Different Technique in Kissing.”

Morris quotes liberally from the love poems of Catullus, Horace, and somebody named Sir John Suckling, but as you might expect from a pamphlet published in 1936, misogyny is the overarching theme: “It is, therefore, necessary that the man be taller than the woman” because a man “must always give the impression of being his woman’s superior, both mentally and especially physically.”

(Good God, am I glad I was born at the right end of the twentieth century!)

It gets worse–the author stops just short of condoning out-and-out rape. “If she flinches, don’t worry. If she flinches and makes an outcry, don’t worry. If she flinches, makes an outcry and tries to get up from the sofa, don’t worry. Hold her, gently but firmly, and allay her fears with kind, reassuring words. Remember what Shakespeare said about ‘a woman’s no!'”

Oh, but he’s just warming up: “However, if she flinches, makes an outcry, a loud, stentorian outcry, mind you, and starts to scratch your face, then start to worry or start to get yourself out of a bad situation. Such girls are not to be trifled with…or kissed. It is such as they, in most cases, who still believe the story of the stork which brings babies because of the consequences of a kiss.”

What an absurd little man you were, Hugh Morris! No doubt you concocted all this dangerous nonsense simply because every woman you encountered was much too smart to be snogging the likes of you.

I sat down to make fun of this thing and look what came out. Sorry about that. I think I’ll go eat some candy hearts now.

(Thanks to eliz.avery on Flickr for scanning all the delightful illustrations. Check out her photostream, there’s plenty more where that came from.)

5 Comments to The Art of Kissing

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    February 14, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    This is terrible! At first it was funny, but then you continue reading and realize it's downright sexist propaganda!

    P.S. Happy Valentine's Day.

  2. Camille's Gravatar Camille
    February 14, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    And how could I omit THIS little gem?:

    'All women like to be flattered. They like to be told they are beautiful even when the mirror throws the lie back into their ugly faces.'

    Hugh Morris never kissed a girl in his life because they all ran from him screaming bloody murder.

  3. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    February 15, 2010 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    Wow. I have no words.

  4. Emily's Gravatar Emily
    February 17, 2010 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Wow! That is amazing, and totally unacceptable! At least one can easily imagine that he spoke with authority about the progression from "flinch" to "outcry" and on toward face-scratching.

  5. Elizabeth A.'s Gravatar Elizabeth A.
    February 25, 2010 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    Perfect for a Valentine's Day post! Glad you could use the pic. It's bad enough that they published this stuff in 1936, but it's worse that they reissued it in 1977! Yikes!

    (And thanks for the tip of the hat about my photo stream.)

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.