If you haven't given or received a hickey since TRL existed and everyone had a Razr cell phone, you’re not alone. But experts say love bites never go out of style no matter how old you are—and some actually really, really like them.
Sexologist Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., author of The New Sex Bible, says it's mainly about how hickeys feel in the moment, not the bright purple proof that you've been getting action. For the giver, the act of sucking can invoke a primal response of pleasure and satisfaction, says O'Reilly. For the getter, it can be a huge turn on—if done at the right time.
How to Pull It Off When You’re Grown
If the person you're with goes in for the kill right away, it’s probably not going to feel so great, says New York City-based sex therapist Ian Kerner, Ph.D., author of She Comes First. It's a gradual process to get pleasure from a hickey.
“The more you're aroused, the higher your pain threshold is and the better a bite or constant sucking feels,” he says. So what might hurt in the initial stages of foreplay feels great as arousal continues.
Injecting some hurt-so-good action into sex isn’t for everyone, but it has a way of intensifying the experience for some people, says Kerner.
How do you know if your S.O. is into it? Well, unless your boyfriend is Edward Cullen, you pretty much don't—unless you ask. O’Reilly recommends asking “Is this cool?” when you start to suck. That gives him a heads-up that some serious necking is about to go down.
Van Kirk also suggests taking it easy in that area—at least until you know your partner’s pain tolerance and how much a hickey will show up on their body (fairer skin tones show more, for example). “I would also suggest not giving a hickey to the point of breaking the skin—either with your teeth or through suction,” she says. It might seem obvious, but blood and germs = bad.
When to Proceed with Caution
Kerner points out that most people aren’t crazy about flashing hickeys around, so suck lower on the neck so that you can't see it if he's wearing a shirt (think: just above the collarbone).
But it’s worth pointing out that some people actually dig the consequences. “One woman I worked with who always had hickeys said they were like jewelry, a precious necklace of love bites,” Kerner says.
Hmm...to each their own, but you better ask first before giving your partner that DIY bling.