Written By: Lily Rothman, Liz Ronk

Sometimes you need a reason to give another person a kiss. And, as was the case in probably the most famous kissing photo of all time—the controversial sailor kiss at the moment of victory in World War II—that reason can be a big one. Other times, a kiss is its own reason to celebrate.

How people started kissing is a mystery and why we do it is complicated, but it has been around for many centuries and shows no signs of letting up. From a child’s sweet peck to a lover’s smooch to a walrus’s whiskery wet one, the act is a language of its own. And as time goes by, in each of our lives, it is easy to see that a kiss is not always just a kiss. A look into LIFE’s archives.

Shadows on the ground of kissing figures with camera on tripod between, 1930.

Shadows on the ground of kissing figures with camera on tripod between, 1930.

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Two walruses kissing as they eat from a hand between them at the Brookfield zoo, 1938.

Two walruses kissing as they eat from a hand between them at the Brookfield zoo, 1938.

William Vandivert The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A man and woman kissing while geared to a lie detector machine to measure the emotional reaction,1939.

A man and woman kissing while geared to a lie detector machine to measure the emotional reaction, 1939.

Herbert Gehr The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Couple kissing in front of the Delta Tau Delta mummy at the University of the South. Girls are told: "Kiss mummy or kiss me." 1940.

Couple kissing in front of the Delta Tau Delta mummy at the University of the South, 1940.

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Actress Marilyn Hare being kiss by soldiers as repayment, 1942.

Actress Marilyn Hare being kissed by soldiers, 1942.

John Florea The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Multiple exposure of Deanna Durbin and Edmond O'Brien walking toward each other and kissing; from motion picture "Tonight and Forever." 1942.

Multiple exposure of Deanna Durbin and Edmond O’Brien walking toward each other and kissing; from the motion picture “Tonight and Forever.” 1942.

Gjon Mili The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Couple in Penn Station sharing farewell kiss before he ships off to war during WWII. 1943.

Couple in Penn Station sharing farewell kiss before he ships off to war during WWII. 1943.

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Mrs. Martini, wife of the Bronx Zoo lion keeper, kissing a tiger cub. 1944.

Mrs. Martini, wife of the Bronx Zoo lion keeper, kissing a tiger cub. 1944.

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A jubilant American sailor clutched a dental assistant in a back-bending kiss at a moment of spontaneous joy about the long awaited WWII victory over Japan. Taken on V-J Day, 1945, as thousands jammed Times Square. In recent decades this iconic photograph has engendered condemnation, after Greta Zimmer Friedman, the woman being kissed by the sailor (believed to have been George Mendonsa) said that the kiss was nonconsensual. In 2019, shortly after Mendonsa died at age 95, a statue of the kiss in Florida was tagged with #metoo graffiti.

Eisenstaedt’s iconic photo: A jubilant American sailor clutched a dental assistant in a back-bending kiss at a moment of spontaneous joy about the long awaited WWII victory over Japan. Taken on V-J Day, 1945, as thousands jammed Times Square. In recent decades this iconic photograph has engendered condemnation, after Greta Zimmer Friedman, the woman being kissed by the sailor (believed to have been George Mendonsa) said that the kiss was nonconsensual. In 2019, shortly after Mendonsa died at age 95, a statue of the kiss in Florida was tagged with #metoo graffiti.

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A little boy dressed as Uncle Sam, kissing a little girl on the cheek.1945.

A little boy dressed as Uncle Sam, kissing a little girl on the cheek, 1945.

Frank Scherschel The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Newly wed couple Marshall Jacobs and wife Yolanda kiss after being married atop a flagpole. 1946.

Newlyweds Marshall Jacobs and wife Yolanda kiss after being married atop a flagpole. 1946.

Allan Grant The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Peggy Lee getting a goodnight kiss on the nose from her 4-year-old daughter Nicki at home. 1948.

Peggy Lee getting a goodnight kiss on the nose from her 4-year-old daughter Nicki at home. 1948.

Allan Grant The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Baseball player Yogi Berra getting kiss from his wife, Carmen, before he leaves for clubhouse. 1949.

Baseball player Yogi Berra getting a kiss from his wife, Carmen, before leaving for the clubhouse. 1949.

George Silk The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Gallant tiger bowing to kiss hand of flapper Barbara Pettit. 1949.

Gallant tiger bowing to kiss the hand of flapper Barbara Pettit, 1949.

Martha Holmes The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Christina Goldsmith tenderly kissing a Weimaraner puppy, which she took from a new litter of her breeder father's stock, 1950.

Christina Goldsmith tenderly kissing a Weimaraner puppy, which she took from a litter of her father’s stock (he was a top breeder of Weimaraner hunting dogs). 1950.

Bernard Hoffman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Josephine Baker receiving congratulatory kiss on the nose from her husband, orchestra leader Jo Bouillon, after her show at the Strand theater during her US tour. 1951.

Josephine Baker receiving a congratulatory kiss on the nose from her husband, orchestra leader Jo Bouillon, after Baker’s show at the Strand theater during her US tour, 1951.

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Jill Corey giving her grandmother, "Mamouch", a kiss on the forehead. 1953.

Jill Corey giving her grandmother, “Mamouch”, a kiss on the forehead, 1953.

Gordon Parks The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Irish McCalla as "Sheena Queen of the Jungle" kissing her chimpanzee costar. 1955.

Irish McCalla as “Sheena Queen of the Jungle” kissing her chimpanzee costar, 1955.

Loomis Dean The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Elvis Presley tenderly kissing the cheek of a female admirer backstage before his concert, 1956.

Elvis Presley tenderly kissing the cheek of a female admirer backstage before his concert, 1956.

Robert W. Kelley The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A University of Michigan student couple engaged in an impromptu kiss in the Union Building on campus. 1957. This was forbidden conduct because rules required couples to have both feet on the floor.

A University of Michigan student couple engaged in an impromptu kiss in the Union Building on campus. 1957. This was forbidden conduct because rules required couples to have both feet on the floor.

Grey Villet The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Richard Ramsey, worker in cosmetic company covered with relics of iipstick kisses to prove that dyes in lipsticks are harmless. 1960.

Richard Ramsey, a worker in cosmetic company, was covered with relics of lipstick kisses to prove that dyes in lipsticks are harmless. 1960.

Yale Joel The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Steve McQueen kisses Natalie Wood's hand as the actors meet to discuss their new big-screen project, 1963's "Love With the Proper Stranger."

Steve McQueen kissed Natalie Wood’s hand as the actors met to discuss their new big-screen project, 1963’s “Love With the Proper Stranger.”

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Astronaut Gus "Virgil" Grissom kissing his mother after his successful Gemini 3 mission, 1965.

Astronaut Gus “Virgil” Grissom kissed his mother after his successful Gemini 3 mission, 1965.

Ralph Morse The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Dustin Hoffman kissing his wife, 1969.

Dustin Hoffman kissed his wife, 1969.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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Oberlin College students kissed in a co-ed dorm, 1970.

Bill Ray The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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