Why do people give love bites?

What are love bites?

Love bites, also known as hickeys, are bruises caused by sucking or biting the skin, usually on the neck or shoulders. They are typically given during passionate kissing or foreplay and result in a temporary bruise that can last for days or weeks. Love bites indicate possession or desire and can be seen as a ‘mark’ on the recipient.

Reasons people give love bites

To mark territory

Giving a love bite is a primal way for one partner to ‘mark’ the other as taken or belonging to them. Like animals marking their territory, a love bite signals to others that this person is not available for mating. It’s a visible sign of the intimate bond between two people. The mark shows a level of passion and lust between partners.

To express desire

Love bites are often given in the heat of passionate intimacy. The physical act of sucking, kissing or biting demonstrates a carnal desire for the other person. It’s an erotic and lustful gesture. The bruise left behind represents the strength of sexual chemistry and infatuation between two people.

To give pleasure

Some people find love bites pleasurable to receive. The sucking and biting sensation can feel stimulating during foreplay and sex. The mixing of pleasure and pain can heighten arousal. Love bites release endorphins that give a natural high. Some also enjoy having a ‘secret’ mark underneath their clothes as a reminder of intimate moments.

To show affection

While the biting involved may seem aggressive, love bites are often given out of affection. After passionately embracing or kissing someone, nibbling their neck and leaving a mark can demonstrate your fondness for them. It signals that you were so caught up in the moment that you got carried away. It’s like giving a hickey is saying “I like you so much that I want to put my mouth on you and leave a mark.”

To be rebellious

Teenagers and young adults often give hickeys as an act of rebellion or as a sign they are sexually active. Love bites can represent ‘forbidden fruit’ for youth who want to flaunt their sexuality and independence. The visible bruises are a risk that demonstrates their carefree attitude.

Do love bites have any benefits?

Increased intimacy

Giving and receiving love bites promotes intimacy between partners. The act requires closeness and often occurs during foreplay. Having a mild bruise can also serve as a romantic reminder of a special, intimate moment.

Sexual excitement

As mentioned, love bites can heighten arousal through the pleasurable mix of feelings. Some people associate love bites with passionate, exciting sexual encounters. The marks later serve as a thrilling memory.

Boosted confidence

Wearing a love bite can make some people feel desirable, admired, and confident in their romantic relationship. The hickey represents their partner’s lust for them. This can boost self-esteem.


Allowing a partner to give you a love bite displays trust. You are letting them mark you temporarily and trusting they won’t severely hurt you. You also trust they will give you the bite in an intimate moment.

Why might people dislike love bites?


If the love bite is too hard, it can be quite painful rather than pleasurable. Excessive biting and sucking can cause severe bruising that hurts when touched. The pain can last for days as the hickey heals.


Visible love bites can lead to embarrassment, especially in professional settings. Having to cover up marks on the neck or shoulders daily can be a hassle. Love bites might raise eyebrows and prompt gossip.


While sometimes desired, love bites can also represent undesirably possessive behavior from a partner. Too many hickeys or biting too hard can feel controlling.


Love bites given or received by someone who is cheating can represent infidelity. It leaves evidence of inappropriate behavior.

Do men or women give more love bites?

There are conflicting beliefs about whether men or women give more love bites. Here are common viewpoints:

Women give more

Some believe women give the most hickeys because women stereotypically show more physical affection in relationships. Since women may initiate more kissing and foreplay, they likely give more love bites too.

Men give more

Others argue that the stereotypical male tendency to be more dominant and territorial means men give the most hickeys. Love bites can demonstrate male lust and dominance.

Individual preference

Most likely, tendency to give love bites depends more on the individual than gender. Some men and women enjoy giving hickeys as a sign of desire, while others avoid leaving marks. Both genders display a range in comfort levels with this intimate act.

No clear answer

There is no evidence that one gender definitively gives more love bites across the board. Both men and women exhibit diverse perspectives and motivations around this sexual behavior.

At what age do people commonly give love bites?

Age Group Prevalence
Teenagers Very common
Young adults Common
Middle age Sometimes
Elderly Rare

Love bites are most prevalent among teenagers and young adults. Hickeys are a form of rebellion, part of exploration, and signify sexual activity for youth. By middle age, love bites decline but do not disappear altogether. Some couples maintain enjoyment of this erotic act. Elderly over 65 rarely give hickeys, as passions cool with age and marks become associated with youth.

What are some alternatives to giving love bites?

For those who want to avoid giving hickeys, there are other intimate acts to try:


Gently massaging your partner’s neck, shoulders and back can still be sensual and relaxing without leaving marks.

Light scratching

Using fingernails to lightly scratch or tickle erogenous zones creates pleasurable sensations. Just avoid scratching hard enough to mark skin.


Soft, feather-like strokes along the arms, hips, midriff and thighs can tease and arouse without bruising.


Tracing gentle patterns across sensitive areas like the lower back, abdomen and behind the knees elicits shivers.


Blowing lightly on erogenous areas, like the neck, stomach and thighs, teases deliciously.


Whisper sweet nothings into a partner’s ear during intimacy. The sound and sensation of your voice and breath can excite.

How can you hide or get rid of a love bite?


Use a thick, opaque concealer when covering up hickeys. Green-tinted concealer helps counteract the redness. Set it with powder. Reapply frequently.

Scarf or turtleneck

Love bites on the neck are easily concealed with scarves or turtlenecks. Pick fabrics like cashmere that won’t irritate delicate skin.

Cold compress

Applying a cold compress constricts broken blood vessels to reduce swelling and discoloration. Use a spoon from the freezer, ice cubes or a bag of frozen peas.


Gently brushing a love bite with a stiff toothbrush can help break up clotted blood trapped under the skin.


Alternate using a heat pad or warm wet towel on the hickey. The heat causes increased blood flow to help dissipate the bruise.

Aloe vera

The soothing, anti-inflammatory gel from an aloe vera plant helps heal skin abrasions from hickeys.

Vitamin K cream

Applying a cream with vitamin K can speed up blood clot absorption under the skin to reduce discoloration.

How long do hickeys typically last?

Duration Details
1-2 days For very minor hickeys, the mild bruising may fade in 1-2 days. Keep the area clean, massaged and moisturized.
5-12 days Moderate love bites without much broken blood will likely heal in 5-12 days. Cold compresses can help.
2 weeks+ Severe hickeys that are dark purple and swollen may last 2 weeks or more. Over-the-counter treatments may be needed.

On average, a standard love bite without treatment fades after about 5-10 days. But hickey duration varies based on size, location on the body, age and personal healing ability. With proper care, most heal without leaving a scar.


Love bites or hickeys are a passion mark given through sucking and biting the skin, usually on the neck or shoulders. People give them to demonstrate desire, mark territory, be rebellious, or increase intimacy. Though popular among youth, love bites can be embarrassing or unwanted by some. There are alternatives to hickeys for those who wish to avoid marking. Overall, these bruises represent an erotic desire to get carried away with passion. When consensual and safe, love bites can be a stimulating part of foreplay for couples.

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