Last week, I ran into a friend behind the Sadler Center. We chatted for a little while before I saw three large hickeys gracing the side of his neck. I’m not much for subtlety, so, the second I noticed, I demanded the story behind these ripe flesh wounds. My friend obliged me, and afterwards we got to talking about “hickey culture.”
For my more inexperienced readers, a hickey is a mark on the body caused by sucking, licking, biting or kissing of the skin. There are two medical terms for hickeys: erythermas (areas of skin reddened by expanded blood vessels) and hematomas (the accumulation of blood from broken blood vessels). Both of these essentially mean bruise … er, sexy bruise.
The classic hickey appears on the neck, but a hickey can be anywhere on the body. The neck is the most common of placements because, anatomically, it bruises readily due to rich blood supply, and, sexually, it is a very sensitive area that is easily accessed while other parts of one’s body are busy elsewhere.
There is much debate as to how best to use your mouth on your lover’s neck. Some prefer light, sensuous kisses; others enjoy rough biting and sucking; many like warm, wet licks. Perhaps most desire a combination of the three. Discovering what your partner prefers is essential to hot foreplay.
While there are undoubtedly some people who go into a sexual situation hoping to emerge with a hickey, for most people, a hickey is an unintended consequence of a sexual romp. It may show up hours later and stay for up to two weeks.
Hickeys are a contentious matter. They signify to the world that you have done the backseat mambo in the recent past. Many people will be too polite to comment on the bruise(s) on your neck, but there’s a fair chance that anyone looking closely will notice something’s there. If you have friends like me, you’re going to end up having to tell the story of the hickey’s conception ad nauseum.
Because of this, there is a lot of information floating in the ether about how to handle a hickey. Common excuse options include: getting burned by a curling iron, an insect bite, wearing a seatbelt too tightly, and playing the violin. Disguise methods may involve a scarf, a sweatshirt with a hood, a turtleneck, a collared shirt or a green-based powder-liquid concealer combination.
The internet has a great deal of material about ridding oneself of the actual hickey. None of their methods have ever worked for me or anyone I know, but I’ll put down a few just in case, by some miracle, they actually work for you.
1. Apply ice.
2. Apply heat.
3. Eat healthy foods.
4. Pull the skin around the hickey taut. Then, using a coin, push as hard as you can in a spreading motion,
as if you were putting jam on toast (gag!). Watch as the blood seeps from your pores. When you’re done, you will have a large — and, likely, infected — scab, but apparently that’s preferable to a hickey. (This one might be the worst idea I’ve ever heard.)
All of this goes to show that people will go to great lengths to hide their hickeys. But why? What is so bad about these passion marks?
Hickeys can be used as symbols of one’s unavailability to the public. But they are not always intended for this purpose. I would venture to say that most hickeys don’t have a purpose other than pleasure. In the heat of the moment, you might just get caught up and accidentally suck too hard for too long.
But there is something to be said about the negative impact of having a hickey. It forces people to see you in a sexual way, and that may be uncomfortable for both you and them. I wouldn’t be particularly proud to show off my hickey to my professors.
The verdict? If you want a hickey, go for it, but don’t be surprised or offended if some people react negatively. If you want to give a hickey for territorial purposes, maybe you should work out those trust issues. If you get a hickey accidentally, don’t be too hard on yourself. It happens to the best of us, and it’s probably a good thing to remind the world once in a while that you’re a sexual creature.
And, for the love of sex, stay away from the coin method.
Happy hickeying, lovers!
Maya Horowitz is The Flat Hat sex columnist. She keeps all her quarters for her laundry.