Hickeys: a passion mark or a mark of shame?

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.


    • I love them too Patrick. I consider them to be marks of possession. If I want to be a gay man’s girl (I’m an effeminate bottom) I ask him to suck my neck black and blue. If people ask, I tell them my boyfriend put them there. Of course I’m single now so that kind of sucks but I feel the same way you do.

  1. I have a birthmark on my neck that looks like a hickey. I was sexually abused and nobody believed me. and I remember people making reference of teasing me about my birthmark on my neck, being a hickey, used to make me feel very dirty along with my sexual abuse. I had to argue with my grandmother that giving a hickey is an innately sexual act and she would argue with me, it isn’t. I am reading these comments about enjoying possessing someone by sucking on their neck, and just makes me feel worse. It’s it doesn’t go away and everywhere I go, I face potential shaming. And I fucking hate it. Honestly, I have thought about committing suicide over my sexual abuse and these things. I remember my uncle making comments about it when I was a teenager and it would make me feel shame. And reading these comments make me feel worse.

  2. I was out with my friends at a club, dancing the night away and having an amazing time. Little did I know that one of my moves on the dancefloor would lead to me getting a huge hickey! When I got home, I saw it in all its glory in the mirror—it was bright red and unmistakable.

    At first, I freaked out. How was I going to hide this? Sure, scarves and collared shirts were an option but they weren’t exactly fashionable or suited for summer weather. After some Googling and online shopping research, I stumbled upon HickeyHack.com – a website devoted to helping people with their hickeys! They had everything from green color correcting concealer to special bandaids designed specifically for covering up hickeys.

    I decided to go ahead and buy the green color correcting concealer from Hickeyhack – it seemed like the best solution for me since it could cover up my hickey while also blending into my skin tone perfectly (thanks to its color correctors). It worked like magic – as soon as I put it on, you couldn’t tell that there ever was a big ol’ hickey right in the middle of my neck!

    The moral of this story is: don’t be embarrassed if you get a hickey – just head over to HickeyHack.com for all your concealing needs!


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