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Spring 2012

A Kiss is Just a Kiss – Expect When it Isn’t

Law Professor Victoria Sutton explores the legal aspects of the kiss in her new book

by Sally Logue Post

The Legal Kiss

Spring–a time of weddings and joy, when vows are happily taken and sealed with a kiss. In this context, a kiss symbolizes love. It also can be viewed as a contract.

Kissing is serious business. While it is used to show love, it also has been used to seal a death warrant and, when applied to another part of the anatomy, becomes an expression of contempt.

In Texas Tech University School of Law Professor Victoria Sutton’s new book, she takes a look at the humorous and sometimes deadly implications of kissing. The idea for “The Legal Kiss: The Legal Aspects of the Kiss,” published by Vargas Publishing, came when Sutton could not find exactly what she was looking for as a Valentine’s Day gift for a fellow attorney.

“I wanted something sophisticated, maybe something to do with the law, but I couldn’t find the right thing,” Sutton said. “I thought I would like to know something about kissing, after all it was Valentine’s Day, so I decided to write a book.”

Sutton is known internationally as an expert on bioterrorism and nanotechnology law. So a book on the legal aspects of kissing may seem a bit out of the ordinary for her, but it really fits nicely with her role as teacher.

“I would like this book to reach beyond the legal profession to the broader public who might find this book makes reading law fun,” she said.

When Sutton began researching her book, she said the biggest surprise was how much material there was and how pivotal a kiss has been in the legal world.

“The kiss is such an emotional thing, such a compelling powerful thing for humans that it has ended up at the center of litigation,” she said.

The word “kiss” is a part of idiomatic English, and as Sutton points out in the introduction of her book, it also is firmly planted in legal history. Her examples: “kiss and tell” may ultimately mean a breach of a confidentiality agreement or a breach of privacy; to “kiss and make up” could be used to describe the arbitration and mediation process; a “kissing cousin” may not be legal heir, but it does suggest a kind of informal familial relationship; and “kiss it goodbye” may come in handy to describe when a witness suddenly seems to favor your opponent.

And then there is “kiss my a**” a phrase that Sutton points out seems to be the phrase of choice for criminal defendants in court to voice their objection to the proceedings. “It’s a phrase that also will almost always get them held in contempt,” she said. “But I had to include it. Why that phrase? Kissing is so powerful and sends such a powerful message, even in a negative way.”

Buy the book: http://thelegalkiss.com/buythepaperbackbook.html

About the Author

Victoria Sutton

Victoria Sutton is a Horn professor and Bean professor of law in the Texas Tech School of Law. She also is director of the Center for Biodefense, Law and Public Policy, the only center at a law school in the U.S. to focus solely on issues of law and biodefense, biosecurity and bioterrorism. She is establishing director of the Law and Science Certificate Program and directs the JD/MS Programs in Environmental Toxicology, Biotechnology, and Plant and Soil Sciences.

Sutton is a widely published author, writing “Nanotechnology Law and Policy” in 2011. Sutton has received the Texas Tech President’s Book Award for her groundbreaking casebook “Law and Science: Cases and Materials.” She also has received the university’s New Faculty Teaching Award and the School of Law’s Distinguished Research Faculty Award twice. Sutton also has served in governmental positions. She was appointed by President George W. Bush to a two-year term as chief counsel for the Research and Innovative Technology Administration and served in the Bush administration as assistant director in the White House Science Office and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


Sally Post is Director of Research & Academic Communications for the Office of the Vice President for Research at Texas Tech University.

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Nov 24, 2015