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What is a Hickey?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A hickey is essentially a bruise, usually caused by another person sucking on the skin and pulling it into their mouth for about 30 seconds. This breaks blood vessels in the spot and causes either a red or brown, semi-circular shape to appear on the skin.

Also called a love bite, the hickey can be the mark of possession by another person. It is popular in high school to give and receive hickys, and they may either be sexual in nature, or non-sexual, since some find the effects “cool.” The neck is the most frequent location to give one, because most people who enjoy them want them to be seen.

Not everyone enjoys getting or giving a hickey, however. It is a mild form of sadism, because they are a bit painful to receive. They also make some people self-conscious, and for the underage person, a blatant mark could cause problems at home.

Hickeys are most often given in the neck region of the consenting person.
Hickeys are most often given in the neck region of the consenting person.

It is important to ascertain before giving a hickey that the receiving person actually wants one. There are many people who do not like them, and who find them both mean and offensive. Since hickeys are often associated with sexual foreplay, many teens and adults do not wish to advertise their sexual behavior in this way.

Just as most people wouldn’t kiss someone who didn’t want to be kissed, giving a hickey to someone who doesn’t want one could be considered a form of sexual abuse or sexual harassment. It should be something two people both agree to and should never be forced on an unwilling participant.

Hickeys can be associated with sexual foreplay.
Hickeys can be associated with sexual foreplay.

Like most bruises, a hickey will heal in time, which varies depending on the person. More serious ones tend to take longer to heal since more damage is incurred on the blood vessels. They cannot cause permanent damage but can stay on the skin for several weeks.

Someone who has received a hickey but wishes to conceal it can try to use concealer to minimize the bruising. This may still show the mark in certain lights, however. Covering the area with clothing is also a solution, and turtlenecks work well for this purpose.

A hickey is usually temporary, but can stay on the skin for several weeks.
A hickey is usually temporary, but can stay on the skin for several weeks.

A person who has received an unwanted hickey needs to set boundaries in his or her relationship with the other person. It is never okay for someone to be subjected to something he or she doesn’t want sexually or playfully. A partner or friend who cannot understand this does not have the person’s best interests at heart.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

Discussion Comments


anon280449 (Post no. 62): Yes, it is a form of a sexual abuse,even more so if it comes from your father. You should report about it to someone who can actually do something about it and protect you, like the police or child protective service. Do it now!


Hickeys cannot cause cancer. They do however, cause blood clots, the same as pins and needles and bruises do. It's the same as cutting your finger and the blood clotting, nothing major.

No one has ever died from a hickey, but a middle aged woman managed to suffer temporary paralysis in her left arm after suffering a minor stroke resulting from the blood clot in the neck, just above a major artery. Anyway, everything gives you cancer these days apparently.

Hickeys can leave a permanent scar if they are serious enough and have been done several times in the same place, but this is rare. They should be a mutual decision, like sex, and forcing someone to receive one could be classed as assault.

Many people enjoy hickeys, and receiving them can be a real turn on, and some people are proud of them, particularly because it was someone they care for who gave it to them. Just make sure you don't get them when going for a job interview. You probably won't get the job.

You can have hickeys without having sex, and not all hickeys are on the neck. You can get them all over your body, so many people whom you wouldn't expect could be plastered in them.


I have a hickey and I don't know how I got it. My friends say that it is a hickey, and I am saying what is a hickey? So I went online and I found out what a hickey is, but I don't have a boyfriend. I might have soon and I did not tell them if I have a hickey or not. Anyway, it is going away, but I don't know if you can get cancer with hickeys. I don't like them. They are itchy. I don't know if they are supposed to be itchy. I am afraid to go to school with it, but I have to so I don't have to miss school work.


My dad grabbed me once and kissed me on the neck and left a hickey. I hated it. Is that sexual abuse?


Okay look. You know why people give hickeys? Because it turns their partners on. If you like it, do it. If you don't, then don't do it. Simple as that.

No one needs to argue if it's wrong or right. And if you think it causes cancer or permanent damage, ask a doctor or research it on a health web site. Don't take the word of some stranger online. What do they know?


I'm 14 and I had never had a hickey, but hickeys can't cause cancer. It's just fun having them.


My daughter is 17 and just got about five hickeys from her boyfriend yesterday. There were four faint ones and one small, but dark one. My initial reaction was not great. I think it was something like what the heck happened to your neck?

But I calmed down and told her they did not look good or tasteful, but what was done was done and I suggested that she tell her boyfriend to be more discreet if he wants to give her one. She actually didn't mind them at all because she and her boyfriend have been dating for about a year. Now everyone knows they are a serious couple and no one judges them for it. Her dad, on the other hand flipped out. He told her that she looked like a slut, it was immature and trashy. He made her feel really cheap. He told her that was an awful thing for her boyfriend to do to her and to tell her boyfriend never to mark her like that again or he would kick his butt. I was surprised that this all came out of her dad because he loves my daughter's boyfriend and has been more than super cool about their relationship. Actually, much more so than me. He is always telling me they are young and in love, and to chill out.

So I don't really know what to say. This is my experience with hickeys. We all had them in high school and kids will continue to give/get them. I think it is a personal choice. But you teenage girls out there should think twice about getting them if you do not want to incur the wrath of your fathers and/or mothers.


I gave myself the biggest hickey, like five weeks ago because I was curious, but it won't go away. I know it stays for a while, but really, wow.


Hickeys do not cause cancer. As many other people have stated, cancer is caused from random genetic mutations, not blood clotting. And to be clear, blood clotting is happening in your body all the time. Sitting down for a while in a plane or car? There are blood clots forming in your legs. Cut yourself slicing vegetables for dinner? Blood clotting to stop the bleeding. Got a bruise from running into something? Yep, there is blood clotting at work. Do you get cancer from all of these, because if we do, I don't know how all of manage to survive in this big, bad treacherous world. A hickey is a bruise, which does elicit blood clotting, like many other things, and this can be dangerous if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a history of heart attack or stroke, plaque build up in your arteries, etc., but this usually isn't going to cause a heart attack or stroke in the usual age population that hickeys are occurring in.

So anon247677, who told your daughter's boyfriend that he was basically a terrible person for giving your daughter a hickey because they have bad medical implications, you are a) misinformed and b) overreacting. Your daughter is 18 now she is legally allowed to make decisions about her own sexual relations. I do applaud your effort to be involved in her life though, and your opinions on parenting, before they are of age are valid. However, hickeys don't make babies and the don't cause cancer and usually don't cause embolisms, heart attacks, or strokes unless you are a 65 year old male with a history of heart attacks and aren't taking your warfarin (for example).

So people, make your decision about getting/giving hickeys based on whether you want a hickey or not, because they are pretty much harmless. Also remember there is a time and place for hickeys.

I like when my boyfriend gives me hickeys, and I personally don't have a problem with them showing because they are never too dark or too big, but people are right: employers would never hire you with a hickey on your neck, so I would never let someone give me a hickey any time near me having a interview. So just be mindful of the things you have going on.


Hickeys are an outward appearance of a sexual act, and for those who say they aren't, they are just talking bullcrap. You don't suck on someone else's skin without having some sort of sexual feeling or intentions in mind.

As for all you teens (12-16) posting that you get hickeys, shame on your parents for allowing you to be alone long enough to engage in such acts. Children under the age 16 or 17 should never be allowed behind closed doors with a member of the opposite gender. I have managed to keep up with where my daughters are and what they are doing and who they are with for 18 years. For parents out there who say it's impossible, you are lazy. It starts with a hickey but usually ends with a baby.

Teen pregnancy can be cut by 75 percent if parents weren't so lazy or scared of social services these days. I will never be afraid to do what I feel is right for my children and their future, especially if it means protecting them from ruining their lives by any means necessary. I am a firm but fair parent and it works.

My 18 year old daughter's boyfriend put a hickey on her neck recently, so I did what I feel like any mother should do. I pointed out to him, and to her that hickeys are cheap, trashy, disrespectful, immature, irresponsible and can cause medical problems, i.e. blood clots. Your body has to form clots to close up the broken capillaries or blood vessels, and if the clots are big enough they can get lodged anywhere: your heart, lungs, brain. (I also threatened him with knocking his teeth out, and then I told his mother). That is how 90 percent of society sees hickeys: trashy. And for the minority that sees them as being OK, you are a minority. Show some respect for yourself and the people around you.

I would never hire anybody for employment if they have hickeys showing. If you don't have enough respect for yourself to care what people think of you and the type of person you are, society doesn't need you because you surely won't respect or care about anything else. Respect for one's self comes first and everything else will follow. (Yes, my daughter got this lecture but it was much more extensive).


Hickeys are painful and embarrassing. I've walked around with one on my neck without even noticing before it was too late. I'm never letting anyone do that to me again.


Pointless. I don't see what's so special about them? They are just blood blisters and bite blisters. Kids used to do it all the time to themselves just for no reason when they were like six, and were just like, "Oh what happens if I suck on my skin?" It's just childish.


No wonder so many people in my high school do them (really slow freshman who thinks she is still in middle school)! I gave someone a hickey yesterday with another friend (so he go double) without knowing what it was until I searched it today.

Well, sounds like fun for me! *Happy Hickeying*


Anon131060: you're contradicting yourself because first you said you believe that hickeys can cause cancer ad then at the end of your statement you said you think they're harmless and a sign of real love!


I'm 12 and I know I am young, but i absolutely love hickeys. They feel good, but trust me I don't do much sexual activity. Seeing a boy's penis is the closest I've been to sexualy active. I've slept with about two or three boys but not naked. Anyway, my point is hickeys are my favorite sexual activity so far.


I get hickeys. Let's rephrase that: pretty much my whole high school gets them. some of them just look trashy but I can't say anything because I will admit some of the ones I got from my ex were nasty. I didn't get them because I was trashy or a slut or a whore. I got them because I let a guy I thought I loved put them there, but I was wrong. I didn't love him.

The guy I'm with now gives them to me, and I'm not afraid to show them. Well I'm not afraid of people seeing them. but not many people do so I don't really have to worry because they aren't on my neck. He makes sure to put them where people can't see. We got caught by my mom because I had one on my neck and she flipped out, but then we were more careful.

I'm not going to stop him because that's what he wants to do and I let him, not just because of that, but because I want them, too. It sounds grumpy, but to me it's not. People can judge other people, but it's their own choice. Let them put themselves out the way they want to. (oh god. I sound like my mom.)


my ex boyfriend of three years is still in touch with me and i found what looks like a hickey on his neck. he keeps telling me that it's a shaving rash. what do i believe?


I'm 16 and people at my school get hickeys all the time, its not a big deal if someone gets one or not. I don't let my boyfriend give them to me a lot, because they really hurt, but they turn him on a lot, so I give them to him all the time.


I'm 20 and I think hickeys are stupid, to be honest. They're nothing special, anyway.

My opinion is that teenagers, meaning 13 - 15, shouldn't be giving or receiving them. It's not right at that age.


anon 74867, if you went to nursing school, you would actually know the facts of how cancer is caused. burst blood vessels don't create any sort of genetic mutation and therefore if a cancer forms at the location of a hickey (which the chances are would be something similar to 1 in 25billion), it would be unrelated to the incident.

Cancer is caused by genetic mutations which occur daily. but the body has proteins and protections against the mutation and generally kills of the cell through apoptosis or repairs the mutation. Tell me, everybody on this thread. what causes genetic mutations? burst blood vessels? No. that causes a bruise, internal bleeding. etc. cancer is caused by exposure to radiation such as UV light (from the sun), X-rays, gamma rays. many other kinds of radiation exist all can cause cancer, other things are chemicals such as Benzene.

Just saying to everything who's posting false comments, know your facts before you start talking a load of rubbish.

Being a 5th year student of Veterinary Medicine in England i can guarantee you that i do know my facts. and don't tell me animals are different from humans. check your science. Humans are animals and the same rules apply.


honestly. I am 15. and hickeys mean nothing. they aren't a "marking" of territory. they just happen. no one thinks they are cool. and no one really cares if you have one either.


It says right in this article that hickeys don't cause cancer. Also you shouldn't judge someone by having a hickey. Some are not scared to show their love bites to the public. Hickeys feel good to some people and don't do others it's preference. Also, for the one who said about your new boyfriend breaking up with you because your new one gave you a hickey? Seriously, if he doesn't believe your story then he's just as bad as your ex.

As the one who said something about God. God is full of love and would want you to have love. The convent and such goes towards sex, giving hickeys is not sex. Sex is the thing in the bible that says should wait for marriage.

Stop saying hickeys give people cancer. it's obvious you're showing that you're jealous that you don't get them. Also don't be so judgmental. Just because someone has a hickey doesn't mean they're messing around with their boyfriend and a whore That's absurd.

Also, it doesn't mean that because you have a hickey you're property, or that he's showing he owns you. Only you have control over yourself. they're usually out of love. In all honesty, to me, they feel good, but to some people they don't.

Also, just because of blood clots there are many people who have blood clots but don't have cancer might want to do more research on that too. The girl who said her hickey lasted 16 years. What a lie, because even most say they disappear within a couple of days or weeks, not years.

Don't be so jealous and ignorant of people who aren't scared to show their love and also people would judge you anyway, regardless of having a hickie or not.


I just think you guys should stop judging one another and arguing. I've never had a boyfriend or a Hickey. But be hones, this is arguing for the sake of arguing. Some see hickeys as sexual, others love and others pointless. It's all about preference, so stop being intolerant and go do something useful!


OK first of all hickeys do not cause cancer. If you don't believe this ask your doctor i assure you he/she will say the same.

Second, hickeys are what you make them. If you choose to flaunt them, then that's your choice. If you get them or give them for territorial or sexual foreplay reasons then that's your choice too.

So the bottom line is everyone has the right to give or receive hickeys if they choose. And, if you choose not to, then that's fine too, or even if you get them and keep them private, whatever. There is no set of 'rules" that says what hickeys mean and how you should go about getting or giving them. That's up to you and your partner.

Grow up people. It's not like hickeys are something new. They've existed for a while now.


I'm a 19 year old guy, and I would never give my girl a hickey because I feel our love does not have to be marked with an ugly bruise on her neck. In other words, they are gross and immature. And as for you 13-16 year old girls, I don't think you are ready for such things because the teenage mind changes rapidly and is still immature. In other words, you don't understand true love.


I agree with the last post hickeys could cause cancer, but so does everything else. like a few years ago coffee did too. However I think they're harmless, and that it's a sign of real love.


I just went talked to my doctor today and she said that hickeys cannot cause cancer. She said that that's just ridiculous and nothing like that can cause cancer.


No, Hickeys are nothing more than burst capillaries that have released the blood to the skin surface similar to a bruise. While they may be sore or unsightly, they will cause no lasting effects.


wait wait anon77891 you are 9?!? Enjoy being a kid. I don't think hickeys are bad. Now whether it is branding or a mark of love I don't know.


I'm in seventh grade and they do it a lot in my school. Mostly just the goths/emos and their boyfriends and girlfriends though.


i don't know why people give hickeys but i think they probably shouldn't because what if you're dating a guy, say for about two weeks then finally he gives you a hickey, then you guys break up and then suddenly another guy likes you. then you guys go out and when he tries to give you a hickey he sees the hickey that your ex gave you then you tried to explain everything to him but then he breaks up with you.

i think it's a bad thing because it ruins your relationship with a guy.


agreed with the last person. Especially about that person's Jesus stuff. And some people, such as myself, don't show hickeys off, just enjoy getting them. Don't judge for what feels good.


Some of these comments are absolutely hilarious and entertaining. Like the last poster said - do your research; there's no excuse at all for not doing so. Hickeys don't cause cancer, and don't even try to bring religion mumbo jumbo into this. It's up to the individual/couple if they choose to show off any sexual 'markings.'


You guys obviously didn't even bother to read the above article. The world is at your fingertips so there is no reason you should all be so ignorant. Take some time to find credible sources on the information you are seeking and maybe the next time you post a comment on an article you won't look silly! No wonder teenage pregnancy is running rampant!


Grandmothers' tales again: hickeys cause cancer, my foot. Ask your doctor. I love them, but if you think they're horrible, don't do it. Just don't judge others for what they enjoy.


I'm 14 and my uncle died from a hickey. if you think it's funny it's not. how would you like to lose a loved one? use your head and protect your neck if you don't want cancer!


I'm 16 years old and i just got a hickey yesterday i don't think they cause cancer but i don't want to be naive about it, so do they?


Okay. I am also 15 years old. Hickeys are not a sign of love. They are someone else marking and branding you. Why would you want to be marked as one's territory?

The only men teenagers should belong to is God, Jesus, and their fathers. And yes, if you do not want to receive a hickey, that is so good and smart for you! Do not put your personal relationship and business on your neck for the world to see!

You should never fall under peer pressure or feel the need to impress anyone else if you do not feel comfortable doing it or don't want to. Also, if you have a boyfriend who does not understand that or tries to pressure you, forget him and move on to someone much better! Or just stay focused on your school work and yourself! We are all beautiful young women; let's empower ourselves more.


Hickeys don't cause cancer! I love hickeys and they don't cause cancer.


I'm thirteen, and my boyfriend has never given me a hickey. My friends keep teasing me about it, because they he should mark his territory. Should i let him give me it, or should i say 'no' in return?


I'm 15 and I have two hickeys on my neck. One's really bad, and one's just a triangle, and I have one on my chest.

Hickeys do not cause cancer otherwise people wouldn't be doing it. Duh! And besides that, hickeys to me mean love and I love getting them. I've had three from my ex five months ago. And now I have a boyfriend and he gave me three last night.


I'm telling you this. i have a hickey and my sister is teasing me i accidentally give it to myself but i did not know what it meant until i looked it up. I'm only nine years old but i don't want cancer.


I go to school for nursing, and the ones who are laughing i would come to a halt because hickeys cause cancer. It breaks the blood vessels and then closes up. it can cause permanent damage and cancer. so if i were you i would watch what you put on here if you don't know the true facts. thanks!


Hickies don't cause cancer. That's just ridiculous. Cancer is caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division, not a tiny ruptured blood vessel. Use some common sense.


yes they can. Due to a study by the University of Florida in 1998, hickeys can and do cause cancer. It is more severe the longer they stay visible on the skin.


Please note: Hickeys can cause permanent damage! I have had a hickey on my neck now for 16 years! Very hard to find a job and I have to explain to every guy I meet why I have a hickey. Please think long term. It's not worth it.


Think of it like this. a hickey is a blood clot now what can happen if you have a blood clot? cancer!


There is no way on earth that hickeys can cause cancer. That is so ridiculous! Almost funny. She's just telling you that hickeys cause cancer because she doesn't want your boyfriend giving you hickeys. However, everything else in the world causes cancer! :)


i heard the same thing from my aunt, that a hicky can cause cancer. is this true?


I am 20 and my boyfriend always gives me hickeys. I don't mind them, however, recently my mum told me they can cause cancer. Is this true? I'm not sure if she just said it because she doesn't like my boyfriend giving me hickeys or if there is some medical basis behind it?

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    • Hickeys are most often given in the neck region of the consenting person.
      By: Laurent Hamels
      Hickeys are most often given in the neck region of the consenting person.
    • Hickeys can be associated with sexual foreplay.
      Hickeys can be associated with sexual foreplay.
    • A hickey is usually temporary, but can stay on the skin for several weeks.
      By: Forgiss
      A hickey is usually temporary, but can stay on the skin for several weeks.