On its surface, the game known as “kiss marry kill” (or by its more provocative “f*ck marry kill” name) is quite simple. You list three people, typically celebrities, and you determine which one you want to kiss, which one you want to marry, and which one you want to kill.
Though its origins are nebulous, we know that the more salty sobriquet for the game goes back to the late ’00s, and endures as a quick way for people to compare tastes and values.
How ‘kiss marry kill’ and ‘f*ck marry kill’ entered the lexicon
An Urban Dictionary entry from August 2007 asserts that “f*ck-marry-kill” is “a game that can be heard on the Howard Stern show where a person is given 3 names. You must f*ck one, marry one, and kill one.”
Indeed, there’s video evidence of it being a go-to in 2015, when Stern and co-host Robin Quivers involved Jake Gyllenhaal in a game during an interview.
An AskReddit query from 2014 about the game origins only resulted in one Redditor quipping, “I’m going to guess in a bar somewhere,” which seems a plausible theory. But a 2009 article from Wonkette, plunging into a debate we’re about to get into, refers to it as a “popular children’s schoolyard game.”
And a second, perhaps superfluous Urban Dictionary entry from 2009 counsels, “Choosing people they know, from school for example, makes it more fun and interesting.” It adds, “This is not intended for literal thoughts.”
What are some sample ‘kiss marry kill’ trios?
An article from Hobby Lark, pegging “kiss marry kill” as “a funny party game about hypothetical romantic scenarios with celebrities or fictional characters,” created some possible scenarios to get to learn more about the people you’re playing with.
That included a “hot-headed rulers” category forcing you to choose between Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong-Un. Also in the mix: Childhood mythological figures like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. (For that, I assume kissing the Easter Bunny, killing the Tooth Fairy, and marrying Santa Claus is the obvious move?)
The article also pondered famous Jennifers as “kiss marry kill” candidates, creating a possible dilemma in selecting from Aniston, Lopez, and Lawrence. That’s a trio where consensus is less likely, leading to the possibility of some lively debates.
The article advises, “It’s best to avoid using actual people present (or online) because it might really offend someone. Be kind to one another, but feel free to go total brute on your answers!”
But is ‘marry’ exclusive from ‘kiss’ or ‘f*ck’?
Some debate whether the marry in “f*ck marry kill” means a sexless marriage. The aforementioned Wonkette article asserts that the ultimate FMK rule is “If you Marry someone, that means that you don’t get to have sex with them. Otherwise, there would be such low stakes in choosing whether you would prefer to F*ck or Marry them. We have to preserve the stakes.”
It also posits an additional rule that “f*ck” means just once, rather than a brief fling with a finite number of encounters.
Slate staffers hotly debated the topic in April 2020, understandable given the nation’s state of COVID lockdown. One making the case for sex-but-different for “marry” reasoned, “I’ve always assumed the marriage meant you wouldn’t mind spending the rest of your life w/ said person. And the f*cking was a one-night-only thing. So you shoot for the moon.”
But the publication’s standard bearer for exclusivity, Ashley Feinberg, countered, “The entire difficulty comes in trying to balance the desire to f with who you believe you can stand for an extended period of time purely on the basis of personality.”
She noted the question came up when “someone said something along the lines of ‘I know everyone thinks I’m wrong, but I think the m is celibate’ and that’s when I learned countless people were playing the game incorrectly, something I had never considered.”
One staffer, coming to Feinberg’s defense, pointed out, “I think if you get to have sex in marriage, then the question is just asking you to rank three people by hotness.” That writer added, “It makes it a much more interesting question for there to be no F in M.”
Our two cents
While you don’t have to agree on that point before you start playing “kiss marry kill,” it probably helps to have everyone on the same wavelength before you play. (Unless you fear that such a debate would derail the game before it ever gets the chance to start.)