Public Displays of Affection

The way people choose to express their affection for each other in public is fascinating to me. It’s completely different than physical affection in private, because with PDA, you’re walking a fine line between social norms and personal intimacy.

I’ve seen all kinds of PDA. I’ve seen a woman in Paris pin her man against a streetpost  and kiss him like it was her job (looking back, it may, in fact, have been her job). I’ve seen elderly couples gingerly hold hands. I’ve seen a young couple on a wedding bus sit on each others’ laps even though there were seats available. And I’ve seen men at Cardinals games steering their girlfriends around the stadium by a hand firmly lodged in the back pocket of her jeans.

I’ve experienced all types of PDA myself. It varies depending on my age and the girl; I’ve gone from holding hands in middle school (back when holding hands was a big deal) to getting handsy standing outside the door of my car in the parking lot of an outdoor museum in St. Louis following a date.

I’m somewhat flexible on PDA, but I’d say I’m generally comfortable with hand holding, quick kisses, and subtle hands on thighs, waist, legs. What about you?

5 Responses to “Public Displays of Affection”

  1. T-Mac says:

    While I think this list definitely covers me completely, I’d say it falls a little short of being all-inclusive. Some of your readers may be perfectly fine with outright public sex.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      True. I was moreso thinking “things you’d do at a restaurant,” a restaurant being a normal public place where people are all around you. Are there people out there who would just go ahead and have sex in front of everyone at a restaurant?

  2. E.Koz says:

    I feel like we need to identify who the “public” is in order to determine the comfortable level of affection. If we’re in a group of close friends, warm displays of affection -a hand on a leg or an arm over the shoulder might be totally appropriate and comfortable. If you’re walking down the romantic cobblestone streets of Barcelona with you honey and the mood strikes to plant a big kiss on him/her – full on make out style – I think it’s a much more acceptable thing than if you were to do that in front of your grandparents at Christmas. I have some family members who are very handsy and smoochy with each other at family gatherings and it makes me extremely uneasy. Same with friends. But if I see strangers on the street displaying similar levels of affection, I usually am pretty okay with it. Probably don’t do any “sexual touching” in public though – you could get very arrested for that. Also, I’m really glad you used the phrase “sexual touching,” as I have not heard that since my 8th grade health class.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      It’s a fair distinction–“public” can range from a group of friends or family to a group of strangers. And there’s also a difference between what you’d do at a house party versus at a restaurant. I think I was mostly wondering what people would do in a restaurant with plenty of strangers (and possibly friends) around them. I could see sexual touching happening in a restaurant…a hand that wanders far up a leg or under a skirt. That type of touching would probably happen under the table at the restaurant, but it’s still happening in public.

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