Holding hands, a kiss on the cheek: expressing affection toward your partner is an integral part of a healthy relationship. But when couples insist on sharing their love in public, harmless TLC can quickly morph into annoying PDA.
Public Displays of Affection (also known as PDA) makes many students feel uncomfortable around campus. It begs the question: How far is too far?
“I think there are different levels of PDA,” said 21-year-old criminal justice major Hallie Fisher. “Kissing
and hand holding is OK, but making out in public is just not cool.”
Senior psychology major Giselle Lazo said that if you’re going to display
your affection in public it should be in places like the Student Center where there are lots of people and it’s not as noticeable.
“In small spaces it’s inappropriate to do that,” Lazo said. “You’re not being considerate of others.”
Lazo herself has been in a relationship for six months and refrains from all forms of PDA by not kissing or even holding hands with her boyfriend in public.
“I just feel uncomfortable and it’s just not necessary when you’re around other people,” Lazo said. She does, however, feel that she is an exception to the norm. “Guys typically aren’t that affectionate,” Lazo said.
“I think girls [display their affection] a lot more.” While it can be a nuisance to onlookers, PDA can also be used by couples as a form of declaration. Just as a dog marks its territory, both men and women use PDA as way of saying “back off.”
“If a couple walks into a party, a girl might kiss her boyfriend to make it clear that she’s with him,” Lazo said. Although students don’t witness a lot of PDA in bright campus daylight, the story changes at night when there is alcohol involved.
When people are drinking, they tend to lose their inhibitions, making the likelihood of PDA even higher, according to Fisher. Many students are willing to bare it all in front of random crowds, but have stage fright when it comes to their parents.
“I would never do anything in front of my parents,” Lazo said. “I just act differently around them out of respect.”
Sociology professor David Elesh feels the same sentiment is shared in the classroom where he rarely witnesses forms of PDA. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, Elesh realizes that there is a greater comfort with affection in today’s society.
“I do think if you got a male or female acting in public as if they were in a private situation, that is not something most people of any generation would find appropriate,” Elesh said. In some countries the concept of controlling PDA has been taken to extreme levels. According to a May 2006 article in “USA Today” Indonesia proposed an anti-pornography law that, among other things, would ban couples from kissing in public. The law, which was drafted in 1999, has been the center of much controversy in the Muslim world.
Sophomore communications major David Hall doesn’t see PDA a lot around campus simply because he feels it’s more of a high school trend.
“When you get older, you get a lot more private with your love life,” Hall said.
“In high school everything is a lot more public.”
And while most people can tolerate the occasional affectionate couple, some are not as accepting of gay and lesbian couples who partake in PDA.
“If you’re walking down the street, people just tend to look at them differently,” Lazo said. Although the line for PDA is sometimes blurry, most can agree that heavy petting should be left at the zoo.
Rachel Madel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.