Is PDA Ever Okay?

One of my closest friends here at SUNY Oswego recently spoke with me about a rather controversial topic: PDA. “Public Displays of Affection” are often deemed as disgusting and unnecessary, with people telling couples to “get a room” or to “take it somewhere else”. The degree of affection that is seen as socially acceptable depends on the society and culture it happens within. But, within the context of American society, I personally used to think the “P” should stand for private and not public. The only affection I displayed publicly while in relationships was holding hands or a quick kiss or hug. After the conversation I had with my friend, I now feel differently about the concept of displaying affection, as well as what I deem as acceptable.

When I used to think of PDA, I immediately thought of high school. Couples in high school had what I believed to be a nasty habit of making out in the hallways between classes. I felt uncomfortable walking past people who practically had their tongues down each others’ throat. However, I was not uncomfortable because I was single and they were in relationships. I believed that intimate acts of affection such as making out were personal, and should therefore be done privately and not in the middle of a public school hallway when people are just trying to walk to class. 

My preconceived notions of PDA were not changed until my second semester of college. My roommate recently started a relationship with a close friend of hers, who had loved her for years. When they, along with myself, hung out in a group with our other friends, they were not shy about cuddling or kissing in front of any of us. At first I felt the same way as I did in high school: slightly uncomfortable, but not to the point where I would leave the room or say anything to them. If they wanted to display affection to that degree, that was their decision, I personally would just not do the same. 

Recently, I started a new relationship, and with that came that very decision: how much affection would we display? A slew of other questions began racing through my mind, such as what I was comfortable doing in front of other people, what he was comfortable with, and especially what everyone else in our friend group was comfortable with. I did not want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, so at first I refused to display any amount of affection to him in front of anyone.

This prompted my friend to ask me why I wouldn’t, since he noticed how I was selective with when I was affectionate. When only he or my roommate were around, I felt more comfortable because they were already displaying affection and I knew they would not mind if we did, but when we were in a larger group of people I showed much less for fear of making any of them uncomfortable.

His confrontation led to our discussion of PDA. I found his opinion to be very compelling, as it went far deeper than simply being comfortable with affection. He believes that people should show affection to their significant other more, regardless of whether or not you are in a public place. Relationships fail for many reasons, marriages even lead to divorce, and one reason could be that your partner does not display their love for you. This could lead to you feeling like they do not love or care about you, so you may seek that love and attention elsewhere, resulting in you cheating on them. Cheating is one of the leading causes of divorce and relationships ending in general. Is one person’s comfort worth losing your relationship over? He argues that it isn’t. Your time with your significant other is limited, whether by a break-up down the road, an unfortunate and sudden death too early, or the inevitable death of one of you years into the future when you are both married and have spent your lives together. He believes you should show them you love them while you have them, and I now feel the same way. 

We both agree that there is a limit regarding what is acceptable PDA, with that limit being constructed by society itself. There is another limit, however, that is quite different. Everyone has their own personal limit, referring to how much PDA they are willing to display. That limit should be decided by themselves, not by whether those around them are going to be okay with it. While it is important to take people’s opinions into consideration, in addition to the context of a situation, you will not always be able to make everyone happy. 

I now feel more comfortable showing my affection for my significant other, because I have decided what my personal limit for PDA is, and I have stopped obsessing over what everyone else’s opinion is. I hope you are able to decide what you and your partner’s limits are, and to reconsider your thoughts on PDA.