Many people ask me about Public Displays of Affection. First, let’s agree that the world can always use more affection. But, as the saying goes, there’s a time and a place for everything. And many practitioners of the PDA choose the wrong time and the wrong place for their amorous explorations. So that we can all traverse the public domain without feeling like extras in an R-rated movie, here’s a PDA Q&A for the romantically inclined. (Or disinclined.)
Why do people engage in PDAs?
Because they’re horny. Or feeling affectionate. Or in love. They may want to show off to their friends, or make an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend jealous.
Is there a sociological/psychological explanation for this?
Yes. Human nature. Most people like to touch and be touched. In general, public displays of affection are lovely if they’re truly about affection: handholding, hugs, strolling arm in arm, loving contact between parents and children. Public displays of lust are not so lovely (except, perhaps, for those engaged therein). Most people are offended if they have to witness the steamy antics of others: fondling, groping, grabbing, licking, slurping, smooching. I, for one, do not wish to see a couple on the subway using their tongues to clean each other’s molars.
Is it different in the United States compared to other countries?
Yes. Etiquette and social behavior are highly contextual; a behavior that would be appropriate in one culture might horrify citizens of another culture. With regard to PDAs, zee French, of course, are very romantic, especially in Paris under a light drizzle. After all, it isn’t called French kissing for nothing. In certain other countries, public snogging leads to public flogging – or worse. In these places, kissing, holding hands, and/or wearing revealing clothing could get you in big trouble. It all depends on how each culture views these matters. In the U.S., where the concept of public modesty has yet to take hold, the display of affection for all to behold has become a widely-practiced spectator sport.
Are teens more apt to engage in PDAs than adults?
I’m not aware of any scientific studies that address this question. I do know that many young people, in general, seem less inhibited than adults when it comes to public behavior, i.e., being rowdy and rambunctious; sprawling across multiple seats on the bus; skateboarding over your toes. For some teens, having someone with whom you can be publicly affectionate is a bit like getting a new car. You want to give it a test drive and show it off to your friends.
Is there a kind of overall PDA-etiquette among teens?
Yes. One must always have a partner for public displays of affection. Making out with yourself in a school corridor is considered bad form.
This concludes our examination of PDAs for today. In my next post I will respond to additional questions having to do with PDAs in the school setting.
This post first appeared on Alex’s blog.
Alex J. Packer, Ph.D., “Manners Guru to the Youth of America,” is a very polite educator, psychologist, and award-winning author of 10 books for parents, teachers, and teenagers including How Rude! The Teen Guide to Good Manners, Proper Behavior, and Not Grossing People Out. A recognized expert on adolescent development, parenting, and substance abuse prevention, Alex’s passion for nurturing healthy kids, healthy families, and healthy schools takes him around the world as a speaker and workshop leader. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.
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