It was 10 p.m. last Thursday at a cafe near campus, where the beer was flowing, the canopy of lights twinkled overhead and good conversation floated through a rare summer breeze. I surveyed the patio, taking in the casual ambiance ... until I saw something totally out of place: a couple, just seats away, appeared to be swallowing each other’s faces.
Figuring out when and where public displays of affection (PDA) are appropriate determines the difference between having the people around you think “aw” or “ew.” When it comes to PDA, there is a risk of crossing the fine line that can make both your friends and onlookers feel uncomfortable and reluctant to have you around.
Advertising senior Moriah Rivera, who is currently studying abroad in Spain, quickly realized European countries encourage PDA more than the U.S. does, when she witnessed a couple straddling one another on a playground. She said since a lot of 20-somethings in Europe live at home, the only “private” places they have with their significant others are in public. “On countless occasions, I have found myself in a crowded metro, stuck in that perfectly awkward position just inches away from a couple making balloon animals with their tongues,” Rivera said. “Apparently, it’s socially acceptable in Europe, but us Longhorns should leave the extreme intimacy for drunken freshman or behind closed doors.”
While many people can agree that hand holding and pecks on the cheek rarely ever cross the line, kisses on the lips are riskier territory. The appropriateness of PDA should be judged by how you anticipate those around you will feel about it. If you’re with friends who know you and your partner well, chances are PDA won’t bother them.
However, if the majority of people you’re around are strangers, like at the grocery store or in the mall, it’s best to refrain from anything more affectionate than a kiss on the cheek.
Rivera said she naturally adjusts her level of PDA depending on who she is around as a sign of respect around family and to ensure that she is not flaunting her relationship in front of her single friends.
“PDA can be precious to watch, but at the same time it can be super depressing when you see all these couples share a passionate kiss under the Eiffel Tower,” Rivera said.
Rivera’s boyfriend of four years, health promotion/allied health professions junior Jeremy Maranitch, admits that there’s a gender difference when it comes to PDA around his and Rivera’s single friends.
“I’ve always engaged in PDA around single friends. I guess it’s different for me because majority of my friends are guys,” Maranitch said.
Maranitch said that deciding when and where PDA is appropriate varies by the person’s perspective.
“If PDA is just giving the significant other a few kisses in public, then PDA is a go for me. If people look at PDA as making out and groping the other, then that’s not really my thing,” he said.
Radio-television-film senior Olivia Calderon-Stucky agreed that her feelings toward PDA are dependent on the environment. She feels that in casual settings, like on the Drag or outdoors on campus, hugs and kisses are fine as long as there is no moaning involved.
“If the couple is comfortable, more power to them,” Calderon-Stucky said. “No one is forcing any of us to look at them if we have any objections to their PDA.”
On a hypothetical PDA scale, hand holding, an arm around one another, quick kisses and leaning a head on your partners shoulder would be PG-rated content and usually safe for all environments. PG-13 content might include longer kisses, hooking a finger through your boyfriend or girlfriend’s pants’ belt loop, a blatant but quick ass-grab and sitting on their lap. This level of PDA is more appropriate with groups of friends or at a bar on Sixth Street.
R-rated content includes lap straddling, making out, a hand that appears to be glued to your partner’s ass and pretty much any kind of thrusting or groping. This kind of behavior is never acceptable in public. Ever.
Above all, couples should be mindful of the environment they’re in before showing one another affection in public. While a quick kiss at a restaurant may be considered innocent and sweet, remember that a long kiss-turned-make-out-session might make others uncomfortable.
If all else fails and you’re unsure of what level of PDA is appropriate, you can always follow my mother’s advice: “Keep it in your pants, just hold hands.”
Published on Friday, April 13, 2012 as:Maintian courtesy, keep affection levvel suitable for setting