Why People Need to Stop With Public Displays of Affection

3 years ago

According to a survey, 37% of men and 32% of women kissed their partner in public “even before entering college.” This public display of affection, aka PDA, might feel good for the people in the relationship, but may create an awkward situation for most people who get caught unwillingly witnessing it.

We at Bright Side got to the bottom of what makes PDA so polarizing and why it’s better to leave it behind a closed door.

It makes the couple seem unlikable.

One piece of research tested how the public reacts to overly affectionate couples, both including PDA and things like sharing too many personal details about their relationship. In general, people thought that those couples seemed very much in love and happy, but were ultimately “perceived as unlikable and psychologically unhealthy.”

It’s not conveying the right message.

In one study, researchers wanted to get to the bottom of why some people feel the need to engage with their partners in front of others. Interestingly, “participants’ motivations included enhancing their image, causing jealousy or envy, or showing off the fact that they are in a relationship.” In addition, the study also shows that men reported a boost to their reputation as a result of PDA, while women felt the opposite.

It might also hurt some people.

Psychologists suggest that being all lovey-dovey in front of an unwilling audience might trigger insecurity in them. Keith E. Davis, a social psychologist at the University of South Carolina who has examined friendships and love relationships, says: ’’Affectionate behavior confronts some people with the unsettling reality that they are alone.’’

At the same time, David E. Klimek, a clinical psychologist who has written about intimacy and marriage, thinks our discomfort from watching PDA stems from our childhood: ’’Children will often get upset at the sight of mom and dad hugging and kissing. One will often see children turn away from this scene — or try to break it up — because it is highly charged, in the same way that many adults turn away when they see lovers kiss openly.’’

It may come off as insincere to others.

Most of the time, the main question on everyone’s mind is, “What are they trying to prove?” For people who observe the PDA, it seems very unnecessary and sometimes even inappropriate, so the couple might seem like they are trying too hard to show off their love. Perhaps it’s because we’ve seen too many celebrities kiss on the red carpet, so in our minds, PDA automatically comes off as a staged thing in the first place.

It makes other people want to vanish into thin air.

Witnessing someone kiss or hug inappropriately in public can feel like you’re watching something you shouldn’t be. It’s practically impossible to act natural in these situations and most people immediately flee the scene. Otherwise, they wish they could be anywhere else instead of near the affectionate couple.

Psychologist Charles T. Hill explained that people might feel forced to become an audience to someone’s random make out session, and it’s a very uncomfortable feeling. Even worse, imagine how it feels for people in the service industry when they try, for example, to take an order from a couple who can’t keep their hands off of each other. Bottom line is: be aware of your surroundings and circumstances.

How do you feel about public displays of affection? When do you think it’s actually appropriate to kiss your partner in public?

Preview photo credit MEGA/Mega Agency/East News


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Seriously why would you give a shit if I want to hold hands with or kiss my husband in public? I love him so why shouldn’t I be able to show it? Not like we’re going to strip naked and go at it for all to see but I’m not changing my affectionate behavior because some people are uncomfortable. That’s the great thing about being able to look away. Sheesh.


Great article. Completely agree with those sentiments. I think the problem is with couples thinking that nobody will mind, but in fact people do mind.


Personally, I'm sick and tired of being single and alone in a "couples' world",
and a "spectator" to all the other couples' romantic displays!
Seriously...It would only make me want to give up on love altogether, crawl under a rock, and "croak".
And so, here's my message to all you lovebirds out there...Get me a girl or GET A ROOM!!


They are no longer dating, but my ex got with my best friend after my best friend said she was straight, and they kissed in front of me and others. They also sometimes described intimate experiences (not like THAT
intimate just not okay for pda)


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