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Where Do You Stand on PDA?

By , 17, Staff Writer Originally Published: June 27, 2018 Revised: January 3, 2019

Whether it’s participating in or observing public displays of affection (PDA), everyone has a different boundary—a different sense of what is or isn’t OK when it comes to publicly expressing affection for a partner. PDA is precisely what it sounds like: engaging in physical expressions of affection (whether it’s holding hands, kissing or more) in public areas, such as school or the mall.

Why do couples engage in PDA in the first place? Sam, 17, of Boston, MA, believes, “There are a variety of reasons why couples participate in PDA. Sometimes, they are helplessly in love and forget they are in public. Other times, they are consumed with their social status and want to make sure everyone knows that they are the ‘hip couple’ on campus.”

The same way there are various reasons a couple might engage in PDA, there are also different ways others react to it. Curious to know more, I asked teens how they felt about witnessing and participating in PDA.

There can be conflicts when couples don’t agree about internet PDA.

Drawing Boundaries

When it comes to PDA, some teens feel that there is such a thing as too much. Sam says, “Holding hands or kissing each other goodbye are both generally accepted forms of PDA. But that’s where I draw the line, as anything beyond that may offend others.” Tatiana, 17, of Bethlehem, PA, agrees: “Physical PDA is fine to an extent. It becomes improper when a couple continues to touch to the point that people around them feel uncomfortable.” Tatiana and Sam think that PDA is OK until it begins to bother other people. They feel that is where the limit should be.

I didn’t find any teens who were totally opposed to PDA. There were plenty of people who didn’t have strong feelings about it. Jimmy, 19, of Bridgewater, NJ, says, “I don’t know if I actively like watching people make out, but I don’t really mind it too much. Love is all we have in this sad, unfeeling world, and I don’t know who we are to take that away from people.” It’s easy to forget that PDA—though others may not always want to see it—is a way that some people choose to express their feelings for another person.

PDA Online

Modern technology has introduced new ways for teens to flaunt their relationships through Facebook relationship statuses and biographies on Instagram. There can be conflicts when couples don’t agree about internet PDA.

Eleanor, 19, of the United Kingdom, recalls how her friend’s partner made their relationship “Facebook official” after only a few weeks of being together. “It made him feel very uncomfortable,” explains Eleanor. “I think it’s really important to communicate about boundaries concerning what your relationship is like in public as well as in private in order to avoid this.” Like with physical PDA, some people aren’t comfortable participating in it. Even though it’s just a few words or a change of your status, it’s best to talk to your partner before hitting the “Taken” or “Post” button.

Some people also aren’t comfortable witnessing PDA online. Just because it’s online doesn’t necessarily make it easier to deal with. Ben, 18, of West Caldwell, NJ, says, “PDA has evolved past the point of just bothersome, it is now a method of alienation, thanks to social media. The incessant reminders that two people are just frankly more satisfied with their lives than you does have a detrimental effect on people, more than we think.” Constant posts of you and your bae kissing and hugging may get old for your friends.

Will teens stop engaging in PDA? Probably not. It’s likely to exist as long as love exists. From the teens I talked to, it sounds like they understand the feelings behind PDA, as long as the PDA is within reason and not over the top. So don’t worry, you can still hold your partner’s hand in public!

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