Yes – Annabel Steele – 62%
Any opposition to Public Displays of Affection must come from a place of jealousy. Boldly, I’m choosing to open this Devil’s Advocate column with that statement, because this particular argument is unique in that I don’t think I need to spend much time explaining why PDA should be celebrated.
The real issue with PDA is the prevalence of PDA-shaming. There lies a hypocrisy in PDA- shaming, we’ve gotten to a point in society where, behind closed doors, sex is “vanilla” if there isn’t some BDSM activity going on – which is dangerous in itself, but that’s an argument for another day. And yet, people are still shocked and offended by couples kissing in public. We’re living in a world which is ravaged by war, political turmoil and extreme poverty, none of which will be possible in a few hundred years because the planet will have burnt to a crisp anyway.
We should be encouraging PDA as a means of reminding us that, in the immortal words of the Prime Minister we deserve, Hugh Grant from Love Actually , “Love really is all around”.
So, let’s come back to my opening statement: any opposition to PDA comes from a place of jealousy. And I think I can prove it, by considering the medium of film. PDA is all over films; there are few movies out there without at least one romantic storyline because screenwriters aren’t dumb. They know it’s what we want to see. We can’t get enough of that scene in The Notebook, or Matthew Macfayden kissing Keira Knightley all over her face whilst calling her “Mrs Darcy”.
The same goes for celebrity gossip; the social media world goes crazy over pictures of their favourite couples sharing an intimate moment in public. Twitter practically broke down at photos of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt doing little more than looking at each other backstage at the SAG Awards. What is it that justifies our obsession with consuming PDA in the media, if we can’t stand the sight of a happy couple having a moment in front of us on the train?
Answer: proximity! When we see romance on film, or in the celebrity gossip columns, we’re not in touch with our immediate world. We latch onto these stories in fiction or in the lives of celebrities, which we don’t really associate with our own day-to- day experiences. Why? Because they prove to us that love is still alive and real, and we vicariously live out our own romantic fantasies.
But when you’re at Costa with your mum, and the couple on the next table are kissing over their coffee cups, it’s real-world PDA rather than fantasy-world PDA. And real-world PDA is more of a slap in the face because it would be pretty weird to try living vicariously through a couple of strangers snogging in a coffee shop. It’s more like a confrontation of the truth – and even if you’re not single, it’s a reminder that you aren’t currently with your dearly beloved significant other. Granted, this is short-term jealousy, but it’s jealousy nonetheless.
But in these pretty dark times, can’t we start to see PDA the way we see romance in films? As little, everyday snippets of proof that the world is still a really gorgeous place filled with humans who have the capacity to love truly and deeply. It sounds cheesy, but when I see two people expressing their love for each other in public, I try to react the same way I’d react to walking past a stranger and smiling, or getting a coffee on the house at Pret. These are expressions of love and demonstrations of the strength of human relationships, and the more we can fill the world with reminders of these good things, the better.
No – Angus Neale – 38%
Hand holding among couples is not the tender action you may think it is; more often than not it is a performance – and, concerningly, one of ownership. National governments have been slow at legislating against the blight that is the PDA. As such, I implore the people to see sense and cease this transgression at once.
I will not regurgitate a virtue signalling argument that suggests such displays of happiness are unsympathetic to singletons; those are the thinly veiled machinations of an incel. Neither will I twist this column into a small advert about my own relationship status: proudly self-partnered thank you very much.
Instead, I will distil the issue down to a single point. Undoubtedly, PDAs are demonstrative of a hatred toward your fellow human. PDAs are not about love, they are about property. When your partner spins you into a kiss whilst the world twiddles their thumbs, ask yourself: “What are they really doing?”
I’m not a puritan. I believe that social conventions can be overbearing and that there is leeway. Humans are the only species to stigmatise sexual desires and we should challenge this (See Mere Christianity , CS Lewis). Hideously, we have denounced people on who they can love, this should never be prescribed by someone else’s certainty.
However, the PDA is rarely one of love, rather it is one of possession and one-upmanship. PDAs are designed by their actors to turn heads. Too often they can be degrading displays of machoism in the face of insecurity, such as men quick to prove they are in relationships in front of friends, or individuals quick to mark someone as off-limits to anyone else.
While this may be evidence of greater societal issues of leering and toxic masculinity, PDAs contribute to this cycle of behaviour. One might say that the display of love is proof that you are comfortable around one another; however, this already displays a fear of looking like a prude. Secondly, what can a lacklustre snog on Market Street contribute to this sense of ease? PDAs are not loving interactions; they are tedious indicators of frail relationships.
The tangled monsters that are formed are also wholly impractical. Over Christmas, whilst stewing on the Piccadilly line, a sweaty chimera engaged in the most drawn out goodbye in human history. Kissing, “I’m going to miss you”, and bestial noises filled the carriage. Fine, headphones in and book out. However, when people attempted to get off at each stop, they made little attempt to move out of the way. Why should your carnal desires stop everyone else from getting home? Love is a little bourgeois at the end of the day – at its most evolutionary level it is about procreation.
On public transport, one looks around and sees everyone coming home from their tough days, it’s a unifying experience. People should be able to read in peace or engage in conversation, albeit quietly, without having to deal with a wallowing knot of cuddles needing to take to the stage. I am not suggesting a demarcation of the personal and the quotidian, but PDAs simply get in the way and the habit will consume the time you have as we hurtle to the grave.
Do your loving when you get home, you could even light a candle. Leave the PDAs to (lazy national stereotype aside); we are the nation of the stiff upper lip, an essential display of soft cultural power after Megxit. This is not particularly Parisian. But why should it be? Why should desire trump politeness? You are not the only person to have ever felt love, and PDA is not the way to go about it. Save spectacle for the bedroom.