Public Display of Affection (PDA): Where Do You Draw The Line?

PDA is the shortened lingo for public display of affection, often between a couple. This display of affection may include holding hands, snuggling, kissing, making out, fondling or even the toned-down version, long hug or peck on the cheek. PDA is usually observed in foreign countries, the “West” in particular. While the “East” or the Asian countries, which are comparatively orthodox frown upon PDA.

The “East” believes that what happens between the couple should be restricted to the bedroom. Upon leaving the bedroom, they are nothing but two individuals who know each other and live together. Debates regarding its acceptance or rejection have made rounds amongst the younger generations influenced by the Western media. Does this concept really interfere with our tradition and culture? In this article, I decode PDA for you.

Also Read: Why Do Malayalis Think Of Bangalore As The “Sin City”?

Public Display of Affection (PDA): Where Do You Draw The Line?

Initial thoughts about PDA

While some couples love showing their affection for one another in the presence of people, others may feel uncomfortable. It is also possible that people in a relationship may have different views about the same concept.

Some of the pros that I can think of include:

  1. Showing off your love: Portraying yourself and your partner(s) as a single unit and being comfortable enough to be seen in public is a great feeling.
  2. Being comfortable with them: Comfort level plays an important role. One can only be intimate with someone once they’re pleased with them. And being intimate with them in a public place demands even more comfort.
  3. Keeping your partner ‘safe’ from unwanted advances: Letting the world know that this person is yours by holding hands or keeping them close with constant kisses helps ‘protect’ your partner as well.

Despite these positives, body language expert from NYC Blanca Cobb lists the following among the cons of PDA.

  1. Underlying insecurity: The need to constantly be all over your partner(s) can arise from the necessity of wanting to let them know you love them because you are insecure about them.
  2. A shaky foundation to the relationship: Often, couples also make out in public almost as if you want to convince the world around you that you are doing just “fine”.
  3. Lack of privacy: Many people sweat with anxiety at the thought of expressing love in public, even if it’s a single kiss.

Some other commonly raised points include that PDA strengthens the relationship, taking it “to the next well”. Others speak of how it leads to jealousy and discomfort of those who witness the act. A vast majority would believe that people should be allowed to express themselves as they wish, but flinch when they see excessive tonguing while trying to enjoy their morning coffee. 

Also Read: The Post-wedding Shoot That Woke Up Kerala’s Moral Policing Vigilantes


Indian culture and law

While it is said that the queen’s handmaids would watch the king and queen make love and cheer them on in parts of pre-Colonial India, PDA is generally frowned upon by proponents of “Indian culture”.

Lack of PDA in Indian households (even holding hands or exchanging sweet words) between the couple or parents affects the child. A household that isn’t ashamed to openly fight and abuse each other is embarrassed at the thought of a couple holding hands. This, in turn, scars the child and teaches the child the basics of a loveless marriage/household.

Also Read: Ways To Prevent Transgenerational Trauma From Affecting Your Child

But is PDA illegal in the eyes of the law? In a related matter, the then Police Chief of Kerala, Loknath Behera told NDTV in 2017, “No one has the right to disturb or harass any couple anywhere, more so in public places. In our country, we impose self-restraint on Public Display of Affection due to our culture and tradition, though there is no legal ban on PDA.” On specific occasions but not exclusively, both the Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court have made it clear that “kissing in public is not an obscene act and no criminal proceedings can be initiated for kissing in public through a series of landmark judgments”.

Also Read: Online Accountability Is Your Moral Responsibility. Here’s Why


Should you indulge in PDA?

Would everyone mind seeing an entwined couple feeding off each other’s mouth during a morning jog? Maybe not. But on the other hand, should lovers be stopped from resting their heads on each other during a bus ride or holding hands alongside a beach? These are questions that don’t have easy answers. And while “lovebirds should get a room” is the common retort when presented with such questions, there is also the “freedom and rights” angle that you have to consider. So what are your thoughts? Tell me in the comments section!

Shivani Sarat
Content writer and creator. Author of 'Black Daises', a poetry anthology.

Tell us what you're thinking

Subscribe to our newsletter

We'll send you a monthly newsletter with our top articles of the month

Latest Posts