Some Much-Needed Rules For PDA

Ahh, those Public Displays of Affection — how I know them so well. I live in The City of Love. Some call it The City of Light, but those people haven’t seen a couple having sex on a park bench in broad daylight before. It is expected — nay, often encouraged — here for people to grab each other with the bright, burning passion of a collapsing star and get to second and a half base in front of the whole world. It is adorable, it is cute, it is l’amour. Perhaps the constant exposure has made me hypersensitive to the saliva-covered phenomenon, but I have lived in several other cities, cities which do not have such a lax policy on open-air foreplay, and I can confirm that egregious PDA is a problem everywhere. PDA is out of control; PDA must stop.

Rule #1: You must have hit puberty to engage in PDA.

I have already addressed my growing concern for the more amorous/ vulgar children in my neighborhood, but I feel I must reiterate: If your testicles have not yet lost the battle with gravity/ you are still waiting on Aunt Flo to visit you in the night and leave a tampon under your pillow (as she does), please refrain from dry humping in public. It’s unsettling, it’s uncomfortable, and honestly — you are forcing passerby to watch live-action child pornography. Do you want that guilt on your chest? No. You want to finish out your precious childhood playing with your Pogs and perhaps, if you are truly in love, holding hands. (No fingers interlaced, that is for sluts.)

Rule #2: There is a staunch, five-second maximum on all embraces.

I know that, when caught in the moment of a passionate kiss, it’s hard to unlock yourself from your lover’s lips and come up for air. You’d rather die of asphyxiation than leave those soft, plush lips for even a moment. But there is a clear, hard line between a kiss and a makeout, and that line is five seconds. After that, you just become the couple that is awkwardly standing in the middle of the sidewalk, licking the back of each others’ throats, oblivious to the movements and etiquette of society. It’s awkward, people having to shove past you and/ or pretend they cannot see you. And frankly, it wells up in even the most reserved onlooker the burning desire to watch, if only to see how long they’re actually going to keep doing this. The phrase “get a room” was created specifically to be hurled in your direction.

Rule #3: No side-by-side seating in restaurants.

Perhaps, if you are just getting a coffee or a drink at a little cafe — out on the terrace or in a back booth, maybe — I could let this slide. But if you are out at a restaurant for a full-on, multiple-course, utensil-requiring, precarious-glass-involving dinner, get the hell over to your respective sides. I’m sorry, but no amount of love, no Leo and Kate or Jim and Pam or Carrie and Big love, could ever justify the unimaginable bullshit that is eating dinner on the same side of a cramped table. No love overcomes your elbows bumping into each other, or forks clanging awkwardly. No passion will keep the wait staff from mocking you mercilessly over by the bar (“Did you see Pepe Le Pew over at Table 14? If he doesn’t get some tonight, he’s gonna hang himself”). No infatuation will make the other two seats on the perfectly good side of the table not seem so glaringly unused. No one cares how in love you are, it’s weird and awkward, go eat facing each other like adults.

Rule #4: Location, location, location.

If your love is roaring inside you like a great volcano and you just cannot wait until you get home to take your lover in your virile arms, perhaps you should map out a little trajectory for the route back to your bedroom and decide which places are and are not appropriate to get your grope on. For example, in the middle of public transportation — not okay. I know that love has made you blind to all of the harsh unpleasantness of the world around you, but public transportation is essentially a moving toilet. People sneeze on the poles without a second thought, fart onto the faux-leather seats, and just generally engage in the most regressive acts humans are capable of. Just the knowledge that two people would choose such a place for simulated coitus is horrific, actually seeing it just viscerally reminds you how unfit to touch every surface is around you. You already had the flu to worry about, now you might catch chlamydia on the way home. But there are more appropriate locations. Strolling through a park — not quite so offensive.

Rule #5: You may be coupled now, but remember that you were once single.

When you are near a third wheel, be it a stranger sitting next to you at the bus stop or your naive friend who thought you two could make it through a whole movie without performing public oral sex, it behooves you to refrain as much as possible from PDA. No one knows how to deal with it when couples get all gropey in front of them, because any response requires acknowledging what is going on, and the idea is to pretend nothing is happening. Asking you to stop would make them a cock block, trying to lighten the mood with a joke or comment would make them look socially inept, and joining in is rarely a viable option on all sides. Don’t put others in the awful position of having to ignore the giant, naked, undulating elephant in the room — save it for when you’re in private.

Rule #6: No grabbing of sensitive areas.

There is no reason, not a single one on this entire planet, that should justify people grabbing each others’ genitals in public. Breasts should not be fondled. (If it is a breast exam, which are quite necessary and relatively effective, there are alleys and Starbucks bathrooms in which to carry out your cancer screenings.) No hands should cross into the back pockets of each others’ jeans. Not only does that make you look like extras from a Kenny Chesney video, but it makes everyone walking behind you stare at your respective (and not often attractive) posteriors. And, for the love of God, stay away from the reproductive organs. Ladies, there will be no subtle fondling of the testicles. Gentleman, why in the world would you just randomly cup a woman’s vagina? I would say it couldn’t be done, but I have seen it with my own two eyes. I recommend, for those of you who insist on doing it, chinese finger traps or Rubik’s Cubes to occupy your wandering, inappropriate hands.

Rule #7: If you are a bro, stop the threatening glares of suspicion at every other male after an egregious PDA session.

Don’t worry, Pauly D, no one would touch your walking Hep C Delivery System with a ten-foot-pole. TC mark

image – Joselito Tagarao

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


More From Thought Catalog

  • Michael Koh

    If they’re exhibitionists, more power to them.

  • Summer

    Wait, so fingerblasting and playing “just the tip” is not appropriate on the front stoop of someone’s home?

    I’ve been doing it all wrong.

  • Amanda Mae Viers


  • Guest

    can you translate this into spanish because i need to share it with all of santiago chile

    • Guest

      jajaja I agree. Way too much of this going on in Santiago. Especially rule #1.

  • karyn

    i used to agree with all of this until i became single. now i do all of this, and it’s pretty great. 

  • karyn

    i used to agree with all of this until i became single. now i do all of this, and it’s pretty great. 

    • Anonymous

      You have prepubescent public sex? That seems…unlikely.

  • guest

    somebody bitter about not being able to do all of that in public?

  • Spencer Niemetz

    Can “Carrie Bradshaw” just be entered into Webster’s as a verb/adjective?

    “As he whisked her off to Paris, Janice Carrie Bradshawly squealed at the thought of being in a city built around the same superficial ideas of a relationship as she.”
    “Dorothy Carrie Bradshawed the entire way home when he found another woman who would Carrie Bradshaw him in the middle of the parking lot.”

  • Flavia Val

    I love thought catalog… but this is a lot of crap lol. Do whatever u want to do, and theres nothing better than show your felling… thats why I love being Brazilian. =)

    • a.

      I think this was written for people like you.

  • Dave P

    Chelsea, why do you like rules so much? 

    • Anonymous

      I do not like rules, I LOVE them.

  • Morgan Alldredge

    I 100% agree with all of these but there should be an exception to the groping.  After 11 p.m. at a bar drunk this is fine. You just can’t help yourself.

  • Erin

    this part made me laugh outloud like an asshole: I’m sorry, but no amount of love, no Leo and Kate or Jim and Pam or Carrie and Big love, could ever justify the unimaginable bullshit that is eating dinner on the same side of a cramped table.
    its sooooo annoying when couples do that! so impractical. hilarious article. thanks :)

  • NoSexCity

    Usually I would agree, but I had a good weekend and am now a staunch convert to “please show me you love me sometimes when people are watching”. 

    … Unless you’re underage. That’s no bueno.

  • NoSexCity

    Usually I would agree, but I had a good weekend and am now a staunch convert to “please show me you love me sometimes when people are watching”. 

    … Unless you’re underage. That’s no bueno.

  • xra

    you’re wrong about #3, it’s sitting awkwardly 5 feet away from someone you want to get closer to that’s a bad move. guys, for a successful dinner date try to finagle either a bar (sushi’s good), or an in to sit next to her

    • Nick

      Yeah right you look like a total asshat sitting side by side for no reason in a restaurant.

  • TomatoQueen

    Hilarious article and so many good points, it’s hard to know where to begin.  But could I just say one thing?  Re #3?  I’ve been with the same person for 20 years, and we still sit on the same side of the table in restaurants.  We don’t make out.  We sit there and talk, drink, laugh, eat, and enjoy the hell out of each other.  The reason we do this is because, lo, those many years ago, we once told each other we always would.  If people stare, it’s because we’re making each other laugh so much, not because we’re groping.  It would really suck if people were judging us for that!

  • Anonymous

    Laughing so hard at #7 and cannot stress #5 enough.  Listening to smacks of lips and fluid during a movie with couples is distracting.  If they needed help with lubrication all they needed to do was say please in human.  I had a full cup of ice tea at hand.  

  • Billgbg

    Great article, but I liked it for all the wrong reasons: I adore seeing PDA couples and love that terrifically awkward moment of trying to act like nothing big is happening (during a public love making session) when obviously something extreme is happening. Wow, that’s a mind blower and no drugs are needed! 
    I’ve traveled 10,000 miles hoping to find these sessions, yeah I ‘m a real-live, drooling pervert, but so far haven’t found theml. Paris must be it, so hoping for a look see one day.
    Thanks again.

  • Laura Fraser

    this is great!

  • Jen_G

    This is great! I could not agree more!! These rules need to be given to every teenage couple who seem to be oblivious to the world around them!

  • Anonymous
  • Jordana Bevan

    In like a totally serious way, I think the most important thing about rules for PDA is..
    Yes, the two people caressing/lubricating each other are consenting to their little romance, but the people who are forcibly inclined to watch AREN’T consenting – they just see it by chance. And I know these experiences aren’t super equatable, but what’s the difference between having someone drop their pants and start whackin it in front of you and having a couple enacting digital sex on the metro seat across from you? Like in both scenarios you aren’t consenting to the event, though I supposed the couple is deriving pleasure from each other and the masturbator is deriving pleasure from you watching.
    Like casual kissing and embraces are okay, but extreme PDA needs to stop. I’m not grossed out/pissed off/annoyed when I see people groping because they’re groping, I’m annoyed because they’re doing it in front of me and I didn’t agree to see it. /rant

    Anyway, oh god Chelsea I love it when you write. Your phrasing is SO hilarious. Please write a bed time story.

  • Joshua Logan

    You and everyone else here who agrees with you are what’s wrong with America.  Fuck the Tea Party, it’s you prudish, puritanical, uptight and BORING people that are ruining this country.

    • Kk

      True. If people don’t like watching strangers dry hump, they vote Tea Party.

  • sixx

    So the point it seems a lot of people are making is that you didn’t consent to watching this kind of behavior and it’s gross.  When did people start thinking affection and love were so heinous and disgusting?  They’re natural human acts.  
    Are humans really that distant from each other? 

  • Amy McDeath

    You do not have the right to not be offended.

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