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Public Display of Affection: How to Do It, PDA Etiquette & 26 Must-Knows

You may know what is PDA in a relationship, but do you know why people love it or hate it? Or the laws you need to follow? Here’s your full PDA guide! 

what is pda in a relationship public display of affection

We love to throw around the term ‘PDA,’ but do you know exactly what is PDA in a relationship? Don’t be fooled; this acronym is packed with layers in our society.

How do you feel about PDA? Are you someone who loves being hugged and kissed by their partner in public? Or are you the person who would rather have their partner keep their hands to themselves until you get home? Usually, people fall somewhere in the middle. But there’s a lot of debate on why people love or hate PDA. Well, we’re going to break down what is PDA in a relationship, and what it reveals about your relationship.

What is public display of affection?

Public display of affection or also known as ‘PDA’ is a term used to describe any form of physical contact between a couple in public. It’s an umbrella term that includes literally every form of physical contact, from hand-holding to kissing to cuddling. 

[Read: The forehead kiss – What it means and why it’s so special to everyone]

The psychology of public display of affection

The psychology of public display of affection in relationships is deeper than you may think. Sure, on the surface, it just looks like a horny couple that can’t get their hands off each other, but it’s more than that. There are four main reasons why people engage in PDA.

1. Enhancing their image

Well, you probably weren’t expecting this to be a reason. A study from the University of Kansas published in The Journal of Sex Research found this to be one of the main reasons people engage in PDA. Many people engage in PDA to enhance their image or social status. 

2. Signal your relationship status

When you’re out in public, and you kiss your partner, you’re signaling to other people that you’re in a relationship and taken.

Though this doesn’t mean if someone doesn’t like PDA, it’s because they don’t want people to know they’re taken. [Read: How to make your partner feel special with the smallest gestures]

3. Cause they can

Why not? You and your partner aren’t breaking any laws. Okay, sure, there are unspoken public display of affection laws, but overall, if couples can kiss each other in public, they’ll do it because they can. 

4. Make other people jealous

Oooh, isn’t this interesting! In a study, it was found that women kissed other women to provoke jealousy in other people. Who would have thought? [Read: Why do guys drool when two girls kiss each other?]

If these are the psychological reasons behind PDA, then what’s the reason behind why people love or hate PDA?

Why people love or hate PDA

Good question! There are a couple of reasons why people love or hate PDA. Not everyone likes making out with their partner in public and that’s completely understandable. But what’s the reasoning behind it?

1. Cultural

If you’ve grown up in a conservative culture, the odds are you weren’t highly exposed to PDA. While some cultures view PDA as something very normal, other cultures do not.

In addition, if someone grew up in a household where their parents didn’t show affection to one another, then PDA is something foreign to you. If you grew up in a home where your parents were affectionate, then this behavior will feel normal. [Read: How to show affection in a relationship if it doesn’t come naturally to you]

2. Psychological

Why people love or hate PDA can also be psychological. There are people who simply enjoy the attention. They like to exhibit their affection towards their partner and get the adrenaline from pushing the boundaries. It can be an exciting experience for some people. 

3. Social

When a man is kissing his partner in public, it can show a level of social dominance and subconsciously communicate to other men that she’s with him.

Now, depending on the partner, some will like it and others will find it degrading. It’s safe to say many people don’t want to feel like they’re an object that’s been won. [Read: How to show off your girlfriend on social media in a way she’ll love]

4. Relational

The last reason why people love or hate PDA is due to confidence and insecurities. Some people need PDA to give them the reassurance that they’re desired and needed. This comes from a place of deep insecurity. [Read: 20 signs of insecurity people can’t hide when they feel insecure]

But aside from hating or loving PDA in a relationship, there are people who fear PDA. Why do some people fear PDA?

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...