Does PDA Gross You Out?

I want to hear your thoughts.

Photo from Saturday Night Live by Reggie Lewis/NBC via Getty Images. 

Long before I experienced requited love — or requited like, for that matter — I dreamed of holding a boy’s hand and kissing him goodbye after school. It would be a quick kiss, I knew, and we wouldn’t mind who was around to see it. There’s even a specific spot in my middle school’s blacktop parking lot where I imagined this innocent farewell taking place. It wouldn’t be until my freshman year of college, though, that it would really happen. (None of my high school “boyfriends” kissed me. We were all too nervous.) By then I was 19, had a slew of party make outs under my belt and was ready for what I’d deemed the real boyfriend experience, which very much included the sweet PDAs of my 7th grade daydreams. When it happened, I was in heaven.

I’m consistently surprised by how many of my friends hate public displays of affection. Short of sloppy subway make outs, I’m very much cool with it. I don’t at all mind when people kiss, hold, lean into each other on the sidewalk. I think it’s sweet. Perhaps because I’m a touchy person myself, even with my friends. I’ll hold your wrist and tell you I’m tired. I’ll pet your hair and ask how you’re doing. It’s how I express my affection. With romantic partners, it’s more intense. I’ll never forget an old boyfriend’s dad describing me as “maternal” because of the way I physically interacted with his son. At first, it struck me as an odd word choice, but I suppose it kind of made sense. I treat people I like with a sort of motherly touch. Maybe that’s weird. I can’t help it!

My approval isn’t blanket. I believe there’s a time and place to keep your distance. But out in the wild, given plenty of elbow room and the appropriate context, I never mind. But people do. They really do. And I wonder why. Is my position on it a privileged one? One friend of mine said he got over his hatred of PDA once he himself found someone he wanted to kiss in public. Another has a long-term boyfriend and doesn’t even hold his hand on the street because it feels like too much. Another doesn’t like to be touched period (even in private). Another has an entirely different relationship with PDA because he’s gay. I respect that there are layers to this. I want to hear what you think. Are you pro? Anti? Conditional? Why?

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  • Yvonne Dunlevie


  • Emmie

    I’m less inclined to do it around my friends – I think it’s because I had been single for so long, and so many of my friends are single that i don’t want them to think that being with a guy has ‘changed’ me. Like a, ‘SEE I CAN STILL BE LIKE THE OLD ME, HE AND I CAN JUST ACT LIKE FRIENDS AND IT NOT BE A THING.’

    … This might be something I need to work out with my psyche.

    • Julia

      I feel exactly the same way! A few of my closest friends have been single for quite a while and I feel myself being hyper-aware of PDA with my S/O around them. Sometimes I feel guilty even mentioning the relationship in conversation.

    • Pterodactyl111

      I actually think it’s way more rude to do PDA when you’re with a group than just the two of you out because it by its very nature it’s super exclusionary. If you’re with a group, be with the group.

  • Hayley

    My husband is all into hand-holding and kissing in public, and I’m the opposite.

  • Abby

    It doesn’t gross me out, I just think it’s not really necessary to be affectionate all the time. My husband is the same way and won’t even hold my hand in public.

  • jules_js

    yes x 1000000

  • Once my boyfriend and I got yelled at by a homeless dude for kissing goodbye in Penn Station…. Ever since then I’ve been hyper-aware of our PDA, even though the worst of it might just be a long-ish kiss. I don’t like the idea of making people uncomfortable, but sometimes my guy is so cute I can’t help but hang on him and look up lovingly into his face (ew, what?)

  • Andrea Raymer

    I like to pretend to be grossed out, but I’m mostly just jealous. However my very limited experience taking part in the PDA made me feel very uncomfortable. I think I am just embarrassed by romantic feelings in general when they are my own. It wasn’t really until college that I started telling my friends when I had a crush on someone. Even now I tend to keep it a secret.

    The only PDA I have witnessed that made me uncomfortable was when I watched this couple literally inspect each other’s tongues before beginning their makeup mesh on the uptown NQR platform at 14th street. But that discomfort may have been due to the fact that I was with someone I was crushing on.


  • tmm16

    It depends on the severity. Hand-holding, quick kisses, and an arm around the waist or neck is nbd and I think it’s cute. Heavy touching/petting or tonsil hockey on a park bench or at a restaurant table? (Both I’ve witnessed) No thank you. Disgust.

  • Danielle Cardona Graff

    I’m all for PDA! From holding hands, to wild late night make out sessions in the street! The key is context, and general consideration for others. A public make-sesh in a bar is fine-in a dark corner, NOT at the bar right under the bartender’s nose. Holding hands is wonderful-walking down a not-so-crowded street, put perhaps not down the stairs of any L train station… It’s all about having a little common sense.

    • Lina

      Agree, agree, agree!!!

  • I like PDA! But within reason of course! Do I want to kiss my husband in public, heck yes! Would I go for one sloppy kiss – definitely! But would I sit on a park bench and make out? No way. Some people are not okay with any PDA, but to me that’s weird. When I’m with someone I love, I am affectionate – it’s the same in or out of public. Gotta agree with CJKEYS2!

  • Kay Nguyen

    Hmmm I don’t think PDA is gross but I do find it annoying unless it’s just a kiss every here and there, but anything beyond that is a no for me! Like get a room, nobody needs to see the beginning of a live softcore porn.

  • Federica Chacon

    I’m all for controlled PDA that doesn’t make me feel like I’m intruding in a public place.

  • ladle

    I am touchy feely with people I actually like, like my best friend and my mom. If you force PDA (even hugs) on me I will feel awkward and might push you away. I haven’t had a long term boyfriend yet so not sure how that would work but I know that there is a big difference between holding hands and straight up making out in the middle of the street (which always makes me roll my eyes – this is a public space where people pass, don’t hog it) which I think would always be off the table.

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    I love PDA!!!…but with friends only. I’m always touching my girlfriends (lol), be it a peck on the cheek or a hug or a lazy arm thrown across their shoulder. interestingly, I’m the exact opposite with boyfriends. i hated holding my first boyfriend’s hand in the halls of our high school. he was so hurt. but it’s just the way i am! then again, i don’t mind OTHER people’s pda at all. it’s so sweet! ugh i’m so weird. is anyone else like this??

  • Hannak

    Ahhhh same, Haley, I’m also a touchy person and been told on couple occasions that I’m “maternal” (whatever that actually means?). I think in general people’s tolerance level of pda depends a lot on the culture they grew up in? I remember walking around with two Brits and they got so grossed out at some pda I found fairly normal! I also think I became quite the pda offender since being in a long-distance relationship… I just want to make the most of the few days we have together haha nothing too gross though (I believe), just a few too many hugs in public places (e.g. the subway/tube) and (yes) crying at airports (I’m sorry)

    • Holl

      100% believe that airports are for crying in, is just something in the air

  • Elizabeth

    During my adolescence, I went to a boarding school where everyone was incredibly open with one another, so I always assumed it was standard to play with someone’s hair or hold hands while walking to class. It wasn’t until I got to college, where sloppy DFMO’s (dance floor make outs), became the new normal, that PDA became a highly discussed topic of conversation.

    I’ve always felt that is natural to express how you feel, so if I want to kiss or hug or hold – whatever, I most likely will do it wherever I please. There obviously is a line, but I think most know where it falls and abide by it.

  • Adrianna

    My boyfriend and I are very PDA. Not on the level of making out, but you can immediately tell we’re a couple based on how we touch and sit next to each other. We’ll stand in an embrace in line in Walgreens, we’ll hold hands and rest on each other on the subway.

    Once we sat across from three couples of different ages (teenage to middle aged) on the Brooklyn bound F train. Our behavior eventually influenced all three couples to sit closer and hold hands.

    ps: I’m normally not a hugger. I really don’t want to hug or touch anyone other than my bf

  • Lindsey

    It doesn’t bother me for the most part. I’d rather not see a full on make-out, but other than that I think it’s sweet. There was one time, however, I was at a cafe seated at a window bar that faced towards a patio, and this couple was sitting next to each other and were having THE most slow, passionate caressing/making out session. Like the kind where they’re just sort of brushing their faces against each other while his hand was going really far up her leg before they finally, slooowwwwly kiss. It honestly was as disturbing as if they were just having sex in front of me. That was too much.
    But, I am fairly touchy, and I express my love that way. Now that I’ve been married for 3.5 years, I’m not as touchy with my husband in public as I used to. You just get used to being around each other. But it still happens. A snuggle, a goodbye kiss. We always hold hands. It feels sweet, like we’re dating again. And I like seeing my couple friends feel comfortable in that way. It’s like seeing another, sweeter side of my friends.

  • BarbieBush

    omg I love pda. I am always jealous of people sweaty making out on the subway!!

  • Aydan

    I love slight PDA, which maybe defeats the purpose– but the quick kiss on the corner before you leave each other, the hand on the lower back as you’re walking (SEXIEST THING ONE CAN DO IN MY OPINION, as long as I’m on the receiving end), etc. those are the types of PDAs I love.

  • Not to be a complete bummer on this thread, but I was sexually assaulted a few months ago, and now when I walk through my neighborhood (I live in a city, downtown), I see men walk up to put their arms around womxn and I immediately get jumpy. I suppose it’s just residual from what happened to me but, my point is PDA used to gross me out and now it kinda freaks me out.

    • Holl

      I hope that one day soon you are able to go back to just feeling grossed out x

    • Alexandra Queiroz

      I do hope you’re soon able to leave such a tough experience behind you! I’m not sure whether or not you’re into astrology, but the full moon tomorrow is supposed to bring healing energy to all aspects of life.

    • prairie dogs

      Just writing to send some good vibes your way. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

  • V

    Growing up bisexual in a slightly right leaning suburb, all my girlfriends were very afraid of PDA– and so was I, for good reason. When I kissed my first girlfriend outside of the movies (/in public!) for the first time I was terrified of who saw, but I also (paradoxically) didn’t give a single shit. I don’t expect anyone to do the same, but I always have considered PDA an act of bravery and freedom– regardless of sexuality but also especially in marginalized couples. So, PDA wise, people can do what they please, and if they please to: Kudos!

  • I am also very a touchy feely person with those whom I love (not strangers, or even acquaintances I promise!) My close friends, family members, and my husband. I’m always grabbing a hand, hugging, holding, touching, LOL. Writing it out makes me sound creepy, but I am pro physical affection for sure. My mom was very affectionate and hands on with my sister and I growing up, and perhaps thats where it came from. When it comes to tongues out, bums out in the street however, I ain’t about all that. ‘Get a room’, as the classic saying goes. I too have friends, however who have been with their partners for years, and you may not be able to tell that they were even together in public, just based on the lack of affection they show each other. No hand holding, no playful touching, no slap on the butt (Who doesn’t love a good slap on the butt, come on)

    • Helen

      Butt slaps 4eva

  • Jolie

    Like your friend, I was grossed out by other people’s PDA before I started dating guys who were into it. I’ve always been a touchy, physically affectionate person, but until I was around 22 I hadn’t dated anyone else who was really touchy in public.

    My last few partners have been the kind of people who will have a full-on makeout session wherever they are, who have seemed so into me that the excessive PDA is forgivable. I don’t mind other people’s PDA anymore because it reminds me of the guys who have loved it.

  • Kelsey Moody

    In Boston’s 50 degree pouring rain and wind storm yesterday a couple that was NOT dressed for the weather insisted on holding hands in front of me. I dont care about PDA at all but this just seemed cumbersome, unnecessary, cold and like a better time for pockets– they were wet, jackets flung askew, and frankly, didnt seem comfortable! USE YOUR HEADS PEOPLE


  • starryhye

    My knee-jerk reaction to seeing PDA is disgust. Which I recognize and try to delve into the “why?”. Perfect example: last weekend I was in Las Vegas. While walking through the Palazzo, there was an older couple doing the slow, sensual make out. The guy was stroking the woman’s hair and they would stop and gaze into each others eyes. Barf city, right!?! But right after I thought that, I also thought, “I hope me and Mr. Hye are that lovey dovey in 30 years!” My husband and I are less likely to go for the public make out, but we do hold hands or rub shoulders/back. Little gestures that are less for the public and more for each other 🙂

  • Spanky

    On PDA that involves fluid exchange: somehow spit-swapping takes things from sweet to sexual. Sexy PDA is DISTRACTING, it’s like our animal nature for our ears to tune-in to every last sloppy smack of lips. I have a set of friends who will stop to straight-up make-out in the middle of a walk or dinner party, and I gotta say, they BRING OTHERS INTO IT when they cross the “fluid-exchange line” in a group setting. It feels like they don’t care about my consent, and I haven’t ever felt like “participating” when this has occurred.

  • Shweghna Gursahaney

    My ex boyfriend was too much into PDA. It’s like 90% of the time, that’s all he did. I somehow felt that I couldn’t interact with my friends openly, with my ex boyfriend breathing and kissing on my face or neck all the time. Damn suffocating!

  • Sofie

    From being single for all these years I do think I have become quite sinical towards public displays of affecton. But I also think would not enjoy a make out session in the middle of the street, I’d be deeply uncomfortable.. 😀

  • I don’t mind holding hands, hugging, and quick kisses in public. I think french kissing in public is a little disturbing. It kinda grosses me out when I see people french-ing in public. I mean, sometimes it can be romantic, but 99% of the time it’s not – at least that’s my POV! 😉

  • Helen

    My boyfriend hates hand holding. I adore it. I feel an illogical pang of sadness every time I try to hold his hand.

    • Haley Nahman

      Doesn’t sound illogical 🙁

    • Adrianna

      Deal breaker! Both my boyfriend and I remember when and where we first held hands. I thought it was some sort of cheesy sign that our hands fit perfectly. We still hold hands all the time five years later

    • Emily

      MINE TOO! so annoying. what’s the big deal?!

      • Helen

        I try to see it from his point of view but I can’t because HAND HOLDING IS JUST LOVELY

    • Hayley

      I’m the opposite. My perspective is that I feel like my arm motion is limited (if we’re walking) and I really dislike that feeling. I also don’t like having my hand get sweaty in someone else’s hand. Just thinking about sweaty hands is skeeving me out at my desk.

  • Pterodactyl111

    I think intense PDA is rude. But like a quick kiss goodbye, holding hands, etc is fine.

  • ihaveacooch

    i saw this could FURIOUSLY making out with each other at a restaurant the other night. i know i should have been kind of grossed out but i was sort of jealous? kind of like wow i wish i felt that way about someone.

  • Lauren Helen

    Other than the excessive options like making out in the Starbucks line, Im all for PDA but wish it wasn’t laced with so much fear for LGBTQ+ folk. I’ve been with my girlfriend for three years and I can count the number of times we’ve held hands in public on one hand. I would love to be able to stroll through the park or kiss her goodbye when I get on a bus to go out of town but it just doesn’t feel safe.

  • I’m very much pro PDA! I’d rather see people drunkenly, lovingly making out outside a bar than drunkenly fighting outside said bar. When I used to sit on my ex’s lap in public people would feel uncomfortable, and I never understood how love could be said in the same breath as uncomfortable.

  • Mya Patel

    if the next thing the couple says to each other has even the slightest chance of being ‘when was the last time we/you got tested/’ I am not okay with being subjected to it on my coffee run.

  • Adardame

    I have a hard time not staring at PDA. I try to be polite, but it’s not something I see every day. My opinion on it changes depending on how close I feel to my spouse on a given day. Also, I don’t want to see something that would be hard to explain to my kids.

  • Emily

    I think mine stems from having a bad break up, where seeing couples doing PDA nearly sent me over the edge.. I don’t mind holding hands, but I just think there’s a time and place for full on PDA, and its in private? I definitely acknowledge that my view is jealousy related, as my boyfriend won’t even hold my hand in public!

    holding hands, peck on the cheek, fine. everything else- NAH MATE

  • Venia K

    I love PDA. I love to see it and do it. The world is so cold and I find affection to be refreshing. Especially love seeing the old couples. When I sit on my man’s lap, I feel the safest: protected. And when we are together, I want to be myself. I don’t want to have to wait until we’re alone to touch and kiss. Love isn’t a dirty deed that should be kept secret

  • I hate witnessing other people’s PDA if it’s very romantic/sexual. Being sweet holding hands, heads on shoulders, quick kisses, etc is all fine and dandy with me, but when you start making out I get real uncomfy. I especially hate listening to people kissing?! It feels way too intrusive to me and actually makes me feel faintly sick. I’m sure part of it is being from a family that’s not affectionate and feeling like if someone saw/heard me in the situation I would feel like they were intruding on my privacy.

    That being said, I have been known to have good-bye make out sessions with men on the sidewalk occasionally.

  • May

    I think my hatred for PDA came when I was a child, waiting at a busy, human infested traffic light, excited (as any seven year old child would be….) to press the button in rapid succession with determination that it would make the green man appear faster, only to look up to find a couple having a full on make-out session, very intense. I suppose something came quicker than usual, but it wasn’t the green man. How charming. Or maybe it has something to do with growing up in a strict, Asian household. Or maybe it just makes me feel a pang of loneliness. Either one.

  • Avaree Vowell

    I used to barf at the sight of PDA until I got a boyfriend of my own :/ now I know.

  • Lisa

    hmmmm I don’t really like to be touched without being ok with it beforehand/can see it coming (ex. if i see you coming at me with a hug and you’re alright i’m fine; but if you tap my shoulder from behind to let me know you’re there when i’m not even wearing headphones, or constantly bump into my side or touch my arm for some reason or the other i will flip my shit just a little on the inside) but I know others are different. When I see PDA it honestly just makes me feel a bit sad and cynical, reminded of what i don’t have. I don’t have trouble believing that some other single people feel the same way, even when i find someone i will still remember that feeling and be aware of those around me’s feelings.

  • Serena

    I don’t like it either, but I think for other reasons. I find that oftentimes, it’s used as a way to be a territorial, which is why it bothers me.
    Arm around waist = “She’s mine.”
    Kiss on the lips = “Don’t even think about it” to other girls
    In general PDA between strangers almost never offends me, but between people I know in front of people they know, it does irk me. If it makes others feel uncomfortable, it comes across as indulgent and unnecessary.
    Call me a hater… 🙂

  • Clairebear

    Not a PDA person, ew. What are you trying to prove? Of all PDAs sitting on laps is the worst…. I think, “Have you been a good girl this year? Santa has a present for you!” Ick.