Public displays of affection are equivalent to dogs peeing on fire hydrants to mark their territory, according to a 2017 study from the Journal of Sex Research.
Most men who participated in the study said that the satisfaction of PDA didn’t come from the interaction itself, but rather, from showing off their perceived superiority over other males. Essentially, public displays of affection are animalistic — it is a response to hormones and instinct, grounded in the biological desire to outperform other males. PDA is not love; it’s affectation, not affection.
And it really needs to stop.
For a conservative college, Hillsdale has its fair share of students who are more than comfortable displaying their affection in public: cuddling on couches in the union, sitting on each other’s laps in the Knorr Family Dining Room, making out in booths in AJ’s Cafe or in the study rooms in the library, and — as if it could get any worse — nuzzling in class.
Spending time alone in a dorm room with a person of the opposite sex seems to be looked down upon at Hillsdale for various reasons — even when students abide by the established visiting hours. But perhaps PDA demonstrates a deeper lack of morality: If individuals must resort to public displays of affection, perhaps they believe they cannot practice self-restraint in private.
Further, those who display affection in public demonstrate a lack of social awareness and an ignorance of others’ comfort. They either do not know they are making others uncomfortable, or they do not care. Both are equally disrespectful — and cringeworthy.
A peck on the cheek — or, dare I say, even a quick kiss on the lips — is okay. I’d admit, it’s even a little cute. But long smooches, rubbing noses, massaging, cuddling, and running one’s fingers through another person’s hair in public is inconsiderate.
This comes down to being conscientious of others, which extends far past public displays of affection. It’s about being aware of your surroundings and acting appropriately given the time and location. It’s about thinking before you act, and putting other people’s rights to be comfortable in their surroundings before your desires.
Our education at Hillsdale College is grounded in studying the true, the good, and the beautiful. Because PDA is rooted in animalistic instinct, displaying affection in public dehumanizes both oneself and one’s partner. It is not good or beautiful.
If the Honor Code applies to what goes on behind my bedroom door, then it applies to what goes on up the hill. Public displays of affection are not honorable in conduct, nor are they respectful of the rights of others. Don’t display affection in public, and practice proper self-governance in private.
Love is patient. It’s affectionate. And it can wait for visiting hours.
Alexis Nester is a junior studying economics.