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Public Displays of Affection
Social Affection

Public Displays of Affection
  • Romeo ; Juliet; (by )
  • Kisses : Being a Poetical Translation of... (by )
  • Aphrodite, And Other Poems (by )
  • Kissing : The Art of Osculation, Curious... (by )
  • Kissing : Its Curious Bible Mentions (by )
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Each culture has its own social norms. A behavior or body gesture may be acceptable to one culture, but offensive to another. It’s wise to understand the cultural norms of those you’ll be interacting with in social settings, while conducting business, or when traveling. 

Each culture also has its own taboos and some come with hefty consequences. In the Arab culture, it’s improper for a person to show the soles of their feet. In Japan, tattoos are taboo because of their association with organized crime gangs called Yakuza. Tattoos are banned from hotsprings, public pools, and beaches. 

Public displays of affection (also referred to as “PDA”) are acts of physical intimacy such as kissing on the lips, holding hands, caressing/stroking, or cuddling in the view of other people. PDAs are acceptable in some parts of the world such as Brazil and Italy, but highly offensive in others. 

Many literary scenes highlight the act of kissing and other types of intimacy. In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare describes a kiss exchanged between lovers. He writes: 

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss. (p. 23)

In Kisses: Being a Poetical Translation of the Basia, Joannes Nicolai Secundus describes a blissful kissing scene. He writes: 

On ev’ry rose-bud that around him blow’d,
A thousand nectar’d Kisses she bestow’d.”
Furthermore, says “Thus, by her lips unnumber’d roses press’d,
Kisses, unfolding in sweet bloom, confess’d;
And, flush’d with rapture at each new-born kiss,
She felt her swelling soul o’erwhelm’d in bliss.” (p. 7)
While some kisses in literature are reserved for private settings, others are exchanged in clear view of others. Kissing and walking arm-in-arm is acceptable in many parts of Europe such as France, Spain, and Italy. 

In Aphrodite and Other Poems, John Helston writes: 

At that I made to answer; but she stopped
My mouth with many kisses for a space. 
I kissed her tender eyelids when they dropped,
That could not hide the longing in her face. (p 87)

In Kissing: The Art of Osculation, George J. Manson writes:

The kiss was, in process of time, used generally as a form of salutation in Rome where men testified their regard and the warmth of their welcome for each other chiefly by the number of their kisses.  (p. 2)

In other areas of the globe such as the Middle East, these acts can have severe consequences. In recent years, several couples have been arrested in Dubai for kissing in public. In Egypt, men can exhibit gestures of warmth with other men, and women with women, but intimate behavior between members of the opposite sex is not acceptable. 

Kissing was quite common in biblical times, too. In Kissing: Its Curious Bible Mentions, James Neil writes: “Kissing is mentioned no less than fifty times, which is much more often than it would be found in any solemn Western story of the same length.”(p. 3)

By Regina Molaro

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