A couple kissing in the forest. Silhouette art. Display of affection

When I used to watch TV with my family, my father always had to feel the weight of the remote control in his hand for no reason but to switch to another channel in case there was an intimate scene being displayed. He would wait for several seconds to ensure that the scene would have been over by the time he switched back to the movie channel. One night, I remember we were all watching a movie when there suddenly was a kissing scene; but alas! My poor father could not remember where he left the remote control, and it was funny seeing him scrambling to find it — to no avail. The kissing scene went on until it was over, and my father’s mission to preserve his children’s decency failed that night! Today, we are going to talk about public display of affection in real life instead of the movies.

In real life, we are affectionate towards not only our romantic partners, but also towards our families, friends and even people we meet for the first time if we hit it off immediately with them. However, why do we not think of displaying affection to our friends and families in public as public display of affection? Does this mean that there is more than one version of public affection? Does the ”affection” label even suit the nature of such acts? Why does the law criminalise some of them as lewd and indecent to do in public? Is this because some body parts are more sexual than others in the eyes of the law? Is this the right way to look at it?

Let us answer all these questions and see which conclusions our questioning brings us to.

Why does public display of affection to our families not count?

A daughter kissing her mother. Is it public display of affection or not?

Society believes that public display of affection only concerns couples. This can mean two things:

  • The definition of affection depends on the nature of the relationship between two people

  • There are two versions of affection: one for our romantic partners and the other for our friends and families.

Affection is dependent on the nature of the relationship

If society thinks of public display of affection as a couples’ thing, it means that it considers affection to be exclusively of romantic nature. This is not only biased, but downright false. We can feel strongly affectionate towards our friends and families, and it could feel as real as the affection we feel towards our romantic partners.

There are two versions of affection

If society does recognise that affection can exist outside the scope of romantic relationships, it would imply that there are two versions of affection in public: one is PDA and the other is non-PDA.

This does not make any sense because affection is the same feeling. We do not have affection A and affection B. Why would we try splitting hairs? If we do insist on differentiating between ”couple affection” and ”friends and family affection”, we should give them different names. For the first, public display of sexuality (PDS) would be a perfect fit.

Public display of sexuality, not affection

Why is public display of sexuality a perfect fit? First, kissing on the mouth is a sexual act. We do not kiss our friends and families on the mouth, do we? Even if we do kiss them, it is on the cheek. That is affection. Kissing on the mouth is also the hallmark of the so-called public display of affection. Just google the phrase and you will see that ninety-nine percent of the pictures display couples kissing. Therefore, society believes that public display of affection only concerns relationships of sexual nature. However, as we already said, why would we have the same word (affection) for apparently two ”versions” of it (PDA and non-PDA) instead of coming up with more convenient words for each of them?

An orange is not an orange apple, it is an orange.

Now that this is out of the way, let us see why public display of sexuality is not considered public indecency.

Public display of affection or public indecency?

Lipstick mark on banana

Why does public display of sexuality not fall under public indecency? To answer this question, we will first have to define public indecency.

Definition of public indecency

The definition of public indecency varies from one country to another. In this article, we are going to take the United States as a case study.

According to Criminal Defense Lawyer, “Indecency” or “lewdness” usually includes an element of lustful or sexual indulgence on the part of the defendant. For example, engaging in sexual intercourse in a public place definitely satisfies this requirement. Other public sexual acts may also fall within the definition of lewd or indecent behavior (…) But merely kissing in public probably does not.

In some states like Texas, any touching of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of another person with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person in public is a sexual offense. The law can treat such cases as disorderly conduct if they lack intent to shock, offend, or arouse.

So, why are couples not going to jail for kissing in public?

According to the law, criminality is a matter of degree, not nature, because both kissing and having sex are sexual. However, should we really see it that way? Should the law decide the criminality of sexual acts in public on a degree basis, or on something else?

Let us go back to the legal definition again to expose its nonsensical logic. We are going to dismantle it piece by piece.

It is about the nature, not degree, of the act

  • ‘’Generally speaking, “Indecency” or “lewdness” usually includes an element of lustful or sexual indulgence on the part of the defendant (…) But merely kissing in public probably does not.’’

Excuse me, is kissing not sexually indulgent? If the law does not consider kissing as sexual, why does it consider sex as such? Just because the acts in question are different does not change their nature: sexual. If sex in public is indecent, so should kissing and all other acts of sexual nature.

You may say that kissing is not the same as having sex; that the first is less sexual than the second. Well, touching the genitals and breasts in public is also less sexual than having sex in public, is it not? So, why is touching the genitals and breasts criminalised?

Does that mean that body parts are the main factor in determining which acts are indecent and which are not? Or, more specifically, are some body parts more sexual than others; and so the ‘’more sexual’’ the body part is, the more indecent it will be in the eyes of the law?

Apparently, this is exactly what Texas believes.

Or is it about specific body parts?

  • ”Any touching of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of another person with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person in public is a sexual offense.”

So, the anus, breast and genitals are the big deal. It is about specific body parts. The more sexual they are, the more likely they are to be indecent.  

Are some body parts really more sexual than others? What logic does the law base such claims on?

In the next section, we will expose the fragility of such big assumptions. We will answer the above questions and prove why the law is deeply flawed in linking criminality with certain body parts while giving other parts a free pass.

Are some body parts really more sexual than others?

Naked woman lying on the grass. Half of her body is covered by leaves and flowers.

Why does the law treat body parts like the anus, breasts, and genitals as more sexual than others? The only reasons I can possibly think of are:

  • They are the parts without which intercourse, as the ‘’most indecent’’ sexual act, cannot be achieved.

  • They are the parts that lead to sexual gratification 

Let us examine both of these possibilities individually.

Assossiating indecency with instrumentality in intercourse

If the law prohibits touching certain body parts based on the role they play in intercourse, why would touching breasts in public be considered sexual or indecent? Breasts have nothing to do with intercourse. Based on this logic, breasts are feeding, not sexual, organs. Females feed offspring with them. Same goes for the mouth. We feed with it.

Since both the breasts and the mouth fulfil the same function (feeding) and play no role in intercourse, why is kissing in public okay and touching breasts is not? Also, why is it okay for males to show their chest area in public while it is not so for females? Is it because males cannot feed offspring with their breasts? But then, even in states like Texas, it is okay for females to flash their chest area when they are breastfeeding their babies. Does this mean that body parts should only be shown in public when fulfilling their natural purpose? Then again, the mouth’s natural purpose is to feed, and it follows as a logical conclusion that it should only be used in public when eating – or talking.

If intercourse and the genitals that materialise it are the benchmark against which we determine indecency, touching breasts and kissing in public should be spared criminality.

Assossiating indecency with the most sexually gratifying body parts

While the genitals are the parts mostly associated with sexual gratification, they are not the only parts that can cause it. This is what the law assumes.

People find different body parts attractive to varying degrees; and to many a soul, the genitals do not even top the list. Fetishism is an excellent example of this. People with strong fetishes can achieve gratification without touching or even thinking about the genitals.

Some psychiatrists make the same mistake as law makers in considering body parts like feet as non-sexual. If people can achieve gratification by touching body parts like feet, why they should not be treated as sexual is beyond my human understanding.

If someone with a foot fetish can achieve gratification in public and get away with it, why can’t a fetish-less person achieve the same through intercourse? True justice would be either criminalising touching any body part that can achieve gratification, or doing the complete opposite and allowing literally everything.

No ⁠— if the law decriminalises all forms of sexual acts in public between consenting adults, the world will not suddenly turn into a massive-scale porn movie; just like if we decriminalise murder, people will not suddenly start killing each other.

People do have an inherent sense of morality, and breaking society’s code of ‘’decency’’ is so much more unforgiving than a prison sentence sometimes.

My opinion on public display of affection and indecency

Couple kissing under the stars. Display of affection in the outdoors.

I find it hypocritical that the law criminalises some public display of ”affection” acts while giving others a free pass. Criminalising touching breasts in particular is beyond me. What is the big deal about touching breasts? If I can flash my chest area in public as a man, why can a woman not do the same? If a woman can lay her hand on my chest in public, why can I not lay mine on hers? I fail to understand why these attitudes still exist at a time when a lot of people would like to think that the world has become more progressive.

As for kissing, it is as sexual as intercourse. Kissing is the very first stage of intercourse, and doing it in public is like waving a condom and shouting ”hear the beating of the sex drums!”

Mind you, I am not against kissing in public. Quite the opposite. I also believe that people should have the freedom to have sex in the outdoors — just not in the heart of a train station or plaza.

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