Thursday, September 22, 2011

Public displays of affection - should they be illegal?

Believe it or not that is an actual discussion going on.
A  couple of weeks ago I was at Mass and the family directly in front of me - mom, dad, and their young adult boy, were sitting quietly waiting for Mass to begin when a middle aged woman came up and slid into their pew.  They were directly in front of me so I couldn't help but notice them.  The woman kept rubbing the back of the young man while they all greeted one another, and continued to do so while she spoke to the young man and seemed to praise him to his parents.  I have no idea what her relationship was to the family, but what struck me about the scene, was the obvious charity, or affection demonstrated by the woman's caresses.  I tried to mind my own business, but I couldn't help being edified by it, and strangely enough, the scene reminded me of the affection one might show a dog, leashed to a fence outside the grocery store - waiting for its owner.  I've often seen strangers walk over and talk to the dog, rubbing his back and so on.  In neither circumstance would I ever imagine something evil.  I would never have suspected the older woman to be a sexual predator, just as I would never suggest that a man rubbing the back of a dog was interested in bestiality.
I worked with a guy once who wanted to file a complaint about another older female employee who used to rub his shoulder as she walked by and said hello whenever she went to her place in the lunch room.  The fellow believed she was coming on to him (She was about 60 years old, while he was most likely in his late 20's).  The woman reported to me so I asked her about it.  She laughed so hard she got tears in her eyes.  She of course explained she is just a touchy feely type of gal and that she was very sorry.  I thought the situation was ridiculous, but I had to speak to her about it.  The same guy had problems with the owner of the company's very attractive, fashionable daughter who also worked there.  He complained that her clothes were too tight - mentioning that women shouldn't wear pants, and therefore she presented a daily occasion of sin for him.  He and another male employee speculated after she had been married for a year and she had no children, that she must be contracepting.  The two men felt that it was a scandal.  Any couple without kids were suspected of contracepting BTW.  (I worked for a Catholic company.)

When I was little I was concerned for my entire family to be saved - because no one went to church, the conversion of my family became the main focus of my prayer.  Once my grandfather was in the hospital and I went to see him by myself.  He was an artist as well, but he had no time for religion, although he liked to talk about faith.  I asked him why he didn't go to church.  He told me I was still too young to understand this, but he tried to explain that the reason was due to the fact that all people did was talk about one another afterwards.  "Go to church on Sunday, but watch out on Monday."  He objected to the gossip and judgemental attitudes he found there:  What so and so wore, who was having marital problems, who was a drunk, who was kind of queer, and so on.  He was right of course, but I didn't let it bother me then, and I try not to let it bother me now.  I know all too well that it goes on, but I don't go to Mass or adoration or confession for other people and though I say I don't care what they think, I have to admit they really piss me off sometimes.  I try to keep my distance however.
There is a wide discussion online these days about public displays of affection between same sex couples/friends.  The woman who more or less initiated the discussion has been unfairly attacked by militant homosexuals, and yet very much praised by Catholic apologists.  The other evening while watching the news I viewed a gay military couple kissing - not passionately, just a peck on the lips - to celebrate the repeal od DADT.  I too actually find watching two men kiss a bit jarring.  I'm not a hugger or a kisser myself, and I sometimes dislike it when old friends want a hug or a kiss from me - even if they are relatives.  I think it may have something to do with my weird parents and their drunken, slobbery kisses - not to mention their mothers, my grandmothers were just as bad.  I don't think people realize how scary it is for a kid to see this great big clown face coming at you to kiss you on the lips.  So gross.

But I digress.  My question is, what constitutes public acts of affection?  Rubbing someones back?  A hug?  Holding hands during the Our Father at Mass.  The sign of peace?  What about two women dancing, or holding hands as they walk?  My in laws are Italian descent, and the girls in the family do that sometimes - their dads kissed their brothers on the lips.  There are all sorts of public displays of non-erotic affection - how does one regulate that?  Once I was gropped on a Boston subway, I didn't know who did it.  I was so offended, and that was obviously bad touching.  I had just arrived in Boston when in another situation I passed by two guys walking arm and arm down the street.  Yep - I was shocked too - having just arrived from little monastery on the prairie and all.  But that was 30 years ago.  It has been going on for a long time, hasn't it? 
A couple of doors down from me two women live together.  My neighbor told me they were lesbians and she witnessed them making out in their back yard.  I always talk to them whenever I'm out front and they are walking their dogs.  So I asked them about it.  They were totally shocked, looked at one another and said in unison, "What?  We would never do that!"  The only thing they could figure out is that earlier in the year one of the women had suffered some bad news one day and the other ran out to meet her as she arrived home, giving her a hug in support and then they walked into the house together.  One of them just might have had her arm around the other's shoulder.
So my question here:  How do you define and legislate public displays of affection? 
"If we could see each other's thoughts, no one would be considered good." - Saint Stephen of Muret


  1. Public displays of affection that come from heartfelt emotions is generally acceptable.

    Displays between two people that make apparent their sexual preferences (Homosexual or Heterosexual) should not be on public display.

    I have people touch me all the time; just not there, of course.

    A young girl once blew her sweetie a kiss from across the room, and the reply from everyone that saw it was, "We hope you got enough of those for the rest of us!"

    Decent displays of affection should not be a problem.

    The trads I go to Mass with have a big problem with women wearing tight clothes.

    I don't think this is normal thinking.

    Haven't these people been to a ballet?

    What are they thinking when they see gymnasts?

    I think if you can actually see where her children would come from, or where she would nurse them, a woman needs to dress better.

    I love it when a woman touches me, even in passing.

    There is just something about the sweet hands of a woman that reminds me of our Holy Mother.


  2. It's next to impossible, I imagine, outside of school situations. We can stress appropriate behavior in a particular venue, but what exactly constitutes a "PDA" is too difficult to define and then, of course, the topic turns into a culture-wars showdown with heterosexuals thinking it's fine for them but not for gay couples, and gay couples (rightfully so) pointing out the hypocrisy of Christians. Sometimes I think the people who mean well are the ones who fan the fires of strife the most.

    We all know when we see something that's going too far, but most people are not offended by a sweet kiss or hand-holding. At least I hope not. I find sweet expressions of affection quite life-affirming and uplifting.

    There are always people who are going to read the most negative thing possible into the most innocent of PDAs. You can't create laws to cater to them. The thing about God is He always takes you out of your comfort zone. Maybe they're the ones who need to look their uglier inclinations in the face and deal with them.

    Folks do need to lighten up a bunch. Really. Everything on the planet is not about you, and sometimes God allows things you personally don't like to happen for someone else's benefit.

  3. This is almost too funny to get into, as your photos show.

    Someone brought this up on Msgr Charles Pope's blog at the Archdiocese of Washington website. It was pointed out that it's only in the modern West that we see all of these signs of affection as inherently sexual. Boys and men hold hands in Arab countries, girls dance with each other in all cultures, boys dance together in Africa, a kiss, even on the lips, can mean a lot in different places (ever seen the photo of Gorbachev and Honecker?), etc., etc., etc.

    Also, I think it points out that signs of innocent affection, or just affection in general, have been lost between members of the same sex in our culture, since it is all assumed to be "gay". This is why things like the "bro hug" and all that even exist.

  4. Msgr. Pope also pointed out that even certain opposite sex signs of romantic affection, such as hand-holding, and arm around the shoulder, etc., though they may in some way point to the marital embrace, are not in any way to be considered obscene. I seem to remember reading Fr. Hardon making fun of the fact that Puritans were afraid to kiss their wives in public. (And no, I don't mean making out, just a nice, classy, romantic, kiss on the lips between spouses)

    This reminds me of one of the crazier "Ask an Apologist" questions I read on the CA forums. Some guy wrote in and asked if it was okay to hug his wife during the sign of peace, and the apologist went off on a rant about how this was entirely inappropriate, since the sign of peace should be a sign you show to everyone, not a special sign for your wife/kids, etc. and something else for everyone else.

    She also said it was inappropriate because it points to the marital embrace, presumably reminding people of sex. I never used to think of couples having sex when I saw them hug, or when I saw a man with his arm around his wife's shoulder. But now I do. Thanks, Catholic Answers!

    (For the record, I hug my mom and dad and my sister, and when I was married I hugged my wife AND gave her a peck on the cheek!)

  5. I was dating a Greek-American fellow for awhile, and had the priviledge of meeting his extended family..he was one of 17 from a good Greek Orthodox my family is affectionate but not overly so...but WOW after meeting the boyfriends family I felt like I had been practically assaulted (in a good way :)

    Also great grandma thought I had good children bearing hips and asked me in front of everyone (she was a bit hard of hearing so had a really LOUD voice) why I wasn't pregnant yet...i politely told her it was because we weren't married..and she basically said that didn't stop about 5 couples in the room..such a sweet old lady..


  6. Funny you should bring this up. There is a young couple, appear to have been recently wed, who simply cannot keep their hands off each other at Mass. Not in a lewd way, but I hate sitting behind them because I always feel like a third wheel. There is always a lot of quiet whispering, nudging, back-rubbing and the like. It can also be distracting, even though they don't make any audible noise. Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky but sometimes I wish they'd save it until after Mass.

  7. Why the Young ... Can't think6:50 PM

    "...It's next to impossible, I imagine, outside of school situations. We can stress appropriate behavior in a particular venue.. - Sarah

    Man Arrested in Ohio for Having Sex with Pool Float in Public :: The Florida News Journal

    Cop arrested for having sex in public pool

    [Let's us not judge, because-go figure-gee whez how do we begin to discern, ya know]

    Quote from seattlepi article:

    "The bottom line: Just because the situation is sexualized doesn't mean it can't also be civilized. In other words, lock the bathroom door. Don't hold up the ladies'-room line. Keep sex and religion separate. And maybe think twice before calling in the vice squad..

    "Calling the cops on a couple for having sex in a bathroom is just silly," Davidson said. "It's uber-morality. What they're doing may be inappropriate, but what's really inappropriate is holding up the 7-Eleven..."

    ... oh and there is more examples, but it all reminds me of the bottom-line found in this article:

    Another quote from a celebrity Catholic blogger (LOL):
    May 24, 2011, at 10:22 AM, T Nelson wrote:

    "I seriously doubt people realize the incredible moral quagmire we are in. They dismiss so much as laughable aberration and ignorance on the part of the news makers, without grasping how deeply the young are deceived by everything happening - the process of deception portrayed and progressivism has been going on for decades, hence even well educated parents are deceived...."

    ... that is all folks ... bye bye

  8. People think I'm kidding when I say there should be signs at the airport and state line that say "Welcome to Minnesota, a No Touching Zone."

  9. Nan - it would be nice to have those signs at Mass.

    Little Way - there was a young couple at Mass at my parish doing that two weeks ago. I wasn't distracted though.

  10. Terry, I'm going to say 2 things here:

    1. You bring up things from your past and they tend to be the same things over and over. You say they don't bother you. OF COURSE THEY DO! My gosh, don't feed into the modern psychobable jedi-speak of "This doesn't bother you. You're totally healthy".If it didn't bother you, you wouldn't bring it up. All of us realize that this is the case - admit it! It bothers you and it SHOULD. It would be weird if it DIDN'T.

    2. On the lesbian thing: When I lived in Minneapolis, one night went out with friends & when the bar closed, one of them and I were amidst a great conversation. In order to continue it on the way to the parking garage, buffeted about by crowds, we put an arm around the other's shoulder so that we could continue to converse, mere chums.

    As we innocently walked along the crowded urban-after-bar sidewalk, we saw a guy about our age standing there, staring at us. Refusing to give ground, thinking him a perv, we continued our conversation, while holding our ground on the right side of the sidewalk with the movement of the crowds.

    He didn't move. We were forced to either stop or go around & the pressing crowds didn't allow us to go around. Confrontation ensued.

    "Are you Lesbians?" the red-haired freckled buck demanded, condescendedly disgusted like a troll on the bridge.

    My friend piped up something like, "What if we are?"

    We went around him, nothing more said. I was not comfortable in having someone think I'm gay, but then was my sexual orientation, practice or non-practice any of this guy's business? I was raised that some things belong behind closed doors!

    Neither of us claimed to be lesbians. The only accusation lobbed at us: YOU'RE GAY!


    He had no right to stand there blocking traffic. That was the point. He took an innocent conversation among friends and turned it into the worst assumption possible. The guy deserved the consequences of assuming the worst about us for eternity.

    But I can't forget him; because he's the guy 1st in line for Hell because he saw evil where there was only good.

    How many of us will stand there with him? We ALL do that EVERY DAY.

    He won his place in line assuming innocence was the gravest of sins. The rest of us do the same thing in different ways. help us see that with very colorful examples. Thanks.

  11. I think much of it has to do with culture. A while back I saw this documentary where these two guys from a very poor part in Africa immigrated here in the US. They didn't know how to use the toilet, open a can of soup, or use money etc. they had to learn these simple things we take for granted. Anyway, one of the things these two men did was hold hands when walking down the street. They couldn't understand why they were getting all these looks and stares. It had to be explained to them that here in America that kind of display of affection was considered something intimate and sexual, while from where they came from it was just a sign of friendship. I never forgot the look of bewilderment on their faces when this was explained to them...

  12. Wow - thanks for all the good comments on this subject.

  13. In all these posts that you have done on gay this and gay that Terry, I have never heard the word "love." Remember that feeling? Like being gay and being in love are mutually exclusive and never the twain shall meet.

    Are gay PDAs done to be militant or for demanding equal rights? Sometimes. Are they purely physical or sexual? Sometimes. But are they about love? Two people, regardless of their sex, who care deeply for or --love-- each other and want to show it, by holding hands, an arm around each other, a kiss, a stolen glance. If you're going to ban PDAs, then ban all PDAs for everyone.

    I am sick of hearing from people who "are against it" making homosexuality seem like it's all about militant battles for equal rights that are undeserved and will never happen, or unnatural disordered urges, and who never seemingly stop to think that it could just damn well be about LOVE.

    I'm against it!


  14. Alice2:59 PM

    I wandered over here from Cheeky Pink Girl when the first post about this was fresh. I guess my sister and I would scare Mrs. Trascanos away from the park and the pool and the grocery store because have been mistaken for a lesbian couple when we're out together. The fact that her son and my son are very close together in age and look very much alike while we look very different doesn't help. I still find it odd that people would assume we are among that fraction of a percent of same-sex attracted women who are raising children together as opposed to the much, much larger group of moms who enjoy each other's company. The funny thing is Mrs. Trascanos' is probably raising her daughters similarly to the way our parents raised us (sheltered, no TV, homeschooled, etc.).

  15. How exactly does one ask one's lesbian neighbors whether they have been PDA'ing in their backyard? :-/


  16. My blog administrator took me out for breakfast -at a grocery store, hahahaha and after breakfast, I kissed him goodbye- very modestly and thanked him for the breakfast. We forgot we were in public for a second and he slapped me on the um... butt and said your welcome. I was stunned and horrified. He promptly apoligized and I tried to get out of the store as quickly as possible.

    I consider myself a spiritual daughter of Padre Pio, though I don't know what Pio considers me, I thought Ohhh, I hope he didn't see that! hahahahahaha

  17. Gette - that is easy - I talk to them whenever I see them - so I just asked them straight out. I can be kinda direct sometimes.


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