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The Problem with Public Displays of Affection
Mom with a View

The Problem with Public Displays of Affection

Constant PDAs cheapen intimacy.


At West Point the cadets are forbidden to engage in PDA's – public displays of affection, for those of you who aren't as cool as me. Okay, there is one exception – on Flirtation Walk (don't ask me to explain it; I can't) but otherwise it's taboo.

Prince William and Kate are also prohibited from similar public expressions of affection at any formal or ceremonial events. If they are out privately it's permitted (although still frequently captured on film by enterprising paparazzi!). And Jewish law also reserves physical demonstrations of affection for the private arena, not the public one.

To some, all of these institutions are relics of the past, built on values that either seem (or seemed – again, I am updating!) no longer relevant. Yet I would argue that in an era where physical affection is devalued and exploited this is more necessary than ever. It’s a sad observation but it seems to be frequently true that public expressions of love can often substitute or mask the private deprivation of love. Unfortunately many of us can cite cases we know where a marriage/anniversary was celebrated on Facebook in appropriately gushy fashion, only to discover two days later that the unhappy couple was getting a divorce.

Things that are private and closely guarded remain more special to us – like jewels hidden away in a safe.

Constant PDAs cheapen intimacy – not just for the couple in question but for all of us. They confuse us and they coarsen us. They take something precious, something unique, something that bonds a husband wife alone and make it part of the public sphere and public discourse.

This flies in the face of our desire, as expressed in the Sheva Brachot at a wedding to be Iike Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the only two people in the world with only eyes for each other.

If I have a good relationship, not only do I not want to share it, to dilute it by letting anyone else in, but I don't need to affirm it by Facebook posts and tweets. I don't need anyone else's approval to tell me it's good. Only my (in my case) husband’s approval counts. And only his unhappiness as well. (What would it accomplish if my friends think I have a good relationship but I really don’t?)But if I don't feel secure in my relationship, then I put it out there for my "friends" to "like". Is that really reassuring? Does that really help me appreciate my spouse?

Keeping our affection hidden adds dignity to our relationship.

When I wrote about the fences Mike Pence puts around his relationship, I got a lot of flak. As did the VP online. He was accused of objectifying women. I think recent events have demonstrated the opposite. His strategy is the most respectful of women, and of the marital relationship – and not the opposite.

We can all make small choices in favor of making our most important and private and intimate of relationships exactly that. Although many of our adolescents may gag when they see their parents being affectionate and although it may be the hint of sexuality that “grosses them out”, they are on to something. We need to teach them other ways of demonstrating caring, ways that are revealing about our affection and our desire to giving – but not too revealing! If we run to help our spouse with parcels, to express joy when they walk in the door, to make their favorite dinner or buy them a special book or make them coffee in the morning and tea at night, our children will know. And, frankly, no one else needs to.

Keeping our affection hidden adds dignity to our relationship. It reminds us how important that is.

And as we work on keeping our relationship more private instead of more public, we will discover that our relationship is enhanced by taking it off Facebook, not diminished. Try it and let me know. Just think of yourself as royalty.

October 29, 2017

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 7

(4) Mike, November 5, 2017 1:56 PM

Good Article

I agree with Mrs Braverman. I have never been comfortable with PDA, I find that public cuddling and smooching is often done for show in front of friends. Like the lady at work who gets the gigantic box of chocolate on Valentines Day--"Look everyone, look how much he adores me". It's all for show and often makes others feel jealous. What is the point. As for Facebook, it is no good! It's like publishing your personal life in a newspaper. It does more harm than good. I have seen arguments break out over what someone posted on Facebook. It fuels discontent among friends, leads to gossip (lashon harah) and encourages voyeurism. As for Mike Pence, he is 100% on target. I have supervised both men and women at work. When I meet with any employee I leave the curtains open so anyone can look directly into my office and I never, ever go to lunch alone with a female coworker. If certain feminist woman (or men) have a problem with that they can go jump in a lake. I don't have to justify anything. My 32 year marriage is proof that I am right.

(3) Anonymous, November 3, 2017 3:53 AM

Facebook was started as a mass-security tool

Interestingly, as far as I understand, Facebook was started as a mass-security tool for college campuses to communicate with their students in case of a terrorist suspect on the grounds. Matters such as that must have a quick announcement strategy. However, as we understand from teh article, tere is a major difference between such matters and affection, so one mast take into account what a tool is being use for. I wodul like to add

(2) Nancy, October 30, 2017 11:44 AM

You have addressed two different issues

Re: Mike Pence. He and you received flak because there are shades of gray here. It is perfectly acceptable for him to meet with a business woman for lunch in a cafeteria/coffee shop, etc. It is NOT acceptable for him to create a fence that excludes women in the workplace. Re: PDA. I agree with you 100% here. Unfortunately when we tell all on Facebook, we are engaging in a type of PDA.

Shoshana-Jerusalem, October 31, 2017 5:35 PM

should not be acceptable

Many relationships that have destroyed families and lives have started in the workplace. If it's absolutely necessary to have lunch together and there is no other way, then there should certainly be other men or women present. Some people have become so obsessed to what they call "equality of women" that they are ready to sacrifice anything for it. Like the fire that people used to throw their children into in order to worship an idol.

Eliav, October 31, 2017 5:41 PM

shades of gray...

Those shades of gray are precisely what gets people in trouble. Because once you are dealing with shades, the hues can blend and shift, and before you know it you're the next politician/movie star/athlete/clergyman in the news for messing up. VP Pence is making the smart move - the move advocated by Jewish Wisdom for millenia - and staying away from the sort of gray areas that inevitably lead to disaster.

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