Alexis Dent
December 04, 2016 12:43 pm
Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Public displays of affection, commonly referred to as PDA, are perhaps one of the most polarizing topics when we talk about relationships. Some people love holding hands and literally cannot keep their hands off one another, while others think any public display of affection is gross. A new study breaks down why some people like PDA and others don’t. And there might even be a benefit from public canoodling.  (We know, we were surprised too.)

The Journal of Sex Research looked into what they call “the performative art of making out.” Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like. Many couples report engaging in PDA purely for the performative aspect of what the PDA might say about them to onlookers. Researches at the University of Kansas asked 349 primarily straight people ages 17-35 about their engagement in public displays of affection.

The definition of PDA for the purposes of this study was “kissing on the mouth, with or without the use of tongues, and fondling breasts and buttocks.” So yeah, there goes that who performative making out thing again. Since the definition of PDA was super specific and explicitly excluded some of the more innocent forms of PDA like hugs and hand-holdings, that could explain why less than half of the study’s respondents said they hadn’t engaged in public displays of affection.

In fact, just 37 percent of men and 32 percent of women had made out in public, and the motives for such performative PDA were primarily related to status. According to the study, the number one reason people showed PDA was “to enhance their image or status by proving they were capable of making out with a particular person.” Since the audience for this study was primarily heterosexual, the reasons for PDA were highly gender dependent as well.

The guys in the study reported wanting to look like “bros.” whereas the women in the study typically wanted to kiss for men’s entertainment or to incite jealousy in exes or other women. Besides status enhancement, other reasons for PDA included the desire for a person to share their love with the world or enjoy the taboo nature of the public display. And for others, they simply didn’t care that they were in public —the P in PDA was totally irrelevant.

So, what exactly are the benefits of those who are into the performative art of making out? Apparently, happier relationships. If you and your boo are into PDA, there’s a good chance your relationship is more likely to last.

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