PDA: The Next Generation

June 24, 2013

When you're at an event that's 95% straight men and women, the last thing you'd expect to see is two men being affectionate towards one another so openly. Or at least that's what I had come to believe. But there I was, in Dover, Delaware no less, where not one but several gay couples were holding hands, each other, and dancing affectionately with one another in a sea of heterosexuality. It was at the Firefly Music Festival where the atmosphere was decidedly young and fratty that my mind was blown at how these young gays were so open and nonchalant about their public displays of affection. It was actually pretty amazing and gave me a lot of hope for the future. Because no one batted an eye as the couple waiting for food held each other and placed a few loving kisses on one another neck till their nachos were served. Or while in midst of another group of guys two young lovers started making out shirtless with one another. Now it's one thing to be in a predominantly straight venue, but when it's fueled by alcohol you really do never know what kind of reactions could be triggered which is why I'm generally in the camp of being cautious with PDA. My friends and I were a little in awe of these young gays in their early 20s and their unabashed confidence in being gay. Just another reminder at far we've really come in ways we don't think about often.

Do you find that, as this next generation comes of age, younger gays are more open and affectionate in public?

Tags: Pride, PDA, Baby Gays
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Post written by RobHeartsDH (View Author Profile)
About this author: Rob lives in Manhattan with his black pug Riley. When he’s not thinking about daddies, he enjoys writing, eating burritos, watching copious amounts of television, and thinking about his next meal.
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How refreshing to hear and to bear witness. I certainly hope the tide is turning in this direction. It's a testament to the power of a minority group demanding its rights and freedom, to be and to do as the mainstream. In Massachusetts ten years or so ago when my state legalized gay marriage, it was controversial yet in only a few years it's not only accepted but embraced by a significant majority. It's wonderful to live in a state that is so progressive. I only hope that states outside of the Blue Zone take this turn in the road too.

See the new short movie "P.D.A." -- very funny!

I am curious if the younger men you described fit the current stereotype of gay men proctored by Glee, Ugly Betty, or more. I think if it was an older/older - older/younger couple that could be viewed as challenging or even threatening because these days the general population could just shrug at the younger gays thinking "Oh, this is just part of the new gay" but challenge that image and people would rile.

Don't mean to be too negative.

I think (as an older gay) that maestro58 has a point. I live in Dallas, TX (although in an admittedly "gay/yuppie" part of town). There is a very popular run/bike/walk trail close to me, and I often see gay (male) couples walking hand in hand. But now that I think of it, they are young and pretty Glee-y.

One of my buddies (MovinFlow - 34y/o) has always seemed pretty comfortable with himself and who he was with. I remember seeing him holding hands in public about 7 years ago with a now-ex, feeding one another, etc. And he's far from Glee-y. In fact, he's pretty masculine and usually non-scene.

His mentality is that someone will always judge, but if they're not going to be around when he needs them, then why care?. Great guy who's comfortable with himself. I think that's the key... Being comfortable enough with yourself, your sexuality, and who/what you have -- enough to throw caution to the wind and live your life the way you see fit. If that's our attitude toward conservatives judging us hooking up, judging the conservative guys as being prudes, bathhouses, cruising, etc., then why not extend to the rest of your life?

It's no longer about "We're here. We're queer. Get used to it!" so much as it is "We're here. We're gay. Who cares?!"

I'm part of the 'older generation' and I have no problem with PDA. What I do object to is when two way younger men or women do it to get a rise out of those around them. Arms around each other waist, holding hands, a quick peck on the cheek or lips are fine. But when they look like they're going to 'do it' right then and there, then I suggest they get a room. I live in a mixed hood in Jersey City and I'll see an occasional couple arms linked or holding hands. I had a partner back in 1999. When we were in the Village, we'd walk hand in hand. But as soon as we got above 14th Street, he'd drop my hand like it was hot coal. I never could understand his reaction, and he'd never explain why when I asked. Maybe attitudes have changed over the last few decades. But one does have to be careful. There are still 'crazies' out there who disapprove of seeing a happy couple and will use violence to get their bigoted point across.

I could not agree with you more on all points you've made.

I object to heavy PDA's in public, gay or straight. Two guys making out shirtless in public? I'd tell them to grow up.

I have a much younger bf and we walk hand in hand all the time in non-gay areas of NYC. He's in his 20's, I'm in my 50's and I'm the one that took the lead.

Being in your 20's may be freedom. But being in your 50's means you're too old to give a shit anymore what people think.

I agree with you 100%. I am also 50 and my boyfriend is 26. We hold hands and when I see him off on a business trip we kiss before going through security and again when I pick him up at the airport. Always a a strong hug quick kiss to say hello and on to baggage claim. To him it is just a normal day. Freedom. To me I am to old to give a shit what people think.

It's refreshing to hear.
In Tokyo it's as out as the US was in the 50s. Sometimes even on gay sites guys have no public photos. That being said I have one Westernized gay Japanese friend who walked hand-in-hand in Tokyo with his (now ex-)American lover and no one said anything. It would not be considered polite to make a fuss. Generally in Japan as long as you don't bother anyone, no one cares. He was the exception to the rule. I dated guys here in Japan who were paranoid about being outed and acted that way. Japanese families don't take it as well as progressive Western families.

so we are questioning normalcy here? My whole life I have been around straight people slobbering over each other in public, and I am supposed to constrain myself from "upsetting" people by holding hands or kissing someone I love in public? That is not propiety; it is fear. And young gay men have had it with fear. I don't blame them. Isn't 70 years of repression enough? It is not other young people that are bugged by public displays of affection: it's older straights and uptight repressed gays. How sad that we think of it as "display" of affection when it involves 2 people of the same sex, yet is "normal" and completely acceptable for straights. If that's the case, then every time I see this "display" I think "Wow. How wonderful. I wish so many dead and gone from my generation had felt they had such freedom." Are we fighting for "normalcy" while cowtowwing to repression? I guarantee you straights are not discussing PDA in their online forums; that we feel the need to do so is most curious. Life is too short for shackles, and shackles come in many forms.

Au contraire BJHeaven. PDA is a part of class / social distinction in the United States. To be too open with ones mate is as much a part of the straight discussion as it should be of the homosexual discussion.

Sure, we have all seen the mild PDA getting the rude review by bigots, but just as often are the scorned looks toward heteros that ovdr share in that regard.

What I mean to say is that gays should behave within the socially accepted norms of their peers. If you choose to flaunt sexually explicit behavior simply because their is no particular law against excessive groping and lude kissing (you know the kind I mean) then you can expect to be reviewed poorly by all types of people and the fact that thet disapprove doesn't make them a bigot or shackled. I think we all know the boundaries of propriety and living within tnose makes you a part of the larger community.

If holding hands offends those around you, then they are likely upset with the fact that a gay couple exists, but if the couple is all but screwing on the promenade in full display then they are rightly ostracised as the behavior isn't acceptable in any couple.

Attaining normalcy should be the goal. Creating attitudes of entitlement and self centeredness should be avoided a d what else would you call the behavior of the narcissist couples who blatantly share their bedroom practices openly I public.

A great share of the argument for acceptance of LGBT lifestyles has been that what happens inthe privacy of our own homes snouldnt be anyone else's business, but when couples' PDAs are micro porn shoots, it displaces that argument and brings us all into the crosshairs. Effectively, this behaviour sets us back not forward.

I can appreciate the sentiment and to some degree believe we are an uptight society to quick to judge others, but in working toward acceptance we must work within some constraints.

Northern California

I don't see why public nudity or public sexual acts should be against the law.

My lover (62y/o) and myself (45y/o) have no qualms about holding hands in public. We routinely walk down the street doing so. We sit next to one another in restaurants, not across from each other. We hold doors for one another, order meals for each other, and verbally express our love in some subtle and not so subtle ways. And stealing the occasional kiss in public is not out of the question, either. Generally making sure that our love and affection is known to ourselves and the world at large.

Our experience has been that our happiness, love and security affects people around us in the most positive and wonderful ways. It has amazed us both how relaxed people are and how friendly they get in our presence. And we are NOT living in such a "progressive" place as NYC or SanFran. We are right on the buckle of the Bible Belt in B.F.E. Indiana, to be precise.

Our opinion on the matter is that we are ambassadors. Showing the world that they have nothing to fear from us, as long as they don't try to shove us into their closet. We will not be oppressed by the mindless and inane any longer. ~æ

Well said.
I refuse to make myself a 2nd class citizen just because someone "might" have a problem with 2 men holding hands.
The ones who have a problem with it are probably frustrated closet cases anyway.

I'm not fond of most PDA, perhaps it's because I'm more inclined to keep my business to myself.
I don't have a need to show or flaunt it in public, other than a hug at the airport.
Also, it's a matter of respect and consideration for other individuals, some who don't appreciate such things.
Not being a prude, mind you, nor a closet queen - just like my privacy.
I'm just Old School - and unleash the animal in the bedroom. :-)

I am of the age where we would have been called homo's, poofters and I am so glad there is movement away from that. I am older and do really admire the younger generation that are so open about their sexuality and feelings. Don't get me wrong I am happily married with family and believe I have always had the attraction to males but it is only in the last few years I actually and with extreme trepidation did something about it and loved the experience.
We are after all, of the animal species and have the right to live how and with whom ever we like. How many "normal" people suffer in silence, abusive spouses, abused children and violence towards anyone different.

There is a saying those who make the loudest noise often have things to hide. I worked with a "masculine" manly married person for years and would always hear him saying something derogatory about a younger slightly effeminate person that worked in the company.
Always bad mouthing gays, queers, shirt lifters and it turns out one of those shirt lifters had been having sex with this person for years.
I do an association with a young A grade sportsman that has served his state for 3 years, a more manly person you would not find but alone a different person and I do have a great affection for him. See they come from all walks of life, have rights it's just many are not ready to accept just yet!

i suspect a lot will depend on where they are. Even today there are places where public displays of affection between straight married couples are frowned on - and i'm not referring to Dubai, i'm talking towns in the midwest!

i imagine they are more open...but also open to the bigotry of a big stadium crowd....its still a crap shoot unfortunately

I personally do not care to do PDA's with my partner in our hometown...Greensburg, Pa....or like bb_aeric says BFE (Bum Fuck Egypt). We own a business here and I think it's inappropriate for anyone to overly show PDA's straight or gay. Get a room! But, I don't mind doing it when we are on vacation or at a gay event. I guess I'm old school and twenty years under DADT...made me keep my PDA's to my home for fear of losing my military career. I'm now retired and still hold these ideals. I was also raised that my business is my business and to keep it to myself. I like that the younger generation is more open and free, but there is always a time and a place. There are a lot of crazies in this world...and I fear for their safety at times. Hate Crimes are still alive and well in the good old USA. Acceptance comes from within and I feel it's a personal decision for each person.

Thanks to everyone for their input! Great conversation!
Take Care,
Chuck Honse

well here i go closeted just had my wife leave three days ago took 2 girls with her left 2 boys with me all teenagers thinking it might be a good time to come out and finally be free but very apprehensive about future . pda would love to do it with my bf if i get one

The idea of a PDA needing to be "private" or "offensive to people," (unspoken here is that we're REALLY talking about gay MEN, mostly: it's rare that a straight couple engendes hatred in others when they neck in public) reminds me of a time, when I, as a Black man, was "offensive," just by my presence. I didn't need to DO anything, just my EXISTENCE itself was offensive, so I look askance at some of these comments.

What's "private" about showing Love? We certainly don't feel "private" about showing Hate, do we? Nobody ever feels strange about showing hostility publicly. Plenty of that going around. Just look at your tv set and all the "Re-AL-ity shows."Puh-lent of hostility. And enough curmudgeonliness in this world, too.

I think the nay-sayers are talking more about fear than "privacy" and I know a lot more about both than the average White person (sorry to pull ethnicity in here, but having had 50 years of experience with fear/loathing/hate, I'm a bit of an expert in this). When I was in a place where I sensed danger, I made myself "small" as in "don't attract any attention." That was survival - based on fear. So when I read about showing Love as being "nobody's business," I bristle at that. That's not about privacy, it's about fear, and what one was taught was "right" at the time - usually childhood.
We're not children anymore, and some of us need to put away the fears and memories of childhood and move into the Light. Granted, there are still places I find myself careful in - for those who think racism is still just an academic exercise (it's not, and almost any Black guy on this site of a certain age (over 60, like me), can tell you it's alive and well. But otherwise, my awareness of "fight or flight" is pretty invisible to me, and I'd hope that gay men who think being affectionate means "putting on a DISPLAY of affection" will outgrow that. Affection is as natural as breathing (assuming you weren't damaged beyond repair in your childhood) and the less you let yourself grow into it as a natural process, the surlier you'll be when you get old. Stay young in your heart, and, like (some) younger gays and like some older gays - like me - you stop worrying about what it looks like to others and stay inside your own head. The only thing that kills a gentle kiss, holding a hand (you call THAT a 'DISPLAY'?) or sitting close to each other is fear. Plain and simple. Fifty years of experience backing me up tells me so.

I don't think younger gays are leading the charge here: it's more like the path has already been cleared for them, so it's not a focal point for them, as it was if you were gay - and Black, too - back in 1965. It's like football: once the path is cleared for the receiver, he runs free. He doesn't worry about anything except what he's doing: running.
Go hold your guy's hand for 20 seconds in public for a start. Then work up to a minute. Then 10, Then an hour. You've got a very finite life here, gentlemen, let me tell ya. You better learn to live in Love, rather than live in Fear.

In the US and UK, yes. But in the rest of the world (look at Russia these days), the work that's been done in the US in the last 3 years has yet to be done.
I think it starts with popular celebrities deciding to come out.

Through SD I have just met the most amazing person, I am 61 and he is 38. Unfortunately he is in the UK and I am in Australia. He is coming over shortly for a visit and is talking about walking hand in hand along the beach etc. I have had 3 previous relationships over my life time and two out of the three were happy to be discreetly affectionate in public ie a wink, a blown kiss, etc that was 30 odd years ago a time when being gay in Aus was not thing to be.
Things have certainly changed here, you will commonly see two women walking down the street holding hands, but unless you are in Oxford St, rarely do you see guys doing the same. The community seems to accept female partnership far more than male, I don't know if you guys see that elsewhere.
So when my man comes over, I will hold his hand when we go walking, because at my age I don't care anymore. I don't care what people think anymore, I am me and you can accept me as I am or not. A true friend is one that accepts you as you are taking the good and the bad, my friends all accept me as I am and so they are true friends.
G'day mate to all of you from all of us in Australia

I hope so. I've been walking out in public, in a mall, and seen two guys walking through holding hands. Really made my day that 1) they were doing it, with big goofy grins on their faces, and 2) they were more or less being left alone. Sure, lots of people looked, but as far as I could tell there weren't any nasty reactions to it.

Hand holding is one thing; kissing is another. I think it'll be a long time before we feel okay kissing in public.