Public Displays Of Affection – When Is It Too Much?

While in London last month with my sister, we had a walk along the Thames after John arrived on my birthday. With only two days left on our visit, John took us on a walking tour to some of the places we had not managed to see during our time in London. We saw and photographed a great many interesting places and things on our walk, but the couple below turned out to be the oddest of the day for me.


Public Affection On London Street


As we turned from the river and went down a nearby street, I was surprised to see a couple about my age having what was clearly an intimate moment in a public place, in the middle of the afternoon. My sister Margaret and I had been walking with our cameras in hand the whole day and as we approached and they did not move, I could not help but snap a photo or two.

This slightly blurry one gives you another look at just how absorbed they were in their connection. Her eyes were closed and he seemed  to be talking to her as we passed, but softly with words that only she could hear.

I took this image after I looked back and saw that their position had not changed.

Immediately after that, a couple walked by and I caught their expression just after they had given the couple a surprised look. I wish I could have gotten their initial expression especially that of the woman who looked rather shocked to see this private moment happening within a few feet of her.

When I turned back for a last look, I half expected to see they might have moved apart, but they were still there behaving as if the world was not passing by. John and I discussed it later and thought that perhaps they might have been having an affair and had no time to go to a place to carry on privately.

I don’t think of myself as a prude, but I do think that some things should be done without the benefit of an audience. What about you …would this have caught you off guard as it did me or would it have not even rated a second glance on your internal shock meter?

For the record, I asked John this morning what he thought and he said he was amused rather than shocked and thought the couple were as he put it, ” … probably grabbing a quick snog because he had to go home to his wife.” If that is so then my blogging about it may not be the best thing for the couple, but a good one for a wife who might need a better understanding of her husband’s latest project at work.


22 thoughts on “Public Displays Of Affection – When Is It Too Much?

  1. they clearly are not married, and it almost looks a bit perverted, like she has been ‘ groomed’ or drugged, look at her body language and how submissive she is.

  2. Hi Elizabeth I agree with Jackie .. No they don’t look like they are married, and she looks like she is doing “as” she is told… she has not moved at all, not even her arms .. !!

  3. It does look like a May-December thing and a little bit suspicious. Amazing that they weren’t worried about being seen by someone who knows them – they/he must have been way out of his normal territory.
    That definitely is a scene you would see in a movie and not for public consumption.

  4. How odd to see they are older. They must be in love or at least in lust…when you are so transfixed on another person, it’s almost as if you completely tune the world out. That seems to be the case here. I think it’s kind of nice, but if he’s having an affair, you’d think it would be with an older, more attractive woman. Maybe they are just genuinely in love and not cheating. Either way, I think it is kind of fun you caught this on film.


  5. Hi Elizabeth — Interesting stuff! It’s not just their age that adds to the peculiarity, but it also appears to be a “power” thing with him looking like he has cornered her and is about to mount her (evidenced by her seated position with her legs between his). He looks like he has pinned her against that fence. One also has to wonder if she pulled her coat down or if he did that. It’s actually kind of creepy! Adding to that creepiness is that he looks like an undertaker about to perform some act of necrophilia (she looks lifeless, literally). I’m a 47 year old from the Midwest U.S. and can probably therefore be classified as a “prude” so let that be a preface to my comments above. I am not comfortable with, and do not care for, these “public displays of affection” (or, in this case, “public display of affliction”).
    Best to you and John!

  6. I don’t mind the photos at all. Just a couple in love and no one else exists in their world. I think that if this had been photos of a young, gorgeous couple, people would have different reactions. Instead of shocked, grossed-out faces of passer-byers, it would have been little knowing smiles touched with wistfulness. I say good for them.

  7. I’m with Wendy: If a hot young couple is smooching in public some people will still be offended by the PDA — but others will sigh and smile and think, “Awww, young love, how sweet.”
    Hey, us older folks need love too.
    Maybe she was being dominated/bullied. Or maybe she was so enthralled with being close to her lover (adulterous or not) that the rest of the world simply ceased to exist.
    Remember how the world swooned over “The Bridges of Madison County,” book and movie? And what was the subject there? Um, adultery. Or more to the point, two lonely people connecting.
    Which poet said, “Live while it is yet possible to live….love while it is yet possible to love…and God will be your judge”?

  8. Elizabeth,

    I have read, with interest, the comments on todays post. There are some very valid points made.

    It’s neither an age thing, nor a fidelity issue for me but I recoiled when looking at these images. I found them quite disturbing to be honest.

    The reason? The position of their bodies & the facial expressions, that is not a comfortable position to have your head held in & yet the woman is not resisting………I think she appears to be slightly ‘out-of-it’. The man is completely dominating her………urggghhh, it makes me shudder…….I think my initial expression was similar to the ‘walking woman’

    Love to you & John xXxX

  9. Interesting comments–I honestly thought maybe she was having a medical problem and he was a doctor or shrink until I saw the last photo. Of course, it still might be true, but that would really be over the top.

    I don’t really get overtly personal PDAs. It strikes me not only as act of overt self-centeredness but also as sort of a betrayal of intimacy. Sometimes, I guess with young people, we figure they have no where else to go, but these people clearly do.

    Am I a prude? Who knows. I do value my own privacy, though, and would wish others valued theirs more.


  10. I don’t really like pda, whatever type of couple it is. Intimacy should be intimate. But your pictures do tell a story, however it is just a partial story!

  11. Interesting photos and question (and answers!)

    I also thought it looked like an affair, and was likewise disturbed that she never moved her arms. It’s true that if they were both young, it would somehow feel different. Part of that is because one expects young kids to be a bit more thoughtless about their impact on others. The expectation is that ‘grown ups’ have more respect for each other and others (and more resources to ‘get a room’).

    In terms of comfort level with PDAs, for me it’s always felt uncomfortable. I had a boyfriend in college who would hug me and lift me in the air (he was 6’4″) and then kiss me as a greeting. I found it TOTALLY embarrassing, but I thought I was supposed to think it was romantic, so I let it slide. It was a relief for me to marry a man from a culture that frowns on PDAs. We even got out of doing kisses on demand during our wedding reception (which made me VERY happy).

  12. Hi this is the first time I’m visiting your website (from a message you left at the happiness project) and I don’t like what I see. I don’t mean the PDA but your comments and that of your readers. I think you all could benefit from lighter hearts and less judgement.

  13. I am prompted by the variety of responses to this post to say a bit more about the experience and impression the PDA above had on me.

    While I am not given to public make-out sessions, I am very affectionate and will give my husband John frequent hugs and kisses in public when the mood strikes. They are however affectionate rather than overtly sexy or sensual as I prefer to save that for a more private place.

    Added to that, there are times and places where I might not feel it appropriate to give him even a quick kiss in public even though I might want too. That is out of respect and consideration for the feelings of those around me that I might offend.

    Being a fair amount younger than my husband, I have no issue with May-December romances (although we are not quite in that category) nor do I find it repugnant to see older couples having a cuddle or brief kiss in public.

    In fact, I find it sweet to see expressions of affection in both younger couples as well as older ones and I’m not shocked by a reasonable, tasteful, display of affection by any couple. I do have to say there was something disturbing to me about the way couple above were behaving.

    I don’t know their story, but feel like I can comment on how I felt that day as they made their relationship such a public one. The image stayed with me as did the uneasiness I felt by their behavior. The woman was totally blank the whole time and unresponsive while the man paused to kiss her periodically. During the time I observed them, she never kissed him back and seemed as if she was not responding at all except to allow it. He held her face in his hands while standing over her with her legs under and between his the whole time and she never moved. It was downright eerie and did not feel or look like a loving affectionate snog on a Friday afternoon after work.

    As to married, in love, or having an affair … that was not really my interest in writing this post or even my place to judge. I only mentioned John’s comment because it seemed a likely possibility as to why an older couple with more resources than a younger couple would choose such a public place to do whatever it was that they were doing.

    We all relate to images and stories based on our own history and my history made this public display extremely uncomfortable for me which leads me back to my initial point in posting … how much is too much for public viewing.

    Thanks to everyone who took time to comment. I appreciate the courage it takes to voice your thoughts especially when dealing with such a sensitive and personal subject.

  14. I think Mary A. was a little bit harsh in her criticism of the post. Frankly, she needs to take a lesson out of her own book…have a lighter heart and be less judgmental.

  15. When I first saw the pictures I made up a story in my head that maybe she had got really bad news, perhaps a health scare or a child in trouble. Perhaps her eyes were closed to block out everything. If that is not the case my 2nd theory was she was drugged!

  16. this post and comments have been interesting to read.
    whatever is going on here – it doesn’t feel positive and affectionate. the lady looks lifeless to me. there seems to be something wrong – sick or drugged or possibly forced – whatever is going doesn’t look like a passionate moment to me.
    in general PDA makes me uncomfortable especially if i am in close proximity to the couple.

  17. Like Jennifer, until the last photo, I’d have innocently believed she had something in her eye and he was helping. But the last pic sort of makes that a different kind of help altogether.

    And now, having a second look, until the last pic, they look a bit like wax figures. Some kind of art exhibit.
    Thanks for sharing. I love things like this.

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