No matter where you look, no matter where you turn, there's always going to be that one couple slobbering all over each other in a heated, sloppy makeout sesh in public. At the bar, at McDonald's, at the grocery store in front of the frozen peas... everywhere. You know I'm right.
But according to a new study published in the Journal of Sex Research, overly affectionate couples who make out in public and engage in other public displays of affection aren’t doing it because they can’t keep their hands off each other. Oh, no. That isn't the reason at all.
In reality, PDA has nothing to do with affection or insatiable attraction; it’s all about showing the world what’s yours, kind of like how a dog pees on things to claim them as his own.
For the study, researchers recruited 349 college students and surveyed them on their experiences with PDA—which includes kissing, tongue action, maybe getting a little handsy—which the researchers called “performative making out.”
The participants were asked if they’ve ever engaged in performative making out, and if they have, they were asked to describe in detail what it was like (as in, who they were making out with). Then, the participants were asked a series of follow-up questions on why they chose to make out in public, and how the poor witnesses who had to see them make out in public reacted.
The results found that around 33 percent of participants had engaged in PDA at least once, and men and women reported equal rates of performative making out. So, there’s no gender difference in how often males and females make out in public.
Moreover, the topic of why people make out in public is where things get interesting. For dudes, it was discovered that the most common reason for sucking face with a woman in public was to make themselves look like a mack daddy and increase their social standing. That’s cool, I guess.
A smaller number of men said they do it to make it clear to everyone around that they are strictly taken, and that their partner is off-limits to other potential suitors. Others also reported doing it for fun, which is understandable. You know, you go to a bar, get a little drunk, and you make out with someone for the hell of it. It happens.
On the other hand, the most common motivator for women to make out in public was to make their ex-boyfriend jealous, and/or to exact revenge in hopes that he would want to get back together. Now that is petty AF, but it’s human psychology, so I have nothing more to say about it.
However, there was one particularly titillating finding of the study. Of all the men who said they’d publicly kissed another dude, all were gay. But all of the women who publicly made out with another girl were straight. Well, I wonder why. Drinking games? Truth or dare? Girl-on-guy-on-girl threesomes? Let’s find out.
The researchers determined that while women make out with dudes in public simply out of petty bitterness towards an ex, they make out with other chicks for fun (I knew it), to seem like a fun and adventurous party girl and gain status, and to turn on bros who love girl-on-girl action. Well damn. The secret life of women, amirite?
And lastly, do people reach their paltry goals from PDA? For starters, they make the people around them more or less uncomfortable, so they definitely achieve that.
But aside from that, men reported more positive reactions from others than they did negative reactions, and said they tend to get what they were after, in terms of having fun, starting a new relationship, or just being perceived as a sexy ladies’ man who everyone “admires.”
Conversely, women said PDA harmed their reputation, and that they were called "easy" and “sluts” and other words that are not very nice. From this, we can infer that men who make out in public are socially super cool, whereas women who do the exact same thing are tarts who enjoy slutting it up. Hmm... is it just me, or does that seem like a double standard?
Anyway, the concluding point of this study is that when you make out in public, you're not doing it out of attraction, even if you think you are. Psychology, my friends. It doesn't make a lick of sense, yet it controls our lives.