What does PDA mean?


Last Updated: April 29, 2024

Relationship Advice

PDA is a term that stands for “public displays of affection.” But, that phrase can be very open-ended! Not everyone agrees on what PDA includes, and there’s even more controversy surrounding whether it’s appropriate.

As someone in a sugar relationship, there are some special considerations, as well. You may not, for instance, want to attract side glances and glares from strangers who aren’t on board with the sugar lifestyle. And, public flirtations can actually threaten to expose someone looking to keep their arrangement private.

As you can see, there’s a lot to navigate here! In this article, we’ll talk about how to approach PDA with your partner.

What is PDA, really?

What is considered a public display of affection? Well, the reality is, that PDA is culturally specific. People all over the world, as well as people from different generations, may have their own definitions of what this term means. But overall, here’s a list of what’s considered PDA by the general public:

  • Hand-holding. Walking hand-in-hand is one of the most common, and widely accepted, forms of PDA
  • Hugging, or having an arm around your partner. Like hand-holding, hugging, and having an arm around your date falls on the more widely-accepted end of the PDA spectrum.
  • Kissing. Kissing can be a controversial form of PDA. In general, a light peck on the cheek or forehead is acceptable, but more passionate kisses are frowned upon.
  • Physical touch. This could include anything from brushing a strand of hair out of your partner’s face to a shoulder rub.
  • Closeness that obviously exceeds friendliness. In many ways, PDA is one of those things that you just know when you see it. When two people are romantically involved, they may stare deeply into each other’s eyes or sit on the same side of the booth at a restaurant. This sense of closeness, whether physical or emotional, is typically quite obvious.

Why are people against public displays of affection?

PDA seems to be one of the more divisive habits in our culture. People are either okay with public showings of love or they’re really, really not.

For those who are opposed to it, the prominent reason is usually that it’s inappropriate. We as a society follow a set of unspoken rules of etiquette. These rules allow us to commute, work, eat out, and simply enjoy life side-by-side without too much conflict. And, one of the unspoken rules is that you don’t distract those around you with over-the-top displays of romance.

Typically, someone who is opposed to PDA will react by throwing disapproving glances. They may also use more subtle body language such as actively removing themself from the situation. Others will feel compelled to break another unspoken rule: avoid verbal confrontation. Being told to “get a room,” is one way that anti-PDA folks can show their disapproval.

It makes sense, then, that some people don’t enjoy engaging in PDA because they feel uncomfortable with negative feedback from strangers. But, there’s another possible reason here, too. Some sugar babies, in particular, may feel objectified by certain forms of PDA. A sugar daddy who puts a protective arm around their date as a way to show off their wealth and power can be upsetting to a potential partner. We’ll talk more in a bit about how to talk with your partner about the level of PDA that’s right for your relationship.

What are some of the dangers of PDA in a sugar relationship?


When it comes to PDA in sugar relationships, things can become even more fraught. While the sugaring lifestyle is gaining popularity all the time, there are still many who don’t understand or approve of this style of dating.

A sugar arrangement in which there is an age gap, for instance, can be off-putting to some people. If you are in a relationship with an older sugar daddy or younger sugar baby, you might find yourself having to deal with hostile glances or comments. This can become even more prominent if you choose to engage in PDA.

The other danger of public displays of affection in sugar relationships is exposure. Many sugar daddies are prominent, wealthy people who may not want their private lives under scrutiny. For this reason, PDA might be even more of a risk for them, as it can draw extra attention. If you’re dating a partner who spends a lot of time in the public eye, don’t be surprised if they are strict about not being overly affectionate in public.

What are the benefits of showing off your connection in public?

If PDA attracts disapproval and disdain from strangers, why do people do it? Well, there are actually a few reasons:

  • Physical contact releases oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. These feel-good chemicals go wild in the brain every time you experience physical contact with someone special. This can have an effect on stress and anxiety relief.
  • PDA can be an expression of gratitude. You might not be the kind of person who expresses your emotions openly. But, a hand on someone’s arm or a loving look can convey everything you’d like to say. As a sugar partner, this can be an effective way to show your appreciation.
  • Affection can make your partner feel special. PDA from someone you care about can make you feel like the most special person in the world!
  • It grounds you in the present moment. One of the best ways to enjoy your time with your sugar partner is to stay in the present moment. You can do this with active listening and putting your phone on silent. And, as it turns out, with a little bit of PDA!

To be sure, these are all benefits that can be reaped in a private place. But if your sugar relationship is still at a stage where you’re meeting only in public, these public showings of affection can help you deepen your connection.

How can you know how much PDA your partner wants?

While there are some benefits of public affection, you want to make sure that your partner is comfortable with it. And to be honest, we don’t have any special tricks or tips for you to figure out whether your partner likes PDA. Instead, we would simply recommend that you talk about it!

Ask your partner how they feel about public showings of affection. Some will be enthusiastic about it. Others will want to maintain a level of discretion in public. It’s important that you clear that up early and then respect their boundaries. Here are a few examples of how you can start a conversation about PDA:

  • “I’m someone who shows affection through touch. Is that something that you’re comfortable with?”
  • “Would it be alright if I kissed you in public? I know that not everyone is comfortable with that.”

These conversation starters are light and casual, and they offer your partner the chance to respond honestly.

What should you do if your sugar partner wants PDA and you don’t?


On the flip side, you might be the one who doesn’t want to engage in public affection. And that’s okay! Here are a few ways that you can navigate the sticky situation of a PDA mismatch:

  • Tell your partner kindly that you don’t enjoy it. If you shy away from affection from your partner without an explanation, they may get the wrong impression. So, it can be helpful to tell them that your personal preference is to not be so lovey-dovey in public. That way, they’ll be less likely to blame themselves or question your feelings for them.
  • Be specific about the kind of PDA you’re okay with. Maybe you’re open to hand-holding but not kissing in public. The more honest you can be about what you like, the easier it will be for your partner to accommodate your needs.
  • Make your partner feel appreciated in other ways. Not everyone shows affection through touch, but it is a good idea to find an alternative. Maybe you can focus more on thoughtful gift-giving. Or, if you have a way with words, you might be more open with your compliments.
  • If your partner isn’t taking the hint, set a stronger boundary. You might find yourself in an unfortunate situation in which a sugar partner just isn’t listening. If your sugar daddy or sugar baby continues to try PDA even after you’ve told them you’re uncomfortable, take it as a red flag. They may not be respectful of other boundaries you try to set moving forward.

At the end of the day, the appropriate amount of PDA is decided by you and your partner!

Let’s not forget that the whole point of sugar dating is to break away from traditional social norms that tell us how to have romantic relationships. If you and your partner like PDA and you don’t mind a few side-eyes, then you should follow your heart. Chances are, you might just inspire someone else to be more affectionate with their partner, or even try out the sugaring lifestyle for themselves!