What Are Inappropriate Displays of Affection?

Holding hands is an appropriate way to show affection in most situations.
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When your guy gets too clingy or overly physical, feeling that he's acting inappropriate isn't out of the question. Displays of affection, whether public or private, can make some people uncomfortable or even anxious. While not every display of affection is inappropriate, the time and place can turn a sweet gesture into a awkward issue.

1 Body Basics

Displaying affection in public may not seem like a big deal when you're in the heat of the moment. That said, acting overly affectionate with your boy or girlfriend out in the open can offend others or get you into trouble. The definition of an inappropriate display of affection may vary depending on who is using it. For example, the Hawaii Preparatory Academy doesn't consider mild affection such as holding hands or walking arm-in-arm to be inappropriate. The school does consider more intimate actions, such as mouth-to-mouth kissing, as inappropriate.

2 School Ties

Not only are public displays of affection -- or PDAs -- inappropriate at school, but these intimate acts may also break the rules. Many public and private high schools have policies prohibiting displays of affection while on campus. For example, the Arts and Technology High School in Wilsonville Oregon states that it won't tolerate PDAs. The degree to which you can act affectionately at school is up to the school's administration or governing board. Some schools may not tolerate any type of PDA, while another may allow hand-holding or hugs. Post-secondary schools -- such as colleges or career training schools -- typically allow more in the way of PDAs. That said, going overboard and making out on your college campus quad is still inappropriate, even if it's not against the rules.

3 Religious Preferences

Unless you're standing at the alter saying "I do," PDAs at church -- or another religious institution -- are typically a no-no. While some religious organizations may allow teens and young adults to hold hands, some are strict and expect all members to keep distance between themselves. For example, the First Baptist Church in Thomas, Georgia, provides rules on PDAs for youth student ministry participants. These include no sitting on another person's lap, no leg or back rubs and no sexual touching.

4 Around Town

While some places -- such as school or church -- have set rules that govern PDAs, other public places don't. If you're walking down a public street, you may wonder how inappropriate a display of affection is. Just because you don't find set rules about PDAs on a street, in a parking lot, or at the park, doesn't mean that the community views acts like open-mouth kissing, groping or other sexual touching as acceptable or appropriate. If you're not sure what is -- and what isn't -- appropriate in public, stick to the same rules that you would follow at school or church.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.