At Ariana Grande's post-VMAs concert, Sweetener Sessions, she stepped off the stage and gave her fiancé, Pete Davidson, a quick kiss. The kiss lasted maybe three seconds (just check the video below), but according to Cosmo, "Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande legit made out in front of fans."
"Made out" is obviously a mischaracterisation of this moment, but it's not shocking that Cosmo labeled it that way. People have some seriously strong feelings about public displays of affection (PDA), and many of them are negative. PDA has gained a reputation as being annoying, gross, overbearing, and all about showing off. But I'm here to call bullshit on all those stereotypes. I'm that woman who plays footsie with her S.O. under the table, who vertical-spoons as we wait in the grocery line, and who isn't about to let what other people think keep me from a kiss goodbye. For me, PDA isn't gross or annoying; It can actually be pretty powerful. As a fat, queer woman, any PDA my girlfriend and I show isn't just adorable, it's political.
About two-thirds of queer people are still afraid to hold hands in public. And plus size women are constantly told — through media images and nasty Tinder dates — that they're not worthy of love. So, it's important for queer and fat people to see themselves in the couples around them. Kissing my girlfriend on the sidewalk might be annoying to some, but for a fat woman, that kiss tells her that plus-size women can and do find love. And for queer people, it acts as a moment of solidarity. Call my PDA "showing off" if you want. I'd rather think of it as showing up for my people.
To me, PDA feels like a tiny act of rebellion.
Now, I'm not talking full-on make outs, butt grabs, or anything super sexual. I think most people would agree that practically fucking your S.O. in public is overbearing and inappropriate (and, often, illegal). Remember: The people around you have a right to consent (or not) to seeing you feel your lover up. The PDA I'm talking about are little things that straight people often take for granted: Holding my girlfriend's hand while we walk from her house to the subway, scratching her back as we're sitting on the train, and giving her a quick kiss when we part. Many couples might not think anything of those small moments of public affection, but I'm not afforded that luxury. I'd love to kiss my girlfriend without a little voice telling me to check my surroundings in case anyone is so offended by our touching lips that they react violently (yes, that even happens in New York City), but I can't. I have to be overly-conscious of my PDA, and that makes me love it even more. To me, PDA feels like a tiny act of rebellion.
Two women kissing in public has always been rebellious, because too many people still think being gay is a sin. And queer people have long known that PDA is political, that's why the "kiss-in" is such a popular protest tool. Seeing hundreds of queer people kiss each other while holding signs for marriage equality or anti-violence makes a statement, but so does seeing a gay couple kiss goodbye. To the people who don't believe LGBTQ+ people should exist, both types of kisses say that we do exist, and we deserve to be here and to be happy. To other queer people, the kiss goodbye also says, "Hey, you're not alone."
being a gay couple in public and seeing ANOTHER gay couple in public and they notice yall and yall notice them and you all feel somehow a lil safer. that’s it that’s the whole tweet— alicia (@wittleawisha) June 21, 2018
But it's also rebellious for me, a fat woman, to kiss my girlfriend, a thin woman. Our bodies don't "match," and to many people, that means we shouldn't be together. Cultural norms tell us that fat women should only date fat men. Think of TV couples like Kate and Toby on This Is Us and Molly and Mike on Mike & Molly. (Fat men, however, are often shown with thin women, especially on sitcoms). And that idea trickles down into the minds of thin people who find plus-size women attractive, causing them to feel ashamed for liking us. Fat women often encounter people who are totally cool kissing behind closed doors, but balk at the idea of being seen out with them.
So I get giddy when I see plus babes being cute with their S.O.s in public, because it's good to know that at least one more fat woman got a happy ending. "Our PDA is an ego boost that pushes against fat bias by showing fat people as desirable and worthy of love," Evette Dionne wrote for Cosmo. "It might seem like a public kiss is routine — and for some, invasive — but for those who’ve long been relegated to dark bedrooms and secret, it’s incredibly important to see that we deserve so much more than secrecy." I'm happy to think that by grabbing my girlfriend's hands and wrapping them around my waist on the F train, I might be showing another plus-size, queer woman that she deserves to love out loud.