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Putting up with PDA

Published: March 9, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.


Q: My roommate and his/her partner are all over each other all the time when Im in the room and its so awkward! What should I do about it?
~Eyes Wide Shut

A: Yep, weve all been on the receiving end of public displays of affection, better known as PDA. It can be awkward, uncomfortable, and downright rude. While there is nothing wrong with voyeurism per se, no one should be forced to watch something they dont want to see. Often the issue comes down to the delicate question: Should I say something?

One thing to keep in mind, if you have not yet said anything, is that your friend(s) may not even realize their actions are bothering you. Friends might not realize where your comfort zone stops, and roommates might actually think you are asleep. As we always say, different strokes for different folks. Everyone has different comfort levels with PDA. For some, public groping is no big deal, and for others hand-holding feels awkward. Some dont mind observing public groping, and others dont appreciate couples holding hands or sitting on laps when theyre hanging out with friends.

If your comfort level is a step or two off from someone you spend a lot of time with, you have some options. You could avoid them and their PDA partner, you could COUGH-hint-COUGH that youre upset, or you could talk to them about it. It is very possible your friend had no idea you were uncomfortable, and if they are reasonable, they will curtail their actions accordingly.

Roommate situations can be a little trickier, especially if the PDA partner-in-question is from out of town and needs to sleep in the room whenever they stay over. While its generally considered bad form to have sex in the room while your roommate is sleeping, we all know it happens. The reason it happens so frequently probably lies in the fact that the sleeping roommate usually chooses to keep quiet, often using disassociation techniques to block out the experience. In this situation, it could be as easy as mentioning, You know, Im not always asleep when your boy/girlfriend is here. If you havent said anything, there is a good chance they really do think youre asleep.

Sometimes you might willingly sexile yourself in order to give your roommate some private time with their partner. This is a very nice thing to do. However, if you are surrendering your room on a nightly, or even weekend-ly basis, things might be getting out of hand. After all, its your room too! Again, a good option here is conversation. Discuss with your roommate what you are comfortable with, and how often you feel its fair to be sexiled. Possible solutions might include your roommate spending more nights at their partners place, or maybe they could get busy while you have class so by the time bedtime comes around, they are ready to sleep.

Another thing to consider is that in other countries and cultures, PDA is common and accepted as a normal way to display affection. It could be as simple as a cultural misunderstanding. Then again, it might not be. But in most situations, be they with friends or roommates, most people are reasonable and respond well when you present your concerns in a respectful manner. If by chance your PDA offender is not so reasonable, your CA is a good person to talk to. And if all else fails and the PDA just won't stop, you can always close your eyes and imagine yourself lying on the warm sands of a fully-clothed, family-oriented, American beach. Or get yourself a white noise machine.

Love,

SSIStop it!

Got questions? Send them in to ssis@brandeis.edu. Your identity will be kept confidential and all questions will be posted anonymously.