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There’s no denying that some celebs love packing on the PDA. Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker notoriously make out in front of their kids. Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly tongue-kiss on red carpets. And Megan Thee Stallion posts videos on Instagram of her dancing on boyfriend Pardison Fontaine. But many people are asking themselves: is this just PDA, or is it something more?
The New York Post says much more. In fact, the publication recently coined the term “power PDA” to describe this behavior.
Not to be confused with normal PDA, which involves a peck or innocent hand-holding in public, power PDA is when couples do the most in public spaces. They get uber handsy — or in some cases, tongue-y — with their partners unabashedly in front of awkward-feeling onlookers.
For many in the nonceleb world, this couldn’t be any more cringey. So instead, a lot of Gen Z and millennial couples are embracing a different trend that isn’t at all about being showy. It’s called being “private but not secret,” and it’s the exact opposite of power PDA. People in these relationships don’t hide the fact that they’re in a relationship, but they also aren’t outwardly flaunting it, either.
The hashtag #PrivateButNotSecret has a collective 123.5 million views on TikTok, with many of the top videos glamorizing a relationship that is exactly that: private. The hashtag includes videos of suggested relationship poses for those interested in a private-but-not-secret relationship (meaning no faces, just hands or silhouettes), video explainers on why this type of relationship style hits differently, and more.
In one TikTok about a couple who are private but not secret, the comments include things like “I’ll die 4 this” and “This…only this,” suggesting many younger couples are opting to be more low-key about their relationships than some celebs.
Of course, there are pros and cons to both displays of affection. For those investing in a private-but-not-secret relationship, it relieves you of having to be performative about your relationship on social media. It also allows you to handle your relationship offline without the pressure of looking or acting a certain way on Instagram. Plus, if things go south, you won’t have to deal with hundreds of people on social media wondering why you no longer post about your SO. That said, it could also make it seem like you’re attempting to hide the person you’re dating or certain parts of your relationship — and for what reason?
As for power PDA-ing, this is great for those physical-touch love languagers out there who don’t mind showing their partner affection whenever, wherever they want. It’s also kind of fun to embrace your desires and act on them — in public, no less — despite all the sexual shame that’s been instilled in many of us and our culture. The cons, though, include unconsenting people watching as you make out in Ikea.
All in all, power PDA-ing isn’t any more acceptable than being private but not secret, or vice versa. Ultimately, it comes down to your relationship and what you want from it. Though many celebs might be power PDA-ing as a gimmick to make headlines and gain attention, the same thing could be said for those on TikTok posting about their private relationship. Because let’s be honest, the only thing more interesting than Insta-stalking someone’s new partner is being kept half in the dark about who their partner is in the first place.
We’re not here to judge couples in whichever ways they do or don’t show affection. If making NSFW comments with your partner in front of a nurse at a doctor’s appointment sounds like a good time to you, then by all means, have a good time. Kardashian and Barker definitely do.
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