Too close for comfort

On a typical night out in Australia it's inescapable--everywhere I look couples are all over each other, and it seems every place in the country is an unspoken Lovers' Lane. I don't know if it's the South Pacific currents or the time difference, but the people down under have no problem sharing their love with the rest of society everywhere and at any time.

On weekends, couples line the walls of clubs and make-out like an overextended game of "seven minutes in heaven." On campus the situation only gets worse. At 11 a.m. in front of the economics building, I was witness to a good-bye groping. I watched with disgust as some guy grabbed his girlfriend's breast as a send off to her hour-long lecture. It was at this nauseating moment that I began to wonder, why has public affection gotten so out of control?

While the Aussies are a bit of an extreme, public displays of affection in our generation show a complete lack of inhibition. Intimacies between couples have become so casual that it seems what goes on in the bedroom is no longer part of the private realm. It's expected that at college--no longer under the watchful eyes of parents--we will test the limits of social impropriety. This situation has been happening on college campuses for generations, but there is a change in what we're experiencing today.

While we may be guilty of the same indiscretions of generations past, it is the number of people participating that makes the difference. More people our age are comfortable getting overly affectionate in public. The larger quantity of couples crossing the line is what makes the situation so offensive. But why are we seeing such a rise in distasteful displays now?

Our casual nature with public affection is due to the fact that we have become desensitized to sex. We have grown up with a social transition that has increasingly made sex part of the public forum. While sex was a taboo topic for our grandparents, we have been raised in a world where "the three letter word" is part of frank and frequent discussion. We're educated on the subject from various sources and are encouraged to discuss this part of our lives.

Today, it is not unusual for parents to buy condoms for their kids before they go off to college. Twenty years ago this was not the case. Evidence of this trend is best reflected in the media. You cannot put on the television without being bombarded by casual talk about sex. The Friends season finale had Monica and Chandler desperately trying to do it in a hospital; their success prompted Chandler's prideful response "at least we can say we did it on a bucket." And there are of course entire shows dedicated to the issue, such as Sex and the City. It isn't just the programs that inundate us with this new acceptance of sex. There are Trojan condom commercials and the ever-cheesy Herbal Essences ads to keep sexual activity at the fore of our thoughts.

Because we are so exposed to discussion of sex in our everyday lives, it is with ease that we transition to acting more sexual in public. However, society's comfort with sexual discourse does not give us the green light to act so lewdly in public.

When one's love life is brought out of the bedroom, the intimacy of affection is trivialized for what's cool in current societal mindset. When displayed in a room full of strangers, affection will not be viewed in the positive, loving way one expects were it to be kept in the privacy of the bedroom. Being affectionate is about two people, not performing for an audience who more than likely do not want to watch. So, the next time you want to get really friendly, take your lovin' where it belongs, back to the bedroom.

Jennifer Wlach is a Trinity junior and a former health and science associate for The Chronicle.


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