Michael Sam and Public Displays of Affection: Guess What? Consenting Adults Kiss, Look Away If You Don’t Like It

michael-sam-with-boyfriendOn the evening Michael Sam was drafted, ESPN showed this emotional video of Sam kissing his boyfriend after finding out he had been picked by the St. Louis Rams:

Since then, I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Well I don’t care if Michael Sam is gay, but did he have to kiss his boyfriend on TV?” I don’t know, did many of the other people who were drafted kiss their wives/girlfriends in celebration? Do we see straight couples kiss on TV and in public all the time?

Here’s the thing, it’s one thing to be anti-PDA across the board and to be against seeing both straight and gay couples kiss each other in public, on TV, etc. I get it, many people do not like seeing PDAs – that’s fine. It’s another thing to be perfectly OK with seeing straight people kiss each other, but to have a problem with seeing gay people kiss each other while claiming you “don’t care about whether someone is gay.”

I know it’s not the “norm,” and I understand that it can be a bit strange seeing it the first couple of times, but the world is changing and part of the thing about equality and openness is that same sex couples want to – and should be able to – act in the same way heterosexual couples act in public (which includes displaying affection). They shouldn’t have to hear people – many of whom claim not to care about whether someone is gay – complain about it. It just proves that we have a long way yet to come in terms of what we see as comfortable.

But my point is way bigger than Michael Sam. In fact it’s not really even about him, I’m just using him as an example. How many straight couples are shown kissing on TV every single day? Was the fact that Sam was shown being drafted over other players instigated by ESPN? Maybe, but who really cares? He’s the first openly gay player to ever be drafted, so of course they were going to show the moment. More importantly, if they showed a guy kissing his wife no one would have batted an eye.

And that’s my point. I’m watching the baseball game right now and they are showing the kiss cam with all straight couples. If I change the channel there are at least 5 different programs right now showing straight people kissing. Is that the media stirring the pot? Or are they just showing people who care about each other display that affection publicly?

Socialization. No, I don’t mean socialism. This article has nothing to do with economic systems. I mean socialization, “the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status.” 

As someone who is a lesbian – albeit I strongly dislike that label and other “sexual orientation” labels, since I believe sexuality is on a scale, the Kinsey Scale, from 0-6 (look it up) – I look at the world through my own rose colored glasses. I see plenty of opposite sex couples display affection publicly every single day (on TV, on the street, the subway etc.) but I also see same sex couples display affection pretty regularly, so to me there is no difference. I’ve been socialized such that I see both same sex and opposite sex PDAs as “normal.” But, in order for it to “not be a big deal” anymore, then we have to not make a big deal out of it. We need to change the way we have been socialized and the way we socialize our children, because hate is learned, and so is what we think of as “normal.” 

A friend once told me how she explained kissing and marriage to her kid. It was simple. Some girls like boys, some boys like girls, some boys like boys, and some girls like girls, and when two people like each other they kiss and sometimes they get married. Her kid said OK and asked if she could have some juice.

The fact that we don’t see as many same sex public displays of affection as we do opposite sex ones, contributes to why it’s looked at as strange, even by people who believe in equality and think same sex couples should get the same rights. Maybe if we saw more same sex public displays of affection on TV and elsewhere, people would be able to truly accept it instead of simply saying they do because it’s the politically correct response. 

Consenting adults kiss, gay and straight. Sometimes they do it in public. If you don’t like PDA, look away. End of story. 

Ilyssa Fuchs

Ilyssa Fuchs is an attorney, freelance writer, and activist from New York City, who holds both a juris doctor and a political science degree. She is the founder of the popular Facebook page Politically Preposterous and a blog of the same name. Follow Ilyssa on Twitter @IlyssaFuchs, and be sure to check out her archives on Forward Progressives as well!


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