If you have ever kissed in public you know what follows – people staring. And this happens everywhere – even in colleges. Until very recently, kissing in movies was being reported like promotional events – with actual counts where the lips meet. You don’t promote what’s natural and inconsequential – what’s promoted like this is sleaze. One may argue whichever way, kissing is not that mainstream yet.
But two consenting adults kissing in public – should that be anyone’s problem? No, if all three parties are consenting – third party would be the society which does not considers the act “kissing on lips passionately” an act of sex – but mere expression of love.
People having problem with kissing is a problem of social etiquette. Two consenting adults kissing are within their rights and liberties. Though, when you live in a society, you have to respect the rights of the onlookers too. This is where the problem begins.
Kissing on the lips is considered sexual in India – not an expression of love. Law however does not consider kissing an obscenity. This is very similar to how a woman going topless in the US is completely legal. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not frowned upon. Society doesn’t consider it ok. The onlookers would be offended by exposed breasts.
This social norm changes completely once you land in France, where toplessness won’t offend anyone, so much that advertisements and billboards will showcase women topless. Women standing topless look comfortable in balcony of their homes. And it’s normal, French don’t consider exposed breasts of women necessarily sexual.
All cultures and societies are built around such norms which everybody follows and considers the idea of normal and ideal behaviour, especially in public.
Rights of the onlookers are important in a society and unwritten rules are followed and respected. That doesn’t make one society better or worse, even if you’d prefer otherwise. Rights of the onlookers can be understood by checking if one’s grandparents or kids would be an appropriate audience for an action.
One saying is very popularly quoted by some Indians, who often quote in disdain, that how it’s ok to piss in public but not kiss. Yes, it rhymes very well. But people attending to their nature’s calls in public are tolerated because everybody understands the “lack of toilets” in India. However, this is not sexual. People find kissing offending, because they don’t see it separate from sex. The perception of “kissing on lips” is social and cultural. And it can’t be changed overnight or through argument, or even by installing a law.
If kissing in public was all right,
i. then parents would be kissing in front of their children,
ii. people would be kissing in the place of worship,
iii. you’d be uploading your picture kissing your spouse on Facebook, like it’s no big event,
iv. the leaders of the country would be kissing their spouses to look more human,
v. “saas” and “bahu” both would be kissing their respective husbands on tv like it’s no big deal
But none of that is happening.
In India, people don’t kiss in public, because they don’t have sex in public.
Just because something is legal – that doesn’t mean it will trump the organically set rules of a society. If two people going at each other’s lips in public makes the onlookers uncomfortable – it does. And no amount of protest would change that fact.
What is creating so much unrest among youngsters today is because they’re basing their lives on Hollywood and looking down upon their own culture and legacy. And this rebellion is as directionless as the counter-aggression of right-wing thugs.
However, if the change must come, it’ll come within families first and it’ll take time. If you want to bring kissing out in public – first bring it out of the bedroom to the drawing rooms. It’s good for the kids to know that their parents express their love for each other openly. Change how your parents and grandparents think. Then go out to gain the approval for your life choices from strangers.
Written by Ishaan Mohan Bagga
Follow him on twitter @IshaanMohan