by Conor Friedersdorf
As a study abroad student in Seville, Spain, one of the first cultural differences I noticed was the prevalence of public kissing. On any given street, I'd see young lovers unabashedly locking lips in a way entirely different than anything I'd seen in the United States. Asked about the phenomenon, the host family I stayed with insisted it was a vestige of Franco's rule in the country. During his tenure, public kissing was verboten, so after his death, there was a backlash, and those who might have disapproved were largely silenced by fear of being labeled fascists. I've never been able to entirely confirm this account, though it was widely believed among Sevillanos to whom I spoke, so it was effectively true for at least some of them.
I'm reminded of that story by the current kerfuffle in Salt Lake City:
On Friday, a gay couple was strolling by the lovely gardened plaza in front of the Mormon Temple when Matt Aune gave his partner, Dereck Jones a peck on the cheek -- and got handcuffed and cited for trespassing and inappropriate behavior -- or something like that.
No police reports have been made public yet, the newspaper says. The men also admit to responding to the citation with profanity so no one may wind up looking good in that scenario. Sunday, kiss-in participants were asked to gather with paper hearts on their sleeves or across their faces on masks, to engage in "gentle" displays of public affection on church-owned Main Street Plaza or nearby public sidewalks...
Of course, prohibiting kissing on private property is obviously different than a state imposed ban, but I'm guessing the public relations battle and subsequent social norms are going to be won here by the folks doing the smooching. Too many people can recall being young, in love, and stealing a kiss in a public places. Indeed one must feel sorry for those who cannot recall such a time. Nor can one really get all that bothered about public kissing given the prevalence of highly graphic sexualized displays elsewhere in public life.