Sally Hall: Is a kiss in public deemed unacceptable?

Sometimes a kiss causes offence to others.
Sometimes a kiss causes offence to others.
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If there’s one thing I really can’t bear, it’s a pub snogger. Or rather, a brace of pub snoggers.

Because smooching in a drinking establishment is an activity you really can’t do alone.

(Unsure of what collective noun to select, there, I went for ‘brace’. As in ‘embrace’. Or ‘brace yourselves - there’s a couple in the corner engaged in a tongue-twisting contest‘).

Last time I locked horns with pub snoggers, I’d been waiting for a table in a tapas bar for about 45 minutes and became fixated on the inebriated couple of a certain age who were engaged in sloppy Mills & Boonery over a pair of long-finished coffees.

Oblivious to the mounting line of people waiting for a table, the middle-aged saucepots only had eyes for each other. And hands. And lips. And tongues.

When I say ‘locked horns’, of course, I mean (in a very British way) that I shot them an occasional disapproving glance and otherwise waited patiently until they finally decided to get a room so we could tuck into our calamari in truly Spanish style (ie at midnight).

It was with mixed emotions, therefore, that I read about the lesbian couple who were asked to leave a coffeehouse in Vienna after sharing what they referred to as a ‘greeting kiss’.

The owner of Viennese institution Café Prueckel ejected Anastasia Lopez and Eva Prewein from her Fifties-style café because, she said, they were ‘canoodling’.

Austria’s gay community rallied around the couple, staging a mass kiss-in protest outside the café last week to register its outrage.

With more than 2,000 people massing for the kiss-in, Vienna must have completely sold out of lip balm.

The thing is, one person’s ‘greeting kiss’ may be another’s ‘full-on tonsil tangle’. My own discomfort with the pub snogger is applicable to all couples, gay or straight, old or young. The only distinguishing factor I pay attention to is the time of day – the later on in the evening, the more excusable the behaviour (and the less intrusive the spectacle).

In the end, though, I have sought to put aside my prejudice against public displays of affection to see the bigger picture.

According to gay rights activist Gerd Pitcher, from pressure group To Russia With Love Austria, this is not an isolated incident. “Time and again we hear of homophobic incidents in certain Viennese coffee houses where discrimination is apparently ingrained in the system.”

The café owner accused the couple of behaving as if they ‘belonged in a brothel’, which does seem a highly inflammatory (and potentially homophobic) comment.

Myself, I would reserve this level of disapprobation for the worst pub snoggers of all – the dog owners who indulge their pooches with a proper mouth kiss (sloppy tongue akimbo) before returning to sup their pint.

Sarah Champion MP

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