It was obvious from the way they were talking that they were good friends. One had a girlfriend with him. They were talking about differences and biases and perception, then one of them asked the other: "So, would you hold my hand all the way through campus?"
I giggled, appreciating the concept of that experiment. Then I smiled as the other guy said "Yeah, absolutely." Then, they held hands, at least until our paths diverged.
Reflecting on what I had just seen, I got a warm and fuzzy feeling about the world. Then, I got all introspective. I'm an enthusiastically heterosexual woman (sorry Kat) and yet, I realized that if one of my female friends asked me the same question, I would gladly hold their hand through campus. What surprised me is that if one of my guy friends asked me the same question, I would certainly hesitate. If it were a guy that I was actually interested in, my answer would most likely be, "No way." So how effective could that experiment have been and who's perception was it testing - theirs or the rest of ours?
When checking my own initial reaction, I found that my response was mostly initiated by the impression that I wanted to leave with the person doing the requesting. When the request is made by a straight, female friend, I can be certain that they have no expectation that our holding hands will insinuate any vulnerability on my part. If the request comes from someone eligible and available, suddenly the act of holding hands becomes a public display of affection. My current reaction, when faced with admitting to myself that I like someone (and through PDAs, everyone else) is to run! My willingness to oblige has less to do with what everyone else thinks of me and more to do with how safely I can navigate the situation and emerge emotionally unscathed.
I wonder, does the origin of the motivation for accepting or declining the invitation change depending on the intensity of the request? What if the request is changed to sitting next to each other? Hugging? Kissing?
What would you do? What motivates your answer?