What is love? What does it mean to be polyamorous? These were some of the questions the Pomona Student Union explored in Pomona College's Rose Hills Theater last Thursday, Feb. 11, in a panel discussion called “All You Need is Love?: Modern (Mis)Conceptions on Love, Relationships, and Dating.” Three speakers shared their stories and experiences and answered students’ questions about love and relationships on college campuses.
The panel consisted of Mimi Schippers, a sociologist at Tulane University who primarily conducts research on non-monogamous relationships; Elizabeth Armstrong, a sociologist at University of Michigan that studies the role of socioeconomic status in love relationships; and Humaira Mubeen, who identifies as a Muslim hipster, the founder of the Muslim dating app Ishqr.
Schippers presented conceptions of love from a polyamorous standpoint, arguing it is a misconception to think the best relationship appears “once and only once” in life. She offered the interesting analogy of monogamy as an “itchy sweater,” describing how one has to constantly suppress desires for the sake of a partner.
“It is very interesting to listen to different ideas of love,” Eugine Choo PO’ 19 said. “We usually think of love as a set thing, like you have to find your one and only and have to stick with that person forever, but in fact love is really volatile. It is really difficult to define what love is.”
In discussing the challenges of non-typical relationships, Schippers described how anything out of the norm is stigmatized since heterosexuality and monogamy have been so codified in society. She explained that polyamorous love is not widely accepted, though she believes it is more congruous with human nature than monogamy is.
“The part that interested me the most is when she argued about compulsory monogamy as it is being used as a basis of white supremacy, homophobia, male dominance, and perpetuating class divides,” Anthony Zhang PO ’19 said. “She also talked about how mono-normativity makes us enter relationships with heavy expectations, like expecting this one person to fulfill all our needs for the rest of our lives.”
Mubeen told the audience about the online platform she created for young Muslims to date and look for partners. She explained how the disparity in viewpoint between young Muslims and their parents results in gaps in understanding about relationships—this was her motivation to create the app. This project allows privacy and strives to create conversation about healthy relationships among Muslims. It is the first and only dating app in the West designed specifically for Muslims.
“The perspective of online dating is very interesting—seeing people actually connect and get married from an online platform, especially for Muslim people who find it very difficult to connect in real life. It shows how you can find love in whatever platform you find comfortable with,” Choo said.
Armstrong, in turn, spoke about hook-up culture and addressed the socioeconomic perspective of college relationships. She pointed out that parties often enable people to secure class advantage. The expectations surrounding parties and hooking up during college perpetuate this stratification. She brought up the example of fraternities, which intensify the negative effects of hook-up culture and increase the possibility of sexual assault because of their exclusive nature. “The whole context is set up to be coercive,” she said.