The very first interaction that I had with a real, live Pomona College peer came in the form of an e-mail, post-scripted with some important campus vocabulary. I learned about Snack, Pub and a few other similarly pithy affirmations that the school I was coming to was lots of capital-F Fun. That is, until I read, “Sponcest: the act of engaging in romantic and/or sexual relations with a member of one’s sponsor group. Don’t do this.”
I was confused. Being in high school, I was under the impression that sex was a good thing, and further, that people at college generally liked it and did it a lot. Being the college student I am now, I have been given a phrase for this sentiment—sex positivity—but haven’t been provided with much evidence of its existence here.
Whether or not you were bombarded with anti-sponcest propaganda, as I was in my first year, the very existence of the word ‘sponcest’ proves that there is stigma surrounding the concept. The word is not ‘spomance.’ Instead, we are made to think of incest, which laws against have existed long before laws about almost anything else did.
Ostensibly, discouragement of sponcest is meant to protect us from the awkwardness of failed romantic or sexual relationships. To begin with, this is a futile attempt at protection. Pomona is a pretty small school. Whether you have an awkward relationship with somebody down your hall or across campus, you will see them again. Sorry.
Thus, sponcest shaming seems to be less about individuals than it is about the sponsor group as a unit. This is even more problematic. It is selfish that we ask those around us to subordinate their own desires in order to protect the coziness of our contrived familial environment. The sponsor group as an institution should not be given any more didactic or structural power than it already has. This, however, is a battle to be waged in another article.
But in the spirit of generosity, let’s buy into the sponsor group concept for a moment. It is within this same sponcest shaming system that we are told our ‘spiblings’ are an emotional support network, those with whom we spend a significant chunk of our time and are purportedly closest to. Why should we avoid sexual or romantic interaction with the very people we are most compatible with?
I am not suggesting that the sponsor group should be viewed as a college-constructed dating pool. I’m simply suggesting that, given the supposed rigor of our education here, we should be given the license to make our own judgments about our sexual or romantic behavior, instead of having to dance around the type of stigma that legitimately oppressed groups have been working against for centuries.
The question of awkwardness is a larger one still. It appears that Pomona students need to learn to deal with it, since valuing its avoidance over potentially positive human interactions points to a set of pretty skewed values, if you ask me. What ever happened to the adage, “It is better to have loved and had a couple of uncomfortable sidelong glances at dinner one time than to have never loved at all?”