The changing look of love

While Queen’s has always been a perfect environment for flourishing romances, the landscape is changing with technology

Looking at the statistics of a modern romance.
Looking at the statistics of a modern romance.
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Queen’s brings hearts together, even after graduation.

For Martin Gerwin, ArtSci ’62, and his wife, Judith Rutledge, ArtSci ’62, a letter of condolence was the tool that allowed them to revive their old friendship.

“I knew Judith during my undergraduate years at Queen’s as we were both taking honours philosophy. Class sizes at that time were so small that it wasn’t hard to get to know each person quite well,” Gerwin said.

After graduating, they both ended up marrying different people and moving on with their lives, leaving Queen’s behind.

“My wife passed away later, and Judith got divorced. Judith’s sister … unintentionally brought the two of us together,” he said. “She heard about my wife passing away, and urged Judith to write a letter of condolence to me.”

The letter led to more communication, and to a reunion of the class of ’62 in August 2002, which Gerwin fondly recalls as his first date with Judith. In the spring of 2003, they were both married.

They agree that their Queen’s connection played a huge role in bringing them together, as they were both aware of each other’s personality due to the small class sizes.

As class sizes at Queen’s have expanded, online dating has replaced letters as a means of communication for romantic relationships.

For Ingrid Gagnon, ArtSci ’99, MA ’02, and her husband Edward Thomas, Sci ’06, MASc ’12, if it hadn’t been for online dating, they would probably have never met. They first met in 2007 through the online dating website eHarmony.

Gagnon didn’t know Thomas during her undergraduate years at Queen’s. Since she had pursued her undergraduate degree at the age of 24, she mostly spent time with graduate students who were her age, and was focused on her studies. Dating was the last thing on her mind.

It was after she pursued two degrees from Queen’s and was working on campus that she met Thomas. “eHarmony really does match you up with someone you’re compatible with to a large extent, at least in my case. After our second date, both Edward and I felt that we had a lot in common and that we didn’t want to see other people.” Gagnon and Thomas were both in their mid-30s and were looking for a meaningful relationship. At a canoeing trip in 2009, Thomas proposed to Gagnon on a cliff overlooking the sunset, and they married in later that year.

They were married at the University Club, located on campus on Stuart St.

“It seemed like the perfect place to get married because of our shared Queen’s connection,” Gagnon said.

Twenty-eight per cent of U.S. marriages began as relationships in college, according to a new Facebook study. And, the landscape of student romance is digitizing from what it once was.

For Gagnon, Queen’s has a special place in her heart as she met so many of her friends there, many of whom also chose to get married at Queen’s.

“Thinking about all of this really makes me believe that online dating worked out perfectly for us,” she said.

Gagnon and her friends aren’t the only ones with emotional attachments towards Queen’s, according to Queen’s Event Services Manager Jennifer Pete.

“Many Queen’s alumni have fond memories connected with Queen’s University which is a place where they studied for so long and met so many of their friends. As a result, many of them choose to get married on Queen’s campus,” she said.

It’s not only alumni who wish to solidify their marriages at Queen’s. Many staff and faculty, along with friends and family of alumni, choose campus as their location for tying the knot.

“For staff and faculty, it’s mostly pride in their employment at such a prestigious university … Of course, the fact that Queen’s is located amidst a gorgeous backdrop in picturesque Kingston definitely helps,” Pete said.

The most popular wedding venues on Queen’s campus include the University Club and the Donald Gordon Conference Centre near West Campus. Both hold wedding receptions throughout the year.

“For the venues that fall under the jurisdiction of Queen’s Events, the Ban Righ Dining Hall and Grant Hall are the most popular,” Pete added. “We also have a partnership with the Agnes Etherington Art Centre for wedding receptions, as well as Wallace Hall [in the JDUC], which we share with the Student Life Centre.” There have been quite a few creative weddings held on campus, Pete said. One in particular was a reception based on dragons and unicorns, with the bride and groom enjoying thrones as their seating.

It’s unclear, however, if the current generation shares this same passion for finding a meaningful relationship while studying at Queen’s.

The prevalence of hookup culture at most postsecondary institutions might suggest otherwise.

Shanlea Gordon, ArtSci ’11 and MA ’13, began pursuing qualitative research on hookup culture at Queen’s, which ultimately became her master’s thesis. After writing an undergraduate paper on dating violence and changes in courtship, she wanted to understand the changing dating rules and norms.

“There were dating rules and specific courtship behaviours in the early 19th century. It seems we don’t have many rules when it comes to pursuing romantic relationships anymore,” she said.

She stressed that even though most relationships on university campuses involve hookups, there’s ambiguity in literature regarding what “hookup culture” really is.

“In general, hookup culture can be defined as a heterosexual male and female engaging in drinking, meeting up at a party or a bar and engaging in sexual behaviour after. That can range from making out to sexual intercourse, to anything in between,” Gordon said.

According to her, some scholars believe that hookup culture became prevalent around the mid-1980s after the second feminist movement, but there hasn’t been much academic research done on it.

“I think it’s so prevalent because of the split gender ratio,” she said. “We have more females coming into undergraduate programs on campus as opposed to males,” she said. “If you look at it from an evolutionary perspective, some scholars would claim that because of this divide, females feel the need to engage in sexual activities in order to get the limited resource — which is the male.”

She also emphasized that even though most literature dealing with hookup culture and relationships focuses on heterosexual couples, LGBT communities also participate in hookup culture.

Hookup culture doesn’t always mean casual and meaningless relationships, said Gordon. Some of the people who indulge in hookup culture are actually hoping to find something meaningful.

“When we are talking about online dating, and Tinder in particular, there is this notion that Tinder is the new heterosexual app for hookups,” she said. “But, Tinder also gives one a chance to get to talk to another person while sober, and really get to know them.”

Tinder is a new dating app that matches users with people based on location, leaving them to select pictures of those who catch their eye. If both people “like” each other, it’s a match and they can start chatting.

Gordon noted that whatever your relationship status, we all need social interaction and intimacy. “You get more sex and better sex from a meaningful relationship rather than a casual hookup, and it ultimately boils down to how most people crave the emotional intimacy along with the physical intimacy,” she said. Gordon agreed that online dating and communication is something today’s generation is more comfortable with, and doesn’t discount it in any form.

“Tinder for example, really bridges the gap between meaningful relationships and hook-up culture,” she said.

The student population seems to have their own opinions about hookup culture and hot topic dating apps.

Hasina Daya, ArtSci ’14, believes that hookup culture at universities stems from people’s desire for instant gratification.

“My advice to people is to take their time and to not rush into any relationship impulsively. It’s also important to love yourself before you can love anybody else,” she said.

Efficiency is what’s driving students to search online for their significant others, according to Amal Nawal, ArtSci ’14.

“I think online dating sites are an excellent way to meet someone casually,” he said.

“People are resorting to it because it’s just so much easier.”

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