A year after its initial launch at McMaster, the Aphrodite Project returns with updated changes

In 2021, an initiative known as the Aphrodite Project was introduced to McMaster University as a way of fostering community by helping students match with a potential romantic partner or platonic friend. Students would answer a number of questions and an algorithm would match them based on their responses. 

The project has returned to McMaster on Jan. 24, 2022.  

Maya Bozzo-Rey, the lead project manager at McMaster who is also a second-year honours biology student, explained that the project has become rather well known within the McMaster community. Many students have inquired about its return on Reddit and other similar platforms and Bozzo-Rey believes that the project adds a layer of community.  

“It just adds a sense of community, especially now, because we’re all at home and online and it’s hard to meet new people, so it’s just nice to even find a friend,” said Bozzo-Rey.  

“It just adds a sense of community, especially now, because we’re all at home and online and it’s hard to meet new people, so it’s just nice to even find a friend."

Maya Bozzo-Rey, Lead Project Manager

Last year, the algorithm that is claimed to be used has been critiqued heavily by many as the type to heavily favour one sex as opposed to the other.  

However, Bozzo-Rey said that the project has come quite far since last year. Even if last year had not turned out how one would’ve wanted, this year could go better. 

Angelina Zhang, a second-year honours sensory-motors student, shared her own experiences with the Aphrodite Project. She participated last year and was paired with someone who she is now friends with. She had gone in hoping to have a romantic match, but explained that the friendship she gained was just as nice.  

Zhang shared that the project’s questionnaire section about what personal beliefs mattered to her the most made her need to step back and evaluate. She shared how these kinds of questions aren’t as common on more popular dating apps that have traditionally prioritized physical attributes.  

“There are a lot of questions that ask you about your values, like what aspects of life you value the most. I think that’s a pretty interesting choice of questions because I feel like when we actually assess our relationships in real life, we don’t always think about that a lot,” said Zhang. 

“There are a lot of questions that ask you about your values, like what aspects of life you value the most. I think that’s a pretty interesting choice of questions because I feel like when we actually assess our relationships in real life, we don’t always think about that a lot."

Angelina Zhang, Honours Sensory-Motors Student

Between the previous and current year there have been updates to the Aphrodite project interface. One key change is the profile section on the page. Students can now add a profile photo and information that would be emailed to matches can now all be seen on their profile page.   

Jessica Cui, a member of the marketing and communications team for the project and second-year student at Waterloo University, explained that this was meant to make the site a little more interactive. 

“I think overall, we want to make it more interactive and so you can know a little bit more about your match before you speak with them. So, like adding a picture, I think it shows more personality and then maybe even a conversation starter,” said Cui. 

As someone who opted to participate once again in the Aphrodite project, Zhang talked about her thoughts regarding the new additions to the interface.  

She isn’t sure if the addition of a profile picture is absolutely necessary, considering that to her the main strength of this project was the questions themselves. She wonders if biases may present themselves because of this, stopping a potentially great match from occurring.  

Finally, she discussed that, to her, it’s hard to really say if the McMaster community is brought together for the best when looking at this project. She says that, at the end of the day, it is simply more dependent on who one is matched with.  

“I would say it depends on who you are matched up with, I guess . . . I think it’s pretty cool if you get matched up with someone that you kind of vibe with . . . It’s like even if you don’t end up dating them, you feel like you gained a new friend. However, I know that some people did not have a super great experience with their match for different reasons,” said Zhang. 

Overall, students at McMaster, like Zhang, find themselves with the option to try and see if this project is what they need to form connections. As the years continue, it will be interesting to see how projects like the Aphrodite Project pan out and if they will continue to garner the same level of student interest annually.  

C/O Allauren Forbes

A philosophy course offers a space for exploration of some of our most intimate topics 

What is love, really? What makes a meaningful relationship? How can our understanding of love and sex shift with the complexities of societal, political and ethical expectations? 

The study of philosophy involves seeking out truths about the world, our relationships with one another and our relationship with ourselves. Allauren Forbes is an assistant professor at McMaster University within the department of philosophy. Forbes teaches a course called Philosophy of Love and Sex, which focuses on exploring truths about topics of love and sex. 

The course offers students an opportunity to have discussions about philosophical topics, engage in self-reflection and analyze philosophical literature, some of which may challenge their personal views on intimate relationships. 

The course offers students an opportunity to have discussions about philosophical topics, engage in self-reflection and analyze philosophical literature, some of which may challenge their personal views on intimate relationships. 

Though unique to every individual, such topics are universal and monumental to how one navigates the world and Forbes believes that the importance of love and sex extends beyond just romantic relationships alone. 

“[T]hey're really personal things that shape enormous amounts of the way that we live our lives, the kinds of relationships that we pursue, the kinds of choices we make about careers or where we live [and] a host of other things,” said Forbes.   

Although not always obvious, love and sex are often complicated by societal values and expectations. 

“[Societal expectations] tell us what kinds of relationships are good or valuable [and] what kinds of structures are good or valuable."

Allauren Forbes, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

“[Societal expectations] tell us what kinds of relationships are good or valuable [and] what kinds of structures are good or valuable,” explained Forbes. 

One example of how relationships can challenge societal norms is found in polyamorous relationships. Forbes explained that polyamory is not as widely accepted in Western societies given that monogamy is the default understanding people have about what a relationship is supposed to look like. 

However, exploring philosophical questions can help investigate the value behind these assumptions in society. 

“[I]n the context of romance, you should have a relationship structure that suits your needs and if you are in a society that says, ‘Well, [here] is a very specific narrative: you should find the one and live happily ever after and have two kids,’ maybe that's not what suits you. [Philosophy] helps us question some of these structures. Maybe monogamy isn't right for somebody. Maybe there are other ways to do things that are still in love and still meaningful and valuable [in] all the ways that traditional relationships are,” said Forbes. 

In addition to societal norms, intersectional identities such as race and gender can also play a crucial role to how one experiences love and sex. 

Often, Forbes explained, this can present itself in the form of racist expectations of what is appropriate or not for a particular race. False stereotypes about people can be damaging and pose extra barriers preventing people from building meaningful lives for themselves. 

The community that an individual surrounds themselves with, whether it be their family or friends, can have also significant impact on their experience with relationships. 

“I mean, it could be so psychologically burdensome to try and live a life that is authentic and affirming to you if the people around you think that you are living or being in the wrong kind of way or the wrong kind of relationship . . . [Community] has the power to lift you up but also has the power to sort of pull you back, mak[ing] it harder to live the life of your choosing but also harder to feel good about living the life you're choosing,” said Forbes. 

“I mean, it could be so psychologically burdensome to try and live a life that is authentic and affirming to you if the people around you think that you are living or being in the wrong kind of way or the wrong kind of relationship."

Allauren Forbes, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

After teaching the course for the last two years, Forbes said that she enjoys teaching the course, though it can require an important balance between open discussion amongst the students and staying mindful of the sensitive nature of these topics. 

Forbes aims to be respectful of students’ experiences, recognizing that discussions can be personal, while creating an atmosphere in which students feel comfortable engaging in stimulating conversations. As a way of promoting this environment, an anonymous form is available for students to fill out if they have any concerns they want to bring to her attention. 

Stressing the importance of how philosophy can transform our understanding of love, Forbes hopes students can apply their learning to their own lives. 

“I want students to come away from the class with the sort of formal school skills of philosophy to question some of these things [and] make sure that they understand the kinds of things that they want to do for themselves. I mean, I think philosophy can help us live better lives and I think that part of it is understanding what it is that we're doing,” said Forbes. 

In 2020 and 2021, Philosophy of Love and Sex (PHILOS 2ZZ3) has been offered in the fall semester. Although not certain as of date, students can keep an eye out for future offering of this course on the department of philosophy website

C/O Yoohyun Park

How social media has been fuelling eating disorders and body image issues 

cw: eating disorders, body dysmorphia, body image, self-harm 

With today’s society being submerged in a world of social media that advertises bodies that are considered “norms,” it can be quite easy for one to feel down about their appearance. Today, it is not a shock when young teens decide to undergo procedures such as lip injections that are supposedly meant to look “natural.” 

It begs the question: how can one be confident in their own body? We are constantly surrounded by images of individuals with body types that may be unachievable.  

For example, the current ideal for a woman’s appearance is deemed as someone with big lips, a tiny nose, long hair, thin waist and an hourglass figure. And don’t forget — men need to be jacked, tall and strong. 

In my own experience, it’s been interesting seeing the norms change in the media throughout the years. First, we had the Tumblr phase, in which eating disorders, self-harm and anorexia were considered the norm.  

It was a competition of who had it worse and whoever did was the most “beautiful.” These were the standards around the same time I was in middle school.  

Then Instagram came in. At first, it was lighthearted but as the years went on, it became more toxic.  

With the rising popularity of editing apps such as FaceTune, it can become immensely difficult to discern what is real and what is fake.  

Popular Instagram models and the Kardashian family have set a “norm” for what beautiful women should look like, even though their beauty may have been attained through personal training and cosmetic surgery.  

Due to these overbearing images and social norms, the terms body positivity and body neutrality have become more and more prominent. 

In a broad sense, body positivity is loving all bodies, no matter their size, race or anything in-between. Body neutrality is accepting your body — recognizing its remarkable abilities and non-physical characteristics instead of focusing on your physical appearance alone. 

For example, let’s say I’m talking about my thighs. From a body positivity perspective, I love my thighs, cellulite and all. From a body neutrality lens, I would simply love my thighs because they help me walk. 

While these terms have become more common and helped many, they’ve also negatively affected some people. The body positivity trend has also led to negative consequences such as skinny shaming, which need to be avoided if we truly desire to treat all bodies equally.  

Our society also needs to understand that a certain body isn’t the picture of health and having another body type doesn’t mean you’re inherently unhealthy.  

Being healthy is allowing yourself to eat what you’d like while balancing a lifestyle that allows you to receive all the nutrients you need. It’s learning how to take care of your mind and body. It’s creating healthy habits.  

And it is okay to not love certain things. 

It takes time — a lifetime, really. But be patient with yourself and the world and notice all the things that you were given, notice what they do and appreciate them. Practice gratitude towards yourself and others and everything else will slowly follow. 

Ainsley Thurgood/Photo Assistant

Have you ever thought of treating yourself the way you treat others?  

As individuals, even at a young age, we’re taught to have compassion for others. Every quote, motto and story that we learned revolved around the idea of showing kindness, respect and appreciation for our family, friends and superiors.  

It may suffice to say that such emphasis was laid on these foundations because it was assumed that we knew how to extend these values to ourselves.  

Even the infamous “golden rule” of treating others the way you’d like to be treated taught us to use ourselves as a benchmark for our behaviour to others. They never mentioned how exactly we establish this benchmark, let alone the fact that the rule implies that it can only be accomplished through the means of others.  

It’s not a bad rule. In fact, the rule itself is beautiful. But it is only effective if you’re aware of your self-worth.  

As we grew older, most of us became experts at the art of showing others compassion. When a friend feels upset about failing a test, we’re there to tell them how smart they are and when they’re feeling insecure about their outfit, we tell them how good they look.  

I’m sure it’s obvious where I’m going with this, in that when similar situations arise for ourselves, how we respond is very different. Suddenly, we’re not smart enough to be sitting in a lecture hall and we wonder why the ogres haven't requested to have their faces back. 

You’re free to call others talented, smart and beautiful, but if you dare say those things about yourself, it’s suddenly egotistical and morally repugnant.  

There’s a kind of hypocrisy where social media expects you to constantly critique yourself and deflect compliments while simultaneously telling you that you’re “worthy and special in your own way.”  

Why is it so hard to think positively and focus on the good things about ourselves?  

For example, if we get 70 per cent on a midterm, we’re naturally more inclined to dwell on the 30 per cent of questions we got wrong rather than acknowledging the 70 percent we got correct.  

Scientists tell us it’s due to a phenomenon known as the negativity bias, which implies an intrinsic asymmetry between using positive and negative information to navigate our lives. This can easily extend to our perceptions of ourselves, opting to hang on to the negative aspects instead of appreciating the positive.  

Originally, this came from an ancestral survival instinct. In terms of survival, it was far more useful for our ancestors to take heed of negative stimuli rather than focusing on positive ones. It’s important to remind ourselves that what we’re doing here on Earth is no longer just surviving but that we have the luxury and right to live.  

With that said, it ultimately comes down to the fact that we don’t trust ourselves. Even if there’s a moment where you believe yourself to be worthy, societal suggestions or even childhood experiences swiftly replace the feeling with doubt.  

What’s more, society has thoroughly convinced us that we must look for external outlets to fulfil this void of love.  

Whether this includes finding someone else to build you up, competing with others or becoming a perfectionist, these tactics will often fail since they are rooted in self-doubt.  

Instead, we need to re-teach ourselves to look for fulfillment within. It’s not remotely realistic to attempt to block out all the negativity, but I can practically see the eye-roll if I tell you to embrace it.  

Finding a middle ground where you simply

acknowledge your mistakes and alleged shortcomings is a start. It’s difficult to accept the good, bad and ugly parts of yourself, but unless we make an effort to do so, it will prove equally challenging to do the same for others.  

If we daringly flip the saying and start to treat ourselves the way we treat others then perhaps we can finally learn to love ourselves the way we were always meant to.  

C/O Caleb Shong

Choosing partners through a sole focus on emotion often leaves young folks confused and hurt 

As teenagers and young adults, we often fall in love spontaneously and that’s what makes it so exciting in the beginning. At this age, we often don’t have strict standards and boundaries and simply go after what feels right.  

Expectedly, our strong sense of passion and emotions seems to take over our barely developed sense of reason and rationality. We choose to overlook certain red flags in our partner and relationship supposedly in the name of love.  

But, what is the aftermath of carelessly choosing a partner at a young age? 

As I mentioned, in our younger years, we evidently don't choose relationships on the basis of logic — we choose it purely based on raw fervor. Frankly, most of us didn’t know any better and it made sense to choose someone that made us initially feel loved and cared for.  

However, choosing a partner purely based on emotions often heavily costs us.  

I believe there are three main reasons why young love often doesn’t last and leaves both parties feeling damaged and broken.  

Firstly, most teenagers and even young adults are at a malleable stage in life. We are constantly shifting and discovering new aspects of ourselves. The bitter-sweet truth is that we simply don’t remain the same person.  

Unfortunately, this has a direct effect on our relationships.  

As we and our partners our constantly evolving, we often drift apart in terms of values. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing and both progressions could be positive for both parties, they can still diverge as incompatibilities arise.  

The second reason I believe young love doesn’t work out is our poor communication skills. For the majority of us, we have never been taught proper communications skills.  

We lack fundamental skills such as managing our anger, communicating clearly, mindfulness and trust-building. Unfortunately, due to the absence of these principal building blocks, we frequently find ourselves confused, angry and anxious after relationship struggles. 

Lastly, we often fail to recognize the importance of actively putting effort in our relationship.  

Most times, when we enter a relationship at a young age, we feel as if the relationship should work out effortlessly with no bumps on the road. Evidently, this is false as there is significant importance tied to actively aiming to make your relationship a safe space for both.  

For all these reasons, when young love ends, we hurt deeply — perhaps because of the feeling of confusion that is attached to it. Often, we cannot pinpoint what exactly went wrong and all we feel is significant pain. Mixed emotions of anxiety, sadness and anger slowly into resentment towards our partners.  

Our feelings puzzle us as there is always so much to unwrap and unpack. And because of these extremely perplexing emotions, young love pains us. 

C/O Jessica Yang

Holding space for the stories closest to our hearts 

One of the first articles I wrote for the Silhouette was for the 2020 Sex and the Steel City issue. As I struggled to come up with an idea, I remember feeling daunted and underqualified to tackle the topics at the heart of the issue. I agonized over that article, rewriting it half a dozen times before I got a draft I was even remotely happy with. But after, I also appreciated the space writing that article offered me to think about the questions of love, intimacy and relationships—and then the space the issue offered to read the stories and thoughts of others as well.  

Just like that early article, I’ve agonized over this issue, too. When I started planning it, I felt just as daunted and underqualified as I did before. Sex and the Steel City is a unique special issue, close to the hearts of so many people and I wanted to do justice to that, but I didn’t know what I had to bring to the issue. 

And I kept thinking about the space that first article gave me, the spaces I’ve strived to offer interviewees as a reporter and my writers as an editor, and I thought about the unique, wonderful safety inherent in community — in a space where you are free to not only be yourself but also able to even just figure out who you are to begin with, without having to worry about protecting yourself or the expectations of others and knowing you have people in your corner who see you and will support you. 

This same sense of safety, of community, is a key part of Sex and the Steel City. It’s what allows this issue to offer the space it does to not only its contributors to share the stories closest to their hearts, but also to its readers to feel seen and heard, to know they are not alone. In this year’s issue, we’ve tried to honour the importance of community, highlight the ones that have built us up as well as those we’ve built through love, intimacy and relationships. 

Sex and the Steel City is a community project, a true labour of love. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this issue, who shared their stories and their artwork; it has been a privilege to hear your stories over these past few weeks. Thank you to everyone on staff who wrote for and created and organized this issue. This will be the largest issue of the Silhouette to date and it wouldn’t have been possible without you. 

For everyone who reads this issue, though, I hope you feel some of that same sense of community, too. I hope you can see yourself somewhere in these pages, even if it’s just in one image or one story, and know you are not alone. 

But if you don’t, because I also know there are stories missing from the pages of this issue, stories still to be told, I hope you know there is still space for you here, just as you are. I like to think that’s why we do this issue every year, so everyone has a chance to tell their story.  

What does it mean to love when you feel lost? 

By: Aadhila Nadira, Contributor 

In Western movies, the story flows perfectly. The cushioned Caucasian teenager realizes he loves his best friend and they come out happily with outrageous shows of acceptance. 

For me, there are three key moments that explain my coming out story. A film critic would give me a 1/5 star for allowing the problem to be drawn out for so long.  

The first was at age nine, when my parents took me to New York City. Two men had walked by my family. They were almost exactly like my fathers — age, style of clothing and height. Theoretically, they should’ve been insignificant, two in a crowd of so many. The only difference was their hands were linked, bodies huddled together.

What had stood out to me at age nine though was the unmistakable look my parents gave them. The weight of the stare had felt personal — as if I was being scolded.  

That was the first time I’d seen people like me. 

The second was at age eleven, in a girl's change room. There were thirty girls scattered around the unusually small room with a constant stream of noise — that is until the words “I’m bisexual” echo through the room. It’s the first time I hear of such a thing. It was also the first time my mom heard of it. My mom had fixed me with a look, one I had seen at age nine, and told me to avoid hanging out with her. Her justification was that the girl may “give it” to me if I did.  

That was the first time I had hoped it was only my parent who would look at me like that.   

The third was at age thirteen, in science class. My friend told me she’d finally found a boy she liked. But she wouldn’t tell me his name, not until I’d tell her the name of the boy I liked. In a strange moment of bravery, I’d told my friend her name. She pretended as if it was totally normal until she told my classmates. She said it was because “people deserved to know before they like you.” 

That was the first time I’d realized that I would always be looked at like that. 

Quite honestly, the stare my mom (and classmates) had given me had worked. Back then, I had believed that I was truly a flawed person and that this was all a test. If I could ignore it then I would be loved wholly by those around me. I had fit the rigid mold I told myself I loved. 

This need to suppress held me hostage through my teenage years.

I kissed boys I felt indifferent towards and cut out the girl who had kissed me softly. I’d watched her move cities and then schools and thought it was a blessing from God. Once again I had gently applied another bandage on the cracks that had become a gaping hole.   

It was a month after my eighteenth birthday when I told my newly made university friends I thought a girl in our cohort was undeniably cute. I’m not entirely sure why I told them, I suspect because at that point they were all pixelated profiles in a group chat. I reasoned that they wouldn’t tell my community about the thoughts I had. What threw me was that they all told me to message her, that I wouldn’t know how it would turn out unless I let myself reach out. 

Despite all the comfort, I had been conditioned to think it was all a big test, that if I indulged then I would once again lose the little friends I had. So, with all the shame I held within myself for voicing my true thoughts, I had begun talking to a boy who likely regarded me poorly. I told all my friends back home and in Hamilton, desperate to prove that I was in fact keeping to my mold. I didn't want to break. 

It was when my friends began to show subtle waves of support, trying their best to show their love without overwhelming me, that I let myself hope that maybe I could be myself. Until the age of nineteen, I had truly believed the entire world hated people that loved beyond the binary.  

The way in which I was raised has, and will always, define a part of me. It’s the way I choose to wield it that defines what I can become. I’m still trying to understand the power of it all, taking it one day at a time. Sometimes not every story starts with understanding identity. Sometimes stories are started by letting yourself truly feel openly.  

C/O Amazon, Andrew Mrozowski/Editor-in-Chief

True love is at the  heart of each and every one 

There is something that only true love can bring out in someone. That sparkle in the eye and a hope that one day, we will meet the one. The one that will sweep us off our feet and bring us our happily ever after.  

It may sound cliché but reading these stories reminds me of everything love means to me. It reminds me of that first love feeling, the one you can’t stop thinking about. It reminds me of the perfect love and endings one finds in fairy tales, stories where the world seems to fall into place. It reminds me of the imperfections that make love real. And it reminds me that no matter what, love is always worth fighting for.  

These stories I’m sharing with you are some of my favourite stories of love. I’ve read these books so many times and each time I do they are even more beautiful than the last time I read them. I hope you’ll find a story below that will pique your interest and remind you of everything love can be. 

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera 

Set in the heart of the city that never sleeps, this book tells the story of Arthur, a believer in fate, the universe and love at first sight and Ben, a universe skeptic with only heartache and a box of his ex-boyfriend's things. They cross paths at a post office, of all places. When a missing connections poster turns into a not-so-perfect first date with two do-overs, things don’t go as planned for the two. But somehow, they make it through. And in the end, no one really knows what the universe has in store. Maybe nothing, but maybe everything. Outing the most closeted romantics, this story will have you falling in love for what feels like the first time all over again.  

“I guess that’s any relationship. You start with nothing and maybe end with everything.” 

― Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, What If It's Us 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz 

Ari lives with a family that shows little affection and spends most of his time in his self-created world of doubt. Dante lives with two loving parents and is talented at almost everything he does. Two seemingly opposite individuals who somehow manage to transform one another’s life. Sometimes it takes someone special to uncover those parts of you that you never even knew were there. Sometimes it takes someone special to show you the world in an entirely new way. And sometimes you just need someone special to make everything feel right. In this beautifully and intricately woven story, you will find yourself at a loss for words as you rediscover yourself all over again. 

“I wondered what that was like, to hold someone’s hand. I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.” 

― Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe 

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli 

16-year-old closeted Simon Spiers can’t believe his rotten luck when his secret emails with Blue, the only person Simon feels he can confide in, fall into the hands of the class clown, Martin. Now on the wrong end of blackmail, Simon’s whole world and identity are turned upside down. Being forced to choose between keeping his own sexual identity and his happiness with Blue a secret or betraying his closest friends, Simon will have to figure out who he is and what he stands for before the rest of the world chooses for him. Known to many as the award-winning film Love, Simon, you will be roped into this emotional roller coaster of a novel, being left in awe of everything true love can accomplish.  

“He talked about the ocean between people. And how the whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to.” 

― Becky Albertalli, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda 

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston 

From the moment Alex, son of the first female president of the United States, met Prince Henry, heir to the throne of England, their relationship has been far from diplomatic, to say the least. After all, overly perfect princes can be such snobs. But when one argument gets out of hand, the very relationship of their two nations is put at stake and Alex and Prince Henry are forced to damage control. After all, how hard could forcing a few friendly smiles be? But sometimes there is a charming side to people the camera doesn’t always show and maybe Alex was too quick to judge someone he might have more in common with than he first thought. In reading this story that will have you grinning and laughing, there’s no doubt you’ll be left dreaming about your own happily ever after.  

“That's the choice. I love him, with all that, because of all that. On purpose. I love him on purpose.” 

― Casey McQuiston, Red, White & Royal Blue 

How an online dating initiative offered Mac students a chance at love. Kind of.

C/O Dan Gold

As Reading Week came to a close, we also experienced everyone’s least favourite holiday: Valentine’s Day. I am just joking, of course. After all, what is not to love about enviously eyeing a happy couple as you munch on your discounted Valentine’s chocolates and revel in your own loneliness?

Despite the seemingly impossible odds, it turns out that love is indeed in the air for both our single and “it's complicated” McMaster University students after all.

The Aphrodite Project, named after the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty, has made its debut to hundreds of hopelessly romantic McMaster students.

This mainly experimental and student-led initiative matches you to an algorithmically perfect soulmate or to a platonic friend if you so wish. This left me thinking about an interesting question regarding this project on our campus: will the Aphrodite Project be successful?

This left me thinking about an interesting question regarding this project on our campus: will the Aphrodite Project be successful?

On one hand, this opportunity seems harmless and too good to pass up, but on the flip side, there is the possibility of facing cold, hard disappointment. Personally, I hold the latter view, given my ever-growing disenchantment with online dating apps despite the current situation of students’ social lives.

The Aphrodite Project at McMaster was doomed to begin with given the uneven ratio of the sexes that have signed up, as well as how it did not play out as planned among other larger universities which even led to students even organizing their “post-Aphrodite project” dating profiles using other platforms.

So far, the student opinion regarding this initiative resembles the time-tested issues that are common with online dating in general. The Aphrodite Project, or otherwise presented at McMaster as “Match at Mac,” claims to use a Nobel Prize-winning algorithm, which happens to be the exact same algorithm already being used in other existing dating platforms such as Tinder: the Gale-Shapley algorithm for predicting stable marriages. 

However, there is a reason why all modern online love stories have not necessarily ended in long-term happiness in real life. The Gale-Shapley algorithm is proven to be heavily biased in favour of one sex over the other with the flip of a couple of variables but traditionally remains male-favoured as originally programmed.

The algorithm envisions a scenario where one sex is “married” to their top choice of partner, whereas that chosen partner is “married” to their last choice, proving its clear bias depending on how the algorithm was initially set up.

While the Aphrodite Project has not shared the specifics of its match-making technology for one to assess the exact impacts on the majority of the dating population, the outcome could not have been optimal at Mac given the noticeably high female participation rate compared to male.

[#1078] Any single heterosexual guys out there looking for some love? The aphrodite project closes tonight and there are...

Posted by Mac Confessions on Monday, February 8, 2021

Students were destined to lose out either way as the variables needed for projects like this were already skewed and do not foster an environment for the algorithm to have worked to its full potential. 

Thus, the clickbait of the Nobel prize-winning algorithm was slightly misleading and perhaps raised the hopes of many a love-lorn Mac student too soon.

I believe a further inherent problem behind such initiatives is that it gives whatever matches were made what seems like an already established connection. That way, participants feel even more disappointed going into interactions with their matches when enthusiasm is not reciprocated.

Regardless of its flaws, the Aphrodite Project provided an opportunity of light-hearted fun and possible love for Mac students stuck at home, which if anything, brought a smile to our faces in these dark times. If you did not find your soulmate through Mac’s Aphrodite Project, fear not, as a world of romance awaits you once our sexy campus is up and running again.

By: Serena Habib, Contributor

Butter slathered on toast during mornings with grandpa,

Soccer games followed by cotton candy ice cream,

Pilsbury croissant scented moments with grandma,

Family Second Cup runs for hot chocolate with whipped cream.

Sleepovers with strawberries wrapped in homemade crepes,

Love in grandma’s curries, which made them preeminent,

Candid photos from feeding each other birthday cake,

Little did she know that a maelstrom was imminent.

Love stopped. Love shuddered. Love got lost in the rain.

Food led to fights over mealtime. Love was enveloped in pain.

Mentally preparing herself for Christmas baking,

Running the chocolate chip calories away,

Laughing at dinner while silently aching.

Food-flavoured love was simply not okay.

She watched the boy she loved post pictures with his loved one

Sharing desserts and dinners she would never be able to eat,

She wanted so desperately to be lovable,

But love drifted away, perpetually out of reach.

She had lost love: she did not deserve it.

She would only have the muffin when she aced her test,

A test with a framework built upon inadequacy,

Years of high standards, and pressure to be the best.

It was love in her aunt’s heart when she tried to feed her oil,

Though she really needed buckets of self-acceptance instead,

From her father’s love formed a focus on body image:

A love that filled family vacations with dread.

Her mother’s love induced carbohydrated commands,

Threats that saved her from withering away,

With loathing she ate her way back to rationality —

This led to a love that would never go astray.

Pancakes with peanut-butter mornings of hope,

Cotton candy ice cream to celebrate her nineteenth,

Love for herself, her family, her journey —

Though her journey might never be truly complete.

For sometimes she feels herself slipping through her fingers,

She sees her reflection and bursts into tears,

But then she grabs some hot cocoa and her purple pen,

Reminding herself to push through her fears.

And sometimes she can’t, and her family is hurt,

As if she doesn’t love them by not trying the homemade cake,

Or they commend her on her weight gain at Christmas dinner,

And a mended part of her begins to break.

But love is eternal; it’s patient and enduring.

With each winter, it reveals itself more.

Meals filled with laughter and fond reminiscing

Are love’s subtle ways of winning her war.

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