A Safe Place to Talk About Sex
Sex and the Soul: Judging Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses
by Donna Freitas
Oxford University Press, April 2008
336 pp. $19.99
I teach a course on the sociology of sexuality, and my students are surprisingly open about their fears and hopes surrounding sexuality. For the most part, they confirm Donna Freitas's latest research: While students at evangelical schools struggle to know how to live with sexual desire, they are at least looking for their faith to inform their entire lives, including their sexual choices.
Freitas, who taught a course on dating at St. Michael's College, interviewed 111 students and received more than 2,500 responses to an online survey on sex and spirituality. What emerges in Sex and the Soul (Oxford University Press) is a disturbing yet hopeful picture of the sexual and spiritual lives of today's college students. Freitas studied two evangelical universities, two Catholic universities, two private nonreligious schools, and one public university. Since stark differences emerged between evangelical schools and the rest, she clustered observations using the terms evangelical and spiritual schools. (Freitas assumes all schools are somewhat rooted in spirituality, hence her book's title.)
The idea for Freitas's research project emerged from a classroom conversation about hookup culture, defined as casual sexual encounters unencumbered by the burden of love or commitment. Freitas's research confirmed the ubiquity of her class's response: Hookup culture may be prominent on many campuses, but not because the majority of students want it that way.
At the spiritual schools, religious beliefs did not influence sexual choices much at all. Seventy-three percent of ...