Friday, May 8, 2009

Sex and the Soul

Last year, Donna Freitas, an Assistant Professor of Religion at Boston University, published a book called Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses.

According to the book's description:

Today's college students are fascinated by religion but they are also more sexually active than previous generations. How do these young people reconcile their spiritual longings with sexual freedom on campus? Based on dozens of face-to-face interviews, Sex and the Soul explores the sexual and spiritual lives of today's college students… the book uncovers aspects of college life that may unsettle some readers, especially parents. Many campuses, for instance, are dominated by the hook-up culture of casual sex. Moreover, a surprising number of students see little connection between sex and religion. Indeed, these observations hold true even at Catholic schools…But Freitas's research also reveals that, even at secular schools, students are not comfortable with the prevalence of casual sex, and that they do want religion to speak about what they should do and who they should try to be--not just what they should avoid doing."

Stephen Prothero, author of Religious Literacy, gave Sex and the Soul a positive review...

"How to explain the rise in the 'spiritual but not religious' option among U.S. college students? Might sex have something to do with it? In this provocative book, one of the country's foremost scholars of religion and youth culture answers this question with an emphatic YES! At the heart of this pathbreaking (and heartbreaking) book are the stories of college students 'searching alone' for ways to bring their bodies into conversation with their beliefs. Smart, learned, beautifully written, and above all humane -- this book should jump-start a national conversation on how the sexual revolution has trapped students as much as it has freed them."

On the webpage, "Book Junkie," gave Sex and the Soul a 5-star review...

“It is pretty well known among scholars that high school kids are quite religious in the US. When they go to college they start turning away from the religions of their parents, often toward more generic spirituality. Why does this happen? Freitas thinks sexual experience might hold the key. In other words, as college students start experimenting sexually they push away from religion, since religion is in their view ‘anti-sex.’ That's the argument, or part of it. But at the heart of the book lie stories about these students. Kids at evangelical, Catholic, and secular schools struggling with faith and sexuality. It's brilliantly done. It's sad in many ways to see the binds that ‘hookup culture’ put young people in. It's balanced in that there are things in here that will infuriate (and delight) conservatives and liberals alike. And it's timely. Makes me wonder what the next generation is in for heading off to college."

For more on the link between college sex and spirituality, see my earlier posts here and here.


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