Sex & Soul on Love and the Hookup

By Oleysa Minina

Contributing Writer

Casual sex and a “hook-up culture” are prevalent on most college campuses, but many students find themselves feeling confused or lonely amidst this culture, said a visiting professor and author on Sunday.

Donna Freitas, a professor of religion at Boston College who wrote the book “Sex and the Soul,” discussed how students “really” feel about casual sex and how it connects to the spirituality and religion, which some students turn to for guidance in uncomfortable situations.

After one of her students who had a reputation for being promiscuous admitted to feeling anxiety about the hook-up culture at college and stated that she “didn’t know why she hooked up,” Freitas was instantly intrigued “that someone was critiquing this sexual freedom on campus,” she said.

Students in her class could “talk a good game about sex” but many were questioning if they really enjoyed it and why they did it if they did not enjoy it, she said. The students in Freitas’ class decided to produce a newspaper issue titled “Dateline” dedicated entirely to having an “honest conversation about love, intimacy, hooking up, dating and other relationships found on campus.” The students also invited faculty, staff and administration to weigh in on this “taboo” topic.

The response from the students on campus was overwhelming. Many found a lot of students actually do not enjoy this “hook-up culture” and feel that religion does not provide them with guidance relevant to the sexual freedom and casual sex experiences they face on a college campus.

“Students are hungry for discussions on sex and hooking up from religious organizations,” Charles Thompson ’14 said.

Freitas decided to take a research perspective on this issue and designed an online survey for college students all over the country at four university types: evangelical, private, Catholic and public. It posed various questions on sex, spirituality, religion and “hooking up.” There was immense interest in the topic: 2,600 students ended up participating in the survey, and 112 were personally interviewed.

The findings showed that many students try to find identity in spirituality and religion but feel the pressure of peers, the “hook-up culture” and drinking influencing many of their decisions. The majority find themselves playing into this “hook-up culture” which is void of any dating, intimacy or romance. Amidst the resulting sense of loneliness, isolation and confusion, many are beginning to ask, “Where is the human dignity in this hook-up culture?” and “Why do I really hook up?”

The findings also showed that while students are not anti-sex, many have negative emotions and anxiety about the prevalence of casual sex on campus. Many participants also showed great interest in spirituality and its connection to the path of bettering their sexual experiences in college.

“I agree with the speaker and feel that students need to find a way to embrace spirituality and talk about how empty and isolated random hook-ups can make a person feel. I believe that students on campus search for love and meaning and cannot find it in this ‘hook-up culture,'” Madison Stevens ’14 said.

Freitas stated that both males and females feel silenced on this issue and need to reach out to friends, family and even faculty. Approaching the subject of hook-up culture, which Freitas states is a “culture of pretend,” with maturity and depth, and finding a way to incorporate spiritual and religious beliefs and ideals into the conversation is something everyone should do.

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