Sexuality & Sexual Problems
Resources
Basic InformationMore InformationLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersLinksBook Reviews
America UnzippedAnatomy of a BoyfriendBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBoys Don't CryChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsCold HitCybersexDare... to Try BisexualityDilemmas of DesireDoing ItDoing ItEarly Embraces IIIErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.For The Bible Tells Me SoFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGetting the Love You WantGoing DownGood GirlsGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexHard to GetHit & MissHomosexualitiesHooking UpHow Sex WorksHow to Create Chemistry with AnyoneHow to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanI'd Rather Eat ChocolateIn a Queer VoiceIn the Mood, AgainIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalJane Sexes It UpKids Gone WildLet's Get This StraightLikely to DieLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLustMaking Peace with PornMale SexualityMaster BreastsMiddlesexNormalNormalOedipus WreckedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmsPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPornifiedPornlandPornographyPoxPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrivate Practices DVDRainbow PartyRapeSex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in CrisisSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Therapy, and KidsSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual EcstasySexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Teens, Sexual MediaShamelessSurviving Sexual ViolenceTalk to Me FirstThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Essential KamasutraThe First TimeThe Happy Hook-UpThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Naked Truth About SexThe Only Girl in the CarThe Pornographer's GriefThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Science of Intimate RelationshipsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sleep of ReasonThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Vagina MonologuesThings Tom LikesUltimate SexUntangling the WebVirginVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWastelandWhat Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?When Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Wilhelm ReichWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWritten in the FleshZen Sex
Related Topics

Family & Relationship Issues
Homosexuality & Bisexuality
Medical Disorders
Relationship Problems

by Donna Freitas
Oxford University Press, 2008
Review by Hennie Weiss on Apr 19th 2011

Sex and the Soul

"Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses" by Donna Freitas is a collection of face-to-face interviews and surveys used to analyze and understand how American college students grapple with their sexual encounters, sexuality and sexual identity in connection to their spirituality and religion.

Freitas visited seven college campuses around the United States, distributed surveys and interviewed students to discern cultural, religious and spiritual patterns of sexual activities and beliefs. In doing so, Freitas distinguish between the spiritual colleges and the Evangelical colleges in their approach to sex, sexuality, spirituality and religion.

Freitas found that spiritual colleges are governed by a "hook-up" culture consisting of parties, alcohol and largely unrestricted sex. Sexual experience is valued over virginity, but students, especially women, walk a fine line between having too little sexual experience, or too much. Dating and romance are often absent in this campus culture whereas religion and spirituality are seen as private and separated from sex, and therefore rarely discussed together. In the Evangelical schools, the Christian purity culture acts as a model for accepted sexual behavior where religion and sex are connected in the campus culture, although often negatively charged. The religious campus culture is deeply embedded into campus life at these schools.

No matter the level of spirituality or religiosity on college campuses, the men and women in Freitas study all encounter both physical and mental concerns when dealing with sex and sexual experiences. In the spiritual colleges, the "hook-up" culture often leaves students feeling guilty, ashamed an unsatisfied with their sexual encounters. Dating, romance and meaningful relationships is something that men and women yearn, but is not part of campus life. In the Evangelic schools, students are expected not to engage in any sexual behavior before marriage. If doing so, one is jeopardizing his or her purity and relationship with God. These students have to battle with feelings of shame, embarrassment, regret and disgust if they do not conform to their religious practices. Students who manage to refrain from sexual behavior and encounters often feel torn between their internal sexual needs and urges and their religious wows to abstain from sex. 

The intended audience can range from students to teachers in diverse academic programs such as psychology, sociology, gender studies and human sexuality, where it could be used as a text or workbook. The book is written in a way as to be very accessible to the general public, as Freitas points out in "A Practical Guide to Sex and the Soul: Three Musts for Your College To-Do List: What to Say to Your Child, Student, Parishioner, Friend".

The level of technicality of the writing is formal but also easily understood. The author describes her ideas and findings in general yet detailed ways and provide helpful definitions and explanations of terminology. Freitas use of language helps captivate the audience during the very interesting face-to-face interviews.

By utilizing interviews and having students write journals on sex and sexuality, Freitas is able to gain a very interesting and deeper understanding of the struggles and concerns of American college students across America. A major strength of the book is also the focus on the differences between males and females concerning norms and accepted sexual behavior, providing an interesting gendered nuance to the issue. Sexual identity is also examined as the author observes the challenges and conflicting emotions of lesbian, gay and bisexual students. The difficult issue of sexual assault and rape is presented as women discuss their experiences with Freitas.   

Where Freitas reasoning becomes a little difficult to follow is in her beliefs about the importance of community in the lives of students. At the Evangelical colleges, the religious basis of the culture permeates all aspects of campus, and the students are very religiously involved. At the spiritual colleges, the same sense of community does not exist, is not as tightly bound, and therefore, the students engage in "hook-up" sex much more often than the Evangelical students. Even though Evangelical students may be able to unify sex and the soul, they often do so with anguish, remorse, regret and doubt about their own personal relationship with God. At the same time, spiritual students do not seem to be satisfied with the lack of spirituality in connection to sex. Although Freitas expresses concern with the spiritual schools being too negligent, and the Evangelical schools too strict in their approach toward sex and the soul, one still gets the feeling that Freitas would prefer the Evangelical approach to sex and the soul over the spiritual one due to the sense of religious community shared even though students express anxiety and confusion.

Freitas focus on spirituality and religion could also be confusing to grasp for students who do not consider themselves to be spiritual and/or religious, especially since Freitas is concerned with the connection between spirituality, religion and sex. 

 

© 2011 Hennie Weiss

 

Hennie Weiss is a graduate student in Sociology at California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.