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Donna Freitas, a Boston University College of Arts and Sciences visiting assistant professor of religion, discusses her recent book, Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses. Freitas spent five months talking to college students and found a dissonance between what the students said they wanted for themselves — meaningful relationships and romance — and what they felt everyone else wanted — namely, partying and hooking up.
Freitas credits a group of students she taught at St. Michael’s College, a Catholic college in Vermont, with inspiring Sex and the Soul. She was teaching a class that examined dating and sex “through the lens of theology,” she says. And after returning from spring break, one of her students confessed to engaging in college’s hook-up culture, but not really liking it.
“The entire room erupted, because they all agreed with her,” Freitas recalls. “They were shocked to realize that every single person in the room felt like they needed to pretend that they liked the hook-up culture on campus.”
Freitas wondered if this tension was unique to Catholic campuses, so with the help of several student research assistants, she spent five months interviewing students at other Catholic colleges, at Evangelical Christian colleges, at nonreligious private colleges, and at public universities. Overwhelmingly, she says, she found that students believed that they were out of the ordinary for wanting meaningful, romantic relationships, as opposed to casual sexual encounters.
In this lecture, Freitas focuses on the one type of college that stood out from the trend — Evangelical Christian colleges. Here, she says, religion is the center of everything, from campus life to student identity, and so “you can’t talk about sex on campus without talking about religion.” At all the other campuses, meanwhile, “it was really hard for students to see sex and religion in relation to each other,” she says. At the evangelical schools, it was not hook-up culture that pressured students, but “purity culture,” which Freitas describes as “extreme pressures in terms of sexual restraint,” particularly among young women.
April 16, 2008, 7 p.m.
Barnes and Noble at Boston University
About the Speaker:
Donna Freitas is a College of Arts and Sciences visiting assistant professor of religion. She earned a Ph.D. from Catholic University in 2002 and a B.A. in philosophy from Georgetown University in 1994.
Freitas has written several books, including Becoming a Goddess of Inner Poise: Spirituality for the Bridget Jones in All of Us; Save the Date: A Spirituality of Dating, Love, Dinner & the Divine; and Killing the Imposter God: Philip Pullman’s Spiritual Imagination in His Dark Materials, about the religious and ethical dimensions of the children’s books by celebrated British author Pullman.
In addition to writing books, Freitas regularly contributes to a number of magazines, newspapers, and webzines, among them the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Christian Century, and School Library Journal. Much of her writing, teaching, and lecturing centers around struggles of belonging and alienation with regard to faith, particularly among young adults and especially with regard to young women.
Her first novel, The Possibilities of Sainthood — about a 15-year-old girl who aspires to become the first official living saint in Catholic history — will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2008.