Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses

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Based on dozens of face-to-face interviews, Sex and the Soul explores the sexual and spiritual lives of today's college students. Donna Freitas crisscrossed the country, visiting a range of America's colleges and universities--from public to private, Catholic to evangelical--to find out what students had to say about these highly personal subjects. Their stories will not only engage readers, but, in many cases, move them with the painful struggles these candid young women and men face. Indeed, the book uncovers aspects of college life that may unsettle some readers, especially parents. Many campuses, for instance, are dominated by the pervasiveness of hook-up culture. Moreover, many students see little connection between sex and religion, even as they seek one between sex and spirituality. Indeed, these observations hold true even at Catholic schools. Only at evangelical colleges is religion an important factor when deciding whether or not to engage in sex. But Freitas's research also reveals that, even at secular schools, students are not comfortable with a culture of casual sex, and that they do want spirituality, at least, if not also religion, to speak about what they should do and who they should try to be--not just what they should avoid doing.
Sex and the Soul will offer readers the chance to hear college students speaking honestly about extremely sensitive topics, in a book that will be of great interest to students, parents, clergy, teachers, and anyone who wants to know what's happening on today's college campuses.

Named one of the Best Religion Books of 2008 by Publishers Weekly

"Fascinating, disturbing...engaging...persuasive.... Freitas's work chronicles a poignant spiritual loss that students themselves articulate and mourn."
--Publishers Weekly

"Candid, disturbing, yet ultimately hopeful....Throughout this beautifully written book, Freitas presents students' feelings and experiences in an unflinching yet compassionate way. You care about these young people and their struggles. This book is a great service to students, parents, and those at colleges and universities who want to prepare young adults not just for the workplace but for healthy and fulfilling lives."
--Christian Science Monitor

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Freitas... has carried out the most extensive empirical research to date of college students' sexual practices, sexual ethics, sexual confusion, and sexual heartache... An unequivocal must-read for church leaders, college and seminary professors, and parents." --Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought

"In Sex and the Soul, Donna Freitas models a lovingly Catholic attention to evangelicals, a surprisingly evangelical attention to Catholics, and a passionate, creative attention to the desires of all college students. Freitas is America's foremost young writer on how religious traditions impact everyday life." --Tom Beaudoin, author of Consuming Faith

"Sex and the Soul is both disturbing and hopeful. Donna Freitas is a skilled and sympathetic interlocutor, and her prescriptions for addressing the 'hookup culture' merit serious consideration." --Randall Balmer, author of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America

"Relying on exhaustive research and analysis, this unflinching work delivers both a widely comprehensive and deeply intimate portrait of hook-up culture in this formidably spiritual generation, examining its contradictions, broken hearts, and impossible promises like no one has before. Sex and the Soul should be required reading for anyone interested in today's campus culture -- and tomorrow's adulthood." --Lauren Sandler, author of Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement

"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." --Stephen Prothero, author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- and Doesn't

Named one of the Best Religion Books of 2008 by Publishers Weekly

''Fascinating, disturbing...Freitas's tone is engaging and her writing persuasive...Freitas's work chronicles a poignant spiritual loss that students themselves articulate and mourn.''--Publishers Weekly

"Candid, disturbing, yet ultimately hopeful...Throughout this beautifully written book, Freitas presents students' feelings and experiences in an unflinching yet compassionate way. You care about these young people and their struggles. This book is a great service to students, parents, and those at colleges and universities who want to prepare young adults not just for the workplace but for healthy and fulfilling lives." --Christian Science Monitor

''Fascinating...provocative...Anyone with any interest in mentoring young people should read this book and its recommendations, because there's great hope and wisdom in them.'' --The Weekly Standard

''A wonderful, mind-clearing book...Freitas's book is a boon to anyone who not only cares about our nation's young people, but who has previously learned about this phenomenon only through rumors or anecdotes. Read her book, based on dozens of interviews, for the real scoop.'' --James Martin, SJ, America

''Freitas's book should scare Catholic parents into asking some honest questions early and often.... Freitas has opened those dorm rooms a crack and allowed us to hear how we're doing. We need to listen up.'' --Commonweal

"The level of technicality of the writing is formal but also easily understood. The author descibes her ideas and findings in general yet detailed ways and provide helpful definitions and explanations of terminology." --Hennie Weiss

"Sex and the Soul is s powerful read and excellent...The candid, eye-opening narrative removes the barriers of ignorance and equips individuals to dialogue more openly about spirituality and sexuality." --Christy Rowden

"In general, the book provides a quality read for those interested in how religion intersects with the sexual decision-making of young adults." --BYU Studies Quarterly

Publishers Weekly

Boston University professor Freitas (also an occasional contributor to PW) explores college students' spiritual and sexual lives in this fascinating, disturbing book. With the exception of evangelical collegians, who are still gunning for marriage and trying to remain chaste until then, almost all of the young people Freitas interviewed were engaged in "hookup culture," often exploring their sexuality with near strangers in the hopes of eventually finding someone to date. And with the exception of evangelical students, who allow their religious views to permeate all life choices, including sexual boundaries, most college students don't see much connection between their sexual behavior-which, in candid interviews, they often regret-and their spirituality, which is important to them. Freitas's tone is engaging and her writing persuasive. Of particular interest is her gender analysis of evangelical purity concepts, which expect young women to be chaste but passive as they wait for Prince Charming. Even more disturbing, the theme parties prevalent in hypersexualized hookup culture (in which young women may dress up as whores, maids or schoolgirls while their male counterparts are powerful CEOs, millionaires or professors) also place all the power in the hands of men. Freitas's work chronicles a poignant spiritual loss that students themselves articulate and mourn. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199747610
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/27/2010
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 701,891
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Donna Freitas is Associate Professor of Religion at Hofstra University, and Writer in Residence at Hofstra's Honors College.. A regular contributor to Publishers Weekly, she has also written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Christianity Today, and she has frequently lectured on Sex and the Soul at colleges and universities all over the country since its publication.

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Table of Contents

Foreword, by Lauren Winner
Introduction: Welcome to College. Meet Amy Stone: Tour Guide, Fashion Model, Straight-A Student

Section 1: The Varieties of College Religious Experience
1. The Spiritual Colleges: Souls Adrift
2. Why Catholic Schools (and Their Students) Are "Spiritual but Not Religious"
3. Evangelical Extroverts: Faithful and Diverse

Section 2: The Romantic Ideal
4. Evangelical Purity Culture: Its Princesses and Warriors
5. Wanted: A Little Romance

Section 3: The Truth About Sex On Campus
6. Where Dating=Marriage and a Kiss Means Everything
7. Hookups, Ho's, and Losing It

Section 4: Reconciling Sex and the Soul (or Not) on Campus
8. God vs. My Boyfriend
9. Dividing Sex from the Soul: Why Religion Doesn't Matter When It Comes to Sex

Section 5: Conclusions and Practical Implications
10. Seeking a Sexy Spirituality for Students on Campus

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
Appendix: On Methodology

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