Speaker Discusses Spiritual Connection in College Hook-Up Culture

Maddy Tennis

On Monday, September 26, Donna Frei­tas, Boston University professor and author of Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spiritu­ality, Romance, and Religion on America’s Col­lege Campuses, visited Colgate to speak about the intersection of sexuality and spiritual­ity on campus. In her lecture, she discussed the tension college students deal with be­tween their spiritual longings and desire for sexual freedom.

Freitas began her lecture by explaining how she became involved in her research for her book. At Boston University, she taught a class on dating and the college experience. The class related Aristotle to the students’ own hook-ups from the previous weekend, and generally the attitude toward the cam­pus hook-up scene was very positive. How­ever, Freitas noted that there was an obvious shift in the class when, all of a sudden, her students admitted to not enjoying the hook-up culture. This led her to conduct a survey across American secular and non-secular col­leges and discovered that except for Evangeli­cal schools, her findings were very similar to how her students felt at Boston University.

Regarding religion and spirituality, Freitas discovered that 80 percent of students identi­fied as spiritual and/or religious to some degree, but felt that their peers would not be open to discussing such beliefs on a personal level. Also, 78 percent of students often have romantic, elaborate fantasies that are completely asexu­al. These fantasies include lots of talking and “pretty settings, and maybe a long walk or some star-gazing,” without any alcohol or drugs. Sim­ilarly, Freitas found that about 40 percent of the interviewed students believed their peers were too casual about sex and only 7 percent said they felt their friends valued sex in committed, loving relationships. These statistics were rela­tively even for both male and female.

The audience re­acted to the lecture enthusiastically.

“The lecture was re­ally fun. I laughed a lot but also heard some valuable things. I also appreciated that Donna Freita was not preachy at all, she just told it like it is,” sophomore Molly Shapiro said.

Other students also reacted favorably to the lecture.

“I believe that Pro­fessor Freitas’ research puts our own Campus Climate Survey’s find­ings into a national con­text. We are not alone, and often such national research is needed to remind us of that fact,” sophomore Evan Chartier said.

The Campus Climate Survey, which Chart­ier mentioned, was conducted in 2009 and measured a number of variables that contrib­ute to students’ overall satisfaction with Col­gate. The social aspect of life at Colgate was a huge component to the survey and yielded very similar results to Freitas findings. Howev­er, a major difference was that men were more satisfied with the social life than women.

Through these findings, Freitas discov­ered that the hook-up culture across college campuses became the complete opposite of romance. College students are expected to walk away from their hook-up without any emotional at­tachment, which is unnatural. To train oneself to disconnect with someone after having sex is hard, and Freitas claims people are bad at it. No percentage of the students interviewed had a strong positive reaction to the sex scene, and only 30 percent said it was “fine,” while the rest remained negative.

The unhappiest category of students were the underclass­man, while juniors and seniors were more comfortable and less stressed with hooking-up. Freitas explained that the older students she surveyed felt that by hooking-up with many people when they were younger, they had proven that they could have a casual at­titude about it and now did not feel embar­rassed about having a meaningful relationship.

Even though students rarely had good ex­periences hooking-up, Freitas explained that many of the students wanted to continue to hook-up. This led Freitas to relate sex and spirituality. This was met with excitement, and in her interviews she discovered that students felt they could have more meaning­ful sex if they reconciled it with spirituality. However, in general, students felt that when using the term religion, sex was incompatible.

Freitas mentioned, however, that the les­bian and gay community she interviewed dif­fered in their opinions, in that they included public displays of affection when talking about romance.

“I would like to see another study done on sexuality and spirituality focused on LGBTQ students with a sizable pool of transgender and gender-queer students,” Chartier said.

When asked how she believes technology influences the hook-up culture, Freitas admit­ted that she feels there are both advantages and disadvantages to texting and social networking sites. Because “hooking-up” is a new phenom­enon, and Freitas claims it was not as prevalent in the past as it is now, she claims technology might be correlated. Although relationships can get depersonalized through technology, it can also give young adults a chance to portray themselves in a way they would not be able to in a face-to-face conversation because they feel nervous or anxious.

Her final message was that, “the most impor­tant thing is students feel empowered, safe and confident whether they want to hook-up or not.”

Contact Maddy Tennis at [email protected].