Sex and the Soul: The Sexual and Spiritual Lives of America's College Students  -     By: Donna Freitas
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Sex and the Soul: The Sexual and Spiritual Lives of America's College Students

Oxford University Press / 2008 / Hardcover

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Product Description

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.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 336
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2008
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.13 (inches)
ISBN: 0195311655
ISBN-13: 9780195311655
Availability: Usually ships in 24-48 hours.

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Publisher's Description

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

Author Bio


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.

Editorial Reviews

It took me several years after college to understand what true relationship intimacy was about. I attribute this personal roadblock partly to spending my college years mired in the prevailing unhealthy hook-up scene. But for the most part, fleeting dalliances usually left me unfulfilled and unhappy.

Sadly, the pressures and dangers of collegiate hook-up culture have grown exponentially since my salad days. In her recent book Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses, Donna Freitas, assistant professor of religion at Boston University, describes just how much things have changed over the years, and paints an upsetting and paradoxical picture of today’s sexually liberated campuses.

While a smattering of recent books have explored the subject of hook-up culture, Freitas’s work seemingly is unique in its juxtaposition of religion and spirituality with sexuality and its exploration of how the former two affect (or do not affect) the latter.

For her research, Freitas visited 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 deeply personal topics. What she uncovered was at once refreshing and disheartening (and relatable): the majority of students she chatted with (including the men) actually resent the highly sexualized social environments so dominant on campuses today, in which sex, alcohol, and misogynistic theme parties such as “Millionaires and Maids,” or “CEOs and Office Ho’s,” abound. But they also feel powerless to go against this social sphere perpetuated by a powerful peer minority. Freitas found this to be equally true at non-religious schools (public and private) and at Catholic schools, where sex cultures are indistinguishable from what she found on secular campuses.

But fear not: Freitas’s tome is no fundamentalist diatribe. In fact, she finds that, while the shared identity and common values found on evangelical campuses are indeed keys to a healthy college experience, the purity ideal at such colleges is severe. The Christian fairy tale common to these schools creates deep anxiety, particularly for women, who feel they have somehow failed if they don’t find a mate and get their “ring by spring” (by the time they graduate).

Freitas’s main concern, however, is with schools that don’t advocate any particular sexual-value system. She argues that college administrations need to engage their communities better on questions about sex, religion, and spirituality. “Right now, students rule the sexual aspect of campus; they’re left on their own to deal with that. In my ideal world, colleges would offer a required first-year seminar, not just about relationships, but also on the ethics of being part of a community,” says Freitas. “It’s important to empower students to reflect personally on their own communities and on themselves inside the classroom.”

Freitas also encourages parents of college-aged kids to start asking questions when they visit prospective campuses. “An institution can have all the prestige in the world and offer the best education,” says Freitas, “but what if this same place has your daughter dressing up as a ‘secretary ho’?”

Neely Steinberg - The Boston Phoenix

Publisher's 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 2008 Reed Business Information.

Editorial Reviews


"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


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  1. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    August 16, 2009
    William Bailey, M.Th., Ph.D
    (Warning: If you are offended by open frank and scientific language sexual discussions, do not buy this book. However, if you are not, and you work at with young people under 22, YOU NEED to Read this book see what is REALLY going on with both evangelical and secular high school and college students and sexual behavior. ) Dr. Freita's book is based on research conducted with personal interviews with college students at 2 evangelical universities, 2 Catholic universities, 2 private nonreligious universities, and one public universities. She found that students at evangelical universities are challenged everyday by their personal faith as well as their sexuality. About 35% of the dozens of students of these schools are sexuality active with both boy and girl friends as well as with "hookups" (casual sex with no emotional involvement.) All of the students she interviewed are struggling with their faith and sexual feelings. There are no differences sexual behavior between those attending Catholic and public universities. Dr. Freita did find students in these schools can be classified as spiritual while NOT religious. Most of those who self classified as spiritual but not religious had no problems with casual sex outside of marriage because they compartmentalized their world into spiritual/religious and sex. They have nothing to do with each other. As a college faculty who teaches Marriage and the Family and who just retired from 31 years as a clergyman, I highly recommend this insightful, well written, and research based book to anyone who is working with junior high through college young adults. It may challenge you the reader to rethink how you see the concept of God's gift of sexuality to humanity and the role God's grace has in our individual lives after we have failed as God's people in this complex world.
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