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by Donna Freitas
Oxford University Press, 2015
Review by Hennie Weiss on Jul 14th 2015

Sex and the Soul, Updated Edition

In 2011 I reviewed Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses by Donna Freitas, which was originally published in 2008. An updated edition was subsequently released in 2015, where Freitas added an afterword titled “Everyone Wants to Talk about Hooking Up: New Reflections after Nearly a Decade of Conversation”. As noted in my earlier review, Sex and the Soul discusses the notion of hookup culture, where little attention is paid to getting to know the person students are hooking up with. Instead, hookups are often brief, bear little emotional substance and are often spurred on by the use of alcohol, leaving many students feeling ashamed and unsatisfied with their sexual encounters. Even though most students often buy into the notion of hookup culture, Freitas noticed that during her face to face interviews the same students state that they are deeply dissatisfied with the hookup culture on campus, arguing that they would like to develop deeper emotional connections, go on dates and be in actual long term relationships. Many do however not know how to approach someone they are interested in, how to ask someone out on a date, and may not be confident enough to approach that person when they are not inebriated. All and all, students, both male and female, feel trapped by hookup culture, but simultaneously embrace the notion of hookups and hookup culture on campus.

In Sex and the Soul, Freitas does however distinguish between the spiritual colleges and the Evangelical colleges in their approach to sex, sexuality, spirituality and religion. In the Evangelical colleges, students are more likely to date, to abstain from sexual encounters, and they integrate their religion and religious beliefs as part of the campus culture. They therefore do not buy into the hookup culture in the same way. Freitas does however note that no matter the type of campus she visited, students all felt ambivalence when it comes to their sexual behavior, and their needs and feelings, in comparison to the dominant culture on campus.

In the afterword, Freitas reflects on the years past since Sex and the Soul was first published and why hookup culture has become, and still is, a hot topic to discuss. Freitas would like to see college campuses (no matter their religious affiliation) spending more time discussing sex and sexual relationships, as well as dating, the wants and needs of students, and the often ignored topic of sexual assaults, and she wants faculty members to be present, supportive and to initiate discussion and reflection. Freitas believes that the present hookup culture on college campuses is detrimental to healthy sexual relationships, to engaging in satisfying sexual encounters, as well as antifeminist and a justice issue. Freitas therefore states that the best way to combat hookup culture is to engage in earnest discussions with students about sex, romance and dating.   

The intended audience is, as noted in the previous review, students and teachers in disciplines such as human sexuality, sociology, psychology, gender studies, feminism and masculinity studies, as well as the study of religion. The book could also be used on college campuses when discussing the notion of sexual assaults, and when holding seminars on sexual conduct. The book is also intended for the general public, and if parents se it fit, would be valuable for those in high school to read before entering college. Freitas writes in a manner that is easy to understand, and her reflections coupled with the interviews make the book an interesting read. In the added afterword section, it is apparent how invested and passionate Freitas is about discussing hookup culture and about students maintaining healthy and positive sexual relationships on campus.  


© 2015 Hennie Weiss


Hennie Weiss has a Master's degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.


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