Juggling sexuality and religion on Catholic campuses
By: Rene Howard-Paez, Staff Reporter
Donna Freitas, an associate professor of religion at Hofstra University in Boston, opened her discussion on April 6 at the Priory Campus by warning the audience members about the racy nature of the talk.
Dominican celebrated the day of St. Catherine of Siena by inviting Frietas to talk about her new book, “Sex and the Soul,” which focuses on sex, spirituality and religion.
Claire Noonan, the director of the Siena Center, offered the opening remarks.
“This topic does not offer us an easy way out, but it will make us eager for something better,” Noonan said.
The idea for the book sprouted from a sex and spirituality class that Freitas taught at Hofstra, and one student’s comment.
“One student spoke up and critiqued the sex climate on campus,” Freitas said. “This was the first time this had happened and shortly after other students in the class spoke up and agreed.”
Freitas was surprised at the ideas of her students. She wondered if that was the norm on other college campuses or of it was dependent on the affiliation of that particular university.
Freitas then visited public, private, Catholic and Evangelical universities and interviewed students on how they felt.
She found that 45 percent of students at Catholic universities and 36 percent of students at nonreligious private and public universities believe that their peers are too casual about sex.
So casual in fact, that some students found that hookup sex was “efficient,” according to Freitas. This kind of realization is one that shocked some in the audience, including Dominican professor Douglas Keberlein Gutierrez.
The ideas of sex and romance are also two completely different entities, according to Freitas. Most of the students she interviewed felt that the two could not mix and that romance is perceived as talking and having conversation, which implies that sex is merely casual.
Freitas went on to speak about the culture of hooking up on campuses and how even though everyone does it, not necessarily everyone is OK with it.
According to her findings, for all of the students at Catholic, public and nonreligious private schools, 41 percent of the students who reported they hook up also used words like “used,” “dirty,” “regretful” and “alone” to describe their experiences.
Throughout the talk Freitas noted how college students feel that sex and spirituality can go hand in hand, but sex and religion have no place together.
Regardless of these feelings, Freitas noted that there are in fact many things involving the Catholic Church that could be related to this sex culture.
“Students told me that the Catholic Church has taught them three things: don’t have sex before marriage, don’t wear condoms and don’t be gay,” she said.
Her talk left some students, like freshman Jamie Visser, feeling inspired.
“Her talk was the catalyst for change – if we are so courageous,” Visser said.