Posted by: naccm | March 2, 2010

Sex and the Soul – Book Review by Steve Boutry

Steve Boutry recently came on staff as the Director of Community and Campus Minister at UMASS-Boston for SojournCollegiateMinistry.

How can a Harvard University (or any other school for that matter) purport to be a bastion of equality and human rights Monday through Friday, but then allow a Pimps and Ho’s theme party to take place on campus on a Saturday night?

This question is the heart and soul of Donna Freitas’s excellent book, Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses, essential reading for anyone working with students today.  This book was born out a teaching experience she had where she discovered a huge rift between the dominant sexual ethic on campus and what students actually thought and believed about sexuality.

Freitas offers a wide ranging look at various types of colleges and students to find out more about this gap between romance and religion.  She shares some amazing statistical research and gut-wrenching stories that clearly indicate that students, regardless of their religious backgrounds, are desperately seeking safe places to ask questions and find answers regarding their sexual experiences and their spiritual impulses, and if the two can ever be reconciled.

Freitas is very fair in her assessment, turning a critical eye both on the campus “hookup” culture and on the schools themselves for avoiding the issue altogether.  She writes: “the dominant but implicit attitude on campus, not just among students but also perceived among faculty and administrators, is that spirituality and religion are private–not matters for public consumption…they live as if there is a wall between the classroom and the residence hall; between students and faculty, staff, and administrators; between spiritual life and real life.  As a result, spiritual seeking is difficult and lonely.” (p. 217)  Insert “sexuality” and “sexual ethics” for “spirituality” and “religion” and the conclusion is the same: it is a difficult and lonely road.

In the end, this book is not really about sexuality, although that is hugely important, but really it is about personal identity, how we make decisions, and are there any safe places to talk about the deepest issues of being?

She concludes: “It is incumbent upon faculty, administration, and clergy (and campus ministers) to encourage college students to ground themselves somewhere…more than any other resources, they can help students to recognize who they are and to pursue who they want to become–not just bodies or minds or souls, but as whole people.” (p. 228)  I hope that you ponder deeply this last sentence and find it as challenging, and as encouraging, as I have.



  1. […] Sex & the Soul… and Students: I posted a bit on Donna Freitas a while back; her talk at nearby SMU was honestly pretty fascinating. This Catholic prof has done some really interesting work looking with students at the interplay of sexuality and spirituality. Here’s her book on Amazon. [I just realized Heart of Campus Ministry reviewed this book this week, too: check that out here.] […]

  2. […] Steve Boutry posts a great review for college ministers of Sex and the Soul (and he highly encourages reading it). Meanwhile, Derek Melleby reviews Eugene Peterson’s new […]

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