When it comes to sex, students at Catholic colleges apparently aren’t making choices that are much different from students at secular institutions, according to a new study. A large percentage of college students see no connection between their sexual behavior and their religious faith, says Boston University religion professor Donna Freitas in Sex and the Soul, published recently by Oxford University Press.
Despite the seemingly casual exterior, however, when given the chance to talk about their feelings many of students involved in the “hook-up culture” report feeling “awkward, used, dirty, regretful, empty, alone, miserable, disgusted, ashamed, duped,” Freitas said at a recent symposium. “They wanted to change the culture.”
Students at Catholic institutions, much like their counterparts at secular schools, seem to divorce their sexual practices from their spiritual life because they believe religious teachings on sex are outdated, potentially even laughable, said Freitas, a Catholic theologian and assistant professor of religion at BostonUniversity.
According to an article in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), Freitas’ research grew out of a class she taught on dating at St. Michael’s College in Burlington, Vermont, in which students opened up with her and with each other about their dissatisfaction with the predominant “hookup culture” on campus. It eventually led her and five research assistants to survey 2,500 students online, read 500 journals, and individually interview 111 students.
“With the exception of evangelicals, American college students see almost no connection between their religious beliefs and their sexual behavior,” says Freitas. “This radical separation of religion and sex tells us important things not only about the power of the college hookup culture but also about the weakness of religious traditions in the face of it.”