Speech Story

Dr. Donna Freitas speaks about the unspeakable: Sex on Campus

Random sex, “hookups”, one-night-stands: you name it and Dr. Donna Freitas addressed it in her talk “Sex and the Soul” which she gave at St. Joseph’s University Tuesday February 9th.

Dr. Freitas, a visiting professor at Boston University, earned her B.A. in philosophy from Georgetown and her Ph.D. from Catholic University.

She writes both fiction and non-fiction, but is widely known for her studies of sex and romance on college campuses.

She began her talk with a confession, stating that even though she tours the country encouraging healthy open conversations about sex, she has never openly spoken with her father about sex, or about her work.

One phrase Dr. Freitas used throughout her talk “Meaning with a capital M” stresses that individuals must be informed.

Whether a school administrator or parent is trying to understand the culture of this generation, or a student is being thrown into this whirlwind of experiences known as college, they must be informed.

Freitas helped to inform all of her listeners by defining “hooking-up” as being “purely physical—you shut yourself off. Nothing attached.”

Freitas interviewed students from Catholic, Evangelical, private, and public institutions; males and females; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight students, and students of all different racial and ethnic backgrounds to participate in her study of this “hook-up culture.”

Her research consisted of a two-part process: a 90-minute online survey, and extensive one-on-one interviews.

She also had students document their thoughts and experiences in online journals.

Her consensus?  Although students talk and act like casual sex and commitment free relationships are ideal, “Living in the context of ‘hookup culture’ for a long period of time was really emptying them out.”

This discovery proved true for almost every student interviewed.  “Men [felt they] weren’t allowed to have a desire for a long term relationship.”

Many students admitted that they didn’t like “hooking-up” but thought that everyone else enjoyed it, so they remained silent.

SophomorellyMcDonald agreed with Freitas conclusions: “When she made that comment about people viewing long-term relationships as social suicide, I could completely relate.  I have a boyfriend now, but we broke up when we came to SJU freshman year because we thought we were supposed to be single and hookup with a bunch of people, even though neither of us really wanted to.”

Annie S, McDonald’s friend and roommate, had somewhat of an opposing view.  “I transferred to SJU second half of freshmen year.  I didn’t make any friends at my first school because I was so wrapped up in my boyfriend of three years.  I visited him every weekend, and then we broke up and I hated school. So when I came to SJU I sort of embraced the ‘hook-up culture’.  It was nice having a break; I didn’t feel like I constantly had to check in with someone.“

Freitas left her listeners with a final age-old piece of advice that honesty is the best policy, especially when it comes to sex, hook-ups, and romantic relationships.

“There’s a lot of pretending on campus.  All it takes is a moment of honesty…a lot of things can change.”


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