Donna Freitas’s new book on the hookup culture rightly encourages students to see its harms, but fails to give them moral reasons for opting out of it.
College life has long been seen as a kind of debauch: “To understand all is to forgive all,” an intoxicated Etonian tells Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited, and in Animal House John Belushi’s monosyllables echo agreement. Yet these days, something new is taking place. Scholars and journalists offer their takes on the hookup culture: the deflowering of American youth that takes place every weekend (and many weeknights) on university campuses.
With the exception of Hannah Rosin—whose The End of Men argued that hooking up empowers women—these writers largely agree that the hookup culture hurts those who participate in it. In 2008, Donna Freitas, then an assistant professor of religion at Boston University, published Sex & The Soul. She described how students at secular, Catholic, and evangelical universities understand their faith, their sexual mores, and the reconciliation (or lack thereof) between the two. The book was based on many interviews with students, as well as Freitas’s own time in the classroom, and offered concrete suggestions to parents, faculty, and clergy for helping students think about sex in a healthier and more meaningful—even spiritual—way.