And this is sin and this is good
Now lover don’t regress to shame
I know that god was with us girl,
I heard you call his name (Oh my god)
- Bodies, Soul Miners’ Daughter
Some say that the higher power you pray to and hookups don’t mix. Since many people define a “hookup” as a) random, b) racy, and c) often party-fueled, many religions and spiritual traditions understandably aren’t jumping on the hookup bandwagon too quickly.
Even the less random, less party-fueled, and less racy interactions – you know, good ol’ consensual sex, sometimes in the context of a loving relationship – and the celibacy until marriage often condoned by religious traditions serve as two divergent aspirations. How do students reconcile these so-called angels and demons?
Donna Freitas, an associate professor of religious studies at Boston University, interviewed students at a variety of higher education institutions around the country for her book, “Sex and the Soul.” She came to the conclusion that students struggle with reconciling their faith and sexuality. The the sex-promoting messages from peers, media, and one’s own body result in feelings of shame and guilt on the spiritual side – a far cry from the positive feelings, the “Oh. My. God.,” and, for some, the spiritual connection that can be gained from sexual experiences.
The question, then, is whether it is possible to be spiritual or religious, be sexy and even sexual, and not regress to shame.
Perhaps we can start with thinking about it. So…
Step one – think about it. I started by thinking about the side of me that has faith and the side of me that has sex (it’s cool, I’m married – - and the fact that I felt the need to add that caveat exactly proves my point). I thought about where the two sides of me mix. You might consider having the same conversation with yourself.
Step two – talk about it. I started by talking about faith with my friends – and, when it felt safe, asking about sex in the context of faith. If you want to go further, you might even sit down with your spiritual leader or (gasp!) your family to have an open conversation about sex in your religious tradition.
Step three…well, that’s probably another post for another time.
What do you think? Can we reconcile our spiritual and sexual sides?I linked to these above, but I gotta give some mad props. To Soul Miner’s Daughter: for capturing the sweet sultriness of a spiritual hookup in song form via Bodies. To Donna Freitas for diving into this question on a dissertation-sized scale. And to the journalism students at UC Berkely for putting together an amazing website, Moral Compass, that shows what spiritual leaders from a variety of faith traditions teach on pre-marital sex, contraception, LGBTQ issues, women’s rights, and, yes, even abortion.