Guest speaker gives "The Happy Sex Talk"

Donna Freitas, PH.D., an author and professor, visited Mercyhurst on Oct. 23, to give a not-so-typical sex talk to the student body and staff.

Freitas opened the talk by saying, “I’m glad to be giving a happy sex talk, not a sad sex talk.” The point of this lecture was to open our minds to sex and how we truly feel about it as well as how our peers view it.

Her curiosity about sexuality began in high school and throughout her teaching career; she discovered that her students are just as interested in the matter. The main focus of her talk was what she considers “hookup culture” of colleges today.

Freitas asks students to “take time off” and ask themselves “What do I want from sex?”

She opened up many discussions with her students who then created their own campus-wide newspaper to spread their experiences of hooking up to their peers. To their surprise, the newspaper did ignite talk among the students to further think about their feelings.

She conducted a survey and interview sessions to look deeper into students’ thoughts and feelings. She didn’t expect much of a response but the amount of feedback she received was a finding in its own.

There were 2,600 students who took the survey and 600 volunteers for the one-on-one interview part. There was about a 50/50 ratio between men and women responses. Ten percent were bisexual and zero reported to be transgender. About 80% considered themselves as spiritual and many of those students agree that spirituality is about meaning.

There were then four subjects that Freitas looked deeper into: romance, dating, hooking up, and peer pressure.

Most students do not actually associate romance with sex. When describing what they consider to be romantic or a romantic experience, students describe a lot of talking, spending a lot of time with that person, and a lovely setting.

To students, dating is not commonly experienced. However, most students say they would like to go on an actual date and consider themselves to be dating someone.

Hooking up, as defined by most students, is considered to be anything from kissing to different types of sex. This creates a wide range of possible hookups and helps students hide behind the general term of “hooking up.”

“In many ways, it s a common misconception,” Freitas said.

The ability and acceptance of hooking up is thrilling to students but they do not find it exciting. This is because “The hook-up has become the norm. It is obligatory. It is something you’ve got to get done” according to Freitas.

Like most things, peer pressure plays a large role in the hookup culture. Freitas found that 45% of students at Catholic schools and 55% of people at other schools say either (a) it’s casual but they’re not into it, (b) more people care than they do, and (c) they feel alone.

Part of the problem is that hooking up is considered too casual and although a large portion of students are actually uncomfortable with it, they still do it.

People who are not casual force themselves to feel so and a lot of them are afraid to admit to their peers and even themselves that they don’t feel its OK. Freitas found that most people are actually interested in love.

Even when going along with hookup culture, the survey found that 41% of students feel disempowered when hooking up and even feel as if they are being assaulted.

There are few students who say hookups actually feel great and 23% say that it’s “whatever.” Freitas considers these people to be “whateverists.” Students also most commonly blame alcohol.

The sad part is that many people numb themselves to the hookup culture. One of Freitas’ own students admitted that she doesn’t know how to be in any kind of relationship without hooking up.

Freitas closed the lecture saying, “I want you to have happy sex” and followed with “Feel empowered where you are. Feel empowered with who you are.” This includes channeling what you think is love and emotion.

The reason Freitas strongly encourages students to take a step back is to see the possibilities they are missing out on and see the lying and pretending that other students are doing just to fit in.

Her closing remarks were “Be liberated with sexuality. To be liberated, to feel free, it has to be chosen. You have to want it…that is liberating.”