Flashback Friday: How to be social without drinking

This blog post was originally published on September 24, 2015.

Feel like social life revolves around drinking?


Here are 10 alcohol-free ways to have fun in the Triangle.
(TIP: Always ask about a student discount!)

  1.  Host or attend a game night FREE
  2. Join an intramural sports team FREE
  3. Group outing to the theatre! FREE-$$$
  4. Go ice skating or bowling $$
  5. Join a student organization FREE
  6. Check out a local farmer’s market over the weekend FREE
  7. Attend local community events FREE-$$$
  8. Check out student group performances (search category: performance) FREE-$
  9. Learn a new dance/go out dancing (all types of dancing) FREE-$
  10. Watch an outdoor movie or a CUAB movie (seasonal) FREE-$
“Movies Under the Stars” in Downtown Chapel HIll

Or, maybe you want to go to parties and just not drink!

Have you ever been out trying to have some alcohol-free fun, and people won’t stop  bugging you? Here are some ideas of things to say, but they are dependent on your personality type, individual needs, or safety/comfort concerns!

  1. “I’m not drinking tonight, but thank you!”
  2. “I’m good for now, I just had one.”
  3. “I’m taking it easy tonight.”
  4. “I have to wake up early tomorrow/study, etc.”
  5. “I’m driving home tonight.”
  6. “I’m the designated driver tonight.”
  7. “I’m just trying to be a bit healthier right now.”

Not a talker? No worries! There are other ways to ward off peer pressure, again – dependent on your personality type, individual needs, or safety/comfort concerns. For example, some people have suggested holding a drink in their hand and not actually drinking, drinking alcohol-free drinks (like a rum and coke….minus the rum), or attending a party as a sober attendee and playing the games either with water or an alcohol-free drink!

3 Things We Learned from One Act Participants

Bystander intervention is considered a promising practice for preventing sexual violence on college campuses. UNC-CH first implemented bystander intervention in fall 2010 with our first One Act training, and have been growing the program since then, training over 2130+ students in One Act or One Act for Greeks since its inception.

Because of our commitment to implementing programs using the best available evidence possible, Student Wellness staff collect data about the effectiveness of One Act bystander intervention to make sure that what we’re doing is working! We’re delighted to share that data from the first two years of the program that we’ve previously shared here on the blog was published in the May 2015 issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

So what else have we learned?

  1. About one quarter of students attending One Act trainings (excludes One Act for Greeks*) in 2012-2015 identify that they have experienced sexual violence, interpersonal violence, or stalking in their lifetime.
  2. On average, 85% of One Act participants (excludes One Act for Greeks) in 2012-2015 know someone who has experienced sexual violence, interpersonal violence, or stalking.
  3. 100% of participants in both One Act and One Act for Greeks during the 2014-2015 academic year who completed our 1 – week post-test said that they are likely or very likely to intervene if a friend says that forcing someone to have sex is okay.

*due to time limits, anonymous clickers are not used in One Act for Greeks

Read FAQ’s about our research here.

Created by Kelli Raker via piktochart

“Guys Nights” and “Girls Nights” (time with friends) are Good for Your Health

I know a lot of couples who do everything together and never hang out much with friends outside of their relationship. I also know couples that only hang out with friends of one of the partners in the relationship, or only engage socially with other couples. I have also noticed since becoming a parent that often social engagements can center around children and events with other parents. Some fathers, mothers, and partners may feel guilty about participating in things like “Guys Nights” or “Girls Nights” or “sports nights” or “movie nights” outside of their relationship, and I have heard people say that they cannot understand why their partner would want to do things without them. These scenarios can lead to tension, unhappiness, pressure, poor communication, and even resentment, none of which facilitate a healthy relationship.

"Ishod, Theotis, & Elijah" by  mor gnar... ,flickr Creative Commons
“Ishod, Theotis, & Elijah” by mor gnar… ,flickr Creative Commons

Turns out however, that hanging out with friends is not only fun and rewarding, but actually helps you not get sick, can actually increase life expectancy , and benefits seem to happen for both men and women. You can check out the links, but the gist is, hanging out with friends increases beneficial hormones, boosts immune function, reduces stress and depression, and improves overall mental and physical health. It also appears that these benefits occur when the socializing occurs with members of the same sex, and part of this could be due to biological hormonal differences (oxytocin vs testosterone) and likely are also due to shared experiences of what it means to be a man or woman. I am certainly not suggesting that all members of the same gender have the same life experiences, but society certainly treats men differently than women, and sometimes people need a space to be with others who have similar experiences and interests. Hanging out with members of the same gender also can remove some of the pressure associated with socializing with members of the opposite gender.

So time spent with the same gender is good, but there is an important caveat. Male bonding, “Guys Nights” or “bromances” if you will may be good for health, but not if they are promoting hegemonic masculinity, or somehow reinforcing male privilege and a gender hierarchy. Guys can hang out together and do “guy things” and not have this result in devaluing typical “feminine characteristics.” Not being a woman, I will not speculate about “Girls Nights” but it is important to makes sure that either gender’s bonding is not causing resentment of the opposite sex. The socializing is about recognizing that, whether socially constructed or biological, there are differences between people and those differences are ok and do not need to be removed.

"Smiling at the sunset (friends)" by Sarah Ross, Flickr Creative Commons
“Smiling at the sunset (friends)” by Sarah Ross, Flickr Creative Commons

Which brings me to my final point. Hanging out with friends, whatever gender or sex they are, is healthy and does not devalue a relationship. The idea of “partner social exclusivity” (I just made up that term but I kind of like it) seems ludicrous, and I believe it is unreasonable to expect one person to meet every single need that you might ever have. People are dynamic and multifaceted, and so relationships should be the same. I also want to say that though the paragraph above is somewhat heteronormative with regards to life experiences, same sex couples also include people with varying experiences and interests and time outside of the relationship can help to validate those experiences and interests.

I do know couple friends who seem to have the exact same interests and are completely happy doing everything together, but I think these are few and far between and part of most healthy relationship is still holding onto individuality. It is about finding that balance between time together and time apart, and the time apart can be a sign of strength, not a deficit in the relationship. So go hang out with your friends. Have a “Guys Night” or a “Girls Night” or a “whatever your interest is night.” It is good for you, and part of finding the balance between partnership and individuality, and also about respecting and valuing both commonalities and differences.

Got an Interview? Check Out These Tips!

"Career Fair at College of DuPage 2014" by COD Newsroom, Flickr Creative Commons
“Career Fair at College of DuPage 2014” by COD Newsroom, Flickr Creative Commons

With spring in the air and summer getting closer (it’ll be here soon – I promise!), you may be wondering, “What am I going to dooo this summer?” For those of us graduating in May (congrats!!), the somewhat daunting search for a job may already be on your mind. And for those of us who still have some time left here at Carolina, maybe you’re thinking about finding a summer job or considering doing an internship once classes end. If jobs or internships are part of your summer plan, this probably means that you’ll have to do some interviews! If just reading that sentence made you a little nervous, this blog post is for you. Interviews can definitely be a little nerve-wracking, but they can also be a great learning experience! Here are some tips that will help you tackle your interviews with confidence and hopefully will help you land that job or internship you’ve got your eye on!

"Interview! White Background" by One Way Stock, Flickr Creative Commons
“Interview! White Background” by One Way Stock, Flickr Creative Commons
  1. Do you research. Wherever you’re interviewing, read up on the organization/company. Go to their website – look at their mission and vision, look at the different services they provide – try to find out as much as you possibly can about the organization and what your job or internship might entail.
  1. Come up with two or three questions you can ask your interviewer. There is usually time at the end of an interview for you to ask questions – this is a time to show the interviewer how well prepared you are! Do you have questions about specific duties of the job or internship? Ask! Do you have questions about the office environment? Ask! Interviews are also a time for you to find out if the job/internship will be a good fit for your needs and skills, so take this time to figure that out.
  1. Before your interview, make a list of questions you think the interviewer might ask you. Try to anticipate what you think they want to know about you, and try to think from their perspective. Is there a past internship you think they might have more questions about? Are there skills they are looking for that you can highlight in your responses to their questions? Once you have your list, practice your answers to these questions! Write your answers down, practice your answers with a friend, or practice your answers in the mirror! This will help you feel confident and ready for anything the interviewers might throw your way.
  1. During the interview (and when you’re practicing your answers to potential questions), try to think of concrete examples of things you have done or learned in past jobs or coursework to strengthen your answers. Be as specific as possible! For example, when asked about your strengths, rather than saying you’re a good public speaker, talk about your strong public speaking skills and give examples of times when you have given presentations or facilitated group discussions.
  1. Be aware of your body language. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with the interviewer while you’re talking, and try not to slouch back in your chair. This will show the interviewer you are engaged in the conversation.
  1. Be honest, and be yourself. You’re awesome and qualified – let that show!
  1. Be sure to take advantage of campus resources when you’re prepping for your interview. UNC’s University Career Services has some amazing resources to help you prep for interviews on their website, and they also host a TON of great workshops that will help you with your job search. And guess what?!?! They are hosting an Interview Tips and Strategies workshop on February 12th from 3:30-5:00pm in Hanes Hall, room 239B – be sure to check it out!
  1. One final tip to keep in mind when interviewing is to be sure to thank your interviewers. This can be done in many ways, but one suggestion is to send each person you interviewed with a personalized email (or hand-written thank you card if that’s your style!) thanking them for taking time to interview you, and reiterate your enthusiasm about the internship/job and why you think you’d be a good fit.

Good luck in your search for that perfect job or internship! And for those of you graduating, be sure to check out one of our blog posts from last semester about for some additional tips. Do you have any additional interviewing tips you’d like to share? Feel free to comment!

You Hear That? That’s Your Body Speaking…

“You can do it…push yourself…keep going…DIG DEEP!” says the super pumped professional fitness class instructor, as I vigorously take breaths to sooth the discomfort that my chest is in from working out. I hear him telling me to ‘keep going’, even though my legs are ready to buckle from exhaustion and constant beads of sweat find their way into my eyeballs causing more discomfort. I am fatigued and my body is aching and all I can think to myself is, “No, Super-Pumped-Professional-Fitness-Class-Instructor—I cannot keep going…aaaand because you are going to keep my $10 for this class, I am just going to leave now.”

This, my friends, is a prime example of me listening to my body. I could have ‘dug deep’ and continue to push my body, but it was clear that my body was telling me to stop. Listening to your body, pretty much means being aware and in tune with how your body is feeling and reacting (usually physical, but not all the time). How did I know my body was screaming at me to stop? Or that doing an extra rep could cause me injury? Welp, not being able to breathe was one sign.

Joe Vennare, from Greatist.com , lists some common warning signs to ‘listen’ for to prevent three problematic conditions that occur often while working out:

  • Overtraining: Take time for your body to rest and recover!Listen1
  • Injury: Be sure to stretch, take breaks, and get doctor check-ups often!listen2
  • Disordered sleep: There is nothing wrong with an ‘adult bedtime’. Good sleep is needed to function!listen3

Yes, physical wellness is important to consider when thinking about positive health and wellness. Yes, we know that there are things in life that have to be done like….right now, but just pause for a second! Let your body in on the conversation and listen to what it is saying to you.


The Gift of Giving.

I am a crafter.  I craft any and all things because it is a great way for me to relieve stress, plus I am intuitively good at it.  I usually give gifts and crafts all year long, but this past holiday season, I hand sewed 32 scarves from fabric that I handpicked myself (If I could have made the fabric myself, believe me, I would have).  Granted, I spent about $300 on all of the supplies needed, which was a grip! But if you really think about it, I spent less than $10 per person, which is a preeeeeetty good.

Hand Crafted for a Coworker

Hand crafted for my old Boss!

As I finished the last scarf, I began to think to myself, “Why am I doing this?” Welp! The answer is simple—I love the gift of giving.  Not only does it give me satisfaction to know that I am giving, but it makes it even MORE special that the item is personalized and specific for that individual.  It truly does put me in great spirit.

So, what about you? How do you feel when you give the gift of giving?  The Greater Good Science Center, based at the University of California at Berkeley, shares with us some ways that giving is good for you and your community:

  • Giving makes us feel happy. Research shows that when someone gives something that is nice for someone else, it activates parts of the brain that is associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. Endorphins are also released in the brain that creates an overall positive feeling.
  • Giving is good for our health. Research has connected different forms of giving to having better health.  Researchers think this is due to the act of giving, which decreases stress.
  • Giving promotes cooperation and social connection. Several studies suggest that people who give are more likely to be rewarded by others and sometimes by the person you gave to.  This helps create trust and a higher sense of interdependence.
  • Giving evokes gratitude. ‘Counting your blessings’ can illicit feelings of gratitude, which research shows, is essential to health, happiness, and social connections.
  • Giving is contagious. Giving inspires others to want to give. A study showed that when one person gives, it inspires observers to want to give later and to different people.

So, considering all of the health benefits and how easy it is to give—big or small—try to give often!


Healthy Tips for Waking Up!

Winter break is a much-needed time to relax and catch up on lots of sleep. But as the new semester kicks into gear, early morning classes can leave some of us groggy and half-asleep. Waking up can become increasingly challenging!

Here are a few healthy tips to help you jump out of bed and make it to those early morning classes on time and with energy this semester.

The Basic Approach: Coffee or Tea

For many students, faculty, and staff on campus, caffeine-rich coffee or tea is a staple of the morning routine. If you feel yourself struggling in the morning or falling asleep mid-lecture, a quick trip to one of the local coffee shops around campus may be a necessity on your way to class (or to save money, brew it at home or in the dorm!).

Cup of Coffee
Photo: “Coffee from Tapped & Packed” by Zach Inglis. Flickr Creative Commons.
Cup of Tea
Photo: “Tea” by Laurel F. Flickr Creative Commons.   

In addition to increased productivity and mental clarity, from a health standpoint, coffee and tea offer benefits including a large dose of antioxidants and a decreased likelihood of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. Further, people who drink coffee and tea regularly tend to have fewer cases of certain types of cancers and strokes. [1] [2]

Like all things in life, though, moderation is key, and too much of anything tends to lead to trouble.

For more information on the benefits and risks of coffee, check out one of our previous Healthy Heels blogs, “Coffee – Good for You?”

The Alternative: Lemon Water

For those looking for a caffeine-free alternative for the morning rush, try a glass of lemon water. This is not your average little wedge of lemon on the side though; we are talking about pretty intense lemon water here. Try a half lemon for folks under 150lbs and a whole lemon for those above 150lbs in a glass of room temperature water. The taste may take a little time to get used to, but the jolt of energy will be immediately noticeable.

Fresh Lemons
Photo: “Lemon” by Lucas Arrrrgh. Flickr Creative Commons.

In addition to perking your system in the morning, highly concentrated lemon water helps with hydration, stomach issues, and bad breath. Lemon water is also known to freshen your skin, pump up the immune system, and cleanse your liver in the process. [3]

The Hardcore Option: Early Morning Workouts

Nothing gets your mind and body awake quite like a morning workout. For those looking for the ultimate solution to a healthy morning pick-me-up, look no further. Working out in the morning has been shown to increase your mental clarity for 4-10 hours post-workout and tends to give people an all around increase in productivity. It may be a struggle to get yourself out of the bed and into the gym, but if you can muster the strength and have the time, the results can speak for themselves. [4]

Photo: “Hotel Gym” by Casa Velas Hotel. Flickr Creative Commons.

Whether it’s coffee, tea, lemon water, a short workout, or even just eating a solid breakfast, start your day off with a healthy kick this semester and ace those early morning classes.

As a Side Note, let’s be clear–you need to sleep! No morning pick-me-up is a replacement for a good night’s rest. Sleep is an uncompromising necessity to your overall health and well-being as a student. For more information about the health benefits of a good night’s rest, and the consequences of sleep deprivation, check out this old Healthy Heels blog: “Missing Impossible: Sleep and the College Student.”


  1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/coffee-and-health/faq-20058339
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/17/coffee-health-benefits_n_4102133.html
  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/03/17/lemon-water-benefits_n_4980265.html
  4. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/09/23/6-benefits-to-being-a-morning-exerciser



How to Foam Roll

By: Emily Wheeler
"Foam Roller" by Naoto Sato; Flickr Creative Commons
“Foam Roller” by Naoto Sato; Flickr Creative Commons
       Think about that feeling when you wake up the day after an intense workout and as soon as you move to get out of bed you can’t help but groan because you’re so sore. Now think about how having someone else massage an especially sore muscle or doing it yourself can hurt but feel good at the same time. Lifting weights, general strenuous exercise and even stressful daily activities can cause our muscles to feel tight and sore. We can even get “muscle knots,” as people like to call them, where a particular area of muscle feels uncomfortably tight and stretching just doesn’t release the tension enough to feel completely normal. Firmly massaging these “muscle knots” with a thumb can even cause pain to radiate out to the surrounding muscle, even though that’s not where you’re touching.
       For quite some time, athletes and personal trainers have been using a simple secret to release this muscle tension and discomfort: the foam roll. A foam roll is exactly what it sounds like, a cylindrical piece of hard foam, and it is designed especially for use in self-massaging sore and tight muscles! The official name of what most people casually refer to as “foam rolling,” is self-myofascial release, which means to massage your own muscles to release tightness and soreness. I prefer the fun verbified form of the noun, so I’ll call it foam rolling.
       The first time I learned to use a foam roll, I actually wasn’t feeling very sore at all, nor could I identify any especially tight muscles; I was just doing it because I was learning how to do so in a fitness class. However, we started by rolling the quads and hamstrings and I quickly realized that whether you think you do or not, you probably have a lot of muscle tension that could benefit from some foam rolling! I usually have fairly tight hamstrings, so as soon and I put the pressure of my body weight down onto the roll and started moving it down the back of my thigh, there was definitely some major discomfort involved!
       Now, why would I do something painful, you might ask? Foam rolling muscle pain is one of those “it hurts, but in a good way” kind of muscle feelings. Stretching, or a deep tissue massage, can also be painful, yet people still do it voluntarily and claim to feel better afterward. This is a similar situation and you’re just going to have to trust me until you try it when I say that you’ll feel so much better afterward.
       Here are the basics of how foam rolling works. First, start with your foam roll, comfortable clothing, and some space to lay on the floor. You’ll pick a muscle that you want to target, and we’ll just stick with the hamstring example for now. Your hamstring muscle runs down the back of your leg from the bottom of your gluts down to the back of your knee. Start by placing the foam roller under your leg at the top of one of your hamstrings, stretching out that leg and leaning back so that your hands are on the floor behind you and are holding you up slightly. Then, slowly release your arms so that your hands are still on the floor behind you but the majority of your body weight is resting on the foam roller. Then start to move yourself backward over the roller slowly, so that it rolls down toward the back of your knee. This is where you might start to feel some discomfort, so listen to your own body to tell you whether you’re feeling pain (bad) or discomfort (good), and use your arms to lift some of your body weight off of the roller if it becomes painful.
Here I am, foam rolling my hammies for you guys.
Here I am, foam rolling my hammies for you guys.
Now, there are a few key rules to remember when foam rolling to keep it safe for your body:
  1. Always roll very slowly to achieve maximum benefits, and when you find an especially sore spot, pause there to let that point relax and prevent unnecessary pain
  2. Never roll over a joint or directly on a bone. Doing so can cause more harm than good. An example of rolling over a joint would be rolling down your hamstring all the way down to your calf, because you’ve rolled over your knee joint. Instead, roll down to just above the knee, move the roll beneath the knee, and then continue to roll over the calf. An example of rolling over a bone would be laying on your stomach and rolling up your quad over your hipbone. Any bones that you can clearly feel are not protected by muscle and you shouldn’t be rolling over them.
  3. Do not roll your lower back or neck muscles. These are more sensitive to damage, and your pain in these areas might be coming from a problem that needs to addressed by a professional, such as a chiropractor.
  4. Do not roll the same areas over and over in a short period of time. If you concentrate on a certain muscle group, wait at least 24 hours to roll that muscle group again to give it time to relax and heal.
  5. Always roll with the grain of the muscle. Your hamstring runs vertically down your leg, so you should never roll horizontally across your hamstring muscle. It’s best to actually keep your rolling in a single direction, so after your roll down your hamstring, remove the roll and start back up at the top if you’re going to do it again instead of rolling back up the hamstring.
       Here is an awesome article called “How to Foam Roll Like a Pro!” It includes cartoon graphics to help you know how to target certain muscles! I have to say that I think that place that is consistently most uncomfortable yet most beneficial to me is rolling my IT band, which is the muscle that runs down the outer side of your leg above the knee. Try rolling yours and tell me if that doesn’t make you make some crazy faces because you had no idea how much tension you had to release there.
Rolling the IT band; I’m still smiling because I wasn’t actually putting my full body weight on that thing at this point. The simultaneous laughing and cringing comes later.
Rolling the IT band; I’m still smiling because I wasn’t actually putting my full body weight on that thing at this point. The simultaneous laughing and cringing comes later.
       Shortly after you foam roll, and especially the next day, you should start to feel your soreness fade, your muscles become more relaxed, and your range of motion increase compared to before you foam rolled! You can purchase your own foam roller at any major sporting goods store for anywhere from $10-$40 depending on how intense you want to get, but you can also check out foam rollers from the front desk of the Student Recreation Center on campus for convenient and free use! P.S. Side comment– I have no idea why a hunk of foam can cost $40.
       Try it out the next time you come to work out and make it a regular part of your routine! I can’t lie, I almost kind of like the sore feeling in my muscles after a good workout because it makes me feel like I’ve done something worthwhile when I can actually feel the change, but what I don’t like is constant or long-lingering soreness and foam rolling definitely helps me prevent that from happening! Ironically enough, it can also help you wake up and start your day in the morning if you have time, but can still help you relax and feel ready to sleep if you choose to do it at the end of the day. It might feel silly at first, but give it a try and you’ll see why it’s worth it! I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing some foam rolling this week after I attend the “muscle-cut barbells” and “upper body conditioning” group fitness classes; be sure to check back in at the end of the week to read my reviews on what I thought about both classes!

Di-Hydrogen Monoxide: Chemical Alert Warning

As you travel on spring break, make sure you are aware of your body’s levels of Di-Hydrogen Monoxide. Too little Di-Hydrogen Monoxide can result in the following symptoms:

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth and swollen tongue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations (feeling that the heart is jumping or pounding)
  • Confusion
  • Sluggishness
  • Fainting
  • Inability to sweat
  • Decreased urine output
  • Yellow or amber urine output
  • Fever over 101 degrees
  • Vomiting

As you may have figured out, Di-Hydrogen Monoxide = H2O. For you the chemistry-averse among you, that’s what’s commonly referred to as “Water”.

In all seriousness, how much water you drink is important for your health, safety, and ability to enjoy spring break. As you can see from the list above, dehydration can have some very serious health effects.

If someone does exhibit signs of dehydration, get them to a cool place and have them sip water, chew ice chips, suck on a Popsicle, or sip a sports-drink. Loosen their clothing, and seek shade or air-conditioning immediately. If symptoms worsen or persist, take the person to an emergency room or call an ambulance.


College students, if they choose to drink alcohol over spring break, can be especially susceptible to dehydration. Alcohol, like caffeine, is a diuretic. Diuretics act on the kidneys to make you pee more than usual, which results in your body losing too much of its water and becoming dehydrated.

The symptoms of a hangover are mainly due to your body being dehydrated, and can best be cured by drinking water, not a caffeinated beverage.

Hydration is especially important on spring break, when people travel to warm weather where they may be sweating more, enjoying the sunshine more, and expending more energy traveling than they normally do in Chapel Hill.

So to stay hydrated and prevent the above symptoms, follow these 5 easy steps:

  1. Have a full water bottle with you at all times.
  2. Sip water before and during exercise or exposure to heat.
  3. Break up the time you spend in hot temperatures. Find air-conditioned or shady areas and allow yourself to cool down between exposures to the heat.
  4. Wear light colored and loose-fitting clothing, and carry a fan or mister to cool yourself. Doing so will lessen the amount of water you lose by sweating.
  5. If you choose to drink alcohol, alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. This will help you pace your drinking and stay more hydrated.

So now that you know the signs of dehydration and how to avoid it, have a great, safe (and well-hydrated) spring break!

Can I get an ‘Amen’ for hooking up?

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?

Sex and the Soul
Fritas’ book, Sex and the Soul

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.