Monday, January 11, 2010

What is love? (Your answers)

I thought it would be interesting to provide you with this brief summary of your answers to the question "What is love?" as a group. Also, if you want to keep discussing this question, this is a place to post your definition and other thoughts on the subject.

Here is my summary of your responses:

1. Most of you described love as a positive feeling. Some as a feeling of joy (mainly, feeling joy just being around a person) and some as a feeling of compassion or caring for someone, which echoes the discussion in Symposium of whether love must be of something.
2. Many of you described love as a connection or bonding with another person. Only a couple of you echoed the myth Aristophanes recounts about "finding your other half," and a couple more quoted something else about "the soul's counterpart." Several of you emphasized the need for mutuality in a relationship; if only one person feels love, you said, it is not really love but infatuation.
3. Many of you described love as unconditional: love for a person, not their actions; accept them completely including their flaws; the feeling that you would do anything for a person; the willingness to sacrifice your own happiness for theirs (no one actually mentioned sacrificing your own life, as in Symposium).
4. A few of you defined love as desire, especially to be around a person all the time. Several of you mentioned attraction.
5. A small group defined love as an action, set of actions, or choice, chiefly about how one conducts oneself in relationship or the choice to work on a relationship through the rough spots. A larger number of people mentioned the word "commitment," which may fall here.
6. Only a few of you said things like: love is bullshit; love is for older people (30+); I haven't experienced real love; I worry that I might be missing the crucial imprinting period for experiencing love.

Questions for further discussion:
7. Several of you mentioned the love vs. in love distinction. What's that all about??
8. Several of you mentioned the distinction between familial, friendship, and romantic love. Are these really so clearly different? (Am I the only one who considers my really close friends my family? Don't people tend to draw romantic partners from friendship circles? And don't people's romantic partners eventually form the core of their family?)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Monday, January 4, 2010

Which character in Plato's Symposium best characterizes the way you organize your love life?

Please identify yourself by age and gender.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Sociology 150: Sex, Love and God
Professor Roger Friedland (
TA : Noa Klein (
Winter, 2010
Tuesday-Thursdays, 11:00 – 12:15
Buchannan 1930
Office Hours: Tuesday 9:00-11:00, HSSB 3083
Course Blog:

Love has become problematic in American culture, a source of considerable private and public anxiety. Love’s conditions of possibility are no longer taken for granted. This is nowhere more evident than in America’s youth culture, where a new erotic formation appears to be in evidence, at least if one believes the popular press and the stories of worried parents, particularly those with daughters. American young people are different. They are, for example, three times more likely than their Italian counterparts to display a cool, romantically insensate style, to say love doesn’t matter. Sexuality is not only a personal issue, it has become a religious one, not only in this country but an object of concern for politicized religions around the world. This course is intended to examine the way in which erotic love has been figured in the history of Western civilization and then to explore the personal politics of love in Americans now coming of age, to follow the arc, so to speak, from Hellenism to the “hook-up.”

There is a lot of reading for this class. It should be read for the class in which it is listed as we will have in-class discussion of the readings. Each of you is required to take responsibility for raising an issue, formulating an analytic question, pointing out an empirical example on one of the readings. You will have at most a minute to have your say, and these initial interventions will frame our collective discussions of the readings.

In addition to reading for the seminar, there is required research as well. Seminar members will consider the contours of the culture of sexuality and love through various media which may include analyses of lyrics of popular music, reading of sexual/love advice columnists at university papers, reading popular novels, watching popular television programs, reading of texts in religious and feminist web sites, and personal interviews with their friends and neighbors.

As part of this course, students will do semi-structured interviews and write up a short-research report about love, sexuality and religious life. Course readings are weighted towards the first half of the quarter to allow students to spend adequate time on their interview and write-up. This quarter there will be five subjects to chose from: 1) the existence of a double sexual standard in the treatment of female and male sexual pleasure; 2) the impact of divorce, whether in one’s own family or among others, on participation in casual sex and the sense of their own marital futures; 3) who’s a slut and why; 4) how a relation to God or spirituality affects the way students organize their love lives; and 5) how do religious individuals justify sex before marriage. Each student is expected to write up his/her interview – no more than five double-spaced pages -- in light of the kinds of arguments and empirical associations discussed in class. These will be part of a student’s evaluation and some of them will be discussed in class. All students are required to take Human Subjects training, which can be accessed by going to the Human Subjects Training webpage: Students should use my code to login: RELG-FR-RO-019

Your grade will be based 1/3 on your essay, 1/3 on your midterm and 1/3 on your final examination.

Lecture and Reading Schedule:

January 5: Moulin Rouge: Introduction

January 7: The Historicity of Love

January 12: The Philosophy of Love
Read: Plato, The Symposium, (New York: Penguin Classics) 0140449272

January 14: High School Romance
Read: Sharon Thompson, Going all the Way: Teenage Girls’ Tales of Sex, Romance, and Pregnancy, (New York: Hill and Wang, 1996), 0809015994, pp. 1-140.

January 19: Read: Thompson, Going all the Way, 1996, pp. 141-285.

January 21: Hooking Up. Read: Wendy D. Manning, Peggy C. Giordano and Monica A. Longmore Hooking Up: The Relationship Contexts of "Nonrelationship" Sex, Journal of Adolescent Research 2006; 21 (e-reserves).
Read: Paula England and Reuben J. Thomas, “ The Decline of the Date and the Rise of the College Hook Up,” in Families in Transition, 14th Edition, 2006, edited by Arlene S. Skolnick and Jerome H. Skolnick. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. (e-reseves)

January 26: The Erotics of UCSB.
Read: Catherine Grello, D.P. Welsh and M.S. Harper, "No Strings Attached: The Nature of Casual Sex in College Students" Journal of Sex Research, Volume 43, Number 3, August 2006: pp. 255-267 (e-reserves)

January 28: Read: Kathleen A. Bogle, Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus, (New York: NYU Press, 2008), 0814799698, Pp. 1-95

February 2: Read: Bogle, Hooking Up, Pp. 96-186.

February 4: Read: Laura Hamilton and Elizabeth A. Armstrong, “Gendered Sexuality in Young Adulthood: Double Binds and Flawed Options” Gender and Society, 2009; 23; 589. (e-reserves_

February 9: Mid-term examination

February 11: Read: The Physiology of Love: Helen Fisher, Why We Love?: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, (New York: Henry Holt and Co. 2004). 0-8050-7796-0. Pp. 1-98.

Feburary 16: Read: Fisher, Why We Love?, Pp. 99-219.

February 18: Religion, Love and Sex: The Heart of Politicized Religion

February 23: Politicized Religion: Read: Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, (New York: Random House, 2003). 081297106X

February 25: God and Your Underpants:
Read: Donna Freitas, Sex and the Soul, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 9780195311655, Pp. 1-109

March 2: Read: Freitas, Sex and the Soul, Pp. 113-228.

March 4: Sex, Love and God

March 9: Sex, Love and God

March 11: Review