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Towards a Quaker View of Sex (1963) - Transcribed by Mitchell Santine Gould, curator, LeavesOfGrass.Org


The origins of this essay lie in problems brought by young Quaker students, faced with homosexual difficulties, who came to older Friends for help and guidance. It appeared that the Society of Friends as such had little to say to people troubled sexually, and that at the same time many Friends were in serious doubt whether the Church's traditional view spoke to this condition. The need was clear for research into sexual problems and morals : and for Friends to ask themselves where their responsibility lay. A group of concerned members of the Society accordingly gathered in l 957 to re-examine through thought and prayer this most difficult of problems. It has met regularly ever since and includes those with experience in teaching, penology, marriage guidance, psychiatry, biology, psychology and the law.

At some of our sessions we have had representatives of the following Quaker bodies : Young Friends ; Headmasters of Quaker Schools ; Marriage and Parenthood committee ; Temperance and Moral Welfare Union ; Penal Reform Committee ; and the Guild of Social Workers, as well as individual Friends. It was clear that many had thought deeply about these problems and welcomed a chance to discuss them. The reception accorded to our article in The Friend of 20th May l 960, setting out our concern, and to a report of a later one-day conference (together with later correspondence) has further convinced us that even where Friends know little of these problems, most are ready and anxious to examine them with care and sympathy.

Primarily the task of the group was to consider what the Quaker faith could say to homosexuals and to others who found that society strongly condemned their sexual feelings and who found, too, that the expression of those feelings could lead to victimisation, blackmail, and imprisonment, whereas "normal'' heterosexual conduct, however irresponsible, went virtually unchallenged. The group soon found that the study of homosexuality and its moral problems could not be divorced frown a survey of the whole field of sexual activity : a few pieces of the jigsaw-puzzle could not be identified without the whole picture.

In the course of its meetings the group has asked what is known about sexual behaviour and its patterns, and whether sexual behaviour is to be found "worthy of all men to be received'' and in accord with both Christian thought and scientific discipline.

The questions are sweeping and time has not been unlimited; consequently our answers are tentative and incomplete. With the help and encouragement of Friends and others it is our hope that further study of the moral and scientific questions will become possible.

To begin with we were aware that there is much needless suffering and human failure which Friends, in their own way, would wish to relieve; and that in subscribing to a moral code, some of which it no longer accepts, society merits the charge of hypocrisy and its