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

always changed with the development of knowledge and needs, and will continue to change. The social code changes in this process, not because society changes it deliberately, but because an increasing number of people break away from it. The ethical or religious code is simpler but far more demanding and long-lasting. If it is truly religious it is, in its essentials, changeless and eternal.

During a period in which the social code is changing rapidly while at the same time the ethical and religious codes are being widely questioned, it is inevitable that a great deal of distress will be en­countered by many, young and old, who do not “know where they are” in matters of sexual behaviour. Fear of misunderstanding and rejection discourage many from bringing forward their distress, yet the sexual instinct is common to all, and it is our duty to be informed and sympathetic. Particularly does this apply to elders and overseers in the Society of Friends. This essay may help to show that though each individual is unique, specific problems are not. Sexual difficulties are infinitely more common than is realised and the isolation of the individual, arising as it does from society’s repressive outlook towards the sexually troubled, is more apparent than real.

This still repressive and inhibited outlook towards sex, whether heterosexual or homosexual, has brought difficulties to the serious student of human behaviour. It has invested a normal function with guilt, mystery and ignorance; it has hindered the gathering of facts, and, what is worse, it has devalued the sexual currency to the levels of sensation and pornography. When one considers the universality of the sexual drive, understanding of its origins and manifestations is surprisingly small: nevertheless a body of knowledge has been built up and in what follows we draw freely on published works (see book list). Sexual behaviour and moral outlook are much more conditioned by upbringing and by prevailing cultural beliefs than most people realise. We might well, therefore, have examined other human communities, and even the animal kingdom, in order to understand the society in which we live (see Appendix B). But what we shall not here attempt is an ABC of sex: basic knowledge of the elementary physical facts is well provided elsewhere. Instead we hope through this essay to share our concern and findings in greater detail, to assist those facing these problems in their own lives or in the lives of others.

The Society of Friends is often spoken of as “a peculiar people”, but exemption from human frailty in general or from sexual difficul­ties in particular is no part of their peculiarity. In what follows we have drawn frequently on our personal experiences of Friends’ needs. If Friends are at all peculiar it perhaps lies in their rejection of a professional priesthood and their acceptance of the total equality of men and women in the life of their religious Society. In a priest­hood of all believers there must be a democratic sharing of pastoral duties; we are bidden to watch over one another for good.

The essentials of Christianity are simple but demanding. Christian­ity is concerned with relationship: the relationship of man with man and man with God. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind and with all thy