This document has not yet been proofed — check your citation against the page image
Towards a Quaker View of Sex (1963) - Transcribed by Mitchell Santine Gould, curator, LeavesOfGrass.Org


Most people are attracted towards and make love to the opposite sex. To this extent, therefore, our civilization is right to label such behaviour as “normal” and, securing as it obviously does the future of the race, it is right to encourage heterosexuality and to ensure where possible that our children grow up to enjoy full and healthy partnerships with members of the opposite sex. Social pressures are exerted to ensure conformity to one or other heterosexual ideal; but these vary greatly between cultures, with differing consequences upon adult sexual behaviour.


Though often thought of as a time of innocence, infancy possesses much erotic pleasure of its own kind. Erections, common in boys of any age, can even be seen in the newly born; and some form of masturbation (see pp. 15-17) in infancy is virtually universal in both sexes. All but the blindest of parents must realise that at times even their under-fives find the stimulation of the sexual organs a source of interest, comfort and pleasure. It may be that the automatic censure which these explorations call forth helps to create sexual inhibitions, or worse, in adult fife and so to perpetuate the present cultural pattern.

The experiences of the earliest years are buried deeply—lost beyond our conscious recall—but echoes of those experiences enter into our adult relationships and mould in part the way in which we react to our life situations, to authority figures and to our sexual drives. Meanwhile, parents need not be disturbed by their children’s sexual curiosity or infantile practices.


The stormy years of infancy pass and, as the child learns to please his parents with improved table manners, a dry bed and reasonably clean ears, so he enters the calmer period of sexual latency. Though friendships are primarily with children of the same sex, insatiable curiosity is the keynote here—a curiosity made the more irritating to parents by the usual inability to concentrate for long upon the answers. Parents should deal with questions as and when they arise, and they should answer the question, the whole question, and nothing but the question. There is no need, and it is highly undesirable, to withhold all instruction and then unleash it in one overwhelmingly embarrassing torrent, far too late, in the early ’teens. At the same time there is no need to offer over-sophisticated or elaborate answers at a time when simple ones are just as acceptable. When the child asks where he came from he may only wish to know whether it was from Birmingham or Birkenhead.

No child can be wholly protected from such basic anxieties as those which surround life and death and any parent who gives misleading replies—especially to sexual queries—stands to lose the respect of his