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


What we have put forward already, and what appears in the appendices, give some idea of the great range of problems which may be brought by troubled people to those whom they trust and respect. Helping to alleviate disorders of the sort we have described is profoundly difficult, let no-one doubt that: other problems such as poverty or physical ill-health are nothing compared with the more deeply ingrained sexual disorders which root themselves within the personality and seemingly defy the best attempts at relief. Individual counsellors may feel uncertain and unprepared, and it is to them that this section is directed. An understanding humility is no bad equip­ment. Such understanding of these disorders as we are able to share in these pages is directed towards a single aim, to give help.

Experience from discussions in our own group, the help we have had over the past five years from those within and without the Society of Friends, and the correspondence in The Friend and else­where, convince us that the desire to understand, to think deeply and to help, is widespread both amongst Friends and in other churches, but mere personal concern is not enough in a counselling situation. The over-confident or clumsy “do-gooder” can do much damage by treading with heavy feet among the tender problems of those in trouble. It is, however, also true that it is unnecessary for all enquiries to be sent automatically to the nearest marriage guidance bureau or psychiatric clinic. Such facilities already have more work than they can cope with in handling the more serious disorders, and such a step may magnify a problem that could be dealt with through ordinary understanding friendliness.

Men and women in sexual trouble usually feel that they are alone, cast out and rejected. Sympathetic friends may be of inestimable help, and indeed with many passing problems a listening ear and the reassurance which that can give are often all that is required. Most of those, for example, who are anxious about masturbation do not need psychiatric treatment but they may need help in overcoming a dominating habit. In only a few will this anxiety be a symptom of deeper disturbance. Sexual worries are often short-lived. They may be stirred up by life’s passing crises (overwork, an examination, courtship, the death of a relative) and soon pass into oblivion.

Counselling at any level makes certain demands: first and foremost that of accessibility. It is hard to discuss one’s sexual difficulties with others and it can be assumed that anyone wishing to do so is in some desperation, only coming after much heart searching and plucking up of courage. Tuesday week, or even tomorrow evening may be too late: the magic moment passes, courage may fail, a temporary but ultimately unsatisfactory solution may offer itself or, as in a few known cases, actual suicide may occur. Accessibility is thus both crucial and a dual problem: the “right” person must also somehow be readily reached.