Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Anonymous Letter, August 1960


A colleague of George Gorman, of the Friends Home Service Committee, sent an anonymous letter with comments on draft copy he had seen.


Keith Wedmore Papers


August, 1960

Dear George,

I have read Keith Wedmore's draft outline on the legal aspects of homosexuality. I assume that this is to be part of a larger pamphlet, but as I haven't any idea what the other sections are to be I find it hard to make any comments on this draft which are intelligent. Nor with the limited time I have can I marshall my views as systematically as I would like. But here are a few immediate reactions.

1. Is there not a strong case for getting as many as possible of the undisputed facts out of the way before starting on any argument? I would like to see a pamphlet tackling the subject (very roughly) in this order:--
a. What is homosexuality? i.e. an elaboration of para 1 of this draft.
b. What is its incidence?
c. That are the medical/psychological facts?
d. What is the legal position in England?
e. What is the 'climate of opinion" and theological background to the legal position?
f. What is the case for a change in the law?
g. What are the pastoral and personal problems which remain, law or no law?

2. In general I agree with most of the argument of this draft, but quite clearly not all readers will, and I would prefer the (to me) delightful reference to St. Paul's sociology to come in after the statement of facts. And I would prefer a fuller statement to the views of other Christian bodies now to the Gibbon quotation, which hardly seems pertinent in a short pamphlet.

3. The actual statement of the law on pp.l 3-6 seems to me admirable and might usefully end 2 lines from the bottom of p. 6. I would again doubt if it were necessary to quote Hansard at such length over the Labouchere clause. I am glad the fact that homosexuality and sodomy are not interchangeable words is stressed because it seems to be believed by a lot of people who ought to know better (I always thought it was a pity that the Bidder Cttee used rather than squashing Fairn's use of QCB which seems to me just the sort of jocularity which gives the impression that people are not treating the subject seriously.) Ought not the first sentence on the subject to make it clear that sodomy and buggery are interchangeable words? (I suppose they are, but perhaps I am too innocent?).

4. The latter part of the section 'The law in England' seems to me to belong to (f) and to follow naturally on the doubts cast on St. Paul's sociology. I would prefer a more chronological attack, beginning with the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee and then going on to look at the debate of 29 June 1960 (not, please to be referred to as 'in the recent debate' which is quite unidentifiable.) and then to the text-book classification of crimes. In the last para, 3 lines from the end, after 'higher age of consent' the phrase '(e.g. 21, as recommended by the Wolfenden Committee)' would be useful.

5. Some of my comments in the last 3 sections apply even if my comments on the general shape of the pamphlet are out of order. Even if the main shape of this section remains as it is it is quite clear to me that the last sub-section "How can help be given?' cannot remain as part of it. By no stretch of the imagination can it come under 'Legal aspects' and as a comment on pastoral, medical and psychological care I think it is inadequate, though much of it is on the right lines. I could comment a good deal more fully, but I think it is probably silly to do without seeing the draft of the rest of the pamphlet.

Re-reading this, it looks fairly critical, but I think the draft is a good job and on the right lines and therefore worth being critical about. If I hadn't liked it i shouldn't have felt it worth commenting on. I don't know the author at all, but if you think we wouldn't think it a breach of confidence for you to show his effort to one of your less reputable friends, and it you think he can swallow having my comments inflicted on him, then you are at liberty to pass this on. I therefore prefer (if I may) to sign myself simply and in typescript, XX

There are a vast number of points of punctuation and capitalization which are odd: doubtless the result of your staff getting so fascinated by the subject that they forget that acts of parliament generally have capitals (page 8 line 6) and that Jews are often happier thus (page 1 line 7). On the other hand I should have thought that if you were going to capitalize sodomy you should the same for gross indecency and indecent assault, and before you know where you are it will look like a Victorian Pamphlet, which was precisely (I thought) what the Bidder Committee was out to avoid...

I have already pointed out to you once (with carefully checked references) that the fireside-happening quotation is attributed to someone else by Duncan Fairn in his Swarthmore Lecture--I've mislaid my copy, but it's a page or two from the end I think. You cannot have two members of the Bidder Committee attributing the same quotation to two persons: misquoting and misattributing is an Unnatural Vice.