Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Letter from Anonymous, 26 February 1961


Anonymous sent an immediate followup to Wedmore's previous letter (above) and included some rather biting criticism of the section on Homosexuality that Wedmore had written.


Keith Wedmore Papers


26 February 1961

Keith Wedmore:

Dear Friend,

Thank you for your letter to George Gorman dated 21 February. I am more touched than I can say at the kindness and warmth of your response to my comments. So touched that I will buy a new ribbon before I next write that your aching eyes be not strained beyond bearing in efforts to decipher my comments.

If you and the QCH (& OPS of course) think that similar comments on the rest of the drafts would be useful, I will gladly do my best. But you must bear in mind that comments of an "interested party" who has not had the benefit of your discussions is bound to be not merely biased but (to some extent) ill-informed. You will please to make allowances accordingly.

I propose to address future letters to you as I find it easier to write 'Don't you think' rather than 'I wonder if the committee has considered'. I think that I would rather continue to send them through George, However--this is strictly confidential and for yourself only, not for the committee--I will not rule out altogether the possibility of my journeying from Chevy Chase (where I am writing, as you will know, border ballads and Elizabethan love songs) to London if it would really be useful in pulling the draft into shape. At the moment I feel extremely critical of it.
That brings me to the question: What is the draft. I returned to George the mimeographed Parts 8 and 10 which he let me see in September. Since then I have received the following which I have letters (since the QCH has no Helpful Symbols on the documents):--
A containing
Part I (Introduction) 3 pages
Part 10 though no to marked (How can help be given?) 2 pages, p.2 being numbered 10
Part 2 (Heterosexuality) 4 pages
Part 8 (Homosexuality and the law) being your revise. 8 pages
Part 11 (Summary) 1 page
B containing
Part 5 (Perversions) 2 pages
Part 6 (Origins of sexual behavior) 10 pages
C containing
Part 3 (Homosexuality)

I gather that this is all I ought to have, but what is "the later printed revision of Part 8: or do you mean 'duplicated' and therefore the draft in DOCUMENT A? And 'Homosexuality' was Part 5 in your synopsis (letter 4 November 1960): why is it now 3? These are not meant to be captious questions, but I can't use what little intelligence I have on the draft unless I can related each chapter to the book as a whole.

While are on the book as a whole can I put in more more plea for a uniform prose--dignified, vigorous, lively, but unfascetious. I know that you said (4 November again) that 'a deadpan article on sex--yet another, let's face it--could be terribly dull'. I agree. Dullness is a perennial danger of drafting documents by the committee method. But the way to avoid it (it seems to me) is to entrust the re-writing of the book to a single individual once the drafts are agreed for content. Naturally the QCH would have to re-vet the rewritten document, but at the moment the changes in style between one part and another are unhelpful. I want a vigorous book, but I also want one that moves with dignity so that is can have effective powers of persuasion. Some of the asides in some of the drafts still seem to me cheap and unworthy and all too likely to defeat what I take to be QCH's intention.

Now for Part 3. I am mercifully ignorant of who drafted this. I assume from your letter it wasn't you, but even if it was, I judge from your letters that you are charitable enough to forgive me if I say that it seems to me completely shapeless, with a lot of irrelevancies and non-sequiturs, and with half of it utterly out of place. But I do realize that it is a first draft.

Almost the whole of (c) belongs, I should have thought, in Part 9; and I do not therefore propose to discuss it in detail now. Surely the purpose of this chapter is to do the following:

1, Define homosexuality--it is necessary to explain that it does not mean 'the practicing of homosexual acts' (several rather well-informed people have told me that it does). It is also supposed that it derives from the Latin and has something to do with men, and an explanation of the Greek tongue might be useful, followed by an explanation that as the word 'Lesbianism' is commonly used for female homosexuality, the word 'h/s' in this book will be understood to mean 'male h/s;.

2. Differentiate between h/s and preoccupation with small boys. I know that this is in all sorts of places, but it does need saying and driving home (the Nancy Mitford quotation on 0 5 is unhelpful as it can rather easily be misunderstood).

3. Give supposed percentages (as on p.2) and refer to the wide variety of physical types, etc., to be found--the sentences 'It is commonly..unassailable' (p. 4) belong to this.

4. Deal with merely physical h/s in adolescence (some of pages 2 and 3 come in, but the treatment of this as it stands is confusing (a) physical adolescent h/s whether individual or 'orgy-like'. (b) emotional adolescent involvement, which is what the Radcliffe Hall passage is about, (c) seduction of an adolescent by an older man--the passage beginning 'seduction, then' is out of place as the drafter hasn't discussed the problem)
5. The incidence of h/s in present-day Britain.
There my be some other points, but I think that the chapter should stick to facts, so far as anybody is prepared to accept that anything on this subject is fact.I think that my first notes (of which I hadn't kept a copy) urged strongly that the book should move steadily along the lines of reasonably accepted facts until it came to Part Nine--though I had prepared my own imaginary synopsis at that stage. I still hold that view.
This is probably enough for a first shot. Without going through Parts (a) and (b) in detail, I am prepared to take a few detailed pot-shots:--

p. 1. 'one can no more deplore...' A poor parallel since most grass is green and only the minority pinl, while most people are hetero and only the minority homo. I want a dignified (see 1 above) not a flippant reference to the dictionary.

p. 4 A.P. Herbert. Again, an unhelpful parallel, and there are too many quotations anyway--as bad as Robert Davis's pamphlets or certain Swarthmore lectures. OUT.

p. 4 'have been actually prosecuted." Actually presupposes surprise, e.g.:-'George Gorman has actually been stick on procedure' 'Anon has actually had a fit of generosity'. The drafter means simply: 'were prosecuted'.
'Alert readers' is poor too: you can be alert and have a poor memory; or you can be alert and miss 'The Times' for a week while in Brittany (even Anon can't remember who the Junior Minister was)). And in any case I think it is dangerous to bolster as case by arguing from cases of h/s offences other than those in private.

p. 6 'A well known Quaker'. I just cannot see that this follows from the sentence before. I could understand it if it read: "A well known Quaker pacifist long and successfully concealed his homosexuality and once told a member of our group that, were it known, it would immediately undo all the work he had been able to do for promoting greater understanding between nations and races.' Does it mean that?

This is really quite enough. You and the QCH will, I hope, realize that these criticisms stem from a fundamental respect and interest in the draft. If I didn't think it could be a good book I wouldn't trouble to criticize.
Yours sincerely,