Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Meeting Minutes, 1 Feb 1959


Group reviewed discussion with Young Friends from previous meeting; set agenda of next meeting to review their progress; in afternoon heard presentations from headmasters about sex instruction and development of adolescents.


Keith Wedmore Papers


Quaker Group on Homosexuality and other Problems of Sex

Meeting of the 1.2.59, at the University Women's Club. W.1.

Morning session:
Anna Bidder
Alfred Torrie
Kenneth Nicholson
Kenneth Barnes
Richard Fox
Mervyn Parry
Alastair Heron
Keith Wedmore
Lotte Rosenberg

Apologies for absence: Marion Fairn, Duncan Fairn.

1. Minutes of last meeting 7.12.58.
Criticism was expressed regarding the form of the minutes: The minutes cannot give a detailed account of the discussion, therefore they sometimes appear to contain contradictions. One imperfect record in narrative form can give a misleading impression, e.g. in 2(b) of last minutes.

It was agreed that minutes should record individual opinions as "points made during discussion", but that if on any point the meeting reaches full agreement this should be recorded as a formal minute.

2. Discussion of the meeting with representatives of Young Friends:
In the discussion the following points were raised:
Is a young person permanently affected by early sex experiences?
Why does it seem that Young Friends do not discuss sex in groups as this is done by other young Christians?
Young Friends seem burdened with concerns and this pre-occupation tends to suppress the awareness of sex problems. Is perhaps their concern with general problems of the world a substitute for the dealing with their own personal problems?

The incidence of nervous breakdown as a result of sex problems has been exaggerated by the Young Friends reporting.

Factors which determine sexual attitude of the young person were discussed. It was said that the child's attitude is more determined by the home than by the school. In this connection the role of the father was stressed. It was said that the Quaker father is often outwardly non-aggressive. If the boy identities with this non-aggressive father he may become prone to homosexual leanings. This trend can be intensified by pacifism and by the lack of righteous indignation and aggression amongst Quakers.

3. Discussion of the agenda for the next meeting, to be held at 2, Audley Square, on Sunday, 1.3.59., (morning session will begin at 10:30 a.m.)
a) We agree to invite no guests to our next meeting but to concentrate on evaluation of our work so far and on our future policy.
b) We agree that we should not separate the wider aspects of sex problems in society from the attitude of Quakers regarding these issues. Some of us are inclined at times to separate these two views but we find that we cannot avoid as Quakers seeing sex as part of the wholeness of life.

4. Discussion of Sources of Material open to us as a group:
It is doubtful whether we can give the time to a programme of widespread fact-finding. The most accessible facts for our discussion are our own experiences and those of people known personally to us. Such discussion must be searching and is only possible if we regard all matters discussed within this group as strictly confidential.

Afternoon session: Present all members as above, and in addition Hugh Maw and John Ounsted.

The four headmasters present were asked to give comments on the five points suggested in the letter of 8th December 1958.

1,2: Sex instruction at home and at school:
In the case of young children it is often thought advisable to send a letter to parents prior to their entry of school at 11, asking the co-operation of parents and suggesting that the parents should have talked to children before they enter school. The response from parents varies a great deal, some show appreciation, some hope that the school will relieve them of this responsibility. Replies from parents are often misleading: instruction may have been "given at the wrong moment or stage and rejected by the child, and is usually continued to the physical side of reproduction. It is not always easy to assess, during the first terms, what the child actually knows nor what are its needs. Instruction at school takes place at various stages of the child's education. Some schools give such instruction during Biology lesson after the child enters school at 11 or 13. Individual talks with those who wish to talk about personal problems can follow such class instruction or instruction can be given from the start in small groups. When questions regarding the emotional and social aspects can be encouraged, in class or in groups, very free discussion may result. Other means by lecture and film are mentioned. Personal problems which arise during the course of class-work or life can be made as opportunity for further discussion and instruction when need arises. During the last year at school a further opportunity may be given in the Divinity lesson, often taken by the headmaster.

Success depends on the co-operation of all staff and the approachability of the individual teacher. Even so a child in need is often not able to talk to the adult but he may be observed until the right opportunity occurs. It is recognised that the problems of those in most need may go undetected. Right timing is considered essential.

3. Problems encountered:
Different maturation in boys and girls can cause problems if class instruction is given in a co-educational school. It is difficult for any teacher to observe the intimate life of children and only a very small faction of existing problems can become known to the staff. Even pupils are often unaware of what is going on in the neighbourhood of the dormitory. The mutual masturbation of children between 12-14 is very common, mostly however transient and subsides after 14 without, according to some of those present, having caused emotional involvement or leaving after-effects. The name homosexuality is perhaps not really applicable to these practices, as they seem to occur from a wish to show off, from curiosity or insecurity. The habit may linger on into a later age and it is then important to help the young person to overcome it without taking any punitive measure. Such inclinations may still be transient and should be distinguished from the homosexuality that has been conditioned by early experience and is deeper rooted. The young person who shows this latter inclination is not suitable for a one-sex school and a transfer can be advised without causing the pupil to feel expelled. Many ears may best a child in connection with biological functions when knowledge is lacking and it is not always easy for a teacher to detect the ignorance and to dispel these fears. If an adult is generally approachable for all problems he or she is more likely to be approachable for sexual problems. Without close contact with and confidence in the adult, sex remains, in the young, as a means of rebellion.

It seems that homosexuality occurs less in day pupils attending boarding schools and it is decreased then outside contacts are more available. The Prep school has a large influence on the early formation of homosexual habits. The separation from parents at the young age may cause anxiety that favours mutual masturbation.

Teachers may not be able always to help a child even if they are fully aware of the problem. A young person may not be approachable at that time, but he may at a later stage benefit from the school environment and he, as a parent, may show the result of his teacher's influence.

The advice from a psychiatrist is sometimes sought and in some cases treatment is needed.

We do not expect or seek unanimity amongst headmasters on problems of the sex morals. We are not seeking a testimony against something, but a positive attitude, to seek God in our neighbour.