Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Meeting Minutes, 1 March 1959


Group reviewed correspondence and discussion with headmasters from last meeting; Bidder provided observations about their "future programme"; extensive discussion of members' perception of sexual activity related to personality and the role of moral codes. Each members asked to write thoughts before next meeting.


Keith Wedmore Papers


Quaker Group on Homosexuality and Other Problems of Sex

Meeting of the 1st March 1959 at 2 Audley Square, W.!.

Members present:
Alastair Heron
Duncan Fairn
Richard Fox
Anna Bidder
Lotte Rosenberg
Kenneth Barnes
Mervyn Parry

Apologies for Absence:
Marion Fairn
Alfred Torrie
Kenneth Nicholson
Keith Wedmore

1. Minutes of last Meeting were accepted. The difficulty was recognised of recording meetings of the depth and quality of the last one.

2. Correspondence from Headmasters and Discussion of our Meeting with them:
Letters from the headmasters John Ounsted, Hugh Maw, Kenneth Nicholson were reported on. J.O. stressed that for them sex is only one of many problems and that homosexuality has much diminished during the last few years. During the discussion Hugh Maw had stressed the problem of the headmistress's co-operation, which seemed to be crucial in his approach to sex-instruction. Several members felt that the difficulty exists in other Friends' schools. At a later date this group will probably wish to find an approach to headmistresses.

In the discussion it was felt that the problem of approachability which was raised in the headmasters discussion will require further clarification. Not only the approachability of the adult but also the young person's ability to approach needs to be considered. In this connection the situation of students, their loneliness and their high suicidal rate at the Old Universities, were mentioned.

Evidence had been offered by headmasters and others that in coeducational schools homosexuality is not a problem. Mutual masturbation occurs, however, in young boys but is transitory and can, according to these opinions, be ignored.

Points were raised concerning the much needed research into the causes of homosexuality. It was thought that there is uncertainty regarding the causative factors, e.g., the role of environment. Enquiry would be desirable into the problem of homosexuality in ex-pupils from coeducation schools as compared with those of uni-sex schools. As a group we might be able to lay the foundation for such research and perhaps make our deliberation known in a pamphlet.

3. Discussion of our Future Programme:
Anna Bidder outlined the trend of our discussions and the possibilities of our future programme: We have spent a long time discussing first infant sexuality, then older children, then adolescents, bringing in Young Friends. We were side-tracked into a discussion of Friends' inhibition in discussing sex. This side-tracking was necessary for us, for we as Quakers are concerned with this inhibition and we cannot discuss it with other Friends. So far we have not discussed adult homosexuality and that of the near-adult, the undergraduate. We have not yet come to the place where we could make a moral judgment, except in so far as we distinguished between the pre-marital, the extra-marital (adultery) and the transitory sexual relationship. We have discussed the problem of possible damage through transient sex relationship. We have always assumed the positive value of personality and personal relationships and we have assumed that the physical relation is important only in so far as it affects the personality and its personal relations.

Discussion following Anna Bidder's statement raised the following points by various members of the group:
Does the physical relation always affect the personality?
Is trivial physical sex experience without effect on the personality?
What seems trivial may not be so trivial in the unconscious and could affect the personality profoundly.
Buggery can be more damaging that mutual masturbation because, at least in the passive partner, it can cause fixation on the infantile anal-erotic level.
Since second marriages are often very successful, the fact that the first marriage involves the personality fully does not seem to preclude a successful second relationship.
The relation between the physical and personality is different in men and women because of the women's experience of a physical change after intercourse--the rupture of the hymen, the possibility of establishing vaginal sensitivity only after intercourse, and the possibility of pregnancy. This difference may have influenced the traditional, value of female chastity.
More intensive intimate sexual behaviour may have a more profound influence on the personality, but the degree to which a person is affected by sex experiences does not depend on the physical aspect alone.
There exists a continual parallel between the physical and emotional commitment;specific for each individual.
We agreed that topics requiring further discussion are: female sexuality and homosexuality of girls and women.

Before we take up this topic we should have an additional woman member. Members were asked to bring in suggestions as to a suitable woman Friend. We agreed that our next phase of work should be concerned with the significance of the physical and its moral aspect.

4. Discussion of our Attitude and Responsibility as Quakers regarding the Relation Between the Physical and Personality:
Points raised in the discussion:
Patterns of sexual behaviour are determined by cultural influence. Have we as a group a responsibility in forming a cultural pattern of sexual behaviour?
Pre-marital chastity can be considered as one aspect of a cultural pattern.
Transitory relation does not necessarily affect a happy married life.
The assault of children does not invariably lead to their damage.
A large number of people have a capacity for normal marriage adjustment in spite of any pre-marital experience, but there is a minority who will be damaged. What is our responsibility toward this minority?
How do we feel about sexual stimulation through books and plays, especially the display of homosexuality in plays and films? There is a "fringe" of people who will get damaged through such displays.

Discussion raised further points regarding social sanctions and our own responsibility connected with these:
Every restriction is directed toward a minority.
We have to distinguish between right and wrong restrictions.
We behave with the assumption of free will and it is difficult to determine the point at which sanctions should be introduced.
We need to consider the effect of prohibitions on those for whom they are not needed. In the very sensitive and excessive fear of sin resulting from prohibitions may have a damaging effect.
Healthy prohibition must be based on knowledge.
We should distinguish between prohibition and the creation of a standard.
The sense of sin derives from the perception of one's own selfishness; this can be confessed to God when repentance becomes real. This act would then be the Quaker alternative to the Roman Catholic confession by which the Roman Catholic Church provides a framework for the ordinary person. A perception that a certain act is selfish presupposes tremendous surrender to self-examination, such as exists in the Society of Friends, Is this appropriate for "simple" folk? The Quaker attitude sometimes results in Quaker children experiencing moral sanctions at too early an age.
Is then a code of behaviour necessary? Shall we as a group find ourselves pronouncing a moral judgment?
Are there those who need a moral code in order to remain outside it?
As Quakers we do not accept creeds. Do we also discount Codes? In our generation Codes are disappearing, but they may return in another generation. Would it be more appropriate to substitute questions for codes?
For whom is the code helpful? For those kind of young people who are not strongly aroused by the sexual impulse, prior to meeting the right marriage partner. Such people are helped by a code to avoid premature sex experience. But those who have a compelling urge or are getting deeply involved in personal relationships will overstep the code.

Some of us accept a premarital sex experience that derives from a clear decision: such experience usually leads to marriage. We all condemn the experience born from self-love.
There are sincere transitory relationships born of a wish to give pleasure and leading to mutual gratification. Are these to be condemned? A transitory relationship which has involved the sexual may be less damaging than a relationship that has been frustrated by withholding the giving.
Adolescents have usually a natural shell, an inhibition that protects them from premature sex experience.
The attitude of adults should aim at avoiding sex becoming a means of rebellion in the young. This aim should be achievable by the Society of Friends.
The headmaster has a special role in the coeducational school, in so far as he is a father image to the girls his attitude influences their attitude to the male partner. The headmistress rarely plays a similar role for boys.
We seek to express what matters in sex relationships in the light of what we feel is inherent in Quakerism and Christianity.
We need to know what we personally consider as acceptable. It is agreed, therefore, that members should be asked to send in a short note (not more than 500 words) on the topic: "The relation in the expression of sex between the physical and personality and the relevance of this relation to the sexual code of society."
This note should reach L.R. by the 10th April in as many copies as possible. These will be circulated to members before the next meeting on May 3rd.