Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Young Friends Discuss Barnes Article


Summary of discussion of Kenneth Barnes' article, "Standard of Conduct: Drink and Sex Relationships" (published in The Friend, February 2, 1962) by some Young Friends. Authorship and date unknown.


Keith Wedmore Papers


Summary of ideas brought out by a discussion amongst a group of Young Friends, of Kenneth Barnes' article: Standard of Conduct: Drink and Sex Relationships.

We feel that it is not possible to suggest a rigid, ideal, standard of conduct, but agree that there are definable limits between which any one of us could take his place. Quite unanimously we agree that if we are intending to drive, we should abstain from drink. Many of our number were uncertain of the after-effect of drink taken with a meal before driving, and also of the duration of the effects of alcohol. As we realised throughout our discussion, we cannot decide what anyone else's action should be. People may feel it right to be teetotal, but on no account should they inflict the fact that they are on other people, but to impress more by their example. When we discuss of question of bottle-parties we are of rather diverse opinions; some feel that if we find ourselves in a party leading to a night of love-making we should leave: others suggest that the presence of a couple not engaged in love-making might influence the others present; thirdly we ask ourselves how much we are able to drink with no impairment to our thinking processes and faculties. We find ourselves in an awkward position, as very few of us have been to bottle-parties leading as far as the behaviour outlined above, although we know of their existence. Is it right, we ask, to refuse an invitation to such a party? We are all in full accord with Kenneth Barnes' most pungent sentence referring to the excess of the cost of drink at a party over the proceeds of a week's charitable collecting. This disregard of any sense of balance cannot, we feel, be right, but we must be aware of the fact that we may be doing just the same type of thing in our own lives even though it be a little camouflaged.

To our way of thinking, sexual intercourse if the deepest relationship between two persons, and as such should not be abused in any circumstances. When discussing premarital intercourse between two people in love we find it impossible to reach a conclusion as to whether it should be condemned, as we feel there might possibly be unforeseeable circumstances in which it might be right. The question of any child resulting from premarital intercourse was raised and all of us feel this to be an important reason why premarital intercourse is not to be advocated. This might possibly be offset by the use of contraceptives but as was pointed out, these are by no means 100 per cent perfect, and in any case, it brings in the whole question of the use of contraceptives, which we have not, as yet, discussed. Extramarital intercourse we feel is not right in any circumstance; divorce if treated with the deepest seriousness is, we feel, not necessarily to be condemned.

Subsequently arises the whole question of the place of kissing and petting. Many of our number seem to be at sixes and sevens as to the definitions of the terms snogging, petting, American petting, and so on. The main question is: "How far should one go," Nearly all think this to be a matter purely for the boy and girl in a relationship, but several are still concerned to have at least some rough idea of where to stop. It was pointed out that unless the couple know each other well it is not a good thing for intimate caressing of the body and organs to take place at all, because the attraction between two persons not knowing each other well must be merely physical; it can only be selfish to pet when the sole purpose is to satisfy one's own desires. Love involves giving above all else.

A single thread seems to link all our thoughts and ideas on the challenging question of our standards of conduct, when drinking and in sex relationships. We advocate no rigid code, and find it difficult to lay down the law in any definite way, but realise very clearly that we must have some inner resources on which to base our behaviour. We have all grown up in Quaker environments and a good percentage of our number have been at Quaker Schools. It is at home, first of all, that we should learn the facts of life in as natural a manner as possible and from the earliest possible age. To many of our parents, who, in many cases, did not get this instruction and help when they were children, the task will be embarrassing and awkward. If, however, the idea of sex is not treated naturally right from the start, it will never be possible to discuss it rationally in the early teens when the young people most need an open attitude to a subject which is one of the loveliest things given us by God.