Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Barnes Letters to BBC, March 1963


Barnes was invited to appear in another BBC broadcast soon thereafter and--in this response--raised concerns about misunderstandings from the appearance of him and Bidder on the February 17th Meeting Point programme. In another letter a few days later Barnes indicates that he has received from positive than negative response to the broadcast.


Kenneth Barnes Collection, PETT Archive & Study Centre, Cheltenham


6th March 1963

Miss Jocelyn Fergusson,
The British Broadcasting Corporation,
Broadcasting House,
London, W.1.

Dear Miss Ferguson,

Your telephone call has been reported to me and I understand that you have asked whether I could come to London for a discussion with Professor Carstairs on April 3rd. It is not clear whether this is for sound radio or television.

I think I can say yes, but conditionally. Since the television broadcast of February 17th I have become more and more aware of the great danger of misunderstanding that arises when one's statements have to be responses to what one might call "journalistic poking"; when one has made and statement and is about to develop or qualify it in a necessary way another question is pushed in and the statement remains open to misunderstanding. The emotional condition created in the listener is that he simply cannot hear--if he has been shocked--anything positive that one says subsequently. I should be prepared to be involved in another broadcast only if this danger could be avoided. If there were sufficient time for us to give a lot of time to the fundamentals and make it very clear indeed that one is not being permissive.

I would want an opportunity to put forward some fundamental moral principles and to show how it is the hypocrisy and irresponsibility of society (the way society does nothing effective to counter the corruptive influences at work on the teen-ager) that constitute the real enemy to creative sex relationships. What this amounts to is that the discussion would have to be far deeper than the subject "Charity or Chastity Before Marriage" would imply. I know a good deal about what young people go through when they leave school and I want to suggest that the alternative to a superficial insistence on chastity cannot be summarised under the word "charity" but is a new kind of moral education.

Does this come within the scope of what you envisage? If you ant to ring me to discuss the matter, any time tomorrow morning (Thursday) would do, but I should be less likely to be in during the afternoon.

Yours sincerely,
Kenneth Barnes

15th March 1963

Canon R. Mackay,
Religious Broadcasting Department,
Broadcasting House,
London, W.1.

Dear Canon Mackay,

I was very grateful for your letter about the broadcast. On the whole the correspondence that I received here was encouraging, there being rather more approval than disapproval.

One thing that worries me is that I tend to get an reputation for being an "authority on sex"--almost on that only, and the fact that I'm to give a further broadcast--with Professor Carstairs--will tend further to establish this idea. In fact my interests are primarily and broadly education--especially in the area where Christianity impinges on education. I'm wondering whether the B.B.C. would consider the idea of a broadcast--perhaps more than one--to put a point of view about education and the future of Britain considerably different from what is usually said. (I haven't much to time to listen to broadcasts, so I may be wrong about this). One get's sick of the continual harping on education as a means of "survival"--of continual pushing forward in the technological and business sense as though our future as people really depended on this, as though this were the only way to retain or regain our greatness, the only way we can continue to be a "power" in the world.

What I would like to say--in terms that both the Christian and humanist would accept--would be to encourage an entirely different idea of national significance and power: education away from the rat-race and a yet, more affluent society, towards quality of life and relationship, towards depth and imagination in thinking--an education that might make possible the beginning of a break-through to the new world that every intelligent person seems to want yet is obstinately unwilling to prepare for.

Perhaps this is a proposition that should be directed to a different department, but I'm sure it is one that is near to your heart--and that's why I am first putting it to you.

A lecture that I gave to the Leeds Institute of Education has some of the ideas that I would want to present and develop, so I'm sending it with this letter--with apologies for landing you with such a massive-looking document.

Yours sincerely,
Kenneth Barnes