Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Daily Mail 18 February 1963


The conservative Daily Mail printed a critical commentary on the front page of its 18 February edition.


clipping in Keith Wedmore Papers


The Daily Mail February 18, 1963


A Question of Morality

A group of Quakers have published their views on sexual morality. They will be gratefully received by many people, but will startle and outrage many more.
These Friends accept that "loss of virginity before marriage is not now necessarily a stigma."

They say "an 'eternal triangle' can, and often does arise in which all three persons behave responsibly.

It depends, no doubt, upon whether those who accept the disciplines of a Christian society, including its marriage vows, can feel that they are acting responsibly in breaking them.

Morality is not one of the eternal verities. It is merely a rule of society, and what is moral in one country or century is regarded as immoral in others. But we are, after all, talking about a Christian country in 1963.


The Quakers say "the social code changes...not because society changes it deliberately, but because an increasing number of people break away from it."

They break away because the code itself becomes weakened--and one wonders how far the arguments used by the Quakers, and others, encourage the conduict they seek to excuse.

Taken to its logical conclusion it comes to this: If a sufficient number of people defy the code, the code itself must be changed.

This does not happen in evolving societies. But the question is: "Where do you stop?" Unless some limit is imposed the community will disintegrate and the persons within it obey only a law unto themselves.


The Quakers say that "sexuality, looked at dispassionately, is neither good nor evil--it is a fact of nature." But facts of nature have to be employed with restraint unless we are all to return to the wild.

Civilisation is a taming process. The struggle for survival is another fact of nature and humanity, but strict bounds must be set to this instinct if ordered living is to continue.
It is permissible for any man to advance his position, but only within well-defined limits. He must not knock his neighbour on the head or steal his goods.

In all these matters third parties are usually involved and the pattern of other lives and be materially changed. If the individual has rights for himself he also have duties to others.


Nor is morality a question of sex alone. It broadens out into the whole of human existence and the way it is managed and conducted.

Mr. MacMillan had something of this in mind when he spoke to the Young Conservatives on "moral responsibility"--appropriately enough at the Friends' Meeting House in London.

As he rightly said, our success from now onwards depends on the restoration of a sense of personal responsibility. The responsibility of the employer to the worked and of the worker to his work. The responsibility of turning out honest products and pulling together for the good of all.

This is the sense of purpose which we are said to lack but which we are certain will be revived as it has been so often before.