Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Guardian, 18 Feb 1963


The Guardian published this prudent review of the report, its background and rationale on 18 February, 1963.


clipping in Keith Wedmore Papers


The Guardian February 18, 1963

Quaker Group Rejects Church View of Sex
Changing pattern of morals

by our own reporter

A report on sexual practice and morals, published today by a group of Quakers, "rejects almost completely the traditional approach of the organised Christian Church to morality, with its supposition that it knows precisely what it right and what is wrong, that this distinction can be made in terms of an external pattern of behaviour, and that the greatest good will come only through universal adherence to that pattern."

"Towards a Quaker view of sex," does not represent the official view of the Society of Friends--although it appears under the imprint of the Friends' Home Service Committee. But its tone is frank, professional, and authoritative.

The report was compiled by a group of 11 which include teachers in schools and universities, three psychiatrists, a marriage guidance counsellor and a barrister. It is edited by Dr Alastair Heron, the director of the Medical Research Council's unit on occupational aspects of ageing. Six members of the group are elders of the Society of Friends.

Changing assumptions

The group saw itself confronted by a great increase in adolescent sexual intimacy, transient pre-marital intimacies generally, intercourse between people ("often with a deep sense of responsibility") intending to get married and possibly also in extramarital intercourse.
"It seemed to us that morals, like the Sabbath, were made for man, not man for morals, and that as society changes and modes of conduct with it, we must always be searching below the surface of human behaviour, to discover what is in fact happening to people, what they are seeking to express, what motives and intentions they are satisfying, what fruits, good or bad, they are harvesting."

Some members of the group found themselves to surrender assumptions that they had long accepted as good and right, because the emphasis on morality had so often gone with a cold and inhibitive attitude.
There had, however, to be a morality of some sort to govern sexual relationships. "An experience so profound in its effect upon people and upon the community cannot be left wholly to private judgment." But a distinction needed to be drawn between a social code, changing with the structure of society and community life, and a religious or ethical code, changeless and eternal.


Homosexual affection, says the group, is not morally worse than heterosexual affection, and should be judged bu the same standards. It is the quality of the relationships, rather than the acts that it may involve, that matters. The group traces the history of legislation affecting homosexuals, and observes that although the Victorian legislation did not trouble to define "gross indecency," lawyers had apparently never allowed their clients to admit the acts as charged but instead denied their indecency. "Lord Curzon thought eating soup before lunch was grossly indecent; it would have startled him if two men doing it together violated the Sexual Offences Act."

The report surveys the sources of professional help for those with sexual difficulties, and contains appendices on the origins of sexual behaviour, and on sexual deviations.

"Towards a Quaker view of sex,"
Friends House, Euston Road, London NW1: 3s 6d.