Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Letters to The Friend 1960


In the weeks that follow the group's May 20 article in The Friend, a number of letters to the editors are published which reflect a great diversity of perspective on the group's concern.


Reproduced by permission of The Friend, May 27, 1960, pp. 732-33; June 3, 1960, p. 772 ; June 17, 1960, p. 868; June 24, 1960, pp. 897-98


The Friend May 27, 1960
Letters to the Editor

Towards a Quaker View of Sex

It is most gratifying that a concerned group of qualified Friends should face up to delicate and difficult sexual problems--usually the taboo in religious circles--and issue such an enlightened and courageous statement as appears in your last number.

The treatment and punishment meted out to male homosexuals (who are often unable to change their natures any more than the colour of their hair), leading to suicide, blackmail and social ostracism, seem absolutely barbaric, especially when prostitution, adultery, and lesbianism are not regarded as criminal. Moreover, people who are more attracted to their own than the opposite sex are often people of the highest intelligence and moral character and innocent of perverted sexual practices.

It is to be hoped that the recommendations of the Wolfenden Report will eventually be implemented. In the meantime it is encouraging to find that the "hush-hush" policy is gradually giving place to a reasoned public ventilation of the problem, and that the Homosexual Law Reform Society--sponsored by over 100 leading people, including the Archbishop of York and a number of Bishops--is doing a valuable service in educating public opinion.

Arthur Hadley
40 Oak Hills Gardens
Woodford Green, Essex.

I am very glad to see in The Friend (May 20) an article on one of the problems of sex, and hope this will be but a beginning. Friends have outspoken views on many social questions, but on sex they at least as reticent as members of any other Church.

Indeed the Quaker testimony to the equality of man and woman before God encourages the fallacy that there is "no essential difference" between them, and therefore emotional difficulties cannot arise in relationships between them. Was this attitude sufficient preparation for young people in days of a strong tradition and a closely knit community of Friends? Or is it a twentieth-century invention? In any case, it is not good enough in the condition of today. Advice on conduct and standards can be freely obtained from popular newspapers, magazines and books, but, though often honest enough, they lack the necessary religious basis. We need a frank recognition that emotional problems do arise in the lifelong process of growing up, and an interfusion of Quaker ideals with an understanding of human nature in order to help their solution.

Another point. In nearly twenty years of reading THE FRIEND, I remember no article at all on the ethics of birth-control. No doubt individuals needing personal guidance may obtain it from the Marriage and Parenthood Committee, but this is a question for us all, married or single, as citizens of our country and of the world. After immediate issues of peace and war, it is the most vital question of all for inhabitants of this limited planet. This week the Church of Scotland General Assembly is to receive a report and issue an official statement on the subject. If someone asks what Friends' views are, are we to reply: "We never discuss it?" Moreoever, the main--Roman Catholic--opposition to birth-control claims to rest on reverence for life and the holy purposes of marriage. Surely Friends before anyone should look at this claim squarely and honestly, and base a judgment on surer grounds than expediency, however pressing the practical needs of the world situation?

There are but two examples of questions which call on Friends to lay aside their unnatural restraint, and treat them as frankly and straightforwardly as they would any other social or human problem.

Alison M. Douglas
6 Woodlinn Avenue
Glasgow S.4

Letters to the Editor June 3, 1960

Towards a Quaker View of Sex

The report of a Quaker group, "Towards a Quaker View of Sex" in THE FRIEND of May 20 focuses a strong and disturbing tendency in the Society towards humanism. The article is academic, devoid of any vestige of the Christian Gospel and contains no indication that any help has been given to the "young Friends in one of our Universities". It says: "In our discussion of all these problems we could not always follow what has traditionally been regarded as Christian judgment. We have asked ourselves anew what we really think is right or wrong."

Paul, in his letter ot the Christians in Rome, condemns the pagan society in which he lived, one of its marks being that men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with me and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. Is this a part of the Christian judgment that the group could not follow? What what is the competence of a Christian group which does not know what is morally right or wrong? Indeed, in committal to Christ right and wrong is included in a higher quality of life: "Do you know know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you had from God? So glorify God in your body."

We are told that masturbation is now known to occur almost universally during adolescence. Masturbation is self-abuse and therefore sin against the temple of the Holy Spirit. All Friends, and Friends' Schools, have a responsibility to instruct adolescents on the physical changes through which they are passing and to seek to win them to obedience to Christ: for it is only through his power that we can, like Paul, say: "I pummel my body and subdue it."

The article refers indiscriminately to the world at large and to Friends, i.e., the Christian fellowship. All thoughtful, responsible persons are, of course, concerned with their fellow human beings. The Christian Church's responsibility to deal with homosexuality and the many other vices which beset unredeemed mankind is to communicate the Gospel--the power of God unto salvation. Friends have a special contribution to give to the universal Church, but there is nothing distinctively Quaker about our life in Christ, and only he can illuminate us, cleanse and empower us to live in the Spirit and not in the passions of the body.

William Creed
Lightfoot Lane,
Heswall, Wirral, Cheshire.

Letters to the Editor June 17, 1960

Towards a Quaker View of Sex

We thank God that some Friends are filled with a tender concern for those who have succumbed to sexual problems. We whole-heartedly agree with the views they express and welcome their unprejudiced spirit of inquiry.

We were sorry to see William Creed's letter (June 3) on the subject.

Elsie and Angus Earn....
13 Sandringham Avenue,

William Creed reveals one of his difficulties by using the phrase "homosexuality and the many other vices which beset unredeemed mankind". The physical expression of love between males, in the form known as "gross indecency," is at present a criminal offence in the country, and it may also be a grievous sin. Homosexuality is but a sexual act, but love between two people of the same sex--which is neither a crime nor a sin.

There are many thousands of clean-living men more attracted to those of their own sex than to women. Thinking of such people, ones comes to realise the injustice of the present law and the prevailing social attitude towards the "non-practising" homosexual, forcing him to disguise his feelings for fear or being blackmailed or falsely accused. Does the Gospel of Christ demand that men should live in fear and loneliness?

What was meant by the description of one of Jesus's followers as "the disciple whom Jesus loved", if it was not a special relationship that existed between them, differing from the love which Jesus had towards all men and women? Right at the centre of the Gospel of Christ is exactly where I should expect to find an example of the "true love of comrades."

William K. Robinson
28 Kingswood Court
Brewey Road
Walden Surrey.
Letters to the Editor June 24, 1960

Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Al parents and teachers need to be aware that to tell a child, or an adolescent, given practising masturbation that this is "self-abuse and therefore sin against the temple of the Holy Spirit", as William Creed (June 3) suggests, might if he were to believe you, cause psychological harm far greater than ever masturbation is likely to do.

Masturbation is neither moral nor immoral. It is the sexual act of a solitary and isolated being; what evil there is in it lies in the situation of being isolated and unable to form a satisfactory relationship.

With regard to young people, this situation is, to some extent, unavoidable. Unable to form a satisfactory heterosexual relationship safely until long after they are physically mature, who can wonder that masturbation is "know to occur almost universally during adolescence"?

Those practising it habitually--more particularly, adults--need drawing into loving friendship, and need reassuring that others care for them in the deepest sense of the word. This seems to me the essential Christian attitude, to be applied to all, including those who sexual activities are not, as the law stands at present, socially acceptable.

Where no younger and weaker personality is harmed, and where there is not public scandal, it is not for us or for the law to condemn. Christ did not do so, whatever St. Paul might have felt himself called upon to do.

Phyllis Bush
17 Paddock Way
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire