In a time of confusion, Friends need to declare such truths about sexual relationships as they have discovered. At the moment, these are variously perceived in our Yearly Meeting. Some members feel comfortable with the recent emergence of intimate relationships other than those defined in marriage. Some find this difficult to accept. On one point, however, there is unity Friends who have made genuine commitments, founded on mutual respect and caring, which are truly a response to that of God in another person, are to be tenderly regarded. As we hold one another in the Light and continue to seek God's will together, we trust that we shall achieve a more adequate understanding of the proper place and purpose of sex and sexual relationships in our lives.
Sexuality is a Part of Life
Sexuality is part of life from the moment of our birth to the end of our days. We know that two aspects of sex, pleasure and procreation, have often been used without a sense of responsibility for their consequences present and future for the individuals involved, for others not directly involved, and for society. Any irresponsible use of sex is likely to damage individuals and society; therefore such irresponsibility is, in the deepest sense, immoral.
Because of the work in which both of us have been involved over the past fifteen years, we share the conviction of countless others that sexuality is one of the two great human endowments, comparable to the mind in importance, and that pleasure and joy from the use of both these great human faculties is enhanced by sound knowledge about them, combined with the conviction of the infinite worth of each individual person.
We believe that a family is the best setting for learning how to develop and use one's sexuality. We are convinced that caring and trust are essential for the development of love within the family, and that love is essential to the development of true intimacy between all family members. Such intimacy within a family is what human beings need, seek, and long for from their earliest days to their last. But we recognize, too, that not all persons are able or willing or, in some cases, do not choose to develop this part of their lives.
We have spoken of trust. Trust has to be built on truth. If family members keep the truth from one another, they cannot learn to trust each other, no matter what their ages may be. As Quakers, our moral values depend on our belief in the infinite worth of each human being and on our belief that as human beings we are obliged to deal with others as we would like others to deal with us trustingly, caringly, and responsibly.
We believe that responsible people can accept these positive moral values no matter what their religious beliefs may be, or even if they do not consider themselves to be religious at all. These values relate to all of life, not just to sex and sexuality. We believe that sexuality as a part of life has no morality special to itself but that morality or immorality lies in the way each of us uses sexuality in our life relationships.
Mary S. Calderone, M.D., and Eric W. Johnson: The family book about sexuality, 1981, pp. xvi-xvii.
Love is a Blend
Love is a blend of several elements sexual attraction, companionship and care.
SEXUAL ATTRACTION. Love is not merely platonic, not viewing from afar, but a desire for physical proximity. This doesn't mean that the proof of love is willingness to have premarital intercourse. Rather, it means enjoying each other's presence, being quickened by the sight and especially by the touch of the other, being physically impelled toward each other.
COMPANIONSHIP. This is the social element in love: the enjoyment of doing things together, of togetherness quite apart from sexuality. It is the basic element in friendship and is simply intensified in love. It is one of the redeeming elements that make married love more than mere sexual desire.
CARE. Both sex and companionship can be exploited selfishly. But care is by definition altruistic. It involves concern for the partner, interest in his welfare, and effort to meet his needs. One of the rewarding aspects of being in love is knowing that somebody cares. Being in love is rewarding not only in receiving care but also in giving it. To meet the partner's need is to be needed oneself.
Robert O. Blood, Jr.: Marriage, 1962, pp. 95-7, 115, 145-6.
It is right and proper that many boys and girls and young men and women should fall in and out of love a number of times before they marry and this process will involve emotional heights and depths. If these experiences are to be educative, they must involve all the personality, but such a series of experiences will be, generally, less disruptive if the final sexual commitment is avoided. Society can and should offer educational relationships by giving opportunities for the young to do things together. While they have no resources but to sit entwined in the cinema, watching huge photographs of impassioned love scenes, they will learn no outlet for their feelings for each other save those of passionate love-making. But an activity shared with other couples may help a pair to look outward at life together rather than inward at each other, and so save them from being deeply committed physically before they are otherwise ready.
Towards a Quaker view of sex, an essay by a group of Friends. Alastair Heron, ed., 1964, p. 52.
Family Should Be Safeguarded
The central concept of sexual morality in Christian countries is the integrity of the family. Most people religious or otherwise in our own and other countries would agree that the family as a social unit should be safeguarded and sexual practices that threaten its stability vigorously discouraged. The Christian family is a monogamous one, held together by an understanding love and responsibility and by an acceptance of a faith and purpose in life.
Ibid., p. 8.
Temptation is a Testing
We must realize that it is not sinful to be tempted, nor is it unique. All men are tempted all the time. The word temptation means simply a test or trial, so that every temptation overcome gives new strength. Before he could begin his public ministry, Jesus had to go into the wilderness to suffer temptation. The gospels suggest that the one was a necessary prelude to the other. And George Fox went through a period after his conversion when he experienced temptations so terrible that he cannot name them in his journal. He reports that he cried to the Lord in great agony, asking why he should so tempted, seeing he had never felt these urges before. And the Lord replied that he must know all conditions in order to speak to all conditions. We are, then, not saved by our untried and cloistered virtues but by our temptations, if we will have the courage to acknowledge them for what they are and the determination not to settle for less than the fullness of our humanity. And, by the grace of God, we are able to learn from our failings to speak to others' conditions out of the sorrow of our own lives. God grant that we may be able to sustain each other in overcoming temptation because we realize how much alike we are in being tempted.
Paul A. Lacey: Temptation, a meditation on sexual morality, 1964, pp. 7-8. (Pendle Hill Bulletin, no. 170).
Friends Are Being Tested
Friends are being tested as never before with opportunities to know what it is to be a Friend. The unmarried young couple, and perhaps even the unmarried older couple, the homosexual, whether man or woman we can reach out to that of God in them even though they are different from us, confident that if our reaching be true and loving, then that of God in them will respond in turn to that of Him in us. There may always be a chasm between us, one that might appear unbridgeable because it may never be possible for us to be like each other, to understand each other's differences, or even to establish a friendship. But love, that of God within us that we also share, is the bridge that is eternally there, across any chasm between human beings.
Mary S. Calderone: Human sexuality and the Quaker conscience, 1973, pp. 19-20.