What does the Quaker religion believe about sex? Su Penn offers one possible answer: “Quakers are uniquely qualified to transform how we deal with sex and sexuality in our culture and make it healthy and wholesome.”
The communion that people have during sex is also a communion with God, and it can be—at its best, when it is full of that love and trust—that shared vulnerability which means that you’re taking care of each other, that you’re making it safe for each other to be vulnerable. I think of it as opening little spaces where God can come in, and I think that sex is one of the ways that we open that space. So I also think, then, that sex is one of the ways that we can experience the presence of God.
Quakers and Sex: A Call to Embrace Sexual Diversity
I’m Su Penn, and I live in mid-MIchigan, near Lansing. My primary worship group is the Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns.
Quakers are uniquely qualified to transform how we deal with sex and sexuality in our culture and make it healthy and wholesome. I think that we’re uniquely qualified to do this because we believe in differences among individuals. We believe in individual leadings and, at the same time, we believe in accountability to the faith community.
So we have a lot of practice in our history of helping a person—helping people—to express themselves, their leadings, their personalities, whatever, within the context of a community that is both a support of that and a check on it, in the sense of helping to make sure that what the person is doing is healthy for them, healthy for the community, ideally comes from God, and helps to unite the individual, the community, and God.
Embracing Sexual Diversity
I think that this is exactly what we need around sex, is an openness to all the individual varieties of ways that people practice sex, explore sexually, and that everything from a person who spoke to me the other day who identifies as asexual and wishes people could hear that and not automatically assume that he’s broken somehow (he wishes that people would understand that for him, understanding himself as an asexual person actually is a healthy self-understanding and its a self-acceptance) all the way to people for whom sex is like a vocation (in the good way of being a vocation, something that they put a lot of effort into in their lives and really nurture) and even to people who practice kinds of sex that seem scary or dangerous to a lot of people.
“Sorting out the multitude of right answers”
Having 3 partners in a year, 3 sexual partners in a year, that can be a healthy choice for one person and an unhealthy one for another. And that’s where discernment comes in. That’s why we don’t get to make rules. That’s why we don’t get to say, “No more than one a year! No more than one a decade. More than two in your lifetime is bad.” We don’t get to do that!
We understand that the same answer is not the right answer for everybody. We have a lot of practice at sorting out the multitude of right answers and we have a lot of practice at really really deep listening with open hearts, and I think that those things put together have the power to transform the messed-up way our culture deals with sexuality.