The mission of the Bridging the Gap Foundation is to improve reproductive health and contraceptive decision-making of women and men by providing up-to-date educational resources to the physicians, nurses and public health leaders of tomorrow.
Quakers once had a leadership role in addressing sexuality. Quaker David Mace1 was a founder of the National Marriage Guidance Council of Great Britain (1939). Quaker Emily Mudd2 founded the American Association of Marriage Counselors (1942). Quaker Mary Calderone3 founded the Sex Information and Education Council of the U.S. (1964). Quaker educators of this period advocated sex education as a way of strengthening marriage.
The high point in Quaker leadership regarding sexuality came in 1963, when a group of British Quakers published, Towards a Quaker View of Sex4. In this book, the Quakers defined sin as actions exploiting the other person and clarified chastity as the total absence of exploitation. These Quakers recognized that exploitation could occur within marriage as well as outside marriage.
What Quakers were discerning were universal standards and understanding of sexuality in relationships that stand the test of time experience and reflection on our tradition. We see in current discussion of sexuality the importance of relationships without exploitation. The Quaker influence in past decades can be traced.
The new book, Sexual Etiquette 101 and More, is aimed at young adults. With a foreword by former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher and with several authors with wide and deep experience, the narrative is comprehensive, straight, and clear.
It addresses culturally sensitive subjects for young people in a clear and kind manner, including, contraception, religion, masturbation, abortion, bullying, violence, sexual orientation, and orgasm. The text acknowledges diversity in choices and urges use of the information for guiding decision-making for physical, mental, social, emotional, spiritual and sexual health.
Parents and young people will need to read at the whole book, since it lacks an index. This deficiency is annoying, but in this instance the absence beneficially encourages reading the whole book. Copies are available here ($11.95).
Past Quaker leadership on sexuality and values stand the test of time in its focus on healthy relationships and decision-making. Quakers are not in the leadership today. But they can discern what current materials will be helpful in their parenting of young people and what resources can help young people in their reflection and decisions.
This book is a good place to start.
1 “David Mace, 83, Dies; Specialist on Marriage,” The New York Times (12/12/1990). See Marriage Enrichment Retreats: Story of a Quaker Project.
2 Emily Borie Hartshorne Mudd (9/6/1898-5/2/1998), in The American National Biography Online. The former American Association of Marriage Counselors is now the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.