Open Fidelity and Quakerism

I was at Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) last weekend, so it seems a good time to write something about how my being a Quaker relates to Open Fidelity.

Firstly, if you don’t know much about Quakers, there is a great website about it here and another here. Everything I say about Quakers applies only to Quakers in Britain, and possibly in other areas with a liberal tradition – beliefs and attitudes vary a lot around the world.

Quakers believe there is something of God in everyone (though our definitions of God may vary). This means that every person is valuable and has something unique and precious to offer the world. It follows that we are generally against killing people for any reason, and Quakers have a long history of peace work.

We also have ‘testimonies’, which are principles that we try to live by (though they are not set down in any form of words). The main traditional testimonies are peace, truth/integrity, equality and simplicity, and sustainability/the environment is now becoming established too.

Open Fidelity follows naturally, for me, from the testimony to truth. One aspect of this is that being truthful means accepting the facts even when they are hard to face, and it is a fact (as I’ve said before) that monogamous relationships are difficult for many people, however one might wish they were easy. And a second, more obvious aspect is that we should be honest with our partners.

Another link between Quaker views and Open Fidelity is to take the idea of each person being unique and precious and applying it to sexuality. If we are precious, and we are sexual, then our sexuality is something to be valued and celebrated. I believe strongly that sexuality is part of being human and is thus sacred. And by sacred I don’t mean something to keep for marriage! Note that Quakers don’t often talk in these terms about sexuality in my experience, but I and many of my Quaker friends feel this way of thinking is compatible with Quakerism.

Jesus said we should love our neighbour as ourselves. I’ve heard this interpreted, including in Quaker circles, as meaning we should love ourselves so as better to be able to love others. You may or may not follow everything Jesus is reported to have said, but some of it is great stuff, including this bit. Loving yourself, truly rather than narcissistically, is the basis for being a whole human being. And if you don’t love your sexuality, it will be hard to really love yourself.

But if you value yourself and your sexuality, why should you restrict how you express this by promising to be sexual with only one person? And if you want to live honestly but don’t want to be restricted by monogamy, won’t a promise of monogamy be dishonest?

The principle of equality applies strongly to Open Fidelity. It means that if I want something (such as freedom to have other partners), I have to consider that my partner might also want that, and accept that they have as much right to it as I do. Similarly, if I think I would be hurt to think my partner had cheated on me, I must assume that they would be hurt if I did the same to them. It’s just the basic do-as-you-would-be-done-by principle, otherwise known as the Golden Rule, applied to relationships.

Equality between people of all genders and sexualities is also central to my way of thinking, and it is accepted by most British Quakers, though equality of sexuality isn’t accepted by Quakers in some parts of the world. I believe same-sex relationships to be as valuable as opposite-sex relationships. Of course you can use some of the suggestions I make if you aren’t as convinced of this as I am, but I think you’ll be missing out!

Simplicity and peace aren’t so directly linked to Open Fidelity. Simplicity includes valuing the important things in life, such as love, community, time, the earth, more than things like money, possessions, status and reputation. Open Fidelity fits with this for me – valuing people for themselves rather than their possessions or status. And if more people were sexually fulfilled and stopped fighting each other over sexual jealousy, we might have fewer wars!

2 Responses to “Open Fidelity and Quakerism”

  1. Hi!! Thanks for this article…

    I’ve often thought about investigating whether being a Friend would be right for me… growing up I was told that they were heretics (I’m from a strong pentecostal background), however as an adult I actually met a wonderful woman named Betty through my job as a caregiver, and she was hands-down one of the the most peaceful, gentle, welcoming and considerate people I’ve ever met.

    Being gay, I kind of lost my faith when religious folk told me I could only have one or the other, but Betty helped me see that it ain’t necessarily so. I’m beginning to re-examine my options, having a far better sense of myself as bisexual and polyamorous, and it’s nice to see people talking through how these things might all fit together.

    Keep it up… your site rocks!!


  2. Thanks for your comment, Danny. I can’t say whether Quakerism would be right for you, but my experience in Britain is that it is more accepting of gay, bi and poly people than nearly any other religious group. Quakers do vary round the world, though, and some groups might be less accepting. In the US in particular there are liberal Quaker groups and more evangelical ones.

    Good luck!