Ever since Alfred Kinsey dropped his twin pillars on human sexuality – Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male in 1948 and Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female in 1953 – and Dr Joyce Brothers talked about orgasms and what went where from 1958 onwards we became a bit better at sex talk.
There comes a point when you raise children where you need to tell them about the birds and the bees. It can prove an awkward conversation so in steps a series of informative records and films in the 1950s and 1960s to ease the path. Let’s talk about sex, baby! Or rather, let’s stumble through some well-meaning, cringe-worthy, and unintentionally hilarious oddities, and let our kids join the 60s sexual revolution instead.
I first got into sex education records (and videos) when I mixed a bunch of raunchy tracks with dialogue from the 1951 Sex Instruction platter by Christopher Recordings. A heavy religious tone combines with plain-speaking medical language
the unabashed normal use of such technical terms as “penis” and “sperm”
as Mum and Dad attempt to instruct a small boy, teenage boys, and teenage girls in the mechanics and function of the Beast with Two Backs.
How Babies Are Made
Sex equals babies, right? No one mentions the pill, or condoms, or sex for recreation. When a man loves a woman very, very much they do the nasty and you arrive nine months later, a little blessing from God. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, and never mention anything other than Arthur and Martha. Hell sucks, kids.
Sex Instruction tells us not to overload our small child with too much information and never mention Lady Gardens and then goes on to throw in the fact that dogs don’t have souls, God plants tomato seeds in your mother, and mums possess holes between their legs like the kind you stuff cookies in.
Check out the series of cautionary films made by Sid Davis Productions – like Girls Beware (1961). Sid Davis started making his films at the insistence of John Wayne after a six-year-old was kidnapped, molested and murdered in Los Angeles. His obsession with bad things continued over the next three decades and as well as the perils of sex he covered drugs, cars, gangs, and that true horror story for teens – running with scissors.
In Girls Beware we learn the following:
- Babysitting leads to death
- Don’t ever answer the door
- Don’t make friends in a movie theatre
- Cars are evil
- Hamburgers are 23¢ in Inglewood, California
If only Judy, Sally and Mary listened to their dads talk about tomato seeds and puppies they would never have taken that fast track to the wrong side of town. Girls – beware!
Girls and Menstruation
So we know from Christopher Recordings that good girls follow God and get blessed with babies. We know that babies grow in their mothers and pop out rather like a chicken lays an egg. But just where exactly is all this blood coming from, Mum?
Why it’s the holiness of the menstrual function, Betty, says Mrs O’Brian to her breathless pre-teen. Look now girlie – you’ve got boobs and rapidly growing arms. Now here comes the flood. And we have the usual speech:
God is preparing your body for the natural calling of motherhood – if that is his plan for you
Why, what other plans would there be, mother? We know better. We can hear Mrs O’Brian’s covert plans for young Betty (no doubt secretly named after Ms Friedan). Boys have seeds, she says. But girls have this complex set of organs and tubes and blood and do all the heavy lifting. You will have a growing relationship with irrational anger, my child. Hold fast to this anger as the new decade unfolds and look for a woman named Gloria Steinem.
I cannot speak further. Your father drinks. Act casual.
Medical Arts Productions’ Molly Grows Up (1954) and Walt Disney’s The Story of Menstruation (1946) both sneak in equally covert references to women doing everything and having the potential to rule the world someday. The Story of Menstruation was even banned. Revolutionary stuff indeed.
The Problem of Growing Boys
The problem with growing boys says Mr O’Brian to teen son Bob is that they have these urges. You’ve got all the God business on the one hand, and then these darned urges. I was a horny little toad once, son.
Do you mind if I spark up my pipe? Good. Good.
Your dad’s tired, Bob. Too many trips to the Food King after a hard day’s work while your mother takes all the credit can take its toll on a man. Your mother was a screamer, son.
Nowadays it’s all I can do to repress the urges through prayer and chopping wood. Go have some crazy wet dreams, but don’t masturbate – that’s the Devil’s playground.
Also, it’s called a penis. Don’t be throwing around those crazy terms you teens come up with nowadays.
We also have the 1957 film As Boys Grow (Medical Arts Productions again) where Coach tells the boys about the eternal divide between jocks and nerds and takes an unusual interest in how the boys are “filling out” and having “nocturnal emissions”. There’ll be an extra film about Coach later on.
The Marriage Union
In the end, of course, it all comes down to this – if you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it.
You also start to get the creepy feeling that all good parents take part in some kind of weird threeway with God. He looms large if you will. And the fourth and final instalment of Sex Instruction subjects teenage girl Kitty to a lecture by both her parents.
Mother – what do husbands and wives do when they get married?
Mostly they shout and learn how to mix a good Mai Tai, but there’s also that terrible moment when you accidentally wander into their bedroom one dark and stormy night and they tell you they’re wrestling but it leaves you feeling nauseous and unsettled.
That’s the part we’re going to talk about now. Oh sure, there’s a cake and a white dress, and possibly a shotgun involved, but the crux of the matter is that all kinds of organs go into all kinds of orifices, and you’ll never be able to look your father in the eye again.
And if that doesn’t completely freak you out, watch How To Undress in Front of Your Husband (1937 and it stars an actual Barrymore!) and start saving for therapy later.
The Terrible Truth
Not every girl wanted babies, and not every boy wanted a wife.
The topic of lesbianism never seems to come up – bad girls in these records and films just die horribly and the picture fades euphemistically to black. Given the tone of all the records and films, they assume that girls had no interest in sex either phallic or sapphic. So let’s move on.
In perhaps the most ridiculous and the most bizarre of all these movies, Boys Beware (1961, Sid Davis Productions yet again) The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name rears its head. Pun intended. You cannot get past the fact that the main villain looks like famed director John Waters. So we start at a disadvantage, and we laugh at the very off of the thing.
So of what exactly do boys need to be aware?
The homosexual, of course – that mentally ill, sexually predatory, lurking pervert who lures adolescent boys in, takes them fishing (because the gays do love the fish), converts them into his evil ways, and then discards them. In the weirdest twist, we learn that the molestation isn’t the worst thing a young boy will face.
If a man grooms you, leads you astray, molests you, and then leaves you to do the decent thing and report him – the police will send you to juvenile detention. Girls are naive and silly for letting boys drag them from the path of righteousness. Boys, on the other hand, are criminals pure and simple.
It all goes back to the prevailing religious tone seen throughout these records and films, and how sex is really all about the three virtues of Kinder, Kirche, and Küche. And in the end, it will always be Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Even the Sexual Revolution that followed in the 60s displayed hostility towards the LBTQ community. And that is the real tragedy.
What Goes Where
After a while, you begin to realise that you’re not so much learning about the birds and the bees as formulating the plot for a really good teen slasher movie.
Cars, fast girls, predatory boys, lurking perverts and weirdoes. Throw in Sarah Michelle Gellar and you have a late-night hit on your hands. So what did happen? Pretty much every Mondo, Grindhouse, and B-movie took up the gauntlet and ran with it while most teens dropped LSD and bypassed the God and babies part altogether in Max Yasgur’s field.
Mum and Dad took up key parties and vodka, and the world continued to turn and churn out the latest cautionary tale – witness the Public Information Film boom here. And the LGBTQ community finally got its voice and its justice at Stonewall. But, as always, we can at least take away one thing.
Remember kids – dogs don’t have souls. Sleep well.
2 thoughts on “The Terrible Truth: Sex Education Records and Films”
well done! i wonder when the golden age of teen advice media ended? did it? or is it only transferred to YouTube?
That’s a very good question!