Documentary2001-2010Queer Cinema(s)United KingdomVarious

Various – The Joy of Sex Education: 1917-1973 (2009)

From the impenetrably euphemistic to the breathtakingly explicit, this intriguing anthology takes us through 60 yearsof sex education in Britain from the 1910s to the 1970s.All ‘unmentionable matters’ pertaining to sex are dealt with, from the WW1 warning to soldiers about the dangers of cavorting with loose women in London’s West End, Whatsoever a Man Soweth (1917), to puberty pep-talks for girls on how to avoid pregnancy in Don’t Be Like Brenda (1973).
Some of the old films are perfect nuggets for social historians; others are superbly acted, with no production values spared. A Test for Love, made in 1937 by British Instructional Pictures, had me weeping into my Tetleys. The morality movie concerns the love triangle between Betty, Jim and George, and is set in a seaside cigarette and confectionary shop. It is Jules et Jim for the Craven A-smoking set. Betty (the heroines are almost always called Betty) thinks Jim-the-builder is being unfaithful and goes off in a fast car with fast George. The demon drink is taken, a nasty disease is caught, and soon poor Betty is regretting her “impetuosity”. She downgrades from a hat to a fetching beret and is on the third-class train to her auntie until she is cured. “Oh you fool, it’s too late now!” she tells Jim when he returns. But he’s an understanding fellow; he proposes to Betty. Jim wants her to “to merry him and be hippy” – yes, even the working classes have cut-glass accents in sex-ed world. It ends with a passionate kiss behind the drawn blinds of the confectioners.
Whatsoever a Man Soweth (1917, 38 mins)
Any Evening After Work (1930, 27 mins)
How To Tell (1931, 21 mins)
The Mystery of Marriage (1932, 32 mins)
Trial for Marriage (1936, 28 mins)
A Test for Love (1937, 28 mins)
The Road of Health (1938, 11 mins)
Love on Leave (1940, 33 mins)
Six Little Jungle Boys (1945, 9 mins)
The People at No. 19 (1949, 17 mins)
Growing Girls (1949, 12 mins)
Learning to Live (1964, 19 mins)
Her Name Was Ellie, His Name Was Lyle (1967, 28 mins)
Growing Up (1971, 23 mins)
Don’t Be Like Brenda (1973, 8 mins)
‘Ave You Got A Male Assistant Please Miss? (1973, 4 mins)


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