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Instead of becoming steadily better in quality over time, the content, messages, and accuracy of sex-ed films have fluctuated with the moral and political forces of each era.What’s especially surprising in looking at the history of sex-ed films is how the medium has changed in its approach to contraception.
Women’s sexual urges are not mentioned; instead, the focus of the film is on women’s reproductive capacity. A central message of these early films to their presumed male audience is that men who have sex without protection or with many women could unknowingly infect “nice girls” with venereal disease. ” Although sex-ed films are meant to resonate with American students from all walks of life, they have tended, over time, to omit key details.
In 1914, the nation’s first sex-ed movie debuted in theatrical release: .
This film about the dangers of syphilis is rather grim: On the eve of his wedding to a “virtuous woman,” a man sleeps with a prostitute and contracts syphilis.
Whether students recall sex-ed class VHS tapes, filmstrips, or You Tube clips as being painfully corny discussions of dating or sincerely educational forays into the sticky bits of our biology, sex-ed films color our understanding of sexuality.
Although sex-ed films are a major part of our sexual and educational culture, there has been little critical analysis of their content or creation from a pop-culture standpoint.
She’s wearing a cardigan and has an empowered look about her. Films have been far more likely to discuss male masturbation than to consider that women masturbate and have sexual needs.
While educational films that discuss hormone changes in boys often made reference to “nocturnal emissions,” the exploration of girls’ hormone changes focus on menstruation and the emergence of child-bearing hips, rather than on desire.Since that 1948 screening, private companies, political organizations, individuals, and government agencies have made thousands of sex-ed films and videos targeting elementary, middle school, and high school students.Sex education is arguably more closely tied to film than any other subject in public school.In this framework, women who desire sex are painted as disease-carrying harlots. In his research, Eberwein found that mentions of the clitoris as a part of female anatomy were relatively rare in the canon of sex-ed films.In 1961’s , for example, a male authority figure tracks down the source of a syphilis outbreak in a small town: the culprit is “a tall, aggressive blonde” who picks up guys at the ballpark. No film mentioned how the clitoris relates to female pleasure until the 1980s.From the outset, films helped lend an air of authority and importance to sex education, which has always been on the defensive in America.