Here's the first lesson on joyless side of sex

British Film Institute re-releases historical sex education movies

London's streets were dangerous places for innocent young men in uniform to judge from the world's oldest sex education film, which has just been revived for posterity by the British Film Institute.

Filmed during the First World War, the silent footage features a young Canadian soldier called Dick – a name that seemingly had no unfortunate connotations back then – who is on leave in London where nicely dressed young women approach him, one after another. Dick, the caption says, is "tempted", but luckily, as he is about to meet his doom, a Canadian officer taps him on the arm. "Do you realise, young man, the risks you run in association with that woman?" he asks, silently.Cut away to a seedy hotel room where another Canadian soldier has not been so well advised. Though he and the fallen woman he has met are fully dressed, a ruffled bed is evidence of the risk to which he has exposed himself. While his back is turned, the shameless woman goes through his wallet and stuffs a wedge of notes into her bra.

Back to Dick, now on a guided tour of a hospital ward where men are being treated for venereal disease, where he is shown horribly swollen legs and claw-like hands. "Rotted legs and hands", the caption reads. The message is very clear: there is no such thing as safe sex for a soldier overseas so, laddie, keep your mind on your pure young girlfriend at home and say no.

The Canadian film, Whatsoever a Man Soweth, is the oldest of 16 classic sex lectures on celluloid that the BFI has put together on a two-DVD set, documenting more than half a century of the advice, warnings and euphemisms used to ward off disgrace among the young.

Fast forward 56 years, to 1973 and 'Ave You Got a Male Assistant Please Miss?, and the film-makers seem relaxed about the idea of a man and a woman together in the sack. However, just as the couple are about to get down to business, a disembodied voice says: "Hold it, hold it a minute. Did you know that in 1969 there were 10,000 illegal abortions?"

They did not, but the man – who incidentally has hair down to his shoulder blades – gets the message, whips on his trousers and set off at a run to find a chemist, where he is served by a male with even more hair. Over the decades, evidently, the emphasis has switched to avoiding accidental pregnancy. "There is no need to make an abortion of it," is the final caption.

But even in the relative enlightenment of the early 1970s, casual sex was a cause for condemnation, for young women if not for young men. This point is emphasised by the 1973 film Don't be Like Brenda, Brenda being a foolish young woman who ends up pregnant, shunned by everyone around her, waiting in vain for the phone call from her ex-lover that never comes.

Not all the contributions are so grim. The 1932 production The Mystery of Marriage, which bills itself as a "frank" explanation of sexual attraction, is a joyous romp through the marital arrangements of plants, insects, birds, mammals, and humans. It tells you that butterflies are "frivolous" parents, but that most birds are good parents. There is a vague hint that there is something these couples do that produces children which, when humans do it too, seems to involve a walk in the fresh air, a kiss near a haystack, followed by a meeting with an estate agent at which she says: "Then the lino will be laid free?" And her husband says: "And I only have to pay £10?" That was as explicit as a film could be, in our grandparents' day.

Katy McGahan, who produced the collection The Joy of Sex Education for the BFI, said: "The films document the various approaches educators have taken in disseminating important information about sex to the populace across 60 years.

"Today, with teenage pregnancy rates and reported cases of sexually-transmitted disease soaring, sex education remains high on the political agenda. While most people accept that formal sex education is necessary, the question over who should teach it, how it should be taught, what information it should impart and what moral and social values it should inform remains ever contentious."

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor