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How a 1953 dating video handled same-sex crushes, masturbation, and more

Welcome back to Throwback Thursday, in which we bask in the ridiculous beliefs and advice of cultural stalwarts past. Today we examine another remarkable post-World War II social guidance film, this time educating us on teen sex and lovefifties style.

Wonderfully candid for its era, Social-Sex Attitudes in Adolescence encourages parents to make sex and dating as normal and natural for their children as possible—but it’s not without its cringe-y moments.

The 1953 film tells the story of how “Mary” and “Bob” learn from their teen escapades to find true love. Early on, the narrator writes off Mary’s adolescent lesbian crush as a “transition stage.” Bob, meanwhile, knows all about “nocturnal emissions” and masturbation, but sees the latter as a “problem that is more mental than physical”—and one that can be easily remedied with some fresh air!

The film was based on the 1949 book Adolescent Development (McGraw-Hill) by Elizabeth B. Hurlock, an eminent child psychologist and one of the first female professors at Columbia University. The film’s refreshingly non-judgmental tone stems from Hurlock’s approach to child psychology and gender equality. As a member of the American Psychological Association wrote in a review of the book: “The author indulges in practically no moralizing. This is especially commendable in a field where most popular books are disgustingly moralistic.”

McGraw-Hill produced the film with Crawley Films, an independent Canadian studio run by a husband and wife team in Toronto. (Fun fact: Crawley Films went on to produce the very first Canadian feature film to win an Academy Award, 1976’s The Man Who Skied Down Everest.) Throughout the fifties, the studio made several educational videos like this one, which McGraw-Hill then distributed to American schools.

Bravo, Dr. Hurlock. But you know, that crush on Ethel Hampton, senior girls tennis champion? Not necessarily just a transitional phase. Just sayin’.

This video has been edited—you can watch the full 23-minute film at Prelinger Archives.

Previously:
This 1970s guide will teach you how to pick up men using trickery and deception
This 1970s guide to getting girls will scar you forever
How women in 1936 combatted the terminal affliction of shyness

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