The joy of sex education.

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About this work

Also known as

Birds and the bees.


A collection of 16 titles from over 60 years of British sex education films, spanning the years 1917 - 1973. Disc 1 contains: 1. 'Whatsoever a man soweth' (1917) (38 min.) - black and white, silent film, warning Canadian troops about the dangers of catching veneral disease. It follows young Canadian soldier, Dick, as he tries to avoid propositions from prostitutes in London. He is encouraged to see Dr. Burns who shows him victims of venereal disease in various stages - explicit close-ups show rotting legs, hands and syphilitic sores. After the war it transpires that Dick's brother Tom has infected his wife with syphilis. They are both cured but their child is born blind. The film has a new score by Dave Formula. 2. 'Any evening after work' (1930) (27 min.) - Black and white, silent film, looking at the dangers of leaving venereal disease untreated. It follows the fate of a man who begins to feel unwell following an encounter with a female stranger. While prevaricating about going to see his GP he sees a poster for a lecture by the British Social Hygiene Council. He attends and hears a lecture on venereal disease. Following the lecture, the man secures a hospital appointment. The film has a new score by Dave Formula. 3. 'How to tell' (1931) (21 min.) - Black and white, silent film encouraging parents to equip their children with the truth about reproduction. New score by Dave Formula. 4. 'The mystery of marriage' (1932) (32 min.) - Black and white film which compares human courtship with courtship elsewhere in the animal kingdom; from mould to rabbits. 5. 'Trial for marriage' (1936) (28 min.) - black and white film looking at student life in the 1930s. John, a young medical student, is led astray by a group of wayward art students into the world of all-night parties and illicit liaisons. A concerned friend enlists the help of a doctor who prescribes a tour of the syphilis and gonorrhoea wards of a hospital. Later in the film a dream sequence sees John's behaviour put before a judge and jury. 6. 'A test for love' (1937) (28 min.) - Black and white film. A dramatised warning to young women of the risks of venereal disease. Betty, a shop girl, contracts gonorrhoea after one indescretion with a cad behind her boyfriend's back. She is shunned by family and eventually receives treatment in a socially-funded hospital. She recovers and her boyfriend forgives her. 7. 'The road of health' (1938) (11 min.) - Black and white film which gives information on venereal disease then slips into an allegorical animated section following a possible road to health with sideroads leading off the venereal disease, prostitution and delinquency. Disc 2 contains: 8. 'Love on leave' (1940) (33 min.) - Black and white film charting the moral tale of George and Katherine whose romance is interrupted by the strain of the outbreak of WWII. George is unfaithful to Katherine with a woman who has venereal disease. 9. 'Six little jungle boys' (1945) (9 min.) - Black and white animated cartoon aimed at encouraging good hygiene among six soldiers stationed in the jungle. 10. 'The people at no. 19' (1949) (17 min.) - Black and white film appealing to young women in post-war Britain to effect sexual restraint. In a dramatic melodrama Joan discovers she has syphilis while pregnant with her husband's child. 11. 'Growing girls' (1949) (12 min.) - Black and white film in which Winifred Holmes looks at the sexual development of young girls from adolescence to adulthood. The menstrual cycle is particularly focused upon. 12. 'Learning to live' (1964) (19 min.) - colour film featuring young couple Tina and Eric. Although there are some diagrams and descriptions pertaining to sexual difference, the film is primarily focused on marriage councilling and encourages couples not to have sex before marriage. 13. 'Her name was Ellie, his name was Lyle' (1967) (28 min.) - black and white film which encourages safe sex among teenagers through the medium of melodrama. Bruce contracts syphilis and has to visit a health centre. He gets treated and tells them the name of Ellie, who he caught it from. She is examined for the second stage of syphilis and Bruce's long-term girlfriend dumps him. 14. 'Growing up' (1971) (23 min.) - colour film looking at sexual development in a candid way. Naked male and female bodies are shown, with close-ups of the genital regions, highlighting the changes that occur between childhood and adulthood. Male and female masturbation is also shown as is sexual intercourse. 15. 'Don't be like Brenda' (1973) (8 min.) - colour film dramatising, harshly, the problems of pre-marital sexual relationships. Teenage Brenda falls pregnant and she gives birth to a son, Alan, who she gives up for adoption. However, Alan has a heart defect and is unlikely to be adopted into a family. 16. 'Ave you got a male assistant please miss?' (1973) (4 min.) - colour film encouraging the use of contraception. A humorous take on contraception featuring a 1970s student as he races round the city searching for a condom.


UK : British Film Institute, 2009.

Physical description

1 DVD (338 min.) : sound & silent, black and white & color, PAL

Copyright note

British Film Institute


Subsequently released under an alternative title, "The Birds and the Bees" due to problems in identifying this film as part of 'The Joy of Sex' franchise.

Creator/production credits

Produced and directed by: 1. Joseph Best, War Office; 2. British Instructional Films Ltd.; 3. British Instructional films Ltd.; 4. Mary Field for British Instructional Films Ltd.; 5. Central Council for Health Education Film Unit; 6. Vernon Sewell for Gaumont-British Instructional; 7. Brian Salt for Gaumont-British Instructional; 8. Horace Shepherd for Inspiration Pictures; 9. John Halas and Joy Batchelor for Halas & Batchelor Cartoon Films; 10. J.B. Holmes for crown Film Unit; 11. Winifred Holmes for Film Producers Guild; 12. Guy Fergusson and Phillip Sattin for Eothen Films; 13. Lothar Wolff for Louis de Rochemont Associates; 14. Martin Cole for Global Films; 15. Hugh Baddeley for Hugh Baddeley Productions; 16. Graham Jones and Jon Astley for Oxford Polytechnic.



Where to find it

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