As Boys Grow (1957)

Posted On: June 9, 2010

Description of Videos:

Prior to the period of frankness that began in the mid-1960s, relatively few sex education films were actually produced in the United States. Most of these films concentrated on the physiology of sex and reproduction and were replete with animated “plumbing” diagrams. It was unusual to show children speaking relatively freely about sexuality, and because of the necessity of educating girls about menstruation, more addressed girls than boys. As Boys Grow, produced in the relatively liberal San Francisco Bay Area, presents regular boys asking regular questions and contains frank discussion of such topics as nocturnal emissions.

Apparently the gym is a safer place for sexual discussion than within the family, and we get a strong sense that Fifties men were supposed to learn about sex in and around the gym while Fifties women worked it out with their mothers. (The coach just seems to carry charts of the female reproductive organs where ever he goes. Handy!)

As Boys Grow also differs from other sex ed films (and most strongly from those directed at girls) by admitting specifically that sex is linked with pleasure. It speaks explicitly of sexual excitement, of erections and the “hard penis”; and addresses male masturbation without mystery. While girls’ films (like Molly Grows Up) focus on menstruation to the exclusion of sexual pleasure and speak of coping with the physical preconditions of gender rather than coming to terms with desire, As Boys Grow admits the existence of pleasure and its gratification. Following the liberal line that was emerging at the time, Coach states “Sometimes you hear that masturbation affects your mind or your manhood. It isn’t true. For kids your age, it’s just… something normal.”

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