The Crazy Scare Tactics Against Premarital Sex from the 1950s

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how much affection

In the ’50s, premarital sex—or “affection,” as it was cutely called—was considered a sin to rival reefer. In How Much Affection, a hilariously archaic 1958 McGraw-Hill educational film, high school sweethearts Mary and Jeff grapple with how to quell their budding sexual urges as they explore the hot new world of “petting.”


One night, young Mary—who looks like she’s 35—comes home from another fabulous and sexually confusing evening out with Jeff and freaks out to her mother, wondering if it’s wrong to feel “warm and affectionate” with a boy you like. Her mother sagely advises her not to leave it to beaver and instead rely on “judgment rather than emotion” in the matters of “affection.” Also, Mary and Jeff later run into a teen mom they used to go to school with, which helps thoroughly scare the couple into chastity.


However, it’s surprising how progressive having “the talk” between Mary and her mother can be—Mary’s mother ultimately tells her she has to make her own decisions when it comes to sex. Maybe How Much Affection was (perhaps unknowingly) shadowing America’s impending sexual revolution. After all, the first issue of Playboy debuted during the ’50s, and Dr. Alfred Kinsey was already deep in his groundbreaking studies of human sexuality. Kids those days!


Image via Prelinger Archives

[h/t The Atlantic]