'She may look clean, but...' 1940s anti-STD posters warn soldiers of the 'booby trap' of disease-ridden prostitutes

By Margot Peppers

PUBLISHED: 16:50 EST, 10 June 2013 | UPDATED: 17:03 EST, 10 June 2013



Sexual health posters from the 1940s reveal how warnings against STDs focused on prostitutes, pinning them as dangerous disease carriers and advising soldiers to resist temptation.

Dozens of campaigns portrayed these women as wily temptresses, referring to them as 'good time girls', 'pick-ups', 'procurable women' and 'victory girls'.

Others mimicked the style of war propaganda, calling on men to 'fight syphilis and gonorrhea' and using images of dutiful soldiers to encourage them to get tested.

Sexual health posters from the Forties

Double meaning: Sexual health posters in the 1940s warned soldiers against the dangers of prostitutes, who were seen as 'booby traps' - both for their appearance and the diseases they often carried

Sexual health warnings

Think twice: Dozens of campaigns portrayed prostitutes as dangerous temptresses, referring to them with other names like 'good time girls', 'pick-ups', 'procurable women' and 'victory girls'

In many of the posters, women were portrayed as devious seductresses, often with heavy make-up and cigarettes hanging out of their mouths.

One such image bears the caption: 'She may be a bag of trouble. Syphilis and gonorrhea.'

Another poster emphasizes the deadliness of a disease-carrying prostitute, branding the woman who is depicted the 'juke joint sniper'.

And one advertisement uses double meaning by calling a buxom brunette a 'booby trap'.

Disease in disguise: In several posters, prostitutes appear to be sneakily disguising the fact that they are carrying potentially deadly STDs

Sexual health posters from the Forties

She may look clean but. . . : The sexual proclivities of soldiers, who were often lonely as they traveled far from home, played a major role in the spread of STDs in the 1940s

Troublesome females: In many of the posters, women were portrayed as evil seductresses, often with heavy make-up and cigarettes hanging out of their mouths

Prostitutes were also sometimes depicted in posters as wholesome on the outside, only for the captions to reveal that they were not as they seemed.

In one such campaign, a fresh-faced woman looms over three admiring soldiers.

The caption reads: 'She may look clean - but pick-ups, "good time girls", prostitutes spread syphilis and gonorrhea.

'You can't beat the Axis if you get VD,' it adds, referencing the name used to refer to America's enemies in World War II.

Other advertisements call on soldiers to courageously resist temptation, such the one that warns: 'Self control is self-preservation. Pick-ups spread syphilis and gonorrhea.'

Propaganda: In other advertisements, sexually transmitted diseases were depicted as yet another enemy that soldiers were called on to fight against

Sexual health warnings

Just say no: A group of stoic soldiers help convey this poster's message about resisting temptation

Precautions: Soldiers were encouraged to avoid prostitutes, and to uses prophylaxis if they were exposed to disease

Another poster depicts a string of curvy blonde women in short black skirts, and three men in uniform ogling them.

The ad states that 98per cent of all 'procurable women' - another pseudonym for prostitutes - have venereal disease. 'Why bet against these odds?' it asks.

Syphilis and gonorrhea were the most frequently targeted diseases in these posters, due to their prevalence at the time.

In one campaign, two different men are depicted - one in apparently perfect health, and the other on crutches, looking haggard and unwell.

VD is not victory: These posters warned men not to take chances with 'loose women', or they could pay the price of eternal regret

Sexual health warnings

Catchy rhymes: Some posters used poems and witty one-liners to make their point

Use self-control: Men were portrayed as responsible for not perpetuating the spread of disease

The poster reads: 'Two men who had syphilis. He took his treatments regularly, he didn't.'

Other ads encouraged men not to take chances with prostitutes, or they will pay the price of regret.

One such poster shows a hopeful soldier pictured alongside a woman, crossing his fingers. The banner says: 'Crossing your fingers won't prevent venereal disease. . . but a prophylaxis will.'

Advertisements used catchy one-liners, double entendres and rhymes to draw attention to the dangers of sleeping with prostitutes.

Future to avoid: Posters warned men not to give into temptation, and showed how they could regret it later on

Sexual health posters from the Forties

Consequences: This campaign pointed out the side effects of syphilis, which could cause paralysis, numbness and death if not treated properly

Sexual health posters 1940s

A soldier's courage: Posters used patriotism to influence men to take heed of their message

Sexual health posters 1940s

Do it for your country: Many posters mimicked the style of war propaganda in their sense of national duty

One such poster shows a woman in the center of a group of men, who are all staring at her amorously.

The text below the woman says: 'V-Gals. The victory girls are on the loose and soon will cook some poor guy's goose. The G.I. Joes must be more wary of the diseases they may carry.

'Venereal disease is on the rise. So take your pros; be well and wise!'

By Staff 06/10/2013 10:03:00
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