Vintage STD prevention posters are the best/worst

Vintage sex ed alert! The San Franciso Department of Public Health (um, coolest local government agency in the country? I think so!) brings us 100 years worth of STD prevention posters. On Twitter, Tracy Clark-Flory described them as “awesome(ly awful).”

Some are just plain awesome though. This one is my favorite.

These days, when some folks in Philadelphia believe giving young people access to condoms is “irresponsible,” Massachusettes lawmakers decry a sex education website as “disgusting,” and a famous man says women who are sexually responsible are “tacky,” it seems like we could use a little more of this kind of frankness.

As my second favorite poster warns, “False shame and fear may destroy your future.”

And, as my third fav—ok, ok, I’ll stop!

What’s your favorite one? Go vote.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • Wendy

    Hi! That poster isn’t actually vintage at all. It was created by the Seattle-King County public health department in 2000. You can still buy it:

    • Maya

      OMG, that’s the best news I’ve heard all day! Ordering it ASAP. Thanks for the heads-up, Wendy.

  • Jozsef

    Wait, wait, wait… how in the fuck is giving access to condoms “irresponsible”?! It is – by the very definition of responsibility – responsible! Double-think is truly astonishing.

    I think the poster you choose to show in the blog is pretty hilarious.

    A lot of those posters, particularly the older ones, seem to invoke the notion of woman as temptress, or imply that it’s women that will give men STDs, not vice versa.

  • Marti

    I like some of these but a lot of them are very anti-woman. Instead of promoting safety they demonize the pictured woman kinda playing on the “temptress” angle.

    • aLynn

      Yeah, a majority of them villainize women, especially those in sex work, as the primary source of “VD.”

      I particularly liked the one that claimed that if a women gives in to you, then she has likely done so for others and is diseased.