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Don't Be Like Brenda


Don't Be Like Brenda (1973) - courtesy of the BFI

The Magazine's sex education film festival

Each day this week, the Magazine is charting how attitudes to sex education have changed by featuring a classic public information film of its time. The fourth excerpt in our series on sex education films is from 1973's Don't Be Like Brenda.

Brenda is in love. Sadly, Brenda thinks it is OK to have sex with her loved one. She is very wrong. Soon Brenda finds herself accidentally pregnant. Poor Brenda breaks the terrible news to her boyfriend, who reassures her, suggesting they should get married and promising to phone her that evening.

The Magazine's sex ed film festival
Five excerpts from films from the BFI's DVD The Joy of Sex Education - one a day for a week. The films so far:

Cut to Brenda waiting anxiously by the phone. She waits. And waits. And waits. Eventually the phone rings and she snatches it up. The voice at the other end is not that of her beloved. It is his evil harridan of a mother who calls poor Brenda a "slut", announces that the beloved is already engaged and warns Brenda to stay well away from him.

Brenda is heartbroken and decides to have the baby adopted. We see her at an adoption home, where the soothing narrator explains that as there are many more prospective adoptive couples than babies, the child is likely to find a loving home.

But what's this? The child has a congenital heart defect and will therefore not be adopted. It will live all of its life in institutions and it's all Brenda's fault.

Bad Brenda.

"The overriding approach of sex education in 20th Century Britain was on the condemnation of promiscuity rather than on preparation for sexual maturity," says Katy McGahan, curator (non-fiction) BFI National Archive. "Even in the 1970s when sex was exploding onto every billboard, adolescent sexuality was still regarded as an aberration and a moral failure"

Send us your comments using the form below.

Married and with a baby son, I went to my GP to ask for the pill. I was told in no uncertain terms that the best contraceptive in the world was one word - NO! This was in 1973. It seems like a world away. Now no-one bothers to get married and single parent families seem to be the norm. Is it better?
Helen Faulkes, Solihull

How interesting that chain smoking while pregnant appears more acceptable than being an unmarried mother.
Ian Bishop, Scunthorpe

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