When we think of the hazards of war, we usually think of the physical or mental dangers soldiers face in combat. But it turns out STDs are just as much of a threat to a soldier’s wellbeing. And they always have been.
STDs have been around for most of human history, and soldiers have been getting them probably as long as there have been soldiers. That’s because armies would inevitably attract prostitutes with an eye for business. In 1648, the Bavarian army included 40,000 soldiers and 140,000 prostitutes and other camp followers. (Which probably made it quite easy to recruit soldiers into the Bavarian army.)
Lots of prostitution meant lots of STDs, and they depleted armies’ strength considerably. Here are some statistics, helpfully compiled by Mother Jones:
-Over just two months during the Civil War, the Union Army saw over 100,00 cases of gonorrhea.
-During World War I, the Army over 7 million days of labor because of STDs.
It was only around the time of World War II that the various militaries of the Allied powers decided to do something about it. Enter the STD poster.
Maybe you can already imagine how awkward these posters are. I mean, consider how bad we are at talking about sex as a nation in 2017. Now imagine how bad it would have been 75 years ago. That should give you some idea of where this is going.
Today we’re looking at a collection of 15 vintage posters about STDs. After looking through them you probably won’t want to have sex ever again.
1. Live Up To It, Soldier.
Having a “Prophylaxis Station” to pass out free contraceptives is great, but the name SUCKS. I would have called it “The Condom Cabana.”
2. Why Bet Against These Odds?
I’ve got another statistic for you: 98% of vintage STD posters are Not Woke. And that’s probably lowballing it.
Like many posters on this list, this one is putting all its efforts into making sure guys didn’t get STDs, with no care or concern for the women they would theoretically get them from. If you want to see what the opposite of this poster looks like, check out #3…
3. All Of These Men Have It
AD GUY #1: How do we warn women about the dangers of STDs?
AD GUY#2: Let’s tell them literally every man they know has one! That won’t mess them up at all!
4. No Medicine For Regret.
Nope, definitely nothing problematic about this one! Let’s move on.
5. Nothing to be proud of.
Ah, the “Scarlet Letter” approach. Nice.
6. As old as creation.
You do NOT want Dino Herpes.
7. She May Be…A Bag Of Trouble
She doesn’t have syphilis, she has a sunburn! Someone get this woman a better hat!
8. Knock Out V.D…
Gotta love a shout out to everyone’s favorite medicine, mercury.
9. She May Look Clean, But…
You just know the woman in the poster was, like, the poster painter’s wife or something. “Hon, what did you say this poster was for?” “Nothing! Now keep still!”
10. Venereal Disease Covers The Earth
This is Carmen Sandiego’s cousin, Cathy Chlamydia.
If this poster’s minimalist approach left you confused, let me translate for you: “Avoid STDs. Sticking to hand stuff!”
At least I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re saying.
12. Syphilis Could Have Ruined My Home
She might have been able to save herself and the kids, but she definitely couldn’t save the marriage.
13. Booby Trap
Get it?! Va-va-VOOM!
Definitely nothing ironic about a poster using sex to get people’s attention so they can tell them not to have sex.
14. Be Sly. VD Is High.
“I know! Let’s make the soldiers picture Donald Duck about to have sex with a human woman! They’ll be too confused to have sex and they won’t get STDs!”
15. And finally, the piece de resistance.
There is a LOT to unpack with this one. The cartoon condom. The police officer urging safe sex while wearing a cap that says “69” on it. The “pleasure graph” at the bottom. But I’m going to call your attention to the weirdest part of this poster, which is in the top left. There’s a list of things you should never use a condom with, like Cool Whip or butter. Or…SANDPAPER?!
Dear god I hope that’s a joke.