Tag Archives: syphilis

‘V-Gals’: The other WWII enemy

The Daily Mail and MSN Now published an exhibit of 1940s sexual health posters raising awareness about the spread of gonorrhea and syphilis.  What’s striking is the way these images packaged moral stigma.  Women, particularly sex workers, “loose” women and “victory gals” were portrayed as the sinful source of venereal disease.  Copying war-style propaganda, some posters depicted sexualized women as the enemy for comrades to brave against.  Like this one displaying an assembly line of blonde temptresses- all the same; all out to fuck you and your country.

WWII Public Service Announcement.  After condoms are finally made legal in the USA Army. Image from the DailyMail.co.uk

WWII Public Service Announcement. After condoms are finally made legal in the USA Army. Image from the DailyMail.co.uk

Loose equals Loaded with disease!  Read STI stigma.  Image sourced from the DailyMail.co.uk

Loose equals Loaded with disease! Read STI stigma. Image sourced from the DailyMail.co.uk

Many campaigns, like this one, used fear tactics and warned soldiers not to be fooled by the attraction of “loose” women- for they are not what they seem.

And, of course, we won’t mention the risks of unprotected sex for men who have sex with men, because that doesn’t exist in the armed forces (sarcasm).

Another aspect to put into perspective is the history of condom stigma, especially in the United States during the first World War.  These PSAs were made just after condoms became legalized and issued to the Armed Forces.

But during the First World War, the reality of STIs dealt with differently.  It was widely believed that venereal disease was the price one paid for sinful choices.

Condom Censorship

Thus, the American Social Hygiene Association objected to issuing condoms to soldiers- so during the First World War, they weren’t. In fact, since 1873, the U.S. government illegalized any advertisement of contraceptives. That same set of laws also banned the sale of condoms and allowed for condoms to be confiscation from personal mail in up to thirty states (Collier, 2007).

quote boxIt wasn’t until World War II that the use of condom became prominent among both European and American soldiers.  Keep in mind that condom technology at the time was not regulated and the pleasure factor was close to nil.  Lubricant wasn’t invented until 1957.  Defective latex and breakage rates were high.  It wasn’t until the 1960s that North America and most of Europe established a quality standard controls for manufacturers to follow (Perera 2004).

Read here for more on the foible history of condoms and other contraceptives.

Visit the Daily Mail and MSN to view more WWII sexual disease propaganda.