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Sex Madness (1938)


An Article by Kristen Dowd

Hey everyone!

Today I’m going to talk about the STD equivalent to “Reefer Madness” – “Sex Madness“. Directed by Dwain Esper and released in 1938, the story follows a young woman during her battle with syphilis. We open to an elderly couple complaining about juvenile sex and the lack of police involvement. Their son isn’t trying to hear that shit and leaves to go to a friend’s place.

Grandmommy Dearest is concerned that he may partake in some dirty touching, but the Step Grandfather reassures her. Then we bop over to an office where two ladies are chilling. While reading a story in the paper, they talk about a burlesque dancer’s exploits and decide to go see her that night. At the venue while watching the show, a guy tries to convince his girlfriend to lie to her family about her whereabouts so they can fuck.

The office workers from earlier get a little touchy feely. Some of the fellas in the audience are enjoying it, pointing out the girls they like while they make rapetastic faces. After the show, the dancers go backstage to kiki (basically slang for “Chit chat”). Sheila tries to talk Millicent, the lead of the movie, into going out with her for drinks and penis company, but the offer is turned down as Millicent is tired and has a Doctor’s appointment the next morning.

stdimfurstThis guy seems legit

Outside, Sheila is supposed to meet up with Tom, a man who’s father, Paul, has tried to reform him countless times. She goes home first to change, and has another girl tell him to meet her at a party. The creeper from the screen cap above sees a little girl walking home from a store and follows her. Suddenly we cut to a newspaper headline that reads “Sex Criminal Jailed After Baby Murder”, then back to present day. No further explanation. We time warped for 3 seconds I guess.

At the party, the ladies and gents mingle. They drink, smoke cigarettes and lightly kiss. Blasphemy! Shelia asks Tom if he wants to go upstairs to see a cute “Pomeranian”. Is that what the kids called it back then? The others also split off to bedrooms to get it on. We are jettisoned into the future AGAIN, this time seeing Millicent at her appointment. She has syphilis and the Doc wants to know how someone of her character got it. She explains after winning a beauty contest, she traveled to New York City. When she failed to find work, broke and desperate, Millicent met with a theatrical manager.

Covergirldon'tcoversoresThat’s it girls, make sure you cover every sore

He gave her the address of a “job”. There she met a man who promised her fame if she only let him in her pantie drawers. She did and BAM! Syphilis. She very badly wants to marry her boyfriend, Wendel, but Doc says it’s impossible at the moment and he takes her to the hospital to show her why. He shows her other people who didn’t treat their illnesses, complete with bad make up work for sores and such. Gross.

He tells Millicent he’ll treat her at the hospital for a month, then send her home for future treatment if she improves but she can’t under any circumstances marry Wendel until she is completely cured. After a few months of being home with her parents and Wendel, her Dad notices her lack of enthusiasm for marrying Wendel. Her mother insists Millicent knows what she’s doing. Later that night, Millicent meets up with Wendel, when he tries to kiss her she pulls away. You know since she has the “Lis”, she doesn’t want to give it to him but is afraid to tell him the truth.

Her current physician, Dr. Grenoble, tells her if she pays for an expensive multi-serum, she will be completely cured. Her original doctor warned of “quacks” and “cure-alls” but of course she doesn’t listen. Later she and Wendel finally get married, and eventually have a baby. While on a lunch break at work, Wendel reads the paper and sees a story about Grenoble being arrested. Wendel has a hard time reading the print and is not feeling well.

Oh shit.

deargodnoGod, please don’t let them bone

Back at home, Millicent thinks something is wrong with the baby. Her mother advises her to call a doctor. Wendel’s boss lets him leave early on account that his vision is messing up. The doctor tends to the child and says the baby is incredibly ill and needs a specialist. He tells Millicent and Wendel he wants to see them at his office ASAP. Here it’s shown that Tom was also a victim to one of Grenoble’s scam cures. He goes to talk to his father. Tom tells his dad he has syphilis and he’s surprising supportive. Elsewhere Millicent and Wendel see their doctor, he tells them the baby has syphilis and one of them has to be the carrier.

Millicent freaks out and finally owns up to it, even though Grenoble told her she was cured. Wendel is understandably shocked and at a loss for words. At a rally against syphilis that his dad is attending and financially supporting, Tom spills the beans about his own status and joins in the fight. At home, Millicent attends to an extremely ill Wendel. He is going blind. She exits the room momentarily and returns with two glasses of poison. Wendel tells her now more then ever how much he needs her and cares for her. So to repay him for his loyalty, she starts to fed him the poison but the phone rings thankfully. Sheila tells Millicent she’s on the road to recovery from her own case of the “Lis” and within a year’s time, she should be cured. Millicent changes her mind about killing them both and the movie ends on a happy note?

oldgloryHe’s yelling at you while standing in front of an American flag. SURELY that is proof enough that what he’s saying is accurate

As far as a propaganda movie, this isn’t THAT bad. It isn’t nearly as over the top as R.M. that’s for sure. The victims aren’t really made out to be villains and it’s mostly about raising awareness. Sure there are moments of “don’t have sex until your married!” but you aren’t beaten over the head with it either.

STDs are no joke and can cause great pain and death. You don’t HAVE to wait till marriage, but be smart. Know your partner’s status, get tested regularly and wrap it up.

As a side note I’ve never written the word “syphilis” this many times before. It hurt my fingers to do so.


You see what I put myself through for you guys?

About The Author
Kristen D.
Kristen D.
Kristen D. is a writer and aspiring filmmaker originally from Brooklyn, NY. She loves a ton of different things including movies, T.V shows, videogames, music, cooking and cosplay. She covers most of those subjects and anything else she's interested in on her series Kristen D. Eats The World.

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