Age of Innocence – 1969, X Rated Films and Sex Education


Butch and Sundance

At some point in our young lives the ‘Age of Innocence’ must end and for me this was 1969 as I slipped into my sixteenth year and with raging puberty and a testosterone fuelled curiosity abandoned bike rides and picnics as I discovered a new murky world of sex and rock ‘n’ roll (but no drugs).

Prior to 1969 going to the cinema meant Saturday morning pictures, Walt Disney or Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday but this was the year that I managed to trick my way into the Granada Cinema to see an X rated film.  This was by no means easy because I always looked younger than my age and at only fifteen it was only possible to deceive the cashier by getting someone else to buy my ticket while I kept out of sight.  Well, it worked because I got away with it (or perhaps she just didn’t care?) and my first adult film was ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ which included a scene where a an undressed girl was posing for an artist and which set my pulse racing towards danger levels.

Sandy Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

In film censorship the original X certificate was issued between 1951 and 1982 by the British Board of Film Censors in the United Kingdom.  From 1951 to 1970, it meant “Suitable for those aged sixteen and over’ and from 1970 to 1982 as films became more explicit and violent this was raised to eighteen and over.

Censorship was a bit more vigorous in the 1960s than it is now and Lord Harlech and his Board would slap an X certificate on anything considered remotely unsuitable. Miss Jean Brodie certainly wouldn’t get an X certificate forty years on and neither would the second X film that I managed to sneak into see which was ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ where there were no undressed ladies, no swear words and not much violence either.  I really liked that film and it remains one of my all time favourites but my final X film was ‘Midnight Cowboy’ and I really didn’t really understand it all and I don’t think I even stayed until the end.  Despite my critical dismissal of it, ‘Midnight Cowboy’ went on to become the only X-rated film ever to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Midnight Cowboy

Another cinema experience in 1969 was a school trip to see the sex education film ‘Helga’ which was designed to make up for the fact that our parents and school teachers were all too embarrassed to tackle the subject head on so we were all bussed to the Granada Cinema to watch a German government sponsored film about sex, pregnancy and giving birth.  Even though it didn’t have an X rating this was certainly more explicit than any of the adult films that I had deceived my way in to see and it had  ladies without any clothes on and far from putting me off I left the cinema thinking about how much I’d like a bit of that!

Helga Sex Education Film

Before 1969 everything was ‘Enid Blyton’ with Sunday School, Boy Scouts and weekends playing football with chums but this was the year when suddenly things were not really so simple.

Some of this is retrospective of course because when Richard Nixon became the thirty-seventh President of the United States no one could predict that five years later he would resign the office in shame rather than be dismissed by impeachment for being guilty of Federal crimes as a consequence of the Watergate Affair.

The term Watergate has come to describe a sequence of illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration. The activities came to light when five men were caught breaking into Democratic party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. on 17th June 1972.  The Washington Post uncovered the story and discovered a series of dirty tricks involving the Committee to Re-Elect the President.

Nixon’s alleged role in ordering a cover-up came to light in July 1973 when a White House aide testified that Nixon had a secret taping system that recorded his conversations and phone calls in the Oval Office. The tapes were subpoenaed but The White House refused to release them.  A deal was reached in which the White House would provide written summaries of the tapes but when they turned up there was an unexplained eighteen minute gap. The first deleted section of about five minutes has been attributed to human error by the President’s personal secretary, who admitted accidentally wiping the section while transcribing the tape.  A likely story!

So politics was corrupt and here was the evidence and then people stared to cast doubt on boy’s stuff and heroes and it became possible that people could cheat, or be accused of cheating, at almost anything because on 20th July man landed on the moon.  Or did he?

6 responses to “Age of Innocence – 1969, X Rated Films and Sex Education

  1. 1969 Andrew, a year I remember very well my friend as we had left the comfortable zones of Rugby and moved to Leamington Spa-a town that seemed to start (or end) at the top of a monstrously long road full of shops and end ‘several miles’ away at the other end: under an iron railway bridge. I worked two jobs for a while, Millets shop by day and as a petrol pump attendant, doing a couple of ‘all-nighters’ a week to top up my £4:19s:6d per week from the shop. Totally frustrated with life I made the first disastrous decision of my life: I joined the army and promptly disappeared ‘up north’ to Catterick Camp for 3 months of sheer hell – never again! I remember one bizarre incident where a certain Corporal Hales bellowed at me, full vocal throttle, from all of 6″ away from my face. I remember thinking that the man was a raving lunatic and politely asked him if he was deaf-because I wasn’t! That spurred him on to even greater vocal heights and I honestly wondered (whilst in the guardhouse) whether the idiot had brought a heart attack upon himself? Apparently not for the next day he was bellowing at some other poor unfortunate soul! Apart from Marvin Gaye and ‘his’ Grapevine, those 3 months up there in the northern wilderness proved to me that I had a mind of my own, a brain of my own and, more importantly, my independence
    That was the year it all fell apart as me & the old man parted company and I remember him charging down the street, after he had turfed me out, demanding the front door key! There was an irrevocable finality in that action!
    I returned to Millets and moved into a B&B nearer to work The ‘landlady’ (a lovely motherly type) used to cook me a Sunday dinner on the proviso that I washed up the dishes – she only ‘did Mon-Fri B&B bless her. It was there that I met a lovely gent named Jack Clarke who was a major force in the gas conversion that was all the rage at that time….. but that’s another story!

  2. I didn’t know Butch Cassidy was X rated. However, Miss Brodie and Helga look like something worth investigating.

  3. One of the first X certificates I saw with a group of mates was ‘Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush” early in 1968. We were all underage and thought we’d really arrived. The full thing is now on YouTube ( Looking at it again I’m not sure what’s most surprising: that it was X rated or that (music aside) it was so bad.

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