Monday, June 25, 2012

Sex! Readers Write for Advice on More Than Just Romance!

Most (ok, pretty much all) of the 1960s and '70s romance comics are on the chaste side. Little more than kissing ever occurs, giving the illusion that courtship of that time did not include anything more than a bit of necking. Well, that isn't necessarily true. We have to remember that romance comics weren't a hard and fast documentation of what was going on in youth culture, but rather, a reactionary attempt by an older generation to guide youth to what was considered normal and healthy. That and the fact that the Comics Code wouldn't have allowed for overt depictions of sex! However, it does appear from the following two advice columns that it was definitely on the minds of readers, and they felt romance comics to be a safe and trustworthy forum to ask their questions regarding when sex should occur in their young lives.

"As Jane Ford Sees It"
Young Love #84
(January/February 1971)

Our first inquisitive reader -- 16 year old "Very Victorian," asks Jane Ford how far a girl has to go to be considered "with it." Jane responds that it seems she is doing well on the dating scene, so why give out any "unnecessary free samples?" Jane also remarks at the end, "Almost every guy has to try a few things with a girl, but it's still up to her as to whether or not he succeeds!"

Another reader, "Troubled Arthur" (yes, sometimes guys wrote into the advice columns!) picks the brain of Carol Andrews as to an issue he had with Tina -- the girl he wants to ask to marry him. While away on an overnight trip to the country, Tina refused to stay in the same room with him. Carol Andrews is impressed by how Tina handled the situation and encourages Arthur to put a ring on her finger, citing that that type of virtue (in 1971) is hard to find.

"To You... from Carol Andrews"
Falling in Love #123
(May 1971)

What is your reaction to these? How do you think DC's editorial staff did in answering the readers' questions? I know many people overlook text pages for the allure of gorgeous illustrations, but I find these absolutely thrilling! In just a few short sentences we are given a window into a world of insecurities and doubts that the sequentially illustrated romance stories don't give us. I can't help but wonder if the editorial offices of the romance publishers weren't flooded by these types of questions, only for a few select ones to make it into the hands of readers, and ultimately, us...


  1. Well, Arthur in the second one is AWFUL and she is better off without him. Considering marrying her, then not calling her at all because she won't put out?

    On the other hand, I'm a thoroughly modern girl and have never felt that the 'act' was cheapened by it happening before marriage or even before a serious relationship. And doing so has certainly not prevented me having a loving, faithful, equal marriage. So... I find the advice naive and slightly judgmental, but ultimately well-meaning (slightly skeevy feeling from the first piece with the 'it's up to the girl how far he gets' bit - imagine being a victim of date rape and reading that.)

    1. This advice is very much in line with what other forms of entertainment (magazines) and with what the "experts" of the day were advising. The "it's up to the girl how far he gets" part is definitely strange today, but not then. A great book that really delves into that strange "norm" is Beth Bailey's From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America

      I highly recommend it!

  2. During my brief time as the editor of Young Love, I thought about adding an advice column to the comic. I was going to call it "Boys Have Cooties." Good idea? Bad Idea? Worst Idea?

    1. No! ;) Sorry to say... not the best idea, but who knows how readers would have reacted to it!

  3. These are wonderful sexual mores examples of the time from both sexes. You have the girl that wants to be hip and the ever frustrated boy that wants to score with someone who he is almost committed to.

    It's funny that they say it's 1971 but I can recall this type of advice still being spewed in Dear Abby columns well into the 80's.

  4. Jacque,
    It might be useful to have a bit more context. I don't know a thing about Jane Ford, but the GCD guesses columns with this byline were written by Jack Miller and/or Carol Fein). Similarly, they guess that at least some of the Carol Andrews columns were written by Carol Fein. If you follow up on this, it will be a nice update from your June 17, 2010 article too!