Cosmo Fails to Deliver Consistent Facts
by Lynnea Dally


Cosmopolitan is an interesting magazine. It simultaneously promotes female liberation while forcing women to adhere to a specific female standard. Here are some inconsistencies from February’s edition.

There were 28 pages focusing on celebrities and 44 pages about how to look good (some of these pages overlapped). Thirty-one pages were about sex (3 of those were health-focused), and 7 pages contained news. Basically all of Cosmo’s articles assume every gal and guy is heterosexual. (Very few, if any, articles ever address LGBTQIA issues.) The rest of the pages were made up of miniature life suggestions or fun random facts and of course advertisements of impossibly perfect men and women.

After all the disheartening images, an article titled “9 Big Secrets of Male Arousal” reassures readers that during sex “men experience a boost in serotonin… lowering the odds that he’ll notice [your] slight imperfections”. The article then suggests the reader try different positions that reveal her body because those imperfections will be unnoticed.

Another article focused on “4 ‘Sexy’ Moves to Skip.” Un-sexy move #1 was being too sexually suggestive. The article proposes the reader cut back, even on sexy dialogue trying to rile up a boyfriend. Move #2 suggests letting sex “unfold organically” instead of planning everything (sheets, candles etc). This of course lets slide discussing details such as birth control, STI tests, accepted sexual boundaries and potential shared kinks. The next tip implied that too many sex toys is unbecoming of a woman, and that all men are insecure little boys who will get scared off by sex toys. The final suggestion discouraged hidden public attention in case a guy got too excited and couldn’t get rid of his erection because erections are very embarrassing and don’t happen at all naturally without provocation.

Interspersed in the articles were several references to men (but not women) liking sports and games. Here are some excerpts from across the magazine: “I couldn’t believe I’d made the baseball team,”, “Why do they [men] get so riled up about sports?” “Order food from his favorite bar… ato watch a big game together” and “stack his poker-chip box with chocolate ones… to enjoy on game night” or how about the woman who realized her man loved her when he said, “Next season, I’m taking to you Boston for a home game” and don’t forget that one of the Fun Fearless Males was a football star. To Cosmo’s credit, there was one gender-ambiguous gaming suggestion: “challenge him to an ongoing Guitar Hero or Wii Sports tennis tournament.”

More stereotypes were reinforced in an article about how to get a guy to give oral sex, euphemistically titled “How to Get Him to Go There.” The article listed off various tactics ending on the suggestion that you instigate an oral sex war by withholding oral from him or dumping him for a new guy. I’ve always been of mixed opinions about getting men to give oral sex when they clearly don’t want to. Hetero men should be springing to give their women the intense pleasure they deserve, and most women orgasm best from oral sex. For most women, withholding oral means withholding orgasms: not a very kind thing to do to your sweet. But then again, if flat-out asking, girly grooming, challenging, head-nudge guiding, positive reinforcement and giver-friendly positions don’t spark inspiration, cunnilingus might just be an uncomfortable sexual activity for that person. I’ve yet to see anyone advocate forcing your partner to continue with something he or she is not comfortable with.

On the other hand, Cosmo can be quite progressive and informative. For example, there’s the suggestions to be assertive, the article about having a sperm-donated baby while single, information about how breasts change over time, and facts about menstrual cycles. There’s also informative articles about drug resistant staph infections, a woman’s battle with self-cutting, and one about a woman who rehabilitates animals. Cosmo’s sex tips also progressively remind us that while men like the penis, some guys can also get turned on by nipple and anal stimulation as well.

The problem isn’t that Cosmo gives bad information. It’s that the bad information is thoroughly mixed in with the good, with both presented as factual. It’s almost impossible to sift through the two.


  1. Let me guess… Womens Studies major, 160lbs, havn’t had a date since…well since forever. How is it that you feel comfortable commenting on things or situations you have never been in. How about taking some of Cosmos advice and get out there, have some fun, get laid, and stop worry about all this petty shit in life. You are making your own life miserable by dwelling on shit like this. You are young, wait till you are a parent and you have kids that you are homeschooling because you are an evangelical christian and you can discuss this sort of shit at bible study with the rest of your evangelical friends.

  2. Huh, wow. Never expected such an… amusing response. Biopsychology major, have a boyfriend, atheist, fantastic life, love video games. I imagine you must be the miserable one, picking on others instead of picking out what you disagree with, eh?

  3. I totally agree with you Lynnea. I am quite thinking of gender bias or discrimination with this tips inside Cosmo. Why not focus on the good sides of being a woman instead of trying everything just to please somebody else? I want to quote the paragraph that states that women need to hide their imperfection…what is this for? A man who truly loves a woman would see her tatters and all but would not mind!

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