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 Februaryâ€™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 Cosmoâ€™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 â€œ9 Big Secrets of Male Arousalâ€ reassures readers that during sex â€œmen experience a boost in serotoninâ€¦ lowering the odds that heâ€™ll notice [your] slight imperfectionsâ€. The article then suggests the reader try different positions that reveal her body because those imperfections will be unnoticed.
Another article focused on â€œ4 â€˜Sexyâ€™ Moves to Skip.â€ 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 â€œunfold organicallyâ€ 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 couldnâ€™t get rid of his erection because erections are very embarrassing and donâ€™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: â€œI couldnâ€™t believe Iâ€™d made the baseball team,â€, â€œWhy do they [men] get so riled up about sports?â€ â€œOrder food from his favorite barâ€¦ ato watch a big game togetherâ€ and â€œstack his poker-chip box with chocolate onesâ€¦ to enjoy on game nightâ€ or how about the woman who realized her man loved her when he said, â€œNext season, Iâ€™m taking to you Boston for a home gameâ€ and donâ€™t forget that one of the Fun Fearless Males was a football star. To Cosmoâ€™s credit, there was one gender-ambiguous gaming suggestion: â€œchallenge him to an ongoing Guitar Hero or Wii Sports tennis tournament.â€
More stereotypes were reinforced in an article about how to get a guy to give oral sex, euphemistically titled â€œHow to Get Him to Go There.â€ 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. Iâ€™ve always been of mixed opinions about getting men to give oral sex when they clearly donâ€™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 donâ€™t spark inspiration, cunnilingus might just be an uncomfortable sexual activity for that person. Iâ€™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, thereâ€™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. Thereâ€™s also informative articles about drug resistant staph infections, a womanâ€™s battle with self-cutting, and one about a woman who rehabilitates animals. Cosmoâ€™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 isnâ€™t that Cosmo gives bad information. Itâ€™s that the bad information is thoroughly mixed in with the good, with both presented as factual. Itâ€™s almost impossible to sift through the two.