A recent article on Fox News describes how Victoria Hearst (an heir to the Hearst publishing empire) and former model Nicole Weider are working to get Cosmopolitan magazine (published by Hearst) declared pornography. They believe the magazine should be sequestered behind counters and sold only to adults – rather than displayed openly on grocery store shelves.
The two contend that Cosmo offers blatantly sexual material that leads to teens and preteens being traumatized. Naturally, Cosmo refused to respond, and the government looked the other way. The story got a few headlines and then faded. Cosmo continues to enjoy easy access in most grocery stores.
Yet two questions linger: Is Cosmo porn? And is it to traumatizing teens and preteens?
To answer these charges, I purchased a copy and studied it closely. Quickly I realized that its contents consisted mostly of advertisements, female products meant to heighten sex appeal, mingled with few short pieces of prose. In one ad for a fragrance called Just Cavalli, a woman lies naked in bed. While a blurry camera shot reveals her belly and buttocks, the letters of the word “Just” subtly shroud her breasts and pubis.
In another, entitled Pink Lady, a clothing ad, we meet the gaze of a blond girl sucking on a pink straw, her tongue protruding. Her jacket opens to reveal a white bikini, her midriff and belly button. In short, the ads are blatant in their intentions, at least for an adult, but discreet enough to pass the test of the morality posse.
But it is the stories that verge most closely on porn. One article of note involves twenty tips for spicing up sexual encounters with your guy. One tip entitled “Voyeuristic” suggests that the girl ask her guy to touch his penis and get lost in his excitement while she, in control, watches. In “Naughty,” the girl is instructed to go the movies with her date. While sitting in the dark, she’s to lead his hand to her crotch while grinning to clarify what will happen later. In a third, called “Generous,” the girl’s instructed to tell the guy to lie on his back and relax while she slips a condom on him and does oral sex. Before he comes, she removes the condom and continues the oral sex. The change in texture will “make your mouth and tongue feel so much more intense than usual,” the reader is promised, thus heightening pleasure.
Other articles consisted of true confessions of females who wander into threesomes, some with two guys, others with a guy and a girl. The most positive depicted an American girl in Sweden hitting the sack with two obliging Nords. They do the deed magnificently, and she goes back to America with warm memories. In others, girls hit the sack with two others for sundry reasons. They walk away burned and confused. The message seems to be that threesomes can lead to heartbreak. So watch out. Play wisely.
Where does this leave us in our quest to answer the charge of Cosmo as porn? Are we traumatizing young girls to sex? Or is Cosmo just giving curious kids a frank sexual education?
From my perspective, Cosmo presents sexual material rather blandly, comparable to the way a women’s magazine clues its readers into new recipes to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie or the most juicy and delicious Thanksgiving turkey imaginable. The banality of these presentations places sex beyond morality. Sex in threes is normalized. Oral sex can be made even more exciting if done right. Further exploration is encouraged.
My conclusion: The magazine is Kama Sutra for the under-aged masses, only without the illustrations (you’ll need to go to verified porn sites to find those). For some, traumatizing, for others desensitizing. But either way, it doesn’t seem like something we want our teenagers reading.