Undressed: Cosmopolitan fails to write intelligently

By Cristina Cuevas

By Cristina Cuevas

Cosmopolitan underwent an extensive revamp in the ’60s and received much criticism for its sexually explicit content.  By the ’70s it was the women’s magazine, as well as vanguard to a new sexual revolution. 

The magazine adopted a similar format to what we all know today, featuring a beautifully slender young model in provocative garments surrounded by suggestive, sometimes outright erotic headlines. 

The then new chief editor Helen Gurley Brown was determined to mold her magazine into every woman’s best friend.  She was an outspoken advocate of women’s sexual liberation and used Cosmo to provide women with information that had never been publicized before and dabble in issues that had never been discussed. 

What Brown wanted to do is break the mold of chauvinistic ideologies of that time: that young women didn’t have pre-marital sex, married women weren’t dominant in the bedroom and talking about sex was tacky. 

Brown once said, “I wanted to tell the truth: that sex is one of the three best things out there, and I don’t even know what the other two are.” 

Based on material, the targeted Cosmo reader is the young college socialite with an abundant checking account.

 She is sassy and goes through boyfriends as often as she diets.

The emphasis of Cosmo headlines hit retrogression.

One special issue on education of 1963 featured, “Get Your Best Education at Home,” “The Late Blooming Child,” and “Campus Romance: A Degree in Divorce,” promoting knowledge in different aspects of daily life for the modern woman.

 Another issue of that year offered a “Well-Rounded Diet,” and a playful “Ladies Don’t Wear Hats in Bed.” 

In the ’90s, readers were offered “A Happiness Handbook for Divorcees: Are you an Ex-Wife and Boring? How to Be Seductive and Drive Him Crazy.” 

If there is anything more degrading than that, I am sure it was included in the article. 

This is a perfect example of how Cosmo has done irreversible damage to particular stereotypes. 

Divorce was once a controversial subject and Cosmo was probably praised for helping society accept it in the ’60s.

The magazine lost touch of the independent woman along the way because almost thirty years later it assumes that if you are divorced, you must be boring and even worse, you need to spend your time and money studying Cosmo because after all, it is a woman’s best friend.

Where  Cosmo once powerfully advocated social activism and sophistication, it now uses sex, stereotypes and celebrity faces to keep it alive.

 It is not the smart girls read anymore, it is the smart girl’s quick read while standing in line at the grocery store.

If the issue offers any new material or something enticing enough to purchase, it must be a good month or she hasn’t picked up a Cosmo in quite some time. 

Ever notice how Cosmo’s sex advice is always the same, only replicated and fit into differently formatted articles? This year’s June issue offers “Best.Sex.Ever. Our Gutsy new Tips Are Guaranteed.”

Though their advice is guaranteed to be new and effective, I doubt it  is  anything different from the usual tips and tricks Como swears that no one has thought of before.

This sounded too much like April’s “These Hot Moves Will Start a Bonfire in His Pants…and His Heart.”

What is new about this article is that it is based on new research that is based on other new research that Cosmo found on how to achieve an hour long orgasm.

Since this is impossible, Cosmo asked experts how “being so turned on can result in a more intense orgasm that also lasts a few seconds longer.”  

This is where it becomes another typical Cosmo sex column.  All the content is the same, just provided by different “experts.” Who is thinking about Cosmo during sex anyway? “How did Cosmo say to do this again?” and then the trick won’t even work because Cosmo also says you’re supposed to be relaxed.

Most people know the only articles worth reading these days in Cosmo are the confessions, and once in a while the few pages of real life stories that they jam together before the fashion spread.

 Although I give Cosmo credit for including “How to Get Michelle Obama’s Arms,” it’s a topic that many women are actually curious about.

The regular features such as “Sexy Vs. Skanky,” focus heavily on celebrities and the entertainment industry. 

Cosmo has taken the same turn as Rolling Stone, where one doesn’t have to be an original or iconic figure to grace the cover, no one has to even know your name as long as they’re popular.

In February, Ali Larter was labeled “Fun Fearless Female” of the year, I still don’t know who she is or what the “Fun Fearless Female” hype is about. 

The fashion spreads don’t live up to other, real fashion magazines. Cosmo portrays a certain stereotype of “sexy” through photos of the CosmoGirl with silky hair and flawless skin  which she must maintain through the Cosmo diet. 

The Cosmo guy is muscular and enjoys lounging around in his underwear, usually with his hands or eyes on the Cosmo Girl.

He is also fertile, and CosmoGirl knows this because she has followed the “Sex Detective” tips in June’s “Love & Lust” article which advises women to check the size and warmth of  the Cosmo Guy’s testicles. 

Cosmo does not represent the modern independent woman.  Until Cosmo acknowledges that we are a broad demographic of intellectuals, that we might be ethnic, homosexual, head of a family, that having sex on a hammock is the last thing on our minds, then we might regard Cosmo as more than a guilty read in the checkout line. 

We may be the daughters of the sex revolution, but we have a lot more than that on our minds; Cosmopolitan just hasn’t noticed yet.