Owen Leskovar An Issue Of Cosmo

I'm currently holding the November issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. I also have a penis (which I'm not currently holding). This is a strange combination of items to exist in such close proximity.

I’ll be honest: I read this issue of Cosmo because I wanted to make fun of it. Every issue looks the same: a few random sex articles, some emotional bullshit, random fearmongering (“What Your OBY-GYN Doesn’t Tell You”), an appeal to vanity or two (“Sexify Your Thighs!”), and a story about the cover girl. No doubt, Cosmo is trashy as hell, but it actually surprised me at points with some genuinely decent advice. The magazine really has a dual nature: at times it’s a voice of reason, combating women’s stereotypes and society's stereotypes of them, and at other times it’s trashy, vapid, and embarrassingly stupid. 

The Good

In a one-page spread about better sex, the writer offers some practical, actionable advice: get lots of sleep, don’t be in a food coma, fuck twice (an hour apart), and don’t drink too much coffee or alcohol. In the minimal space allotted, the writer also tells you how to “make his stiffy stiffer,” keep his “pecker in peak condition”, and how to avoid the dreaded “wang-waning whammy.” What the fuck Cosmo? Do you pay your writers a bonus for heinous alliteration?

In “His 8 Biggest Sex Secrets” Cosmo seeks to pull back the curtain of the male mind and shine a light on some of our sexual anxieties. Cumming too soon, not being big enough, and feeling anxious about sharing fetishes and fantasies really are things that guys can worry about, and Cosmo’s advice is generally pretty spot on: be accepting, communicative, and supportive. Props Cosmo. Maybe one day being a decent human being won’t be something we’ll have to learn from trashy magazines.

In addition to containing some legit advice, I will go out on a limb and say that Cosmo has more sexy women in it than Maxim. Every photo of a woman (celeb or not) is ultra hot, and the ads are so steamy that they often give Maxim photoshoots a run for their money. Cosmo also seems painfully nice. While eager to insult the fashion sense of celebs, Cosmo seems above cheap potshots at appearance, even when Ginnifer Goodwin’s ears jut out so sharply that her expert use of blue eye makeup is overshadowed completely. I also need to applaud their consistent disdain of faking orgasms. (Ladies, please don’t fake it. No one wins.)

I will go out on a limb and say that Cosmo has more sexy women in it than Maxim

The Bad

Cosmo plugs approximately a trillion products per issue. In “101 things about men” they list “Man Jewelry We Can Get Behind.” They’re just customizable LiveStrong bracelets (which are SO early 2000s…), but the genius editors customized them with hilarious markings like “Expert G-spot locator,” “Cooks and cleans,” and “Little spoon.” Clever AND classy! This is as vile as grimy old men who wear t-shirts that say “I’m not bald. My head is a solar panel for my sex machine.”

Cosmo’s word choice is…liberal. The scientist in me loathes their use of the word ‘Facts’ in “Fascinating New Facts About Love.” Facts include “Men are more sensitive about some relationship issues,” such as when “You Get Into a Fight” or “You Haven’t Seen Each Other in a While.” Ladies, this generally isn’t true. I’m sorry.

Men are amazing at brushing aside conflict because as kids we got into fights and played competitive sports with our friends. Your friend can put you into an ankle-lock or kick your ass at 21 without any hard feelings, and if he leaves for 6 months all you need is a hug and a beer before you’re back to shooting zombies together. We also have this gem of behavioral analysis: “When he first sees you, he scratches his nose. There’s erectile tissue in his schnoz, and if he’s excited to be near you, it’ll enlarge, causing it to itch.” This is exactly what some women need: more minutia to overanalyze. I’m not trying to stereotype, but I can only paint with the brush that Cosmo has given me. When you publish advice this stupid, I assume many of your readers must actually employ it.

In “25 Kinky Things To Do With Your Undies,” Cosmo suggests “When you’re at a bar, take off your thong and slip it into his hand.” Great. Then what? This baffled dude is going to be wondering what the fuck is going on and where he’s going to store your panties until you can rendezvous for a cliché bathroom blowjob (if he’s lucky). Better still is “the gunslinger: Slide off your underwear, twirl it around your pointer finger, and shoot it like a rubber band right at him.” No thanks.

There’s also a section which teaches aspiring young passive-aggressive girlfriends how to be bitchier: “Bitch tip: As much as you want to rail at your man for ditching your dinner plans to shoot some hoops with his friends, take this much more effective route instead: Casually say, ‘Oh, well, I was so in the mood to show you some new things I picked up at Victoria’s Secret, but I guess it’ll just have to wait until next time I feel like it.’ He’ll be kicking himself, so you won’t have to.” Look, if you pulled this on most guys, they would be mildly annoyed that you were nagging, and they’d ignore your limp-wristed threat. Women buy lingerie largely for themselves. Men generally go along with it to humor you. If he’s ditching you, he’s being a bit of a dick. Why not address the issue rather than speaking in nebulous pseudo-communication that most men will fail to grasp?

Women buy lingerie largely for themselves. Men generally go along with it to humor you.

Finally, there is the extremely sobering and out-of-place “How Serial Killers Choose Their Victims.” With such headers as “They Try to Flatter You...to Death” and “SIGNS YOU MAY BE DEALING WITH A PSYCHOPATH” (conveniently set against an edgy red textbox), I just became confused. I thought that this was about vaginas, sex, and thinly-veiled product placement!

The Cosmo

Cosmo seems to be doing an OK job on the important stuff. They’re definitely liberal, egalitarian, and eager to foster open and honest communication between partners and friends. They’re also horribly vapid, overly credulous of sweeping generalizations and bullshit pop psychology, and they still can’t seem to be able to find a decent sample of men willing to tell them the truth. Visually, thematically, and stylistically it’s a mess, but it is no mystery to me that it sells.

Cosmo has hit the sweet spot: it’s balanced enough that it’s difficult to condemn (ideologically), and deep enough that anyone can have the feeling of a satisfying swim while never having to get their hair wet or leave their tippy-toes. It’s trashy, it’s shallow, it’s embarrassing and laughable. But truthfully, it could have been a lot worse.


This was awesome. Write more often.

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