True confession: Until last week, I had never read Cosmopolitan magazine. I actually kind of like fashion magazines, as a genre: The more spacey-eyed, pouting women in $900 shoes slumping against helicopters parked on yachts the better, I always say! That said, I tend to shrink from those fuschia-flecked, scantily clad drugstore nightmare sheets that screech at me to “HAVE BREAK THE BED SEX!!” when I’m just trying to mind my own business and buy some freaking dental floss.
The genius of Cosmo, of course—and, I suspect, the reason it’s the most popular magazine for young women in America—is that it will breezily suggest 131 creative ways to WEAR NOTHING BUT THAT FREAKING DENTAL FLOSS whilst you DRIVE YOUR MAN BATTY IN THE BOUDOIR. So with Sex Week arriving at the Federalist, I decided to enter uncharted territory. I would not only read Cosmo, but I would try its sex tips!
If this sounds fun to you, it’s probably because you’ve never read Cosmo, either. Fifteen minutes after I cracked open the February issue, the magazine had already managed to urge me to a) buy a $50 rubber nightie from J.C. Penney to complete my “beginner” home dominatrix kit; b) take life tips from Kylie Jenner, “the new Kardashian mogul,” which actually means “the Kardashian no one over age 14 has ever heard of”; and c) try to decode my man’s inner thoughts at dinner by tracking his eyeball movements.
If you think that last one sounds a little nutty, you don’t know the half of it. If your date gazes “straight into your eyes,” Cosmo declares, it’s not because he’s a normal, functioning person who is not a serial killer—it’s because he “respects the hell out of you. You’re his Beyoncé. Snaps.” Wait, what? Meanwhile, if his “eyes dart back and forth,” which, at least in my experience, usually signifies a panicked search for the nearest exit, it’s just because he’s “out of small talk.” Finally, if he avoids eye contact, according to Cosmo, “He’s a little intimidated by you. Maybe because you ordered that fancy Cotes du Rhone, boss lady.” Well, either that, or he’s suddenly convinced you’re going to stalk him for five years and end up boiling his bunny in a pot filled with your own tears, topped with a sad, bobbing cork that appears to have come from that very same Cotes du Rhone.
The Real Question: How Do Men Feel about Cosmo?
There’s a whole lot more insanity in Cosmo, which I shall address shortly. At the present moment, however, I am in no position to throw stones at crazy people, given that my husband definitely suspected I was one after I gave him a rundown of Cosmo’s various and insane “sex tips,” gathered from both their print magazine and booming companion online site. Behold, and be afraid. I certainly was.
ME: Here’s one. [Reads headline aloud.] “I Basted My Boyfriend Like a Sexy Thanksgiving Turkey!”
ME: “I Took My Boyfriend to A Dominatrix!”
HIM: Nope. [Refrains from making eye contact, which is puzzling, as I did not just order a fancy and intimidating Cotes Du Rhone.]
ME: “I Covered Myself in Food For Sex!”
HIM: [Looking up.] Hey, didn’t George Constanza do that once on “Seinfeld”? No, no, wait. He just wanted to eat a sandwich while having sex.
HIM: This is getting ridiculous.
ME: “I Tried All the Sex From ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ in 1 Weekend!”
HIM: Who are these people?
ME: On that one, the writer says, “I’m still alive, but just barely.”
HIM: [Rolling his eyes.] Seriously? Want a sex tip from a guy? [SIMPLE SEX TIP THAT YOU CAN PROBABLY IMAGINE YOURSELF, REDACTED HERE.] You’re welcome, Cosmopolitan. Wisdom for the ages.
And that was the end of that. We didn’t even get to “10 Tips for Surviving Your First Sex Party,” which was a huge relief. (Also, “your first” sex party? There will be multiple instances of this bad idea? Again, who are these people?) “Yeah, yeah, lady,” you might be thinking right now. “You lied. You did not try the sex tips.” You are right! And I will not do so, ever! However, lest you think I’m slacking, I did garner some male feedback on Cosmo’s rather earnest and disturbing sex-advice column.
ME: Hmm. In this one, she says her boyfriend won’t ever take her clothes off. She’s agonizing over it! That’s bad, right? He probably doesn’t like her body, right?
HIM: Nah, he’s probably just lazy.
ME: [Pause.] What?
HIM: Some guys are pretty lazy. What do they suggest in this so-called advice column?
ME: You know, talking out your feelings, sharing your insecurities, opening your heart, and letting all your fear and anxieties out.
HIM: I’ve got a suggestion. One time, she should just wear a robe. That’s easy to take off. If he doesn’t want to even do that, you’ve got your answer.
Actually, Ladies, Men Aren’t as Complicated as Cosmo Pretends
There you have it, folks: The male mind, encapsulated. Apparently, it is not that hard to figure out. Unfortunately, if Cosmo encapsulates even a percentage of America’s female mind—or, more likely, a small, radicalized subset of that female mind, much like an estrogen-laced, slightly loopy ISIS—we’re in a whole lot of trouble.
Cosmo would have you believe that their casual/over-the-top sex obsession is pretty darn empowered. The rest of their content, however, firmly suggests the opposite. After finishing Cosmo’s February issue, in fact, I really wanted to rub its back, offer it some tea, and gently suggest a good therapist. Behold the following articles, all of which are clear dispatches from Dysfunction Junction: “When Friendship Turns Addictive.” “ARE YOU TURNING INTO YOUR MOTHER?” “I Couldn’t Stop Pulling Out My Hair.” And, my personal favorite: “The Time I Turned Into a Stalker,” in which writer Lisa Phillips explores “the science and psychology of the surprisingly common behavior called soft stalking.”
“Surprisingly common?” Well, I guess if you’re analyzing male eyeball movements, stalking might just go hand in hand. And, to be honest, if you’ve been having lots of wild, casual Cosmo-endorsed sex—one Valentine’s Day tip, and I’m not making this up, is to text “that boring agricultural lawyer you met on Tinder last month who talked too much about crop rotation but was a great bang”—for years, when all you secretly want is a serious relationship and can’t seem to get a nice guy to commit, I could see how a certain neurosis would set in.
Cosmo, in short, claims that it offers the ingredients to be a Fun, Fearless Female!™ Alas, it actually seems to offers the ingredients for A Whole Lotta Crazy™. On an anthropological note, it seems worth pointing out that on their debut album, “Appetite for Destruction,” Guns N’ Roses has a song that features Axl Rose screeching “You know you’re crazy” approximately 63 times, interjected with various bad words, as would fit the Guns N’ Roses oeuvre.
After reading Cosmo, I seriously can’t get it out of my head. It’s terrible. Women of America, we need to unite! Let’s fight the madness! In the meantime, I could probably use some dental floss for my brain.
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