Open letter to Supermarket CEOs: Offensive Titles and Content of Cosmopolitan, June 2006
WARNING: This letter includes content found in Cosmopolitan that is very offensive.
June 27, 2006
Dear Sir or Madam:
Morality in Media (MIM) launched a national campaign in July 1999 to urge family-oriented supermarket chains to stop displaying magazines with blatantly sexual cover headlines at checkout counters. MIM continued with the campaign until the fall of 2000, when the American Decency Association (ADA) assumed primary responsibility for continuing the effort.
Thankfully, there were many successes – most notably The Kroger Company, which decided to put Cosmopolitan behind “blinder” racks in its many stores so that the magazine’s masthead is visible but the cover headlines are not.
But the problem of sexually offensive magazine covers on display at checkouts lines has not gone away, and for that reason MIM and the ADA are again urging supermarkets and other family-oriented stores to adopt sound policies for the checkout line display and sale of magazines that have sexually offensive covers or content.
In particular, we ask you to either cover up the sexually offensive headlines and photos on the front covers of magazines displayed at checkout lanes or to display them elsewhere. We also ask you to adopt a policy of not selling sexually offensive magazines to children.
What prompted this joint effort were our own observations and complaints from citizens. MIM had already decided that “something must be done” before it discovered that ADA had run a full-page advertisement in the May 1, 2006 issue of Supermarket News. That advertisement said in part:
NOW ON DISPLAY AT CHECKOUT LANES (Where Children Wait With Their Mothers)
- “Orgasms Unlimited: How to Achieve a Feel-Good Explosion…and Then Another…and Another”
- “Touch Him There! We Show You The M-Shaped Moan Zoan That’ll Send Your Guy to the Moon”
- “Eight New Places to Have Sex”
A Question for Every Supermarket President and Store Manager Now Displaying Cosmopolitan – ARE THERE NO STANDARDS OF DECENCY IN YOUR STORES?
The cover of the July 2006 issue of Cosmopolitan includes the following headlines:
- “62 Sex Moves: Guys Share Tons of Totally Original and Mind-Blowing Tips”
- “Are You Ever a Bitch? Secret Reasons Guys Love It”
- “Seven Hot Bedroom Games”
The problem, however, isn’t limited to the covers of Cosmopolitan. In the “62 Sex Moves” article, promoted on the July 2006 front cover, we find “moves” like these:
- “One night my girlfriend stopped the action and pointed to the camera she set up in the corner.”
- “The night I got my promotion, my girlfriend said she was going to give me oral sex all night.”
- “There’s something so taboo about giving a girl oral from behind.”
- “This chick leaned against the dresser and stuck her butt out for doggie-style. I obliged.”
- “My ex would meet me at local bars and pull me into the restroom for against-the-wall sex.”
- “My ex enjoyed teasing me by stopping by my office with her blouse partly unbuttoned.”
- “My girl goes down on me in a semi-public place. The risk…triggers an insane orgasm.”
In the “Hot Bedroom Games” article, girls learn, among other things, how to play “Dirty Dice” and “Lusty Lit.” For “Dirty Dice,” all they have to do is, “Write down the numbers 2 through 12 on a sheet of paper. Next to each number, you and your man should jot down a sex act that you both love (or would love to try). Then roll the dice and play out the move…”
For “Lusty Lit,” all lustful youth will need is “racy books.” They then, “Flip through one of the books until you come across a steamy sex scene. Take turns reading it aloud to each other… then act out the scene, making sure to duplicate every delectable detail.” Lest young readers be forced to search far and wide for a “racy” book, an excerpt from Kyra Davis’ book, “Passion, Betrayal and Killer Highlights,” is reprinted at pages 214:
I wiggled my hips to help him remove my pants and quickly took off his shirt…While I was gazing at him, he slipped his right hand beneath my panties, and when his finger pushed inside me, I almost exploded. He explored my most sensual spots…After I caught my breath, I coyly moved my hands to the bulge in his jeans…He lifted me off the counter and carried me into his bedroom…He took one of my nipples in his mouth. I arched towards him…
Rest assured, she doesn’t; and she describes what they then do in explicit detail.
In the “Why Men Can’t Resist A Bitch” article, our nation’s young ladies learn, “‘What men don’t want women to know is that they put them into one of two categories almost immediately: good time-only and long term’…The bitch is highly aware of this fact, which is why she is careful to not give up the goods too easily. But make no mistake about it—it’s not about being a prude. ‘It’s ensuring that she looks out for herself.’”
Balance, of course, is important, and so girls learn in another article, “Should You Always Wait To Have Sex?”, three “brilliant reasons why you should forget the ‘not on the first night’ rule in certain instances.” They also learn that “If you’ve had sex really soon you’re not alone.”
In other parts of the June issue, Cosmo readers share their “seamiest secrets,” boys learn how to “make her feel sexy naked,” and girls learn that “Nude is the new hue for evening.” And if that’s not enough, readers young and old are also referred to Cosmopolitan.com, where they can check out the “Daily Sex Dares” (“Cosmo invites you to try a red-hot tip every night”) and “Kama Sutra Match-and-Moan Game” (“grab your guy and put our sexy poses to use”).
Last but not least, in the Classifieds section, we find under the banner “Fun – Fantasy – Romance” ads for “sex toys,” “spanking erotica,” “bondage gear,” “adult movies,” and “Free Sex & Love Techniques.” The latter ad points readers to a website where they can receive, without proof of age, access to “Adult Sex Ed” materials.
When a retired law enforcement agent, now a consultant for MIM, went to this website and clicked the word “Cunnilingus,” he observed, among other things, a photo that “depicted a naked female lying on her back with her right leg lifted near her right breast as a male engaged in oral/vaginal sex upon her genitals.” When he clicked “Fellatio,” he observed, among other things, a photo that depicted “the head and face of a female with her tongue touching the end of a male’s erect penis. Above the latter photograph were printed the words, ‘Sucking the penis.’”
Some may call that “Adult Sex Ed,” but we call it PORNOGRAPHY.
You now understand why one mother wrote the following to MIM in a June 2006 email:
I’m so upset that my daughter brought the June issue of Cosmopolitan into the house. Luckily I saw the front cover that said sex, sex, sex and I grabbed it out of her hands. I asked her why she had this magazine. A friend had told her about exercises. I went through the magazine to look for the exercises, which were at the back of the book, but what I found throughout the magazine was appalling. Explicit how to’s about sex. Aren’t there guidelines that govern what can be put on the shelf? Who is in charge of it?
The answer to her last question, of course, is easy. You are in charge of what is put on your shelves; and we are now asking you to adopt a company policy to either cover up the sexually offensive headlines and photos on the covers of magazines displayed at checkout lanes or display them elsewhere.
We would also point out that selling a particular issue of Cosmopolitan magazine to a child might violate a state “harmful to minors” law. In particular, we would call your attention to NYS Penal Law Section 235.20 which prohibits the sale to minors of a magazine that contains “explicit and detailed…narrative accounts of sexual excitement, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse and which, taken as a whole, is harmful to minors.”
As one mother described the problem in a May 2006 email to Morality in Media:
I can’t seem to get away from Cosmopolitan magazine…I have a 9 year old who can read the racy titles. My 15 year old…can walk, during lunch break, to stores that display and sell Cosmopolitan. I recently found a copy in my daughter’s room, despite the fact that she is not permitted to buy it.
A captive audience, regardless of age, shouldn’t be required to pass through a gauntlet of smut to purchase necessities, and children shouldn’t be able to purchase smut anywhere.
We hope you agree and will modify your magazine display and sales policy accordingly.
Robert Peters, President of Morality in Media
Bill Johnson, President of American Decency Association
Author: Robert Peters & Bill Johnson 2006