April 3, 2015

Secret Exposed: What your Daughter is Really Reading in Cosmo

The latest gossip, fashion tips, and beauty secrets are luring topics for any girl. They have a way of grabbing the attention of women all across the globe at any time in any place. This is especially true with young girls. However, some of the sources providing these women and teens with today’s fashion, hottest gossip, and beauty pointers are beginning to encrypt these innocent topics with sexually explicit material that degrade women. Yet, Cosmo Magazine is one of the most popular women’s magazines today.

The biggest title on Cosmo Magazine covers is usually one relating to sex, and the content in its pages regularly promotes and glamorizes things like public, anal, group, or violent sex. While Cosmo lists itself as a magazine for the “Fun, Fearless, Female,” it’s actually a significant contributor to the sexual exploitation of females. Behind Cosmo’s façade of a fun, helpful, and interesting women’s magazine, are harmful messages to any women who read them, particularly to minors.

While there are many disturbing messages that Cosmo promotes monthly in their new editions, below are two that persistently appear.

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 Two Things Your Daughter is Really Reading in Cosmo

1. Early Debut To Sex & Multiple Partners is Harmless. The teen years are often the time when individuals begin to decide whether or not to be sexually active. And it’s in these years when teens are molding their perceptions of what sex is and what is appropriate. Whether you like it or not, the reality is most teens are molding these perceptions based off of the media that engulfs them. A huge form of media that is crafting teen’s understanding of sex is Cosmo Magazine being one of the most popular women’s magazines. Time and time again, Cosmo is sending the message to its readers that one should start having sex at a young age and that multiple sex partners is the norm. Cosmo is targeted at young women as they often have teen idols on the cover like ABC Family star, Lucy Hale. Coupled with the cover of the teen idol is the giant capitalized title, “BEST. SEX. EVER.” These covers advocate a sexually active life style for minors. With their magazines that persistently cover articles like “V.I.P. Sex Parties” and “I like High-End Sex Parties— and I’m Not a Weirdo”, Cosmo advocates and glamorizes having sex with multiple partners.

What makes it even more dangerous for minors is that with the normalization and glamorization of high risk sexual behaviors and attitudes comes an increase in vulnerability to the harms of such actions. Cosmo’s risky messages are consistently cast in a harmless light. The ideas that early sex and having multiple sex partners is harmless, is far from the truth. A serious harm that is associated with having multiple sex partners are STDs.

According to the Office of Adolescent Health, Adolescents ages 15-24 account for nearly half of the 20 million new cases of STD’s each year,” and “four in 10 sexually active teen girls have had an STD that can cause infertility and even death.” This harm is nowhere to be found in the articles about sex parties or “Ivy League Anal.” Research shows that one consequence of being sexually active at a young age is, “sexually active teens are more likely to be depressed and attempt suicide.” This harm, and the many other harms associated with this action, are nowhere to be found on the covers that display Lucy Hale or teen pop sensation Ariana Grande.

2.Your Looks & Sexual Power are the Most Important Tool to Get & Keep Men. The definition of what a woman should look like, what size they should be, or which clothes they should wear is defined by the media. Our society has given the media the power to label and set the boundaries of beauty. Unfortunately, what the media often prescribes as beauty is extremely sexualized. Cosmo is at fault for this as they drastically sexualize women on their covers and in their magazines. It’s with this extreme sexualization Cosmo promotes its women’s best feature to capture men’s attention and establish a relationship. This message is very harmful to teens as they are at the stage of seeking to fit in and gain approval from their peers, especially of the opposite sex. Cosmo displays covers with statements such as “Look Sexy Now, Make them Obsessed With You!” The message indicates that in order for men to be “obsessed” with you, or like you, you have to be sexy. Cosmo’s “beauty” magazine is really a “How-to-be-sexy” magazine.  In Cosmo terms, beauty and sexy are interchangeable and are determined by a man.

This is seen with their titles, “Get strong & Sexy” and “Sexy, shameless fashion.” Apparently, getting fit and having fashion only serve the purpose of being sexy. And why be sexy? So you can do “75 Crazy Hot Sex Moves He’ll Think About All Year Long!”  Consequently, this sexualization of women leads to negative outcomes. Research shows that it leads to “increased feelings of shame about one’s body,” and “The incidence of anorexia nervosa among 10-to 19-year-old girls during a 50-year period found that it paralleled changes in fashion and idealized body image.” It is media sources like Cosmo that drastically hamper women and young teens’ ability to feel good about themselves.

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Cosmo cowardly hides behind its title as a women’s beauty magazine for the “Fun Fearless Female,” and the girly colors and topics that paint their magazines. However, when brought into the light, we see that Cosmo is a pornographic magazine that should not be sold to minors. There is much more harm that comes from Cosmo than good.

Together with Victoria Hearst, granddaughter of publisher William Randolph Hearst of the Hearst Corporation empire, we have launched the Cosmo Harms Minors Campaign to demand that retailers wrap Cosmo covers and not sell to minors.

                         CLICK HERE to Learn More & Join the Fight!

Hailey Billat

Communications & Strategy

Hailey Billat is an Intern at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE).  She is currently a student at Brigham Young University and plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management with an emphasis in OB/HR.  Hailey is passionate about NCSE’s mission and hopes to make an impact in freeing the world from sexual exploitation.

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