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June 30, 2012

Cosmo Quickies: June 2012

It's been a long time since we've tackled an entire issue of Cosmo all at once. Actually, it's been awhile since we've written about Cosmo at all - we needed a breather. But we did buy the June issue, so before the month ends we thought we'd take a look at it, and apparently the time off has helped us to see the horror with fresh eyes because we have a lot of feelings about it. Like, a lot. Get a snack.

Let's start with the cover. Wild Sex Stories, 50 Ways to Be Sexy This Summer, all the usual stuff. One of the headlines is Where to Meet a Guy In June, but for some reason instead of being printed on the cover this one was printed on a sticker and stuck on. I was so curious about this. Was the headline a last minute addition that just had to be on the cover even if it meant printing a bajillion stickers? Or a replacement for another headline that was deemed not sexy enough? Or was it covering up some other headline that was too scandalous for public consumption? I actually investigated to rule that last one out:

And did I mention that I did this in an airport? I got some weird looks from people, but it didn't occur to me at the time that it was because I was mutilating the cover, because we always expect weird looks when we read Cosmo in public.

Anyway, on to the inside of the magazine. On the letters page there's actually a short follow up to the article from the April issue about crazy things women have heard from their gynecologists.
When Your Doc Says Something Crazy

Many of you were disturbed by the stories in our article "The Crazy Thing My Gyno Said to Me." If your doc ever makes an inappropriate remark, gynecologist Alyssa Dweck, coauthor of V Is for Vagina, recommends you speak up right away. "Tell your gyno you are uncomfortable with the remark, and ask what she meant. This way, she's forced to explain."
I'm glad they actually followed up on this but I wish they had given better advice here. Some women might not be comfortable confronting a gyno directly, especially in the middle of an exam. And even if you are okay with doing that, it might not accomplish much. For example, some of the stories in the original article were about women whose doctors made inappropriate comments about them being virgins or gave them lectures about abstaining. If you were to tell a doctor like that that you were uncomfortable and ask them to clarify their remarks, they would probably just repeat the same abstinence-only talking points. Women need to know that they have more options, like speaking to another doctor in the practice, contacting the state licensing board, or even posting a review online. (There's more detail about this in our post about the original article.)

In the What's Sexy Now section, there's an article called Make a Hot First Impression featuring tips from Chace Crawford. (Every month Cosmo finds a hot famous guy who has a movie or album to promote to do these tips, which we fully believe are always written by the celebs themselves and definitely not by some intern or publicist somewhere.) The tips are always stupid, but Mr. Crawford really lowered the bar this month and provided quite possibly the most generic dating advice of all time. Order a cheeseburger! Be on time! Tell a joke! Wear natural makeup! Seriously, if you have picked up even one issue of any magazine for women or teen girls ever in your life, you've read these tips before. Nate Archibald, you disappoint.

Later in the same section is our least favorite page of every issue, the Sexy vs. Skanky list. At the top of this month's list is...well, see for yourself:

So "topless hunks on billboards" are sexy and "topless chicks as walking billboards" are skanky. We're not going to say that we necessarily endorse whatever the hell is going on in that second picture, but really, what is the huge difference between these two situations in Cosmo's eyes? David Beckham stripped down to his underwear and posed for pictures to sell a product, and the brand name is plastered over his body and the billboard is displayed very publicly. Oh right, the difference is that these women are "skanks" in Cosmo's book, and David Beckham is a hot guy that they would totally have sex with and therefore he can do no wrong.

Further down the list, Cosmo informs us that "men who strip for you" are sexy while "men who cheat with strippers" are skanky. Is it inherently worse somehow if a man cheats with a stripper than with anyone else? Unless they're trying to suggest that they think that all strippers are skanks, which they would never...wait, we almost forgot that this is Cosmo we're talking about. They totally would and they totally are.

Next up is the 101 Things About Men section. It starts with a helpful page called Touch His Butt Like This. Did you know that "different booty squeezes can convey specific messages to your BF or hubby"? The Undercover Caress can let him know that you're "feeling especially connected to him", while the Quick Pat is "a nonverbal way of saying 'You're awesome'" (you know, like athletes do), and the Hard Squeeze is "animalistic" and lets him know that you "want to rip his pants off ASAP". Oh Cosmo, never change. (And apparently, they never do change. They ran a similar piece a few years ago.)

Once you've perfected your butt touches, we can move on to What He Sees Vs. What You See, one of Cosmo's monthly attempts to misrepresent the results of some academic research in order to make a goofy dating tip out of it.
Apparently, there's such a thing as guy goggles. A new University of Texas study found that women underestimate how attractive guys think they are...and guys overestimate their own sexiness to women. So when you look in the mirror and think you're a 6, he looks at you and thinks you're a 9. And, uh, vice versa.
They provided a lovely visual aid to illustrate this point with four celebrity photos. He sees Ryan Gosling, you see Ryan Seacrest. You see Alyson Hannigan, he sees Alison Brie. Personally, we think Alyson Hannigan and Alison Brie are both beautiful, but apparently this is science, so who are we to argue?

Do you want to be a Summer Dream Girl? Of course, we all do. According to Cosmo's research, the key here is to go beyond being smart and attractive (which "every guy wants") and focus on the important question of "what little qualities make a big diff?" Here's the top three, courtesy of Cosmo Science:

1. Wears a sundress
2. Has a sexy laugh
3. Smells like the beach

They actually created a Venn diagram for this, and in the center it says "The Triple Threat Men Can't Resist". But they totally fell down on the job by not directing us to other pages in the mag where we can learn about the sexiest guy-approved sundresses and beachy fragrances and an article with a title like How To Sexify Your Laugh. Maybe that's in next month's issue.

One of the sentences in this section actually starts with the phrase "To quote Pauly D..." as if that's a good thing. We have nothing further to say about that. And speaking of cringeworthy sentences, try this one: "Men love a woman with guy humor, according to a new poll from eHarmony." Guy humor? What the fuck is guy humor? Apparently it's sarcasm and raunchy jokes. We had no idea up to now that we've been using guy humor our entire adult lives. Who says you can't learn anything useful from Cosmo? If you need help perfecting your guy humor, they recommend watching Kathy Griffin for tips. We recommend watching Kathy Griffin instead of reading Cosmo.

Let's check in on the Beauty section, shall we? There's a 'guy on the street' poll called Center Parts: Hot or Hippie? (The verdict was 78% hot, 22% hippie in case anyone's curious. I guess hippies can never look hot.) This is part of Cosmo's continuing quest to get a man's opinion about literally everything. Much like the guy humor thing, we're so happy to have Cosmo to set us on the right path, because up to now we were blissfully unaware that we were supposed to give a fuck what any guy thinks about how we part our hair.

On the page opposite the center part poll there's a Head & Shoulders ad featuring Alyson Hannigan. Guess they didn't get the memo that she's only a 6, or maybe Alison Brie wasn't available.

On to the Love section! This month's Hot Tip is called His Sweaty Superpower. Cosmo is obsessed with the sweaty=sexy equation and they constantly have tips about coming home from the gym without showering to hook up and stuff like that. This has got to be at least their tenth rehash of this advice in the last year or so:
You know a glimpse of his glistening postworkout bod turns you on, but it can boost your mood too. Research shows that the scent of male perspiration reduces tension in women, and the phenomenon works even if all you get is the whiff of a sweaty stranger. So give your guy a big postgym hug, or stand extra close to the dude celebrating a softball victory at happy hour...and remember to breathe deep.
You heard it here first, people. Cosmo wants you to find sweaty strangers and smell them. It's for your own good.

Later in this section there's an article called The One Time to Never Tell Him Yes. The gist of it is that you shouldn't make a habit of faking interest in his hobbies or things he likes to do if you don't like them because it's better if you do your own thing. This is only notable because, yet again, they use sports as their example of a thing that girlfriends never like doing with their guy. Dear Cosmo: Many women actually enjoy sports. Some even - brace yourselves, ladies - participate in sports themselves! Please stop using this as your default example of a guys only thing that all women hate. Thanks.

Next up is Love For Keeps, the monthly column about married life. The title of this month's column is "Are We Boring?" I just decided for myself that if you have to ask, the answer is probably yes, and skipped the article. But I'm sure it was fascinating.

And now it's time for us to check in with Ky Henderson, Cosmo Guy Guru and giver of horrible relationship advice. Let's see what problems he's failing to solve this month:

Q: Whenever I try to bring props, like handcuffs, into the bedroom, my boyfriend starts laughing hysterically. It kills the mood for me. How can I make him take it more seriously?

A: There's a lot of funny stuff that happens during sex, and if you are unable to laugh about it, you probably will not enjoy sex as much as you should. I bring that up because while restraining someone is hot, whipping out props can also be kind of funny. My advice? Laugh with him...and then restrain his ass. He may smile or even burst into full-blown giggles at first, but keep going with it - once he sees how sexy it is, he'll shut up. If you're really determined to avoid the chuckles altogether, use something that your boyfriend will associate with sex instead of with television police procedurals. Meaning, skip the silver cuffs and tie him up with something hotter, like your thong. It will work just as well and feels way naughtier, as opposed to slightly goofy.
Okay. First, as ever, Cosmo's relationship advice avoids recommending actual communication at all costs. Second, using your thong will not work just as well. And third, we have a hard time seeing how choosing a thong over handcuffs or some other "prop" that's actually designed to restrain someone is somehow hotter or less goofy. Fourth, Ky Henderson's advice sucks and we hate him. (We may come back to this in more detail later, because we can never say enough about how awful this part of the magazine is every month.)

The next question for Ky is about how to let a new guy you're seeing know that you're looking for a relationship. We won't bother you with his entire answer but:
The solution isn't about saying the right thing; it's about how you behave. For starters, if you usually sleep with men after just one or two dates, stop. It may not be fair, but some guys will rule out the possibility of a long-term relationship with a woman who hops in bed with them shortly after they first meet. There are exceptions to this, but generally men put you in the just-a-hookup category if you give it up early.
You're right, Ky. That's not fair. And if we find out that a guy thinks that way, we tend to rule out the possibility of having a long-term relationship with him.

There's a mention of 50 Shades of Grey in an article called 5 Fun Reasons to Get Naked. Cosmo recommends reading it naked and/or reading it out loud to your guy. (How very inner goddess of them.) This isn't particularly surprising or noteworthy, we just couldn't let the 50 Shades of Cosmo convergence of suck go unmentioned.

Towards the back of the magazine is the Need to Know section, which is usually full of true crime stories about awful things happening to young women. In this issue there's A Twisted Obsession Turns Deadly, which is the story of Johanna Justin-Jinich, a college student who was murdered by a mentally ill man who had been stalking her for several years. It's a horrible, tragic story, and we feel really ambivalent about seeing it in the pages of Cosmo.

Basically, we hate this section of the magazine because they rarely include any tips on how to deal with a similar situation if it happened to you. Instead of, say, an article about the crime of stalking in general and the fact that the anti-stalking laws on the books right now might not be keeping up with current realities like online harassment, we get this personal story where the message is basically just 'a young woman was murdered by a crazy stalker, isn't that scary?' There's a sidebar about "analyzing a stalker's emails" that shows some of the "red flags" in the emails that Johanna received from her killer, and there's one line in the article about how the safest thing to do is go to the police, but other than that there's no concrete info or advice that a reader can take away from this. There are a few lines about things that Johanna did 'wrong', like deciding not to press charges the first time she went to the police - it reminded us a little of the "Deadly Decisions" article they ran a few months ago that was basically a victim-blaming festival. It just feels like Cosmo is exploiting these women's stories for no real purpose beyond shock value. Some of these articles have even included things like bloody crime scene photos, which is over the line as far as we're concerned.

We're really in luck this month because there's another Need to Know crime story called "A Guy Sabotaged My Birth Control". It's the story of Anya Alvarez, who was in the middle of hooking up with a guy when she realized that he had removed his condom and her NuvaRing without her knowledge or consent. When she confronted him about it later he told her that he had done it before and that it was "not that big a deal". She now works to raise awareness about birth control sabotage and believes that it should be made illegal.

This article is an improvement over "Twisted Obsession", but still falls apart at the end because again, they don't tell you what you can do if this happens to you. They do cover some reasons why guys may do this and end by saying they're "hopeful" that legislators will eventually do something about it, but that's it. We get that this is something that's not illegal so options are limited, but it was disappointing that they actually did a good job of raising awareness about the issue and then didn't provide any resources. Of course, everything we know about birth control sabotage came from an episode of Law & Order: SVU that we watched a few months ago (starring John Stamos as the reproductive abuser), so what do we know? But if you would like more information about reproductive coercion, the Know More project is a good place to start.

To wrap up the Need to Know section, there's an update on the Cosmo Fights Campus Rape initiative. They've been running this campaign for months and partnering with organizations like SAFER and there's not much negative to say about it, but there was one thing that caught our eye this month. There's a list of suggestions of ways to get involved, like volunteering for RAINN or helping to organize a Take Back the Night march at your school, and then there's this:
Help blow the lid off how common it is for rape to go unreported by sending your personal story to cosmopolitan.com/campus-rape-story. It may be included in an upcoming Cosmo feature.
Something about this seems a little too casual for us. They're all 'hey, send us your rape story!' like they're asking you to enter a giveaway for a new lipstick or something. We feel that if they're going to ask for such personal and sensitive information, they should be clearer about exactly where the information is going to go and how it might be used.

Okay, that's it. We're done. Can't take anymore, brain cells fried, need a stiff drink, etc. See you next month!


Anonymous said...

Johanna went to my university. Strange they covered this story now as it happened May of 2010. Anyway, I believe what happened was that during a summer program, a man made some creepy advances on her over email. She didn't hear from him for YEARS, and then he showed up at her work and shot her. It's a story that reflects the horrors of certain mental illnesses, and the possibility of random tragedy, not a story that ought to be used to scare young women into fearing for their lives every time they reject someone's advances. ugh.

Epiphora said...

We feel that if they're going to ask for such personal and sensitive information, they should be clearer about exactly where the information is going to go and how it might be used.

Seriously. That's creepy. Do not want.

I wish I had something more to add but... all I really wanna say is I LOVE YOU GUYS PLEASE KEEP DOING THIS. Please, keep suffering for my enjoyment.

LS said...

I would just like to say that it is not okay to touch my butt. No idea why, but it freaks me out whenever anybody does it.

My girlfriend has no respect for this boundary. She thinks it is funny to watch me squirm. ;_;

Anonymous said...

"Dear Cosmo: Many women actually enjoy sports. Some even -brace yourselves, ladies -participate in sports themselves! Please stop using this as your default example of a guys only thing that all women hate. Thanks."

Exactly. This is just like how they use video games as an example of things that only guys like to do, which really angers and offends me because I'm a gamer myself. It's something I've been doing since age 5, and even as an adult I'm still pretty much a hardcore gamer. Hell, sometimes I never quite understood why some girls don't enjoy video games because it always seemed like a thing that every kid in the 80's and 90's did.

Needless to say, it's like Cosmo is still living in the 1950's or something. Makes me lose even more faith in humanity, especially in this country.