Let’s read Cosmopolitan

So a couple of weeks ago, I happened to pick up the September issues of Cosmopolitan. Why? Because I wanted to read it and share my hopefully humorous observations on this blog of mine.

I’ve never read Cosmo before, so all I know about it comes from snarky comments in popular culture, especially on the Internet. Can it be as bad as people say? Let’s find out.

Cover

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Well, we’ve got Megan Fox in a small dress and immaculate makeup with perfectly-styled hair. I think it’s interesting how men’s and women’s lifestyle magazines both tend to put sexy women on their covers. With men’s mags it’s a pretty blatant case of “Look! Tits! And there’s more inside, honest!” Women’s mags are much classier, but the sex appeal of the woman is still put front and centre, albeit in a more aspirational, “You can be like this lady” manner. Too bad this is almost certainly photoplastied.

So what about the articles? Well, your eye is drawn to the big orange circle reading “10 money-stretching beauty smarts”. OK, so this is a magazine for shallow lifestyle stuff, more or less as expected.

Just below that, we see “Raped by my friend: Why one Hollywood star is speaking out.” Wow. That’s quite a whiplash. Rape is a pretty heavy subject; doesn’t really feel like the sort of thing you want to read about in a light, trashy rag like this one.

In the upper left, we have “Sex confessions: Would you take an #aftersex selfie?” Well, that’ll piss of the sort of person who complains about the word hashtag being annoying, overused slang that should be done away with.

“Love your body: Now id the time to cherish the skin you’re in.” So, skincare. OK, fair enough, that’s a legitimate health concern.

“Fashion alert: 41 pages of the hottest new season trends.” Oh joy, clothes. You know, this magazine is pretty thick…

“I’m in love with my girlfriend’s sister”. Ooh, hot taboo lesbian action!

In the upper right, we have “Megan Fox lets he guard down… and you’ll love her.” Uh huh. I don’t know, comparing people to Hitler isn’t cool. Michael Bay certainly has issues, but he’s not a Nazi.

And finally, we have “Bored, stressed, or stuck? Have a word with your career mojo.” Great, career advice. Colour me skeptical. All too often, the career advice you get lifestyle and general interest in magazines, newspapers, and websites is aimed at people who work in offices and spend most of their days in meetings, and amounts to “Do your work while you’re actually at work, instead of spending all day in meetings and on Facebook.” I work in a factory, where I spend the best part of the day doing actual work for just a little more than minimum wage – if I could get a job where I spend all day in meetings I’d be ecstatic.

So, thoughts on the cover? Looks like a light, fun lifestyle magazine that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, except then they shove in that rape article in an attempt to be taken seriously. You know, Maxim embraces the bloke culture and doesn’t even try to be respectable, and in that regard actually comes out looking better since it knows who it’s for and is under no illusions of its own importance.

OK, let’s actually open this thing.

Contents

After three pages of ads, we get to the contents pages. In order to get the ads in, contents are spread over two non-facing pages, which takes the layout down a notch. Here we learn that the article about being in love with one’s girlfriend’s sister is actually by a man, so no lesbians here. The one about loving your body is about overcoming and eating disorder, which seems to fall into the same category as the rape article in trying desperately to be respectable, but hey, maybe they’ll surprise me.

But then there’s a great big section on fashion, which means models, which means super-skinny women whose photos have probably been photoplastied. There’s also a big section on men’s minds, which looks to be the counterpart to the sections on how women think from men’s mags. This could be decent, if

Cosmo’s ideas about what men think of sex weren’t the single biggest thing people make fun of them for.

There’s also an article on legal highs and the potential dangers thereof. That could be fun. Ooh, and the Live Big section has a piece on the month’s hottest scifi movies. Perhaps this won’t be a total waste after all.

A few more pages of and and we get to the editorial, which encourages women to be more aggressive in going for that better job they want. Hey, real feminism. I was not expecting that.  Overleaf there are message board and social media posts from their website. Pretty inoffensive stuff.

And ad or two later and we have Live Big, which is a whole load of clothes and shoes I can’t afford. After that we’re told to go to their website to see how to make a cake full of jelly beans, which you’d think they could just have included in the magazine; either way, I think I’ll try making one of these at some point. Mmm, jelly bean cake…

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Under that there are some jokes about how to deal with awkward situations, which I actually did laugh at.

Overleaf, we are advised that multitasking isn’t actually a thing, and when we think we’re multitasking, we’re actually switching rapidly between a few tasks while not spending serious time on any of them. Thus, it’s better to focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to do 10 things at once/ That’ll be news to the women who always claimed that women are so much better than men because of multitasking.

Also, can men and women be just friends? Maybe! Oh, this is jus the sort of thing the red pill guys always whine about.

Friends! Apparently it was International Friendship Day on August 8th, so a bunch of readers nominated their friends for the title of best friend ever, livened up with a pair of cute little kittens hugging.

Hey, remember when they were going to talk about scifi movies? Yeah, turns out it’s a list of the hottest men in movies, who all happen to be in scifi at the moment – Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Sin City: A Dame ot Kill For, Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Robert Pattinson in The Rover. On the same is the third in a series of Millennial Masterclass columns, in which Sarah Hunter of the English National Women’s Rugby Team talks about teamwork.

Then there’s a particularly thick and glossy page, almost like thin cardboard, given over to an ad that makes it hard to keep the magazine open on the page I want, an ad for a survey, another ad, and a wedding-related embarassing moment collection.

After this the articles get a bit meatier. “Sex and the Single Girl” describes a lady using Tinder for the first time, and it goes pretty well, while “Sex and the Single Guy” bemoans how Tinder takes the mystery out of dating and makes people impatient and unwilling to spend time getting to know their new partner. OK, interesting perspectives.

And now we have the Megan Fox interview/lingerie photoshoot which, if you added a question about lesbian experimentation, wouldn’t be out of place in Maxim. The interviewer seems to be really into Fox’s sex life.

This is followed by some more ads, then an actually pretty good article about the dangers of drinking and driving. You know, I’m a little over 25% of the way though now, and so far the content has been light but reasonably decent and informative, with none of the crap people make fun of Cosmo for. Could it be my preconceived notions were incorrect?

Then there are some more ads, followed by the rape article, which is about actress AnnaLynn McCord and the abusive childhood she suffered in a conservative, hyerreligious family. This led to her conflating love with violence, which in turn led to severely dysfunctional romantic and sexual relationships when she was a teenager. I’m just not even going to joke about this. Then she got raped in her sleep but didn’t feel able to confront her rapist or tell anyone, which led to self-harm.

This is really heavy, serious stuff. It’s good that they’re bringing this to people’s attention, and to Cosmo‘s credit, it actually does seem to fit with the rest of the content.

Huh. This is a surprisingly good magazine.

And now there’s the section on me, which is what I happen to be. Let’s see if the gals who write this know anything about my sex. Professor Green talks about marriage, whatever. Following that is the guy who’s cheating on his girlfriend with her sister. This isn’t a dilemma dude, you’re in the wrong here. Stop cheating, if you want to be with the crazy party girl, break up with her sister first; otherwise, stay with the woman you’ve been with for nearly three years.

Then there’s 10 men talking about what makes them feel manly, which is… all pretty reasonable and stuff I’d agree with (well, except the sport, but I understand most men do enjoy that). “Some of these comments may damage your view of men!”? Really? There are some pretty crap men out there…

We then have an interview with Joe Thomas, which is a bit like the one with Megan Fox but with fewer sex questions and only one picture, of Thomas in a suit. Over the page there’s Elliot Wright naked, who urges men to check for prostate cancer. Hey, that’s really cool.

So that’s the end of the men’s section, and again, it’s actually quite sensible and reasonable. Where’s all the insane nonsense I keep seeing on the Internet? Oh well, maybe the article on unusual roommates will drive me insane. Yup. Here we go. One woman claims her house, which used to belong to her grandparents,. is haunted.

Also, today I learned that the average rent in the UK is £1,000 a month. Wow, £250 a week? That’s… way too much. I mean, I know London’s expensive..

Wait, apparently rent in London hit £2,300 a month (£575 per week)! How the funt can anyone afford that?

Except, wait, while rents are insane and owning your own home is unrealistic, this seems to be a little overblown. I Googled, and according to the BBC, high demand means you’ll pay £1,000 per month in Aberdeen – which is the most expensive part of Scotland, with the rest of the nation being somewhat cheaper (though often still too much). I expect this would also happen in a few places in England, and it does seem plausible for London, but I doubt the entire UK is this high.

This is followed by an article on unorthodox wedding dresses, which actually look cool, quirky, and memorable. A couple of ads later and we have an opinion piece by Nikki Bailey about how her periods suck so much she provides ammunition to the sort of men who say “Women shouldn’t run things – they go to pieces once a month.” Yup. This is followed by an ad, a patchy page of random holiday bit and pieces, some more ads, and then we get to the career section.

This impressed me. While the writer was clearly thinking of the kind of office job people have on TV, the advice is general enough to apply to anything. It’s primarily about changing your own attitude in order to find something more in line with your personality, which is a refereshing change of pace from the sort of career advice I’m used to seeing. There’s also an interview with a professional wedding photographer who loves what she does.

Next comes “He says she says”, in which a couple each answer a series of questions about their relationship. This time, he used a script to figure out what women like best on OKCupid, which got him hundreds of messages, which she thought was clever. They’re now engaged. A pretty fun article I thought.

Then there’s a long stretch about fashion which is also an ad for a car. Still, it lets me jump through 30 pages in a few seconds to get on to the home stretch. There’s a section on makeup tips, with results that look interesting and distinctive, but not necessarily good.

Next up we have “10 way to slash your beauty budget.” This makes me really glad I’m a man and can look good with just a wash and a comb. Let’s see how reasonable the ladies are…

Well, the first tip is to use woody and white floral perfumes, which are made of bigger molecules and thus take longer to evaporate, meaning the perfume lasts longer. Huh, that actually does make sense. You know, if a woman wears perfume all the time. It also recommends cutting back on moisteriser to improve skin and using a man’s shaving foam and razor (as in, buying those made for men, not (hopefully) using your boyfriend’s razor), which I suppose would work, but I also have to wonder how many women aren’t doing this already. Then again, I have entirely too much penis and too little social acumen to say accurately one way or the other. It also explains how to do your own hair mask, but two of the other tips are “use loyalty cards” and “buy at discount shops”, so… yeah. This is of highly limited use, since most women who take beauty seriously are probably doing all this stuff already Then again, if she’s doing this stuff already she probably isn’t buying Cosmo.

Advertorials follow and then we get a woman who describes herself as a makeup magpie looking into the psychology of why women keep buying more makeup. Basically, it turns out that much like the covers of books, the packaging works. That’s… a little unsettling.

Then there’s more advertorials, and an interesting column in which a pair of twin sisters compare pricy and budget makeup products. A couple of more ads and then we’re on to sex. There’s a scrappy page of fun facts, then an article about loss of libido. In a sign of the times, it’s taken for granted that women in their 20s don’t expect to not want sex, whereas when those same women were born the attitude was more that women in general only rarely want a good shagging. Like in the first third, it’s light, but a pretty decent, reasonable article

And hey, look, it’s the article on #aftersex selfies. What I took away from it is that it’s a thing some people do.

This is followed by “I nearly choked on a vibrator”, with the highlighted quote “Penile gangrene can put a damper on things”. OK. WHAT THE FUCK?!?!

Apparently there’s a new type of dildo specifically designed to simulate blow jobs. I know some women enjoy sucking penis, but I always figured the enjoyment there came more from seeing the man having a great time. Oh well, maybe this was something to get the fiancée hot.

Anyway, the whole choking business is overblown – the plastic ring went down her throat, but she coughed it up in the second paraphraph. The rest of the article is a series of safety tips for the sort of person who uses lots of sex toys. Oh, and the point about penile gangrene was just a warning about misusing cock rings.

There’s a sex agony aunt over the page who answers questions about hating blowjobs (don’t give them if you don’t want to), being turned on by hentai (whatever floats your boat! Though I have to wonder how she’d feel if it was a man who expressed an interest in cartoon monster porn), threesomes (only if you’re absolutely certain and have a rock-solid relationship) and why the girlfriend doesn’t want to kiss him (you’ve got some issues).

OK. I’ve been writing for a couple of hours but we’re nearly there. Here we have a health and body section. We start with a page on stopping to smell the roses, then a serious article about the psychological effects that can result from tuberous breast deformity. Sure, this is a real first-world problem, but given the insane pressure society puts on women to look good all the time, it’s still and issue that should be addressed.

Next comes a page on legal highs. Turns out they’re not actually safe, nor are they entirely legal. So stick to alcohol and marijuana, kids. Facing it there’s another agony aunt, but this one is about relationships, and is pretty general and common sensical. Comedian Juliette Burton talks about her struggle with anorexia in a section that should really have been given more space, a third agony aunt talks about exercise addiction, and a trainer describes a routine to get good abs.

And then we have horoscopes. Let’s see what’s in store for me…

A brand new way to make or save money will arrive at the end of September. You are paranoid about someone but why not ask them for the truth? Fantastic weekends are in store thanks to a unique transport offer. Break up a Romeo-and-Juliet saga by changing the script.

WHAT THE FUNT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!?!?! And they’re all like this. Astrology is stupid.

After that there’s page on non-boring salads, an then a final stretch of ads before we get to the back page, in which the writers goes a week without Twitter. Look, I get that social networking is addictive, but very few people have the kind of job that allows them to literally tweet about the shits they’re doing, nor do most people even have their tweets noticed, let alone trolled. But whatever, that’s the end, we’re finished!

So, final thoughts.

I was expecting horrific things, obsessions with sex and bizarre ideas about what men like. None of that happened; then again, I read the UK edition, which might be different to the US version. The articles in the first and last 30% are light but pretty decent, and there’s a surprising streak of everyday feminism running though it.

That said, the middle 40% was iffy, reinforcing modern society’s obsession with women looking gorgeous and sexy at all times, and I can’t imagine all the models doing much for women’s self esteem despite the well-meaning efforts to include a range of body types and celebrate eveyone’s beauty elsewhere.

All in all, while there are problems, this was nowhere near as terrible as I thought it would be.

And funt it, for balance I’ll read Maxim. See you next time.

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