So I was at Luton Airport on Thursday and found myself browsing the magazines in WH Smith. It turns out they sell the US version of Cosmo so I bought it in the name of research (the article doesn’t appear in the UK version). The piece itself is as bad as has been reported – I plan to scan it as soon as I can and post the text here so that non-US readers can see it for themselves.
My sister used to read Cosmo, but it’s been a long time since I’d looked at it. Reading through the magazine on the flight home (well I had to pass the time somehow) I was shocked by how poor the magazine was, and worried about the messages it sends to young women. Most of the articles seemed to be about ‘how to please your man’, and ‘how to keep your man’, with the underlying implication that he might just get bored and leave if you don’t pander to his every desire. I couldn’t help thinking that most of the articles read like they were written by a man (they’re not, AFAIK)! If it wasn’t for the gender stereotyping (makeup, fashion and dating VS cars, football and porn) then I’m afraid Cosmo’s portayal of women wasn’t much better than some lads mags. With one difference of course – Cosmo is all about how to satisfy your man, Zoo and Nuts ignore relationships and how to please your girlfriend, and suggests you wank over some porn star or go to a lap dance club instead. Let me be clear about this – I hate Lads Mags and the way they are now accepted as part of mainstream culture, and are openly sold on low shelves in WH Smiths. I hate the pornification of our culture and the impact this has on men’s attitudes to women. I suppose I naively expected Cosmo to be a bit different, but the “gray rape” article was indicative of the magazine as a whole, and the journalistic bias to re-enforcing patriarchial systems.
Laura Session Stepp who wrote this article, also wrote Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both, where she first used the term.
If you want to send a letter to Cosmopolitan follow this link to the The NYC Media Response Project Letter Writing Campaign, “There’s No Such Thing as Gray Rape.”