More than cosmopolitan

February 17th, 2009
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Who reads at the grocery checkout? Almost everybody I imagine. Most of the covers would get a “G” rating, assuming you don’t mind your kids learning about the cancer death watch of a particular star, the latest re-hab stint of another, or getting investment or health advice from pocket-size booklets that cost $1.25.

What this is really about is kids, and I guess adults. Some things at the checkout haven’t changed in 40 years, the snacks, the tabloids, the compendia of Archie and Jughead.

That said, a while back I wrote about the, shall we say, provocative headlines on some formerly innocuous ladies’ magazines. I singled out Cosmo as being particularly guilty of graphic language, which might concern at least some parents of reading-age children. This is particularly pointed if you have kids like mine who read before entering school.

One Cosmo cover a few months ago must have piqued my interest because I committed some of the headlines to memory. They went some thing like this: “Orgasm: have one every time”; “Angelina and Lilo have done it – what it’s like to love a girl”; “The S-stroke and 8 other guy-pleasuring techniques”. And then there was something about “moody bitches” but memory fails. Maybe I got stuck on the “S-stroke” thing.

Just to remind us that not all Cosmo headlines lead to immediate nirvana, another recent cover described one woman’s near fatal experience with continuous orgasm. One can only hearken back to the (perhaps apocryphal) monkeys scientists rigged to allow orgasms at the touch of a switch – with predictably fatal results. The same cover also featured a headline about “the kind of bitchiness he likes”; and more on sub-equatorial anatomy (I paraphrase) – “What’s normal down there: size, shape and skin-tone”. Definitely some common themes there.

What strikes me as odd about this is that, after a brief foray into the open in the Seventies, skin mags like Playboy and Penthouse (I am told) were relegated to a remote cache behind the cash, lest overheated youngsters glimpse the “inappropriate” contents. Not that I recall the headlines of those magazines, assuming I ever looked at them, I don’t think there was ever any mention of specific strokes for certain folks. (If anyone doubts the dedication Cosmo has to public instruction, take a glance at their website)

One shouldn’t expect any consistency here but I gather we’re talking about a distinction between images and words? Not that I would ever want to restrict someone’s freedom to get practical recreational tips in public, but it strikes me as a little odd that, when we’re hyper-sensitive to so many other things – excessive perfume use, sufficiently inclusive language, not offending vast categories of people – it is apparently fine to expose ten-year-olds to what was until recently the purview of ancient professions.

Such are the murky questions of modern life. Thanks to Seinfeld, who seemed to be looking for a correct way to navigate these dilemmas, some progress has been made. How to achieve the room-mate switch, that’s covered. Do I stay with the Romanian gymnast purely for contortionary reasons, or ditch her? Unfortunately, these and many other burning social questions will no doubt be shelved until we’re through this economic crisis. Jerry, where are you when we need you?

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By John Weissenberger