An Open Letter to Cosmo

Dear Cosmo,

I’m writing to tell you that I watched Channel 4’s Sex in Class last night, and I kind of hoped that the teenage boys who said the kinds of things in the tweets below would grow up as they, well, grow up.

Having read your article, I’m not so sure. I haven’t bought you for a while, to be honest. I read you in the hairdresser, if it’s a choice between you and Hello, but if Red or Marie Claire, or even Good Housekeeping, are available instead, then that’s what I’ll pick up.

But let’s be honest, The Last Sexual Taboo (…or is it?) is a good strapline. I’ve been walking past you a lot this month wondering what *is* the last sexual taboo. I still wouldn’t have bought you, but I probably would’ve flicked through you in M&S to find out the answer. And then, as luck would have it, you turned up in the seat pocket of the flight I was on last night.

And I thought ‘Surely it’s not anal?’

Spoiler alert: It’s anal.

I could start by saying, Cosmo, that I don’t think anal is the last taboo. I seem to remember years ago reading that 1 in 3 couples had tried it. I like it. I fantasise about it probably more than I fantasise about anything else. The first time I tried it was fucking amazing. It still scares me a bit, sometimes it hurts, and I worry about it being messy/dirty. But I *do* like it, and although it was a guy who proposed it the first time I tried it, it’s been my suggestion nearly every other time since.

Anyway, let’s talk about the article. Shall we start with the subheadings? Here we go:

  1. Pressure to perform
  2. ‘Dick slips’
  3. Remember the vagina?
  4. Why does he want it?
  5. An erogenous zone?

Two things strike me about these subheads, Cosmo. They’re very negative, and they’re very male-focused. And the problem with the article is evident from the very start:

“I was never interested,” says Jill. “I didn’t want to do it, and I didn’t want to talk about it. But during sex, he would say “Can I put it in your bum?” every time. It seemed really important to this guy, so Jill finally agreed. […]

“It was not enjoyable at all,” she says. “We used lube and a condom and we tried foreplay. But I could hold on for only two or three minutes before I said “I can’t do it!'”

Prince Charming finished up with some vaginal sex that night, and Jill spoke loudly and often about how awful it had been for her. “But he kept on asking.” Eventually he cheated on her, citing her unwillingness to have anal as one of the reasons. Would it shock you to know they broke up?

I wonder why you included this cautionary tale? You could have done a lot with it. You could have pointed out that if you’re switching from anal to vaginal, you need to use a new condom. You could’ve pointed out explicitly that the guy behaved like a dick, rather than just sarcastically referring to him as ‘Prince Charming.’ I’d even have been on board with you pointing out that it’s not ideal to go from ‘I didn’t want to talk about it’ to ‘[I] spoke loudly and often about how awful it had been.’ At least, I think that’s what you mean. When your sentence is ‘Prince Charming finished up with some vaginal sex that night, and Jill spoke loudly and often about how awful it had been for her,’ it’s not clear which was awful: the anal or the vaginal.

OK, so in the next paragraph you are explicit about the guys who have ‘dick slips’ being ‘true assholes.’ This paragraph is a bit better, tbh – it actually begins to tackle the issue of consent responsibly. Still not what I was expecting from what you put on the cover, though. And then you really go and ruin it again.

So when did the vagina stop being the holy grail? When I was growing up it was a treasure to be saved for special occasions with special people.

Honestly, you make a mockery of the newsagent in the town where I went to school, who wanted proof of age before he’d sell you, Cosmo. You had such an opportunity here to inform women about something that can be really hot. Instead, you slipped the tale of the woman who genuinely likes it under the subheading Why does he want it? You picked a married women who said ‘We love it,’ and you phrased her reasoning thus: ‘Rachel likes it because she likes to please her husband, but also because it feels good to her.’ Because god forbid you pick a woman who does it *just* because it feels good to her.

Finally, two paragraphs from the end, you get to the point I think you should have been making all along (although you could’ve dropped the ‘in relationships’ bit):

Women in relationships who mutually decided with their partner to have anal sex talked about a profound experience.

I see what you did here. You commissioned the article from someone who’s thinking about trying anal for the first time because you thought that would make for a more approachable, less intimidating article, right? I disagree. I think the author’s attitude to anal is fearful enough here to actually be off-putting. And maybe I’m a humourless bitch, but I don’t find the ‘thinking of taking a trip to Brownton Abbey‘ line funny, either, especially in the context of an article that seems to suggest that anal goes hand in hand with problematic, immature communication.

You’re getting a new editor next month. And god, I hope for your sake that she brings a fresh approach to mainstream sex writing.

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6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Cosmo

  1. I can’t remember the last time I read a magazine, especially a woman’s magazine. I think most of the articles are written by people who have no idea about the subject they’re writing about, they do sloppy research and the main aim of the majority of media these days are either to shock, scare or disgust people.
    My reading material of choice these days would be a good sex blog. At least you get an honest opinion from someone who knows what they’re talking about 🙂

  2. I’ve not read the article but it seems truly awful.
    Well said n this letter.
    I would want an article that said it was OK to never try anal but also OK to give it a go.
    And that it is not a one way street, so to speak. Women should think about dong it to their men.
    And all that you said.

  3. Pingback: Jillian's Favourite Things - August '15 - Lady Laid Bare

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