Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter of the Vagenda Magazine

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23 Ways to Please Your Man, the Cosmo Way

Rhiannon and Holly find out how to stay thin, find a man and cure erectile dysfunction with grilled sandwiches.

Ian McShane naked with a dachshund.
Ian McShane naked with a dachshund.

While Cosmopolitan has always claimed feminist leanings, we know that really it’s always been about attracting the male of the species. Cosmo launched in 1972, and has been peddling the same strange mix of empowerment and insecurity ever since.

Although we doubt the magazine nowadays would include the word ‘anachronistic’ (Quentin Crisp, September 1981) or feature a sanitary towel ad that advises you to ‘hustle through your period’, the core aim of keeping and catching that man has always been a constant. Here, we take a look into the archives and make some cheap jokes about magazine content that was produced before we were even born.

1. Be a Cosmopolitan Girl

Ok, so you’re not obsessed with men, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to spend vast amounts of time and money to make yourself more interesting to them, while retaining the requisite amounts of insecurity (unlike those swanky Playboy guys) to keep you buying Cosmo every month.

2. Exercise in the Office

Take off your bra, ride your desk chair (ooh er!) and not only will you stay skinny, but if your boss catches you in the act, you could be in for a very sexy appraisal. Call us cynical, but this whole feature seems to be geared towards getting your boss to bang you.

3. Be the Perfect Wife

That means being able to eat and eat and still look sensational, btw. And being a first-class cook. And, according to Max (not pictured), possessing ‘a human quality of aliveness’ (we think that means y’know, breathing)

4. Say One of These in Bed

Lines include ‘Sleeping with you is like spending a week in Marrakesh’ (sweaty and expensive), ‘Where do I sent the cheque?’ (We think this means that the guy is so good at sex that he could be a gigolo, but tbh we’re really not sure) and ‘to think I once thought I was frigid.’ Yeah.

5. Be Sensual

A Cosmo quiz from January 1973 entitled ‘How Sensual Are You?’ includes the above hypothetical scenario, demonstrating how even the most life endangering of circumstances can provide pulling opportunities.

6. Do Some Naked Dancercise (but only if you’re sexy)

Flares optional. In the words of Cosmo, ‘don’t call them strip teasers, these girls are dancers who are beautiful enough to take their clothes off in public.’ Oh, what’s that? We’ll put our shirts back on, then.

7. Buy him a Dachshund

He’ll be so happy that he’ll take his clothes off and straddle it.

8. Wear Windsong

Not an unpleasant symptom of undiagnosed IBS, it turns out, but an expensive perfume with a most unfortunate name.

9. Tape your hair to your head…

…while sucking a lollipop. It might look as though you’re recovering from a lobotomy but . . . Oh. You are recovering from a lobotomy.

10. Recreate Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe

No caption really needed. ‘Pick a secluded spot,’ advises Cosmo. Otherwise the flares and perm combos sported by your gentlemen companions may lead to arrest under the Sexual Offences Act.

11. Sit like a girl, not like a man

Being a feminist is, admittedly, a rather sedentary endeavour (we’re sitting down now, FYI)

12. Read the Dictionary

Go on, it’s only a little one. Plus, as we all know men value women for their minds. He can’t even see the furry lingerie and seductive posture: he’s too busy thinking about your massive vocabulary.

13. Follow These Tips

Before you know it, you’ll be a purple chess maestro cum human prawn platter. That should do it.

14. Get Thin Enough for a Thong

Now you know whom to blame for that decade-long wedgie.

15. Multidate

How come Craig David gets to make love by Wednesday (and for the rest of the week) when we have to meet Peter at the theatre and spend a day at the coast with Steve? It hardly seems fair. Bob looks like a hoot, though. Come to Mama.

16. Smock Around the Clock

Reads: ‘you won’t have to fish for compliments – they’ll come naturally.’ Someone’s telling porkies.

17. Hate your body

The print equivalent of America’s Next Top Model, where gorgeous looking women are bullied into a state of permanent self-loathing. Nice.

18. Don’t be a slut

OK, so it doesn’t mean what we think it means, but Peter Lewis’ full page moan about how women are messy, slovenly and disorganised reeks of sexism, arbitrary gender norms, and, perhaps worst of all, observational humour (aren’t women silly) Shudder.

19. Wear Paper panties

Nothing says romance like disposable knickers.

20. Live in This Flat

Where better to bring your beau back to than a living room that looks like it’s been vomited on by an eighties children’s television presenter with a penchant for millions sweets and then spunked on by a My Little Pony?

21. Be Nonchalant

Oh this old thing? I always sport hold ups and an orange kimono while taking tea with tradesmen.

22. Don’t put on weight

Genuinely disturbing, and perhaps even more so when you consider that the early eighties saw Cosmopolitan take a much more feminist slant. It’s sad that some genuinely groundbreaking journalism has been let down by ads such as this. Putting it alongside articles with titles such as ‘Sexist Chat to Avoid’ and features by Paula Yates about women’s lib just undermines the whole endeavour. This ad, worthy as it is of the 1950s, actually appeared in March of 1982. As for the poetry: we’ll let that speak for itself.

23. Don’t laugh at his failed erection

We love how ‘masturbate slowly while looking into his eyes’ and ‘suggest toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches’ are put on an equal pegging as ways of handling erectile dysfunction. If you find yourself in this situation, the choice basically boils down to ‘blind him with your muff’ or ‘distract him with food.’

1 Way to Please a Woman:

Keep her away from an article called ‘The most beautiful thing a man can do for a woman’, from the 1972 launch issue of Cosmo. IT’S FOR HER OWN GOOD. It’s a three page feature about Michael Parkinson’s vasectomy, and now we can’t stop thinking about his nutsack. Thanks, Cosmo.