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.

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.

Ian McShane naked with a dachshund.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are co-founders and editors of online magazine, The Vagenda.

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How can London’s mothers escape the poverty trap?

Despite its booming jobs market, London’s poverty rate is high. What can be done about it?

Why are mothers in London less likely to work than their counterparts across the country, and how can we ensure that having more parents in jobs brings the capital’s high child poverty rates down?

The answers to these two questions, examined in a new CPAG report on parental employment in the capital, may become increasingly nationally significant as policymakers look to ensure jobs growth doesn’t stall and that a job becomes a more much reliable route out of poverty than it is currently – 64 per cent of poor children live in working families.

The choice any parent makes when balancing work and family life is deeply personal.  It’s a choice driven by a wide range of factors but principally by what parents, with their unique viewpoint, regard as best for their families. The man in Whitehall doesn’t know best.

But the personal is also political. Every one of these personal choices is shaped, limited or encouraged by an external context.   Are there suitable jobs out there? Is there childcare available that is affordable and will work for their child(ren)? And what will be the financial gains from working?

In London, 40 per cent of mothers in couples are not working. In the rest of the country, the figure is much lower – 27 per cent. While employment rates amongst lone parents in London have significantly increased in recent years, the proportion of mothers in couples out of work remains stuck at about 12 percentage points higher than the rest of the UK.

The benefits system has played a part in increasing London’s lone parent employment rate. More and more lone parents are expected to seek work. In 2008, there was no obligation on single parents to start looking for work until their youngest child turned 16. Now they need to start looking when their youngest is five (the Welfare Reform and Work Bill would reduce this down to three). But the more stringent “conditionality” regime, while significant, doesn’t wholly explain the higher employment rate. For example, we know more lone parents with much younger children have also moved into jobs.  It also raises the question of what sacrifices families have had to make to meet the new conditionality.  

Mothers in couples in London, who are not mandated to work, have not entered work to the same level as lone parents. So, what is it about the context in London that makes it less likely for mothers in couples to work? Here are four reasons highlighted in our report for policymakers to consider:

1. The higher cost of working in London is likely to play a significant role in this. London parents are much less likely to be able to call on informal (cheaper or free) childcare from family and friends than other parts in the country: only one in nine children in London receives informal childcare compared to an average of one in three for England. And London childcare costs for under 5s dwarf those in the rest of the country, so for many parents support available through tax credits is inadequate.

2. Add to this high housing and transport costs, and parents are left facing a toxic combination of high costs that can mean they see less financial rewards from their work than parents in other parts of the country.

3. Effective employment support can enable parents to enter work, particularly those who might have taken a break from employment while raising children. But whilst workless lone parents and workless couples are be able to access statutory employment support, if you have a working partner, but don’t work yourself, or if you are working on a low wage and want to progress, there is no statutory support available.

4. The nature of the jobs market in London may also be locking mums out. The number of part time jobs in the capital is increasing, but these jobs don’t attract the same London premium as full time work.  That may be partly why London mums who work are more likely to work full time than working mums in other parts of the country. But this leaves London families facing even higher childcare costs.

Parental employment is a thorny issue. Parenting is a 24-hour job in itself which must be balanced with any additional employment and parents’ individual choices should be at the forefront of this debate. Policy must focus on creating the context that enables parents to make positive choices about employment. That means being able to access the right support to help with looking for work, creating a jobs market that works for families, and childcare options that support child development and enable parents to see financial gains from working.

When it comes to helping parents move into jobs they can raise a family on, getting it right for London, may also go a long way to getting it right for the rest of the country.