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.

Photo: Getty
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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.