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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Inside the progressive alliance that beat Zac Goldsmith in Richmond

Frantic phone calls, hundreds of volunteers, and Labour MPs constrained by their party. 

Politics for a progressive has been gloomy for a long time. On Thursday, in Richmond Park of all places, there was a ray of light. Progressive parties (at least some of them) and ordinary voters combined to beat Ukip, the Tories and their "hard Brexit, soft racist" candidate.

It didn’t happen by accident. Let's be clear, the Liberal Democrats do by-elections really well. Their activists flood in, and good luck to them. But Richmond Park was too big a mountain for even their focused efforts. No, the narrow win was also down to the fast growing idea of a progressive alliance. 

The progressive alliance is both a defensive and offensive move. It recognises the tactical weakness of progressives under first past the post – a system the Tories and their press know how to game. With progressive forces spilt between Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Women’s Equality Party and more – there is no choice but to co-operate, bring in proportional representation and then a whole new political world begins.

This move opens up the wider strategy – to end the domination of the City, and right-wing newspapers like the Mail, so Britain can have a real debate and make real choices about what sort of economy and society it wants. A pipedream? Well, maybe. But last night the fuse was lit in Richmond Park. The progressive alliance can work.

Months before the by-election, the pressure group for a progressive alliance that I chair, Compass, the Greens, and some Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP MPs and activists, began considering this. The alternative after Brexit was staring into the void.

Then the Tory MP Zac Goldsmith stepped down over Heathrow. To be fair, he had pledged to do this, and we should have been better prepared. In the event, urgent behind-the-scenes calls were made between the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. Compass acted as the safe house. The Greens, wonderfully, clung onto democracy – the local party had to decide. And they decided to stand up for a new politics. Andree Frieze would have been the Green candidate, and enjoyed her moment in the autumn sun. She and her party turned it down for a greater good. So did the Women’s Equality Party.

Meanwhile, what about Labour? Last time, they came a distant third. Again the phones were hit and meetings held. There was growing support not to stand. But what would they get back from the Liberal Democrats, and what did the rules say about not standing? It was getting close to the wire. I spent an hour after midnight, in the freezing cold of Aberdeen, on the phone to a sympathetic Labour MP trying to work out what the party rule book said before the selection meeting.

At the meeting, I am told, a move was made from the floor not to select. The London regional official ruled it out of order and said a candidate would be imposed if they didn’t select. Some members walked out at this point. Where was the new kinder, gentler politics? Where was membership democracy? Fast forward to last night, and the Labour candidate got less votes than the party has members.

The idea of a progressive alliance in Richmond was then cemented in a draughty church hall on the first Tuesday of the campaign – the Unitarian Church of course. Within 48 hours notice, 200 local activist of all parties and none had come together to hear the case for a progressive alliance. Both the Greens and Compass produced literature to make the case for voting for the best-placed progressive candidate. The Liberal Democrats wove their by-election magic. And together we won.

It’s a small victory – but it shows what is possible. Labour is going to have to think very hard whether it wants to stay outside of this, when so many MPs and members see it as common sense. The lurch to the right has to be stopped – a progressive alliance, in which Labour is the biggest tent in the campsite, is the only hope.

In the New Year, the Progressive Alliance will be officially launched with a steering committee, website and activists tool-kit. There will also be a trained by-election hit squad, manifestos of ideas and alliances build locally and across civil society.

There are lots of problems that lie ahead - Labour tribalism, the 52 per cent versus the 48 per cent, Scottish independence and the rest. But there were lots of problems in Richmond Park, and we overcame them. And you know, working together felt good – it felt like the future. The Tories, Ukip and Arron Banks want a different future – a regressive alliance. We have to do better than them. On Thursday, we showed we could.

Could the progressive alliance be the start of the new politics we have all hoped for?

Neal Lawson is the Chair of Compass, the pressure group for the progressive alliance.

Neal Lawson is chair of the pressure group Compass, which brings together progressives from all parties and none. His views on internal Labour matters are personal ones.