Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why Being A Cosmo Reader Is Good For Society

Is it such a bad thing to be a Cosmo Girl? Should I be embarrassed to celebrate my 45th birthday this week and “fan” Cosmopolitan on Facebook? Ever since I was in college, going to the beach or the pool always meant a Cosmo magazine in my bag.

If you threw up in first grade, you could still be “the kid who threw up” in college, so I’ve been thinking about my image with every word I type.

I’m not into the fashion and beauty products. You don’t need to tell me that color-coding your files will not get you a raise in the workplace. That’s not why I read Cosmo. The tag is “Fun Fearless Female”. Usually one of the headlines catches my eye and more often than not it contains the word “sex”. We all have the same questions and concerns about this subject but very rarely trust a friend to discuss them.

When I worked for the Chancellor of New York University, I stumbled upon the section of the library for PhD students studying Human Sexuality. I read every book on the shelves. Perhaps I would have earned a graduate degree if I had abandoned the school of public administration for this concentration. I couldn’t believe people were earning doctorates in the subject.

A few years later, when my husband, then boyfriend, was in graduate school, Dr. Ruth came to speak at the University of Maryland. He managed to get me a ticket. I remember being so glad that all the students were respectable and earnest with their questions.

So yes, I’m a Cosmo Girl, except now I’m probably a Cosmo Woman. I can’t help but notice how the magazine is geared to young readers. All the uncertainty of dating and relationships makes me glad to be older. However, I still get the same sense of satisfaction that someone is answering women’s questions about the subject and suggesting ways for improvement. There’s nothing wrong with mixing it up and experimenting. Self-improvement should always include everything that you do.

Often I think I should be more respectable. Since I care about my personal brand, should I have admitted my secret magazine reading? Worst yet, should I be writing this explanation?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wholesome sex between consenting adults. It’s a natural part of life.

I’ve always believed that as a society we are completely contorted about sex. Sexual abuse and sex crimes statistics are always sickening. 1 out of every 6 women in the United States have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. At least 20% of runaway teen girls were sexually abused. I think we have made progress in taking abuse seriously and prosecuting it as a crime, but its implications are still far reaching, especially concerning depression and substance abuse.

Although I want to have that perfect image, I’d never do it by hiding who I am. What’s attractive about Cosmo goes beyond any of my personal preferences. Those pages allow women to be women and discover what that entails. The articles provide a benchmark for a healthy way of approaching this part of life and send a message that women shouldn’t accept anything less. The more we as a society make strides to be open about sex, the more we will feel comfortable condemning the mangled, disgusting incidences of its abuse.

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