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The women who want Cosmopolitan magazine wrapped up in a bag before it hits our shelves

A model and a granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst believe Cosmo fits the legal definition of pornography

By on Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Helen Gurley Brown (Photo: PA)

Helen Gurley Brown (Photo: PA)

I recently blogged about the death of Helen Gurley Brown, long-time editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, who was famous for having taken control of a small and inoffensive mid-western magazine and then, for the next 30-odd years, single-handedly turning it into a toxic global brand of feminist and sexual ideology. Some people have defended her on the grounds that she taught women to be ambitious and to work hard – but for what ends? So that they had the spending power and the self-sufficiency to sleep with whom they wanted when they wanted?

Any way, it is good to learn from Fox News that Victoria Hearst, a granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, founder of the Hearst publishing empire (immortalised in the film Citizen Kane), has now attacked the magazine for the corrupting influence of its pornographic content on young girls. Victoria, who became an evangelical Christian in 1995, is frank about her views. She says: “About 12 years ago, before the Lord told me to found Praise Him Ministries in 2001, I noticed how pornographic the content of Cosmopolitan magazine was. I telephoned Frank Bennack, head of the company, and told him Cosmopolitan should not be sold to minors and that I would like to address the board about it.”

Predictably perhaps, “He refused to allow it and refused to admit that Cosmo is pornography. Sex sells and the company does not care that Cosmo goes into the hands of children.” She decided to bypass him and to send her petition directly to each board member. “I never received a response from the company,” she admits, “but I had delivered the message God wanted… and never looked at Cosmo again.” She is clear that “the magazine promotes a lifestyle that can be dangerous to women’s emotional and physical wellbeing. It should never be sold to anyone under 18.”

In March this year Hearst heard of a similar campaign being waged against her family’s publishing empire by a former model, Nicole Weider, who wants the magazine put in a wrapper and only sold to adults. They are now joining forces. “We are not trying to censor Cosmopolitan magazine or to stop the Hearst Corporation from printing it,” says Hearst; “We are simply asking [the company] to take responsibility for the magazine’s pornographic content and voluntarily bag it and make sure it is sold to adults only.”

With no cooperation from the company, the two women are now contacting legislators and other figures in authority to have the magazine placed under the guidelines of US states’ laws concerning “material harmful to minors”. They believe the contents of the magazine meet the dictionary definition of pornography and the states’ laws. Hearst says her colleague “has received many letters from young girls who testified that they were hurt by reading Cosmo”. She adds: “I am only concerned about keeping pornography out of the hands of children. I am very confident that our mission will be accomplished. How long will it take? As long as it takes. Nicole and I will not quit.”

Cynics might say that younger girls can still read copies of the magazine bought for them by older friends. But it is still a brave stand, it is a good cause and it is a start. Hearst mentions recent cover stories in Cosmopolitan with titles like “25 sex moves he secretly wishes you’d try” and “The naughty orgasm trick couples love”. I checked out the current issue at our local newsagents, unwrapped and on a low shelf along with children’s comics: cover titles included “How 50 shades is your sex life? Real couples invite Cosmo into their bedrooms”; inside stories included, “3% of women forget the guy’s name after a holiday one-night stand!” and “Sex on the beach – your and his holiday confessions”. How depressing that a generation of young women whose grandmothers fought for serious issues like the right to vote are reading this – well, pornography.

I also checked out Praise Him Ministries. Hearst, then in a destructive relationship, had prayed: “God, I don’t know what I’m doing any more. You take the wheel. You drive. I’ll go wherever You lead.” She was led to found her Ministries, to run a Sunday morning radio show called “Praise Him” and to be a volunteer for Good News Jail and Prison Ministry. In contrast, Helen Gurley Brown’s philosophy for Cosmopolitan magazine was “If you’re not a sex object you’re in trouble” and “You can have your titular recognition. I’ll take money and power.” Victoria and Nicole are right in their campaign to stop impressionable young girls from following this poisonous message.

  • Worried

    Surely the tacky soft porn newspapers currently on sale in every shop, kiosk etc at vastly cheaper prices than Cosmo are a great deal more offensive and fall into a great deal more young hands

  • Guest

    Young girls and women are, I think, put off reading and learning from newspapers and magazines by explicit content. I am a feminist and appreciated the stand taken against the Sun newspaper, by Clare Short in the House of Commons; and, the later, direct action against retailers by mothers and daughters.

    Their offences, they probably know them.

  • theroadmaster

    The sexualization of pre-pubescent children and teenagers seems to be be the main selling point of a lot of magazines aimed at those particular markets.  The Cosmopolitan magazine is no exception and is prepared to trawl the sewer in order to galvanize it’s sales.  It is to the credit of Victoria Hearse and Nicole Welder, that they have joined forces to put the necessary pressure on the parties who own publish and are financially involved in this magazine, to desist from aiming it at vulnerable and impressionable kids.   It would be best of course, if the company who issues this publication would exclude material of an explicitly sexual or pornographic nature altogether.

  • Meena

    “Sex sells..”


    And so does almost continuous moralising about sex.


    Perhaps understandable on a Catholic website – I mean
    there’s so much of it [moralising about sex] in the Gospels, isn’t there?  
    Jesus spoke so frequently about it, you know!

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Please don’t bring me the myth of “Hippie Jesus”.

    Jesus taught that even fantasizing about adultery is itself a grave sin.

  • Meena

    I’ve never heard of the hippy-Jesus myth.

    Although you are obviously unaware of it, you are speaking of one of many elements “introduced” into the already highly selective Gospel texts soon after the birth of the printing press.

    The major items concerned sin, sexual matters and need to conform to the Church’s authority in all things.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Although you are obviously unaware of it, you are speaking of one of
    many elements “introduced” into the already highly selective Gospel
    texts soon after the birth of the printing press.

    The major items concerned sin, sexual matters and need to conform to the Church’s authority in all things.

    What? Are you claiming that the Bible has been adulterated? Cite sources.

  • Adiutricem

    Well, let’s see that is only about a thousand years after the Gospels were set in their modern forms. Probably not the best time to introduce new things if one wanted it to be unnoticed.

  • Agent Provocateur21

    Dear Meena, if you truly believe the Holy Scriputre was edited wiht the birth of print, then I would encourage you to complete elementary school first and then come back again……

  • Meena

    Replying too to: “Agent Pro..21″ (there’s no need to be rude), and “Adiutricem”.

    This cropped up during a heated discussion with friends, some few years ago.

    Googleing “adulteration of the Bible” brings me 3,210,000 hits in 0.40 seconds, and I admit I have not processed all these data.

    In the meanwhile I’m happy to put the claim on the back-burner and to agree that it is at present unsubstantiated.
    I agree “Adiutricem” has a point about the  period of time – I have no wish to spread false allegations; heaven knows there’s more than enough solid material to consider.

  • Patrickhowes

    But is this a feminist issue or simply that we all can see that people are being turned in to commodoties?

  • Kevin

    “If you’re not a sex object you’re in trouble”

    I have never read Cosmopolitan but I get what is meant by the “Cosmo” media attitude.

    Young girls may be of the impression that “Cosmo” is right – bad girls do get all the attention – but this is a circular argument. Bad girls get the attention – from “Cosmo”.

    Without wishing to personalise matters, one may illustrate the point by looking at the example of female Olympic cyclists. Victoria Pendleton may be the one now pictured in a very revealing outfit in the “conservative” Telegraph, promoting a forthcoming TV appearance. I would venture to suggest, however, that Laura Trott is the one more fondly remembered.

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