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Are Cosmopolitan Magazine’s Covers Too Racy?

A group known as the National Center on Exploitation (NCSE) is making news for its “Cosmo Harms Minors” campaign. The campaign against Cosmopolitan magazine was launched in 2013, when the NCSE included the publication in a ‘Dirty Dozen List,’ which names “the top twelve organizations contributing to sexual exploitation.” Cosmo is listed among the American Library Association, the Department of Justice, Facebook, Verizon and others.

The NCSE argues that Cosmopolitan is a pornographic magazine that “glamorizes things like public, anal, group, or violent sex in nearly all of their issues.” The group wants the publication to be sold to adults only, as well as have the cover wrapped like other porn magazines are. Three retailers—Walmart, Rite Aid, and Delhaize America (which owns Hannaford stores and Food Lion)—announced that they will be putting Cosmo behind blinders in all of their locations.

The model on the front cover will not be obscured, nor will the banner across the top that reads Cosmopolitan. A U-shaped plastic blinder will hide the headlines around the outside of the magazine, which often include words such as “sex” and “orgasm.”

Dawn Hawkins, the executive director of the NCSE, addressed the news by saying, “We hope that covering it sends the message to shoppers that Cosmo is not a women’s friendly magazine, but that it really is pushing women to accept the pornified and sexually violent culture around us. Once people realize what Cosmo is really promoting, we expect that either sales will drop or Cosmo will be forced to change their course.”

The granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, who founded Hearst Corporation—the publisher of Cosmopolitan—is Victoria Hearst. She is a partner of the “Cosmo Harms Minors” campaign, and is actively speaking out against the magazine.

Cosmo responded with this quote: “Cosmopolitan is the most successful global media brand for young women, publishing 60 editions in 79 countries and 32 languages. Its award-winning content is produced for adults by leading female journalists. We are proud of all that the brand has achieved for women around the world in the areas of health, relationships, career, politics, equality and social issues.”

The September issue of Cosmo features Demi Lovato on the cover, and none of the headlines even mention the word “sex.”

Demi spoke out on social media, saying:



A photo posted by Demi Lovato (@ddlovato) on

Women should be proud of their bodies and confident about their sexuality. We are entitled to safely explore these things without judgment. Cosmo aims to empower females everywhere—socially, in the workplace and yes, in the bedroom. Shaming us for embracing this fact is unnecessary, not to mention degrading.

Cosmopolitan magazine is not marketed toward children. It is a publication for young adult women. Articles are intended to inform and advise on various topics, not to encourage or push anyone into doing something she is not comfortable with. We are all capable of making our own decisions, and a magazine is not going to change that fact. Censorship of this kind of material is not where the focus should be. In fact, educating women on sex is exactly what does need to happen. And who says we can’t have a little fun in the process?

Jamie is a senior Writing, Literature and Publishing major at Emerson College in Boston, MA. She is the Her Campus Life Editor, a National Contributing Writer, and Campus Correspondent of the Emerson Her Campus chapter. Jamie plans to pursue a career in the magazine industry. See more of her work at: www.jamiemkravitz.com
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