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Should Cosmopolitan Magazine Be Censored?

The hot and flirty Cosmopolitan Magazine is taking some heat. And from their own blood.

Heiress to the Hearst millionaire family and company that publishes Cosmo, Victoria Hearst is on a divine mission to “get Cosmo out of the hands of children,” according to an interview she had with Media Ink in October.

Hearst and the National Center for Sexual Exploitation want to cover Cosmo’s cover lines because they find them “too sexy to be viewed by minors,” according to an article from the New York Post, and people are buying their argument. Walmart, Rite Aid and Food Lion now use blinders to cover Cosmo’s headlines—like they do for porn magazines.

Hearst has gone so far as to call the magazine “porn” and wants its cover shielded like every other pornographic magazine. However, this classification is not accurate, and some see it as unfair.

I don’t think it’s fair, especially when you think of actual porn and what it usually has in it: violence, misogyny, racism, and a lot of creepy infantilization aspects as well. I don’t think women talking about sex makes anything pornographic,” said Sara Wenger, co-President of Miami’s Feminists Working on Real Democracy (F-WORD).

Echoing what Wenger said, Journalism and Media Professor Howard Kleiman adds that Cosmo’s content doesn’t reach the level of obscenity equal to that of porn in any form of media.

“The legal definition of obscenity has nothing to do with violence or just nudity or some of the articles that Cosmo has,” said Kleiman. “It’s graphic sex. It’s not talking about sex, it’s showing it…. So whatever one’s opinion of Cosmo, it’s not obscene.”

Therefore, he said that what Cosmo publishes is protected speech. But protected speech or not, what Walmart and Rite Aid decide to do with Cosmo is fair game. Kleiman said that private companies like Walmart can censor Cosmo without running into legal rights because the First Amendment applies to government only—not to private entities.

“That wouldn’t be restricting their sales, that would just make it harder for kids to get their hands on it,” said Kleiman.

Although Hearst claimed that she is not trying to censor Cosmo or put it out of business when she spoke at a National Press Club press conference in April, she made some controversial statements in the very same breath:

“If I was queen of the Hearst Corporation, this magazine would no longer exist and the editor-in-chief and all the people there would be on unemployment,” said Hearst.

“Once people realize what Cosmo is really promoting, we expect that either sales will drop or Cosmo will be forced to change their course,” said Dawn Hawkins, executive director of NCSE and partner to Hearst in their crusade against Cosmo.

While Hearst and the NCSE consider their efforts virtuous and for the good of children, they have not pushed for censoring on other magazines that publish stories about sex, such as GQ and Men’s Health.

“I found it odd that someone would target Cosmopolitan for being too risqué when there are plenty of stereotypical men’s magazines that are much more degrading, sexist, and downright crude,” said Wenger.

Hearst’s claim to Media Ink that God told to her work to place Cosmo out of the hands of children is not the first episode of divine revelation. Hearst says that God also told her to move to Colorado to teach jazz dance where He also told her to buy a building to found a ministry that she now manages, according to an article from Fusion.

“I don’t think Demi Lovato talking about having her best sex ever makes anything wrong. I don’t think consensual sex should ever be seen as a bad thing,” said Wenger.


Tess is an Assistant Editor and Contributing Writer for Her Campus Miami (OH)
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