My coworker grabbed my Cosmo at work and was reading it unironically. I don't think she understood why I kept babbling things like "you are a beautiful and complete human being just the way you are" to her.
On "KINKY SEX:"
The last thing you want is for your significant other to think you're actually sadistic.
Yeah, God forbid you actually be into anything you're doing here. Then again, in Cosmo, God kinda forbid you be into anything. It's not just fetishes but even preferences they seem to be interested in squashing--the idea of a woman having authentic desires of her own doesn't much enter into it.
Cosmo does acknowledge that women want sex and pleasure, which is a step up from a purely "ways to please your man" model, but it can't take the idea of female desire much further than that. Sex in Cosmoland is a strangely homogenous blend of things that can be sketchily claimed as "natural", things that are presumed to look "sexy" to straight men, and things that don't threaten to be "abnormal" as judged by a heterosexual cisgendered monogamous vanilla person who is in about ninth grade.
To be fair to Cosmo, to be actually sadistic, to take pleasure directly from another's pain, really would be a horrific thing in the absence of communication and specific explicit consent. And the thing I can't quote from this article--because it isn't there--is the part where they even touch on these concepts. This isn't an advanced-level feminist-theory deal here. This is "honey, it would turn me on so much to treat you a little rough in bed, and you can stop it at any time and you can tell me 'no' right now, but would you be willing to try that?" You can seriously get this going with one sentence.
The closest Cosmo gets is suggesting that you watch a music video with bondage themes and murmur that you think it's hot. But the final paragraph is this:
Or you could not say anything and leave a pair of handcuffs by the bed. "Pick up a pair that are furry or a bright color," says Kerner. "Those are obviously more playful and will signal that you're just looking to have fun. When your guy catches sight of them, trust us, one or both of you will be naked in no time."
I guess that is communication of a sort. But it's the sort that leaves a whole lot of questions open--Who's going to be wearing these? What's going to happen when they're on? What is the appeal of this for you? If he doesn't want to do this, are there other kinky things you could agree on?--and judging by the jump cut to "will be naked," I don't think you're ever expected to address these things explicitly. Sex just happens!
Man, you want to talk about "rape culture"? (I've been reading up on this and have a couple in-depth non-fisk posts coming on the subject. Despite the name, it's about a lot more than just rape.) The idea that "sex just happens" is a major aspect of rape culture. If what "just happens" with those handcuffs is he slaps them on you and throws you down and starts fucking you roughly, the line between "how spontaneous and passionate!" and "oh God this isn't what I wanted at all" is... murky.
How about "oh God this isn't what I wanted at all, but it's not like killing me and he seems into it and I don't want to start a lot of drama, so I'll think of England and hope he finishes up quick"? That's not exactly rape, but it's a close relative and sometimes precursor of rape, and at any rate it sure as hell isn't what sex should be.
Check out this ad for "imitation whipped cream flavor vodka." (Ew.) Because the only reason a man would be ironing is because he's (hilariously, unrealistically, unmanningly) doing what a woman wants! Not because, he, I dunno, owns clothing that needs ironing. Or even that he lives in a household where clothes need ironing, and he's a part of that household. And as usual, there's an anti-male message partnered with the anti-female one--not only are you supposed to think "normally he would have a woman do that for him!", you're also supposed to think "without a woman around he'd be too slovenly and undisciplined to do that himself!"
I do like the male flesh in the ad, though. The vast majority of the ads in Cosmo feature sexy women with the implication "don't you want to look like her?", so it's nice to see a little acknowledgement that men can also be looked at.
Q: Do guys have signs they look for to guess whether a girl's going to be good in bed?
A: Yes. The top sign is that she's crazy--getting into fights, being super jealous, and just doing insane stuff. Why? If a woman acts like a maniac in public, there's a good chance she'll be as unrestrained in public.
No, this isn't followed by a "but seriously now," it's followed by directives on how to be just crazy enough (tell a dirty joke or a story about skinny-dipping! but not skinny-dipping with a boy! I'm not making this up!) without scaring guys off.
(By being "crazy" and doing "insane" stuff I'm fairly sure he does not mean suffering from painful and confusing mood and thought distortions. But of course not. You know what I mean, just sort of like a mentally ill person.)
This isn't really about mental health, though. It's about Madonnas and whores. Either a girl is a nice person but boring in bed, or she's great in bed but barely housetrained. There's no concept that a person could have more than one side to them, much less that self-control and respect for boundaries actually can lead to better sex.
And when I say "better," I don't mean like "oh life partner, that was such a mutually fulfilling experience." I mean growling, hands-on-wrists, sloppy wet, violently orgasmic sex. Trust me here. This boundary shit ain't just homework. Because once you've gone through the process of discovering what isn't a boundary and what wouldn't scare your partner off, of building trust that you can go off the standard script without going out of control, of demonstrating that you'll still see your partner as a whole and dignified person no matter how filthy they get... you can go places that would never be possible if sex just happened. Ecstatic, fluid-spattered places.