The four prompts are 1) Sex headline 2) Smiling face showing approval of sex 3) A desirable bust-line 4) Second sex headline. . . .You should read the whole thing. (H/T: Conservative Grapevine.)
These four prompts are enough to make your subconscious feel healthy, attractive and sexual - just like the girl on the cover. Cosmo found that they sold the most magazines by taking advantage of the natural eye pattern your eyes take accross a magazine cover and putting these four prompts in their path.
It must be noted that Sauders is a self-made "expert" on seduction, which will cause a lot of female readers to snort in derision. But since this is National Offend A Feminist Week, his article offers a good talking-point to discuss the degree to which "feminism" is an ideology advanced via brainwashing and propaganda methods.
My grievance against Cosmo (and Glamour, etc.) is one of long standing. In 2000, I wrote a Washington Times column about it:
It seems impossible to go through a supermarket checkout line without being confronted by magazine covers like the January 2000 Cosmopolitan, offering "Sex Tricks Only Cosmo Would Know: 20 Earth-Quaking Moves That Will Make Him Plead for Mercy -- and Beg for More."And you can read the whole thing, if you'd like. Having been excoriated recently for criticizing Carrie Prejean's decision to get breast implants, and having long baffled female readers by my relentless jihad against feminism, this is as good a time as any to point out what should have been obvious: I hate feminism, I hate breast implants, and I hate Cosmo for the same reason -- because I love women and want them to be happy.
The Kroger grocery chain has, thankfully, decided to install racks that conceal such lurid stuff from general viewing. Perhaps someday it will be safe again to take our daughters to the grocery store.
What is the point of schools and parents telling girls that they can be valued for their character, their intellectual abilities and their personal achievements, when the newsstands are full of magazines displaying near-naked supermodels and telling girls that their true worth is their ability to master "earth-quaking moves"?
Scarcely had my daughter learned to read than I found myself troubled by what she was seeing on women's magazine covers at the checkout lines. A child with a knowledge of phonics can figure out what "s-e-x" spells and -- according to Cosmo, Glamour and the other major women's magazines -- "s-e-x" and "d-i-e-t" are the most important things in a woman's life. . . .
You cannot have a happy life built on lies, and Cosmo is selling you lies. People want to give me a hard time because I occasionally blog about boobies, but my readership averages about 6,000 visits a day. If my readers are not all adults, they are at least old enough to operate a computer and care about politics. Whereas Cosmo's leering come-ons are displayed on thousands of magazine racks all over the country and, as Sauder says, they reach a readership of some 39 million women.
Cosmo sells a lie, namely that sex and beauty are the sum of a woman's value. And this evil propaganda is conveyed effectively (that is to say, women accept the lie) because of the perception that this is "woman to woman," that these messages are being related by other women -- and glamorous, sophisticated women, at that.
There is a basic factor of communications psychology called the "halo effect." If someone has certain attributes that you consider positive, you will tend to generalize this into an overall positive perception about that person, often giving them credit for personal qualities like being smart, kind, honest -- attributes for which you have no direct evidence at all.
Parable of the Glen-Plaid Suit
Being physically attractive is one of the most powerful factors in the "halo effect," which is why magazine ads feature attractive models. The positive perception created by the model's good looks is psychologically transferred -- generalized -- to the manufacturer's product. Let me tell you the story about my glen-plaid suit.
Back in the day, after I'd graduated college and was a bachelor on the hunt, I was something of a clothes horse. I had always desired to be a well-dressed man -- to look sharp -- but now I had a little more disposable income to devote to fashion than I'd ever had before.
GQ and Esquire were required monthly reading for me. In the summer of 1986, you might have seen me bopping around Atlanta in robin's-egg blue slacks (triple-pleated, cuffed), a pleated-front pink tuxedo shirt, a robin's-egg blue bowtie, and a sport coat that was striped in pink, robin's-egg blue and white. (I'd bought the coat first, then bought the rest of my ensemble to match.) Buddy, I was styling, and the ladies loved it.
So, one day I saw a fashion layout in GQ featuring a guy in a double-breasted gray glen-plaid suit, wearing a red bow tie. Man, that dude looked sharp. I resolved that on the next payday, I'd get me one of those suits and a red bow tie like that. So I did, and got myself slicked up for a night on the town with my buds. And when I showed up at the club, one of my buddies said: "Look, it's Pee-Wee Herman!"
Indeed, this was exactly the wardrobe that the absurdist comedian Pee-Wee Herman had made his trademark. But I hadn't been thinking about that. I had been looking at that ruggedly handsome model in the magazine -- briefcase in hand, standing with Manhattan skyscrapers in the background, the very epitome of a smart young businessman. But I was not a ruggedly handsome model and this was not Manhattan.
The money I'd spent on that suit had been spent in an attempt to purchase the perception conveyed by the magazine display. I wanted to feel like a smart young businessman. I wanted to look ruggedly handsome. But this suit did not magically transform me. I was still the same goofy guy I'd been before I bought the suit, and even goofier for inadvertantly dressing like Pee-Wee Herman.
Well, the money wasn't entirely wasted. I seldom wore that suit again, but I'd learned a valuable lesson.
Marketing and Manipulation
One of the fundamentals of marketing psychology is the concept of how role models affect our perceptions. Because of the "halo effect," we have positive reactions to attractive people, but we have the strongest positive reactions to attractive people who resemble us in some way. Such people can be said to represent our idealized perception of ourselves.
Thus, the smiling woman on the Cosmo cover represents an ideal -- she is what women want to be, the aspirational self. And Cosmo uses this aspirational self to tell women that diet, fashion and sex -- sex! sex! sex! -- are the secrets of happiness. Oh, one other secret: Buying the products advertised in Cosmo.
William F. Buckley Jr. said that the hallmark of successful indoctrination is that the subject doesn't realize he's been indoctrinated. In fact, if you try to tell him he has been indoctrinated, if you point out the means and methods of his indoctrination, and cite evidence of the fallacious nature of his ideas, the indoctrinee will become angry. He will not only defend the indoctrinated beliefs as self-evidently true, but he will vehemently insist that he arrived at these beliefs by independent thought.
So it is with the 20-something "Cosmo girl," who has been reading these trashy magazines every month since she was in middle school. She has a closet full of clothes and 42 pairs of shoes. She has enough cosmetics to equip the road company of Les Miserables for their North American tour. She has mastered every one of the "99 Sure-Fire Sex Secrets" and has been through two dozen boyfriends.
And she is desperately unhappy.
By the time the "Cosmo girl" has been consuming this propaganda for a good 10 years, complete de-indoctrination is almost impossible. She has internalized the belief system so deeply that it has become part of her identity. She will interpret criticism of her Cosmo beliefs as a personal attack. To question whether her mastery of "Earth-Quaking Moves" is beneficial or necessary is to criticize who she is.
Debunking the sexual mythology of Cosmo is as simple as getting a guy to talk honestly about women. Back in the day when I was sporting around in my pink-and-blue sport coat, a stylin' babe-magnet with the cool Patrick Swayze mullet and the lean, tanned Speedo-worthy physique, I was scarcely an exemplar of the Christian ideal of chastity. Or any other Christian ideal, for that matter. (Hey, I was also a Democrat back then.)
Let us ask this question, then: When a young man is out there on the hunt, looking to "score," how does he evaluate his conquests? That is to say, what is it about the chick he picks up that makes him want to brag about it the next day, and perhaps call the chick for another date?
Two things: Looks and enthusiasm.
The first factor is obvious enough. Among his various conquests, the fellow who rides the romantic rodeo circuit will tend to have the most favorable opinion of the drop-dead beauty with the bitchin' bod. That's just how guys are. But the stuff that Cosmo is selling -- the clothes, the shoes, the jewelry, the cosmetics -- has very little impact on this evaluation. Ask any guy.
A really sexy girl is sexy even when she's in sweats and an oversized T-shirt, shopping for groceries. And women's near-universal embrace of the cosmetics/fashion industry is kind of like escalation in the Cold War arms race: At some point, everybody's got enough nukes to destroy the entire planet, and the argument for additional nukes is attenuated by the problem of diminishing returns. If every girl's made-up like a fashion model, a little extra skill in applying make-up isn't really going to gain you any advantage.
Somewhere in Pennsylvania today, there is at least one beautiful 19-year-old Amish girl who has never worn make-up, never worked out in a gym, never read Cosmo. And that girl, in her homemade plain dress, is more truly beautiful than any of the styled-up, decked-out hotties hanging around the most fashionable nightspot in Hollywood. Like I said, ask any guy.So much for looks. Ceteris paribus, the better-looking girl is the more desireable pickup, the one the guy will brag about and ask for a second date. However, what about the sex itself? It may be -- consider this a hypothetical, if you wish -- that a young man on the prowl will score with lots of good-looking girls over the course of his prowling. Insofar as the performance of the sex act itself makes any difference in his evaluation of his conquests, what is the key factor?
Enthusiasm. The guy likes the girl who is not only "into" sex, but is evidently and unabashedly "into" him. She's kissing him passionately, can't keep her hands off him, she's saying his name and telling him how crazy she is about him and -- Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh yes! Yes! YES!
And here, ladies, is exposed the cruel lie of all those "sex secrets" they push in Cosmo. They want you to believe that a guy will evaluate you, sexually, based on your mastery of specific sexual techniques.
Think about this for a minute, ladies. However limited or extensive your sexual experience with men, ask yourself: Is a guy's workmanlike mastery of sexual technique really what turns you on?
Of course not. If a guy is really "into" you -- that is to say, if he has the necessary sexual enthusiasm -- he'll eventually figure out what you like. That eager-to-please attitude where you are so crazy about your partner that you're actually asking them what they like, and doing it exactly the way they like it -- it's that fundamental enthusiasm, you see, that makes all the difference in the world. Ask any woman.
But don't let the ladies kid you, guys. Being tall, handsome, muscular and wealthy kind of helps, too. The Pee-Wee Herman suit has nothing to do with it.
The Myth of 'Sex Ed'
What this all means is that, even if a woman's desire is to "spread it around" and be that chick that guys pick up in bars, Cosmo doesn't tell her anything useful. Reading "sex secrets" in Cosmo is not going to make you more erotically attractive, or make your sexual performance more memorable. The idea of sexual "success" as being a function of technical expertise is a myth and a lie.
This relates to my disagreement with the proponents of "sex education." It is a remarkable thing that mankind has, through sexual reproduction, flourished to the tune of 6 billion people on the planet and yet "sex education" wasn't invented until the 20th century. If you buy into the sex-ed mentality, this means that for at least 92% of recorded human history, people had no clue what they were doing.
Furthermore, the sex-ed proponents would have us believe, unless sex is taught to children in classrooms -- in a government school by a government-certified teacher using government-approved curricula -- there is no possibility that kids will ever learn the basics of sex.
That these assertions of the sex-ed enthusiasts are self-evidently untrue. Sex is not rocket science or brain surgery, and untutored human beings have throughout history figured out the basic "Insert Tab A into Slot B" of sexuality without textbooks or classroom instruction. Three random thoughts:
- Given the alarming failure of the government education system to teach math and reading, what kind of fool would trust a public-school teacher to instruct his children about sex? (Hello, Mary Kay LeTourneau!)
- In the information age, surely mere facts and data about sex is not hard to find. But the religion of Educationism is based on the false belief that no one can learn anything without going to school to learn it. (Fact: Jimi Hendrix never took a single guitar lesson.)
- What is the real value of knowing the Latin names of the genitalia? Never let it be said that public schools no longer teach Latin -- every sixth-grader in America is now required to memorize such terms as labia, clitoris, urethra and vas deferens, and to identify these items correctly on an anatomical chart.
Insightful readers immediately recognize the connection between sex-ed in schools and Cosmo on the magazine stand. Not only are they are both promoting the same ideology, but perhaps more importantly, they are promoting the same attitude. This attitude -- of sex as a matter of technique to be studied and mastered, in which a superiority of knowledge and skill is the ultimate objective -- is central to the sexual worldview into which the elite desire to indoctrinate the masses. And it is a monstrous lie.
Whether in gushy Cosmo "sex secrets" features or in the Educationist terminology of a middle-school sex-ed textbook, this attitude toward sex presumes that all sexual problems are the result of a lack of information. If you're not getting off, or if your partner is not getting off, or if you're both getting off but neither one of you is really happy, then what you need is more data.My goodness, what did people do in the Dark Ages, before every middle-school child was required to study anatomical cross-section diagrams of the pelvis, learning to identify (by the proper medical terms) the prostate gland and the uterus? Pity poor Romeo and Juliet, who knew not the joy of the anatomical cross-section!
American young people today have more sexual information than at least 90 percent of the human beings who ever lived. Yet out-of-wedlock births, abortions, sexually-transmitted diseases and divorce are more rampant than ever. Somehow studying those cross-section charts, memorizing the Latin names of the genitalia and practicing how to put a condom on a banana have not prevented the skyrocketing levels of romantic misery.
We don't suffer from lack of information. Instead, we suffer from a lack of virtue.
Good luck trying to locate "virtue" on the anatomical charts. God knows you won't find it in Cosmo.
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Well, I've been working on this for few hours and have reached a stopping point, but not the end point I had in mind when I started writing. If you'd like me to finish out this essay, just leave a comment, sharing your thoughts and requesting more, and I'll come back and write more. But first, I need a nap. Ah, the joys of blogging. (Please hit the tip jar!)
And to Cassandra, in the famous words of Ulysses S. Grant: "I intend to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer."
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The comments -- and correction, thank you -- are piling up, leading to the conclusion that I must lead on to the conclusion of the matter. Thanks to the commenter who pointed out that when, in May 1864, Grant vowed to "fight it out . . . if it takes all summer," he actually ended up fighting nearly another 11 months. And, in fact, he did not continue fighting on the same line, but maneuvered to his left in the famous campaign that brought him finally to besiege Lee's army at Petersburg.
Yet it was his dogged determination, his unrelenting commitment to take the fight to the foe, that made Grant victorious. "I cannot spare this man. He fights," Lincoln said and, while I am not in the habit of quoting Lincoln to make a point, in this he was entirely right.
Having had (not much of) a nap, I now remind you that we began this examination of The Cosmo Syndrome with a mention that it is National Offend A Feminist Week. I have found myself recently chastised for (a) criticizing Carrie Prejean for having breast implants, and (b) employing the words "slut" and "whore." Ah, nothing gets 'em like plain English, eh? Well, then -- forward!
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Virtue, Vice and 'Civility'
Virtue shiould always be praised, never derogated or dimissed as irrelevant. Virtue may be its own reward, but the natural human desire for esteem in society provides an incentive toward virtuous behavior, at least insofar as society esteems virtue.
When we praise the courage of heroes -- the firefighters who went into the inferno of the WTC on 9/11, for example -- we thus incite others to emulate such brave men, in the expectation that they might also merit praise. If we praise diligence and honesty, we likewise encourage people to be diligent and honest. Whatever society esteems, whatever is commonly praised and celebrated, it enshrines as a goal that attracts the eyes of the young and ambitious.
By the same principle, vice should always be condemned. Deceit, sloth, cowardice -- if such traits and behaviors do not elicit scorn from society, if we tolerate and refuse to be "judgmental" about vice, then we may expect vice to flourish. Think about the "gangsta" rap culture, with its celebration of violent drug dealers and pimps, its lyrics boasting of drive-by shootings and rape, its costumes of garish "bling" -- Bill Cosby is surely right that this perverse phenomenon has badly damaged the black community.
"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil . . ."To celebrate vice, to mock virtue -- these are cursed behaviors. And thus we must recall our discussion of Jessica Valenti, the feminist whose book is called The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women.
-- Isaiah 5:20, KJV
Is chastity not a virtue? Premarital chastity is the dress rehearsal for the main performance that is marital fidelity. It is a natural presumption (though one seldom voiced in our increasingly unnatural society) that the ability to restrain one's passions in youth -- to resist temptation -- would be a reliable predictor of the ability to be faithful in maturity. We might further reflect that habit is a great force in human behavior and that the habit of adventurously sleeping around, acquired early in life, would later make it difficult to adjust to the monogamous routine of marriage.
These are not merely philosophical speculations, but sociological fact that can be teased out of the available data if one is statistically minded. However, I need neither statistics or philosophy to know the truth, because I am a fool.
"Experience is a hard school, but a fool will learn in no other."Yesterday, in mock-Victorian mode, I declared that "years of youthful association with companions of low character have irretrievably corrupted me, rendering me permanently unfit for polite society." You see, I had been condemned for demonstrating a lack of "civility" in my description of Valenti's philosophy:
-- Benjamin Franklin
A perverse non-judgmentalism, that refuses to praise virtue or condemn vice, is moral nihilism. Valenti goes beyond this, to celebrate whoredom and condemn chastity.If that was uncivil, what would they say if I started telling tales of my own experiences, about the things a young rebel does, and the things he sees, when he's riding on that Highway to Hell? And if, by grace, I somehow managed to survive the ride, is it not my obligation to the memories of those who died on that road, to warn others against taking that wrong turn? If I see others making the same mistakes I made, or the mistakes that led others to an early grave, shouldn't I tell them to turn back before it's too late?
What a strange conception of "civility," that would rob civilization of its natural defense, the social disapproval that is rightly heaped upon the coward, the liar, the sluggard, the whore. In the name of "civility," we are supposed to allow Jessica Valenti to argue that chastity is a "myth" without fear of rebuke, lest we damage the fragile self-esteem of tramps, floozies and strumpets!
Next thing you know, your daughter will encounter some clever user -- perhaps a practiced player of Dylan Sauders' "game" -- who'll spring "the Cosmo routine" on her, and you may be sure that the upshot of this experience won't be an increase in her self-esteem. Do you really think that Valenti and Sauders and the editors of Cosmo, who preach a religion of unabashed promiscuity, deserve to be protected by the cloak of "civility"?
Cosmo is read by 39 million women and Valenti promotes her book on the "Today" show, but somehow my right-wing "incivility" is the real menace? Come now, Cassandra -- whatever my faults and failures, I think you're taking aim at the wrong target.
It's National Offend A Feminist Week, you see, and the ridiculous insistence that no man should be permitted to call a slut a slut is a byproduct of feminist ideology. It's all about The Sisterhood, an Us-vs.-Them mentality in which even conservative women are supposed to align themselves in sheltering Jessica Valenti from the thorough condemnation she deserves.
Remember what Buckley said about successful indoctrination? Conservatives who instinctively invoke feminist concepts -- e.g., non-judgmentalism toward promiscuity -- might want to contemplate Buckley's observation in silence, and stop superficially criticizing those of us who have already spent many years examining the ideological infrastructure of the Left. Just because you don't know what I'm doing doesn't mean that I don't know what I'm doing.
And if anybody wants to hit the tip jar, now would be a good time to do it. Being "openly shameless" can be a tough row to hoe.
No pun intended.