A Spotlight on the Vagina, ONLY the Vagina

Posted: April 10, 2012 by lildanadoo in Uncategorized


I have never been a big fan of the magazine Cosmopolitan, because it disseminates sexist information that continues the heteronormative ideas of gender dichotomy. It seems as though every issue is a new way to “please your man.” The most recent, April 2012 issue is no different. Yet this time the article is titles: “The Thing He’s Dying to See During Sex” by Brittany Talarico. This article is all about a man’s lustful desire to view himself penetrating a woman. Talarico even goes so far as to give a detailed description of the best position to give him the premium view during sex.


This article, and the entire magazine, is directed at a heterosexual audience. Talarico presents herself as an authority revealing a universal truth. This standpoint in itself is very problematic. Her refusal to account for other sexualities reinforces the notion that other sexualities are deviant. Talarico assumes that she is addressing an exclusive heterosexual female audience, who is seeking to find the best possible method for pleasing their male partners. As an authoritative figure, Talarico fortifies the idea that sexual relationships are only for male pleasure. This problematic stance undermines a woman’s desire for sexual pleasure and reinforces normative gender roles.


Looking at the material present in the article impedes on the acceptance of women’s social advancement, which continues the ideas of placing sexual desires in a binary of normality and outlandishness. This article presents the act as mischievous which leads to being erotic: “…men get off on the fact it’s a dirty picture that’s out of the norm.” The language used supports the idea that the act of viewing one’s own body is a deviant act. This act is referred to in negative language several times throughout the article: in terms of “raw” which brings to mind a savagery associated with viewing one’s body. She also uses the terms: “shocking,” “dirty” and “taboo” which places this act outside of the “norm.” Using this language associates the act of gaining pleasure in one’s body as foreign which makes it exotic and erotic. The association with discovering pleasure in the exotic has been a long tradition, but even though the experience may be pleasurable it is still considered abnormal. 


The standpoint of the article places sex as for man’s pleasure. The article reports that the act of a man watching himself penetrate a woman “…taps into a guy’s craving for sexual power.” The focus is on the man craving a woman; as though this is his need that she needs to satisfy. Talarico assumes that women are confined to the gendered role of the feminine female. Almost as an afterthought at the end of the article Talarico adds: “And why not take a peek at the action for yourself when the position allows? [my emphasis] Who knows, it might give you just as much of an erotic rush as it gives your guy.” This statement places women in the role of only giving pleasure and maybe if his positioning allows for her to “take a peek” she may also find some enjoyment herself. The language of “peeking” for her, and giving him the “clear shot of the real action” reveals the socially constructed gender roles just in how one can observe their body. It is shocking that a magazine intended for women, does not view female sexuality as a priority.


The article gives a detailed description of how to perform the act for his optimal vantage point:

If you want to be in control, straddle him on top, lean back, and rest your hands on his upper thighs. This will open your pelvic area so you’re fully exposed to him… Want him in charge? Have him take you from behind, then put your head down toward the bed- it angles your body in a way that allows him to look down easily…

This description constructs the sexual act in terms of power and control. It also gives the woman a false sense of “having control.” The entire sexual position is for his benefit and the control or power is only “who is on top.” By using this language, Talarico highlights the gendered binary, which views men as superior and ultimately women as inferior making their desire secondary. The description of the woman in a position of control sounds more like a balancing act and disregards the woman’s comfort level. Yet again, this places all the focus on his sexual pleasure instead of mutual pleasure. This power construction is also made clear in the previous quote about a man’s need and craving for “sexual power.” The notion that a man needs sexuality and craves it, reinforces the notions of masculine gender roles.


I was not surprised by the articles I found in the Cosmopolitan magazine, yet I am still disgusted with the blasé reinforcement of socially constructed gender roles. The article is featured in the Lust section of the magazine which is introduced by a survey titled: “His 50 Wildest Sex Secrets Revealed” which is an interview of over 1,000 heterosexual men  that gives a detailed description of their favorite positions, duration of each position and a various sexual preferences. Directly following this interview is Talarico’s article. The entire section on lust focuses on a man’s desires, even though the magazine is aimed at women. You would think there would be something about the issues women are having in the bedroom, or how to vocalize those issues. But no, the only information given is how to give him the best experience ever. Why do you think that in a magazine such as this, that women’s sexual pleasure is a topic that is completely dismissed? I think that we all know that a woman can gain just as much pleasure from sex as a man can, so why is that not recognized? Is it because it would be considered not feminine to express those desires? Or is there a deeper issue here?

  1. mollygdw says:

    This is an interesting analysis, and such a perfect magazine to draw your topic from! In response to your question, I think the topic of women’s sexual pleasure actually isn’t completely dismissed, but rather, it’s twisted around and projected as the same as heterosexual male pleasure. In other words, magazines like Cosmopolitan seem to be constantly telling us that women’s sexual pleasure=men’s sexual pleasure (And if it doesn’t, there’s something wrong with us, and we must continue to purchase Cosmopolitan until we can fix OUR problem!). I think that the true diversity of women’s sexualities being ignored in women’s magazines and deemed “unfeminine” keeps women’s sexual options limited to men in the attempt to deter women from seeking sexual pleasure and/or companionship elsewhere. This ultimately ensures women’s sexual dependency on men, and men’s constant access to women’s bodies.
    Your blog entry definitely got me wondering about what it really means to be a ‘women’s magazine’. Someone should definitely create a magazine that actually addresses ALL of women’s diverse sexualities! That would be so cool. Could you imagine if the detailed description quotation that you included was altered to reflect other kinds of female sexuality– lesbian sexuality, for instance?
    Oh, and I love the last photo you included!
    And sorry for such a long fucking comment! 🙂

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