News & Runway

A Midwestern Supermarket Chain Is Taking “Pornographic” Cosmopolitan off Its Shelves

Cosmo's January 2017 cover; Image: Eric Ray Davidson/Cosmopolitan

Cosmo’s January 2017 cover; Image: Eric Ray Davidson/Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan’s cover call-outs usually follow a formula: one part racy, two parts extra cheesy. The current issue promises to help us better commune with our boobs or “what [our] breast friends need to be sexy, healthy & satisfied.” The edition also teases “next level sex” moves that only its editors know. (The writers of the Kama Sutra beg to differ.) Because of this “sexually explicit” and “pornographic” content, Indiana and Ohio-based supermarket chain Marsh Supermarkets has removed the glossy from its checkout shelves. (And not for the first time this year, civilization fell down a rung on the sexual liberation ladder.)

According to leadership officials at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the retailer made the call. “Marsh Supermarkets has cleaned up its checkout lanes,” Dawn Hawkins, executive director of the NCOSE, told WWD. “Marsh executives have implemented a new policy removing Cosmopolitan magazine from their checkout lane magazine stands. Further, within the magazine section of Marsh Supermarkets, Cosmo has been placed behind other magazines that act as blinders so that children and adults alike will not be unintentionally exposed to this sexually toxic magazine. By doing this, Marsh Supermarkets has displayed exemplary corporate responsibility and commitment to the dignity and well-being of its customers.”

However, a spokesperson for the Hearst-owned publication stated otherwise: “Yet another example of a fake news story perpetuated by a fringe special interest group, in this instance NCOSE. This decision was made by us — not the retailer — in August. It is not unusual for us to strategically shift where and how we display our product.”

While the idea of a magazine choosing to remove its product from stores shelves seems a little farfetched (and illogical), there’s another layer to the story. Victoria Hearst (sister of Patty, granddaughter of William Randolph) led the anti-Cosmo initiative. In fact, Victoria has made it her life’s work to fight against her family’s publication. A born-again Christian, she uses an inheritance made possible by her grandfather’s editorial empire to help fund the NCOSE. (It’s official. There’s one of them in every family.)

This isn’t the first time Victoria’s emerged victorious. In 2015, Victoria spearheaded a campaign that led Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Hannaford and Food Lion stores to shelve Cosmopolitan behind blinders so as not to tarnish the minds of innocent passers-by.

“While it may not have many nude pictures, this publication has steadily declined from a somewhat inspirational women’s magazine to a verbally pornographic ‘how-to’ sex guide,” said Hawkins of her and Hearst’s latest triumph. “It routinely encourages and instructs its young readership to engage in group, risky, and violent sex, and to actively seek out pornography. No child, or adult for that matter, should be forced to view this material while shopping for groceries. It’s time for other supermarkets to adopt Marsh’s Cosmo-free checkout.”

While we understand parents wanting to limit young children’s exposure to explicit sexual imagery, we’d hardly classify Cosmo as pornography. First, the magazine’s cover stars appear in outfits that are modest by today’s Kardashian-set standards. It’s language, while suggestive, is never crude. It repeatedly casts diverse models for its front page spreads and editorials, promoting a more inclusive definition of beauty. Perhaps most importantly, the magazine encourages women to embrace their sexual agency, a far more substantive message than the ones put forth by the ill-researched, irresponsibly titled gossip rags that usually pepper supermarket checkout stands.

Back in 2015, Cosmo editor-in-chief Joanna Coles had this to say of the censorship initiatives: “I have no time for a debate. I am too busy putting out a magazine and encouraging American women to have more and better orgasms.” Somewhere out there, Ray Bradbury and Virginia Johnson are nodding their heads in approval.

[ via WWD ]