A few months ago, Edith Zimmerman embedded herself in the annual meeting of the higher-ups at Cosmopolitan. I skimmed her report, and this is what I can tell you:
• If the readership of Cosmopolitan united, they'd be the twelfth biggest country in the world.
• There's something they all call "Big Cosmo"
• There are odd but striking parallels to the Gathering of the Juggalos.
Sounds like a stretch? Hear me out. Are both unhinged devotees of a frightening yet unignorable pop-culture phenomenon? Yes. Intense makeup? A proselytizing doctrine of self-acceptance that outsiders find absurd? Yes and yes. Weird words for "vagina?" Yes ("vajayjay," and "neden," respectively). Oh, and in the history of Nerve, there are two known mentions of having sex with food: one, when we were writing about Cosmo, and two, when we interviewed a bunch of Juggalos.
Let's recap. Edith Zimmerman: quality journalist. Cosmopolitan: a giant international gang that's probably run by ICP. Inspired, I spent a good part of Thanksgiving weekend reading all the international editions available to me. And I learned a great many things. Celebrity culture is a lot more homogenous than you'd hope. People in Kazakhstan like to read interviews with the stars of Glee just as much as we do. (Only there, the show's title translates to "A conquerable amount of sadness.") Editors still insist on proclaiming that one color is "the new other color."
Sex, though. We're here to talk about sex. And in the international Cosmo spectrum, there's a wide range from predictably batshit to (shocking twist) surprisingly reasonable.
Cosmo Australia is currently featuring "The A-Z to of Orgasms." And… Australia seems great. Next to the sexy-crazy nonsense in U.S. Cosmo ("Lick his eyelids. Blow."), their edition has advice that sounds fun — like something you'd like to try, not something that might injure you.
Pros: An interesting set of tips on how to have a quickie where the woman gets off. Lots of masturbation, sex toys, fight-for-your-right-to-come-like-a-rocket stuff. No down-under jokes, "eh, mates," or dingoes stealing babies.
Cons: No down-under jokes, "eh, mates," or dingoes stealing babies. Seems like a missed opportunity. The most obnoxious bit of this whole piece is that they recommend sex with socks on, but even then, they're cute about it.
Maybe Cosmo gets more ridiculous in more repressed countries. That's certainly backed up by the gap between the relatively sane Australian edition and the British version, in which there's some serious tomfoolery afoot, guv'nor:
Choose a restaurant that has long tablecloths, unzip him, and deliver a discreet but delicious mini-handjob (minus the happy ending, obviously).
Strange but true: mini things can often be more awesome than their large counterparts. Like cupcakes (a straight frosting-to-cake ratio game) or magical helpers. Not handjobs, though. But more importantly, people work in restaurants (which makes this sexual harassment — the bad kind, not the fun kind). And also, you're reading a magazine that thinks you need to be reminded that it's impolite to ejaculate on the tablecloth.
Snog him sexily in front of his friends: Makes him look and feel like a Rock God, and his friends see how much you want him.
Alternative interpretation: this makes your friends uncomfortable and you and your boyfriend look like eighth graders. Oh, and "snogging sexily" is an oxymoron. Like, "Ask him, sexily, if he'd like to eat the giblet."
Use a Polaroid to take up-close-and-personals. And I mean up close. (To us, it's not pretty; to him, it's an oil painting.) Tape one of the photos to the bathroom mirror as he's having a shower and then wait for him in the most brazen pose you can live with.
There's a particular kind of insanity that Cosmo espouses that's not just crazy, it's premeditated. And craftsy. ("Mrs. Havisham, isn't it true that you not only obtained the gun days before the murder, but also spent nearly twelve hours affixing rhinestones to the barrel?") Which is to say, this might be fun, spontaneously. But when you find yourself obtaining a Polaroid camera, taking some selfies, and then hiding until he showers so you can tape them to the goddamn mirror… you might not need a sex-life. You might need a hobby.
Next stop: Cosmo en español — an umbrella site for the Spanish-speaking U.S. Spanish is the only foreign language I can read enough to do this, so we're stuck. (I do speak a little Chinese, but not enough to tell if Cosmo China actually wants you to fuck a soup dumpling or if I just need a vocab refresher.) I owe Cosmo en español for this useful knowledge: the Spanish-language version of Twilight is called Crepúsculo. That's just one key part of an article about Twilight-inspired sex moves.
Busca una cascada cerca, lleva a tu chico, quítense la ropa y láncense al agua… La pasión pondrá a hervir el agua.
That's "Find a waterfall, get your guy, take of your clothes and jump into the water… The passion will make the water boil." (It's simple! Find a waterfall!) On the other hand, some tips are more managable:
No necesitan estar en una isla paradisiaca para reproducir la luna de miel de los Cullen-Swan. Con un poco de encaje revelador, tu alcoba puede tomar otra dimensión.
"You don't need a paradise island to reproduce the Cullen-Swan honeymoon. With a little lace, your bedroom can take on a new dimension." Wear lace and have sex. Can't argue with that.
NEXT: Sassy tips from Cosmo India.
India gives us this "How to make a man do anything" list, which proves that standard, overbearing Cosmo fare plays even in the Subcontinent.
Ask your man for career advice 'for a friend' — about a spookily similar situation to his own. It will open up a conversation about what he wants from his job, and he will come up with a smarter strategy. You won't be pressurising him, plus he'll hatch a more creative plan than if he knew he was talking about himself.
Or he'll notice the "spooky similarities " and say "If I were that guy, the first thing I'd do is yell at my crazy, passive-aggressive girlfriend." And as international arbiters, we'd have no choice but to say "touché."
Studies have found that putting a man in a vulnerable position instantly makes his date seem more attractive, and overcoming a stressful situation together makes you closer — how about a date-night horror film?
If for some reason, true love doesn't result from a scary movie, try anything else Cosmo has ever recommended. You'll have all the "stressful situations" you could ever need.
Yes, this is different from Cosmo en español. Apparently a statistically significant percentage of U.S. Latina women want to read a version of Cosmo tailored to Hispanic sensibilities, but not in Spanish. All this, and poor Canada doesn't even get one version of Cosmo, though their sex researchers do seem to get cited frequently in Cosmo USA. (Towards the end of those sex-tip omnibuses, you start to get weird Canadian sex advice: "Justin* says he loves it when your bare breasts smell like alfalfa. *Names have been changed because some of the participants are reindeer.")
So how does the non-Spanish-Spanish Cosmo apply just the right amount of sabor latino? Let's take a look.
According to The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, the smell of pumpkin pie was found to be the most arousing scent to men. To get him where you want him, pronto, light calabaza candles, or consider whipping up pumpkin empanadas or pancakes — just add canned pumpkin and cinnamon to your batter. Make them in a cute apron and nothing else, and serve in bed.
They did a good job making this sex tip — which you may recognize from every list they've ever written — relevant for Latinas. By using the Spanish word for pumpkin. But the problem is the same in any language: if you have to "whip up" pumpkin pancakes to initiate sex, your problems are too big to be solved by a fucking gourd.
Play footsie under the table (or grab his package if you're feeling extra sucia), twirl your hair, bat your eyes and laugh at everything he says. He will be putty in your manos!
Dignity, ladies. Try to live with dignity. Dig-ni-dad. Or, fuck it. Twirl your hair, laugh constantly, and go for the restaurant dick-grab. Believe it or not, that might make you seem insane. ("Loca.")
Let's end on a high note. Spain's great. Their tips on how to up your libido don't involve any socks or eating strange foods (but rather, actual sex-things) and their gallery of sex-tip positions has all this sweet pop art. No tengo complaints, as Cosmo Latina might say. But also, no tengo further international issues of Cosmo to review. If you've ever had an unfortunate yak's-milk incident after a brush with Cosmo Mongolia, let us know in the comments. And also, shame on you.