Do you think headlines promoting sex are too explicit for the checkout line? Do you think such messages are inappropriate for kids to see? Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media (MIM), certainly thinks so. Childrens Express interviewed Peters about his organization's mission to get supermarkets to limit the open display of Cosmopolitan magazine.

MIM is an interfaith, not-for-profit organization that aims to make sure obscenity laws are enforced at the federal and state level. Mostly the New York-based organization has focused on trying to limit the availability of hardcore pornography. Over the past year, MIM has sent letters to supermarket CEOs around the country, asking them to consider covering up Cosmopolitan covers with a blinder rack at the checkout counter or move the magazines somewhere else in the store so that kids and people who don't want to be exposed to the racy headlines aren't. Since MIM has historically focused on items they consider pornography, CE asked Peters if "pornographic" is how he would describe Cosmopolitan. "I think the broad definition would include some of the articles in Cosmopolitan. If you read them, they are most surely sexually explicit, and they are, in my opinion, intended to arouse. One of the keys of pornography is prurience, a purposeful appeal to lust. That's what pornography does."
But MIM wasn't asking supermarkets to get rid of the Cosmopolitan articles, just to cover up the headlines. "I would describe them more as indecent, some crossing into the area of lewdness. But the headlines are advertising articles that are explicit enough and racy enough to fall within a broad definition of pornography," said Peters. Peters explained they launched their campaign to get supermarkets to cover up the magazine because they received many letters complaining about Cosmopolitan's raunchy cover headlines advertising articles about sex. The organization itself is very small--it has a mailing list of 15,000 people and only a handful of people in a cluttered office--but Peters said they receive many letters, on this matter mostly from parents. Young people, they felt, should not be exposed to Cosmopolitan covers. "Parents are going through the checkout line, and they really don't want their kids looking over and saying 'Mommy what does that mean?'" Peter said. He said he did not receive any complaints from kids. As Peters went on, we noticed most of the worries he cited for how Cosmopolitan might negatively influence young people focused on the inside content and not the cover. He described the articles as "racy enough to fall within the
broad definition of pornography," and he thought they might be bad for young women who think they have to follow the magazine's sex advice to be popular. He went so far as to say the magazine gives a social message that is just as bad as Playboy's. "If men can be sexually active like a bunch of rabbits in the field, so can young women. That's the message of Cosmopolitan. Why would anyone say that's a good message for [kids and teenagers]?" Peters said feminists, as well as parents, had written to him with concerns about the information Cosmopolitan provides for young women. If the content is so offensive, then why is Peters and his organization focused only on the magazine's cover? "We decided this was the most reasonable approach to the problem--where we'd have the best chance of success," he said, adding that MIM isn't forcing anyone to do anything. Peters said he didn't like the magazine and would be "delighted to hear every supermarket in America no longer carried it." So far, Kroger supermarkets headquartered in Cincinnati have covered up their Cosmopolitans with blinder racks.
MIM also has problems with Glamour and Redbook--magazines Peters said try to imitate Cosmopolitan--but so far no one has covered up those. If people want to hide Cosmopolitan from prying eyes, we think they can, but they're overreacting. While some of us think Peters may have some valid points about covering up the cover--kids don't need to be introduced to explicit sexual topics on the checkout line--most of us don't think Cosmopolitan is offensive, nor is it anywhere near pornographic. It will be tough for him to stop major magazines from putting headlines advertising articles about sex on their covers. It is out there because it is what people are buying. Many of his arguments about why Cosmopolitan should be covered are based on what's on the inside pages. The cover may be part of the problem, but it seems the majority of his complaints were based on what was in the articles. If you really wanted to promote "morality in media" and stop families from being exposed unwillingly to sexual innuendos, there are other issues you could attack, like sexual content on television, especially on youth-focused programming. Besides, even if you eliminate the magazines, or just move them away from the checkout line, there are countless other avenues of exposure to sexual content, like radio and television.

Viewing a cover of Cosmopolitan does not drastically affect the average youth. Kids are exposed to material that is as sexually provocative as that on a regular basis.

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