Why are there roughly as many scantily clad women in a Cosmo as in a Maxim?

A few times, I’ve been stuck in the Doctor’s office or the barber and all the newsweeks are taken. So I pick up a Cosmo. Let’s see if there really are 50 original “sex tips” in this here magazine…

Flipping through it, I notice there is a lot, a LOT of female skin shown. The women are almost as scantily clad as in a Maxim, generally, and I suspect there may actually be more of them. For a magazine clearly marketed towards women, there seems to be a distinct shortage of good looking males in the magazine.

What gives? Do women really want to look at photoshopped, artificially beautiful other women?

Because men like to look at women, and women like to be looked at.

Women want to be beautiful women. The photos suggest what they can aspire to resemble – especially if they buy the product or follow the tips in the article.

The women are modeling clothes and makeup, and illustrating stories about women.

What is their purpose in Maxim??

Provide beat-off material and near naked photos of hot famous women that the men reading the magazine want to read about? Funny thing is, I really do read Maxim for the articles. The photos are just a bonus, but the internet has much better images than anything found in a Maxim.

In the old days of Playboy, when I read it, there were frequent articles on men’s fashion with lots of photos - very few of which had the men scantily clad. So, it’s a fair question.

BTW, when my daughter brought home Cosmo I sneaked a look at the 50 sex tips. They always seemed to be the same. I read somewhere that the men in the Cosmo office have a great time making that stuff up.

Because that is how most of our understanding of visual images is constructed: women as passive objects. When reading the Cosmo, women still have to identify with the male gaze, as that is the only option for the active consumption of the images. (Of course you could make something in a different way, but that’s too much to ask of Cosmo.)

Read up here on the male gaze. Or check out Laura Mulvey’s original essay: Visual Pleasure and the Narrative Cinema.

I recall back in the eighties, reading a comment by Helen Gurley Brown, who, when asked why the cover of Cosmo always featured a buxom young lady in a revealing outfit, responded: “I like looking at beautiful women.”

Because without the beautiful half-naked women, women’s magazines can’t generate enough anxiety in their readers to make their readers buy their products.

I have to second the reading gracer suggested. If you can put aside the idea that it is “feminist” and slog through the writing, it is absolutely brilliant and fundamental to our understanding of how we process images.

In short, both men and women are deeply accustomed to equating “pleasurable image” with “sexualized female.” The hot woman has become fundamental to telling any kind of visual story.

The funny thing is that the types of pictures Cosmo and Maxim run are basically the same. You strip out all the text, I doubt that average person would do better than random chance in guessing which picture came from which magazine.

Also, as stupid as the overall theme of Maxim is, they usually have a decent article or two in each issue.

My own informal studies (purely from intellectual curiosity, I assure you and largely confined to perusal of cover photos) suggest that there are roughly 1/10 as many images of “hot” women in Cosmo as in Maxim.

Cosmo is uncannily good at taking pictures of attractive women and de-sexualizing them, at least as males are concerned. Apparently Cosmo readers like looking at photos of women caked in a superabundance of makeup, wearing garish clothes cut to the navel.

Actually, the Maxim women aren’t so hot either. Give me Field & Stream or Fine Gardening any day.

I asked the same question ten years ago and got some responses you might find useful & interesting.

Yeah, I have this weird, pervy uncle who used to ask questions like that all the time. I’d be flipping through a Victoria’s Secret catalog and he would ask me, “I don’t get it. What do women get out of that?”

Well, I “get” nothing out of that, as I happen to be heterosexual. However, I am shopping for underpants and pajamas, so I might get some clothing out of the deal. You may use this catalog for your spank bank, and that’s fine (just don’t give it back to me when you’re done, ew). I have a different purpose for this catalog and that is TO FIND CLOTHES I might want to wear.

Same thing with fashion magazines. Because they’re fashion magazines, they show us what the couture world wants to be in fashion this season. That could include beachwear, summerwear, underwear, and so forth. I need to SEE the underwear to decide if I want to BUY the underwear.

Magazines are selling products. The only difference between Cosmo and the VS catalog is that there are articles in the Cosmo and more than one company’s product is being sold/advertised in it.

Cosmo is the magazine for office sluts. Lol.
Cosmo does tend to have the most specialized photos of women of all the mags geared to women.
The entire magazine is about sex, sexual freedom, being a “bad” girl. Many stores over all or most of the magazine cover because they are so provocative.
I think there’s an element of “this is what you should look like if you want to be a slut like us.” This is what you should wear, this is what you should do your hair and make up like. Don’t you want to buy all this stuff so you can look like her?

I watched an episode of Top Model when I was sick and they had to do a near nude shoot for a woman magazine and one for a male magazine. And Tyra points out that for men’s magazine the women stick their butts out but for women’s they pull their butts in. Makes sense to be.
Personally I think fashion magazines are stupid, although I did learn about female orgasm from Cosmo!

Or it could be that women like attention.