I Write Cosmo Sex Tips and I Shamelessly Love It Despite All The Shade

Yeah, we have sex tips (which I write), but we also have Smart Woman Things!
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Publish date:
April 1, 2016
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Dating, sex tips, gender bias, Cosmopolitan Magazine

There is a tenth circle of hell and that circle is "Casually Dating, in New York, While You’re a Cosmo Sex Writer." Three out of four men in the Brooklyn area pride themselves on only sticking their dicks inside women who write about Syria.

GUYHaha. Really? The tips?MEYeah, haha, so dumb, right? Hahaha.GUYThose are so ridiculous, you know that, right?MEHahaha!

GUY(trying to allow me to legitimize myself)So, like, do you write real journalism ever?

ME(accidentally asking permission)Not really?For a long time, I did the self-deprecating song-and-dance familiar to many single women downplaying their accomplishments to endear themselves to men: You’re right, it’s dumb! But I know it’s dumb, which means I’m smart, see? Love me, love me, love me!

Nobody's this condescending about men's outlets like Esquire, our brother magazine at Hearst, or GQ at Condé Nast. Cosmo is the pinkest, girliest magazine you can possibly imagine, so the entrenched sexism of our culture means it's the easiest to ridicule. Not only was I apologizing for being successful and independent, I was apologizing for a job that wasn't "intellectual" enough for the approval of his fair-trade Greenpoint ass. Sorry I don’t work at The Atlantic! Will you let me blow you anyway?

With women — particularly women who worked for publications deemed “smarter” or “more feminist” by the male population of Brooklyn — I had a slightly different song and dance. “Did you see our 12-page package on reproductive rights?” I’d ask. “Our interview with Valerie Jarrett?”

It was a more roundabout way of shitting on my job, but still shitting on it nevertheless, shoving it into a corner. Yeah, we have sex tips (which I write), but we also have Smart Woman Things! As if sex and smarts didn’t exist, side by side, in every woman I know.

Before I started working at Cosmo over two years ago — first at the website, then I moved to print, and finally as a contributing writer to the magazine — I’d never thought about what it was like to have a job that was a punchline. I'd long prided myself on having a good sense of humor, one that’s often the basis of the writing jobs I’ve gotten, and it bothered me that I wasn't able to brush off the constant, undercutting jokes about my job title.

The thing is, sex tips are journalism. Many of the questions I've asked experts, and tips I've included, have been inspired by my own or my friends' sex lives (i.e. "I can only come a certain way, how can I 'retrain' myself so that I can orgasm with my partner?"). Last year, with the help of Indiana University's Center For Sexual Health Promotion, we surveyed 2,300 women from age 18 to 40 about their sex lives. We then used the gathered data for a 12-page, thoroughly-researched spread on the "orgasm gap" — the proven fact that straight women have the least orgasms during sex, and straight men have the most — in our April 2015 issue.

For that package (and others), my colleagues and I interviewed Kinsey Institute researchers and OB/GYNs. We pulled data from the Journal of Sexual Medicine. That piece was an accurate representation of the male/female tips breakdown, too. There's a misconception that the tips are all about giving better blow jobs, or generally "for him." But 90% of the tips I've written have been to enhance women's pleasure.

Since Amy Odell took over the website in 2013 and Joanna Coles took over the print magazine in 2012, both sides have stepped up their game when it comes to inclusivity. Cosmo was nominated for a 2016 GLAAD award for Outstanding Magazine Overall Coverage. Lane Moore, a current sex and relationships editor at Cosmopolitan.com, writes frequently about LGBT issues.

I won't speak for anyone else, but it sucked to bust my ass every day and still get @'s from a 22-year-old on Twitter about how Cosmo’s “setting feminism back 20 years," or @'s from creepy misogynistic egg accounts who respond to a feminist comment I made with something like, “good to know the authority is someone from COSMO lolol.”

I asked former Cosmopolitan senior editor Michelle Ruiz, who edited my tips during my time on staff at the magazine, about the attitude.

“The sex tips stories are routinely the most-read in the magazine for good reason: Sex is important. It is a huge factor in people's happiness and health. Anyone with a perfect sex life who has zero interest of learning even a single way to improve it, or at the very least make it more amusing, can feel free to never read a Cosmo sex tip.”

She says she’d get letters from women who grew up in oppressive homes where sex wasn’t discussed, and Cosmo gave them permission to be sexual.I try to focus on the good stuff Cosmo's given me: A solid career, a good sex life, lifelong friends, and a nice rate-per-word to boot. I wish it didn't bother me so much what other people thought.