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COVER UP: A trade group called the National Center on Sexual Exploitation has been on a crusade to hide what it deems the “pornographic” covers of Cosmopolitan Magazine from the eyes of minors.
On Wednesday, the Washington, D.C.-based group claimed to have won its first battle by getting Rite Aid and Delhaize America — owner of Hannaford stores and Food Lion — to agree to place Cosmopolitan “behind blinders” in their stores “due to the magazine’s inappropriate content and covers.”
Rite Aid confirmed the news, adding: “We will continue to carry this publication. We are working to place future issues of this publication behind pocket shields.”
WWD reached out to Delhaize America for confirmation but did not receive a response by press time.
Victoria Hearst, the sister of Patty Hearst and granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst — aka founder of Hearst Corp., publisher of Cosmopolitan — spearheaded this latest development beginning in April, along with a campaign dubbed “Cosmo Harms Minors.” Hearst is a partner with the NCSE on the campaign for Cosmo to be sold to adults only and have the cover wrapped “like all other porn magazines in retail shops,” according to the organization, which confirmed that Victoria Hearst receives dividends from Hearst Corp. (More on that in a moment).
Dawn Hawkins, executive director of the NCSE, said Cosmo’s placement would be altered in all 4,600 Rite Aid stores and the 1,000-plus Food Lion and Hannaford stores. Asked if she believed Cosmo’s sales would be harmed, Hawkins pivoted and instead cited a poll, which surveyed about 1,000 people if they thought the magazine’s covers were “inappropriate for viewers of all ages.” About 65 percent agreed.
“We are just bringing this to the attention of the retailers and helping them to see that their customers also want this magazine removed from the view of children,” she offered. “We hope that covering it sends the message to shoppers that Cosmo is not a women’s friendly magazine, but that it really is pushing women to accept the pornified and sexually violent culture around us. Once people realize what Cosmo is really promoting, we expect that either sales will drop or Cosmo will be forced to change their course.”
As to why the organization was targeting Cosmo, which features similar cover stars in similar poses and fashions as other women’s magazines, Hawkins said: “The content in Cosmopolitan Magazine is very different from the other women’s magazines in the checkout line. Many people think that it is just another magazine with beauty, fashion and health tips, but Cosmo is actually just another porn magazine glamorizing and legitimizing a dangerous lifestyle — pushing readers to try violent, group or anal sex. Articles often encourage readers to engage in one-night stands or random hookups with strangers. The magazine is pornographic and should be treated as such, meaning specifically that it should not be in plain view of children at the checkout line.”
In response, the magazine said: “Cosmopolitan is the most successful global media brand for young women, publishing 60 editions in 79 countries and 32 languages. Its award-winning content is produced for adults by leading female journalists. We are proud of all that the brand has achieved for women around the world in the areas of health, relationships, career, politics, equality and social issues.”
Defining “pornography” has historically been complicated, to say the least.
In April, Victoria Hearst gave a press conference at the National Press Club in which she defined pornography as “the depiction of erotic behavior as in pictures or writing intended to cause sexual excitement.”
She prefaced her speech by offering: “I’m a born-again Christian, got saved in December ’95 — praise the Lord.”
Hearst defined her mission as such: “We’re not trying to censor Cosmo. We’re not trying to put it out of business. All we’re saying is, you want to print pornography, I can’t stop you,” she said. “If I was queen of the Hearst Corporation, this magazine would no longer exist, and the editor in chief and all the people there would be on unemployment.”
She also addressed her family name, noting that her opposition to Cosmo isn’t part of a “family feud.”
Hearst expounded on that relationship on a TV show called “MidPoint” in April, offering: “I have my inheritance and The Bible says that the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the just. I can use my inheritance to fight my company’s publication. And anyone who wants to call that hypocrisy is just plain wrong.”