Walmart is banning Cosmopolitan to protect young girls from sexually explicit material

Elise Solé
Yahoo Lifestyle

Walmart is banning Cosmopolitan magazine from its checkout lines “to combat sexually exploitative influences” amid the #MeToo movement.

According to a press release from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), a nonprofit organization that has long objected to the magazine’s presence in Walmart, the decision will help protect “minors from the sexually explicit material that Cosmopolitan embodies and perpetuates.”

Walmart is removing Cosmopolitan magazine from the checkout lines at 5,000 stores. (Photo: Getty Images)
Walmart is removing Cosmopolitan magazine from the checkout lines at 5,000 stores. (Photo: Getty Images)
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Dawn Hawkins, NCOSE executive director, said in a press release on Tuesday, “This is what real change looks like in our #MeToo culture, and NCOSE is proud to work with a major corporation like Walmart to combat sexually exploitative influences in our society. Women, men, and children are bombarded daily with sexually objectifying and explicit materials, not only online, but in the checkout line at the store.”

She added, “Cosmo sends the same messages about female sexuality as Playbοy. It places women’s value primarily on their ability to sexually satisfy a man and therefore plays into the same culture where men view and treat women as inanimate seχ objects. Further, Cosmo targets young girls by placing former Disney stars on its covers, despite the enclosed sexually erotic articles which describe risky sexual acts like public, intoxicated, or anal seχ in detail. Customers should not be forced to be exposed to this content when they are trying to check-out at the store.”

A representative from Cosmo did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. However, Walmart sent Yahoo Lifestyle the following message: “As with all products in our store, we continue to evaluate our assortment and make changes. Walmart will continue to offer Cosmopolitan to customers that wish to purchase the magazine, but it will no longer be located in the checkout aisles. While this was primarily a business decision, the concerns raised were heard.”

Haley Halverson, vice president of advocacy and outreach at NCOSE, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that Walmart’s decision was a positive step against the sexual objectification of young women.

“In light of #MeToo, many people don’t want to be exposed to the sexual objectification of women in their daily lives,” Halverson tells Yahoo Lifestyle, adding that the publication is potentially harmful to youth due to “its bubblegum-pink covers that feature former Disney stars.”

Halverson also takes issue with how the magazine, both in photos and text, promotes what she calls a “male-centric view on sex,” pointing to 2001 research that found Cosmo’s sexual rhetoric to be similar to that of Playboy magazine.

In 2015, retailers Walmart, Rite Aid, and Delhaize America placed blinder covers over each issue, as WWD reported, “due to the magazine’s inappropriate content and covers.” Surprisingly, the move stemmed from a campaign by Victoria Hearst — the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, who is the founder of the Hearst Corp., which publishes Cosmopolitan.

Hearst, a born-again Christian, also launched the website Cosmo Hurts Kids, where she claims the magazine “seduces” kids. “My campaign is not trying to censor this magazine or put it out of business,” she wrote on the site. “The goal is to have Cosmo labeled ‘adult material’ so that it cannot be sold to anyone under 18 years of age.”

In 2015, Hawkins told WWD, “I applaud Walmart for its decision to place Cosmopolitan behind blockers in order to protect minors from being targeted by a magazine that prides itself in promoting a pornified culture through its explicit articles and images. Cosmopolitan regularly targets children, yet continues to print adult content [that] children should not see or read. In its current issue, Cosmopolitan features a drawing by a sixth-grade Girl Scout reader in the same issue that gives detailed descriptions of sexual acts for the purpose of pleasing a man.”

At the time, Hearst responded in a statement to WWD, saying, “Walmart’s approach to Cosmo’s newsstand presence in their stores has been consistent for more than a decade, there is no new information to share. Any indication otherwise, by the NCSE or other, is simply untrue.”

The late Helen Gurley Brown, author of Sex and the Single Girl, edited the women’s magazine for 32 years and was simultaneously hailed as a groundbreaking feminist and as Jennifer Pozner, director of Women in Media & News told CNN, criticized for creating “one of the most body-shaming, insecurity-provoking, long-lasting sexist media products of the last 100 years.”

Still, Cosmo‘s achievements in promoting female empowerment are hard to ignore — the magazine has won a GLAAD Media Award for inspiring LGBT content, it regularly publishes articles on politics, gun control, technology, and entrepreneurship, and in 2014, the publication won its first National Magazine Award for a story called “Your Guide to Contraception.” Cosmo has even dabbled in legislation — in 2010, helping to persuade the Food and Drug Administration to recommend closer regulation of UV-emitting bulbs in tanning beds.

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