Feeling the Fantasy: Auto-Eroticism and Anxiety in the Physical Construction of Cosmopolitan Magazine

Marcus, Lyndsey, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Olwell, Victoria, Department of English, University of Virginia

Through an examination of the perfumed inserts, pullout advertisements, coupons, and binding of the magazine, I find that the physical construction of Cosmopolitan fosters a pleasurable, erotic relationship between the text and the reader, but also induces anxiety surrounding the status of women's roles both in domestic spaces and in public spheres. Focusing on the cover models of Cosmopolitan, the construction of its pages, and the placement of the erotica within the narrative of the magazine, I argue that Cosmopolitan's physical reading experience embodies contradictory messages regarding femininity. This text opens up spaces for subjective auto-eroticism and pleasurable imaginative work, but also constructs its readers as lacking in their ability to consume products, maintain domestic spaces, establish career paths, or foster stable, heterosexual relationships.

MA (Master of Arts)
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