- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2001

News of sex, sin and boudoir blunders may cause hubbub in the grocery checkout line, but it doesn't necessarily sell magazines. Yet on newsstands now you will see:

"Explosive Sex! The surprising turn-on you can't ignore" (Redbook)

"What turns good sex into great sex" (Glamour)

"Lust Lessons" (Cosmopolitan)

"Make your crush like you in that way" (Cosmo Girl)

"Hair Lust" (Mademoiselle)

Ironically, lurid newsstand headlines have become the sole province of women's publications. It is also curious that the covers of most men's magazines prattle on about dressing for success, male bonding, independence and fitness.

An exception is this month's Men's Health magazine, which includes such articles as "Push her lust buttons" and "Bedroom games she'll beg to play."

"I see a relatively straitlaced health and fitness magazine trying to come off all sexy," noted Simon Dumenco of Inside, an online media journal. "I can't help but cringe and feel a bit of pity."

It is part of the trend toward "desperate headlines" among struggling glossy publications, he notes. But back to the ladies magazines.

Suggestive cover fare continues despite a 1999 Within poll that found that 73 percent of Americans thought such provocative content was "inappropriate" and 60 percent said the covers should be hidden in public marketplaces, just like Playboy is. Of women polled, 81 percent disapproved of the headlines.

Critics refer to the women's magazines as "soft porn" and have organized consumer boycotts and letter-writing campaigns.

"Magazines like Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Redbook and others play up sexually lurid covers, vying with each other to be the most shocking and filthy," stated the San Diego-based Citizens for Community Values, which petitioned the Kroger grocery store chain to hide the covers of the magazines.

But does "sex sell," as the old adage goes? One survey suggests that consumers are inundated and fatigued.

A recent American Demographics magazine poll found that 61 percent of the respondents said "sexual imagery" in a product advertisement would make them less likely to buy it, and a third were downright offended by the whole idea.

Yet the public doesn't mind romantic images. The survey found that 53 percent said they would buy a product that emphasized the imagery of traditional romance, proving that heart rather than libido influenced consumers, the magazine noted.

Women's magazines don't discern between the two, apparently, and continue their "sizzling," "breathless" and "sinful" review of things feminine.

There are alternatives. Spirituality, animal stories, weight loss, health scares and bargains are the old reliables of attention-getting devices. Politics is also being retooled for the female audience.

Meanwhile, the cover of the current Ladies Home Journal asks: "Are you turning into your mother?"

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