It’s Uncomfortable But Someone’s Gotta Talk About It – Deborah Tan

“So why is Cosmo the only magazine that’s wrapped up and with a Yellow sticker slapped on the cover?” my boyfriend asked me while we were in the checkout line at a supermarket two weeks ago. He pointed out two men’s magazines with big bold sex coverlines and said again, “Those don’t.”

I rolled my eyes. Seriously, this is slowly becoming a sore point with me. I replied, in a louder-than-usual whisper, “Because it’s okay for your son to go out there, sleep around and get other people’s daughter pregnant, but it’s not okay for your daughter to come home knocked up. That’s why no one complains when a men’s magazine doesn’t get wrapped up but all hell breaks loose when Cosmo isn’t.”

It’s a classic case of double standards. It’s typical, isn’t it? Men who sleep around are “playboys”, women who do that are “sluts”. Men with high sex drive are considered “virile”, women? Nymphomaniacs!

Why is it so uncomfortable for people to accept that women can, and should, have a good sex life? Is it not our right to like it? Is it not our right to want to know how to do it better?

It’s not even about whether sex education should focus on abstinence or contraception. It’s about the perception that once WOMEN know more about sex, we become some insatiable, promiscuous animals who only want to have sex with as many men as possible.

How ridiculous is this school of thought? Why is it so scary for women to have a better understanding of the one natural act that creates Life?

"Errr ... you know The Pill isn't actually any pill, right?"

Parents, your daughters (and sons) are going to have sex whether you like it or not. The issue here is if they are doing it correctly and if they are doing it for the right reasons. Therein lies the importance of sex education. The purpose of sex education isn’t to “scare” teenagers away from sex. It is to educate them so they can make the right decisions for themselves. Curiosity indeed can kill the cat when it comes to sex. The more open, the more upfront and the more factual you are about the implications of being involved in a sexual relationship, the more successful you’re going to be at convincing a teenager to not rush into one.  

You know how it’s always portrayed on TV that parents have such a hard time talking to their kids about sex? It’s uncomfortable, we get it. And that is why a magazine like Cosmo can help make this awkward situation better. By taking that “myth” surrounding sex away, we are presenting the information in an easy-to-understand manner without passing any judgement. The last thing kids want is to be told that they should not ask, should not be curious, and should not think about sex. It’s futile. They are going to be.

And even if you are prepared to sit your teenager down and talk about the birds and the bees, are you ready for an open and honest discussion with her? I remember pointing to a box of condoms and asking my mum if it was a box of candies (the boxes are kinda colourful in that way). She answered by saying it’s “candies for adults and they are poisonous for children”. I guess she was right in a figurative way? But yeah, are you prepared to answer awkward questions like, “At what age should I consider losing my virginity?” What if your teenager tells you, “Oh. I’ve lost my virginity already”?

Sex is an uncomfortable topic but it should not be a taboo topic. Assuming that all sex-related articles lead to a life of promiscuity is akin to assuming that women who drive their own cars will automatically drive to meet their lovers. 

It’s uncomfortable but someone’s got to talk about it. And, Cosmopolitan is more than happy to do so.

2 Responses to “It’s Uncomfortable But Someone’s Gotta Talk About It – Deborah Tan”
  1. Rachel says:

    Hi Deborah, I agree with a lot of the points you made in this article but I think that your claim that Cosmo educates curious teens about sex is a little inappropriate. The sex advice the magazine gives clearly isn’t catered to their needs. You guys provide tips on how to enhance the sex lives of women who aren’t new to the deed, not issues like contraception, what to expect the first time, and other things teens need to know. I would loathe to think that a 15 year old wanting to have sex for the first time is out there reading the tips in the magazine and trying to emulate them. That’s why Cosmo is and should remain unsuitable for the young.

    However, you are definitely right to say that women need to learn to embrace their sexual desires because it is something every human being has. It is utterly ridiculous that women should feel societal pressures to suppress their sexual desires while it is acceptable for men to flaunt their exploits. In my opinion, this is what Cosmo’s direction should be: to educate women, rather than teenagers, about sex.

    • Hi Rachel,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me! I really appreciate it!

      I agree with you that the more pertinent issue here is to change society’s mindset about women embracing sex. And I think Cosmo is the best platform to promote the fact that there is nothing shameful in a woman enjoying sex.

      I too loathe to think that a 15-year-old should learn about sex from a magazine. And this is where parents and schools need to ask themselves if they are spreading the message correctly and without prejudice. To assume that any magazine (not just Cosmo, really) that contain sex-related articles will corrupt teenagers is – in my humble opinion – passing the buck. Parents can play an important role in spreading the right messages about sex and sexuality in an honest and open manner. And that is how we can help diminish social issues like teenage pregnancies and date-rape.


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