Cosmo’s Marvelous Men: Inside the cringeworthy ’70s guide to love & sex for women

Cosmo's Marvelous Men The '70s-woman's best-selling guide to love and sex

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Cosmo’s ‘Guide to Marvelous Men’ is a best-seller (1974)

By Bob Greene, Chicago Sun-Times

For the past several years, we have been hearing a great deal about how women are now interested in reading only about vital issues, about weighty subjects, about political analyses of societal injustices. The old, frilly stuff is out, we have been told; now, women want to read publications such as “Ms.,” which relate to them as serious, total human beings.

For a long time, I accepted this on faith. New magazines for the new woman. OK.

I was a little skeptical at first, but I ended up resigned to the fact that women readers were now willingly spending their leisure time learning about Wankel engines and the evolution of Western thought.

Retro styles for men and women from 1977

But the other day I made a random check of local newsstands to see what was selling to women. I said to a number of news dealers, “Let me have a copy of the publication that seems to be your hottest item with the new women.”

What each of the news dealers handed me was a magazine called “A Guide to Marvelous Men — How to KNOW Them and Make Them Love You!”

AT THE FIRST newsstand, I leafed through the magazine. After a few minutes, I said, “This doesn’t — uh — seem to be speaking to the new consciousness exhibited by our fulfilled, emancipated new women.”

The newsie shrugged. “All I know is that we can’t keep this magazine in stock,” he said. “We keep having to reorder. It’s all they want to read.”

I called the corporate offices of Cosmopolitan magazine in New York, and a spokesman confirmed it: “A Guide to Marvelous Men” is a phenomenon with women, and is selling out all over the country.

Fashion for men and woman from 1975

How to flirt and chase men 'til they catch you: Seventeen magazine's top tips for teen girls in the 1950s

So — feminist rap groups and awareness-raising sessions aside — here are some excerpts from “A Guide to Marvelous Men.”

On communicating ideas with male human beings:

“Lying there silently biting your lip in civilized modesty is no help. Give him all the signals. Whisper words in his ear. Moan, groan, pant and shriek as the impulse seizes you. Never mind what the neighbors may think. Is this important to you or not?”

On establishing priorities:

“Given our current cultural standards, males would generally prefer to marry thin and rich, rather than fat and poor.”

1978 man in suit from 1978 - Getting out of an elevator

On solving social problems:

“Men do snore, sometimes when they are extra tired or have drunk a good deal, the racket is not only roof-shaking but absolutely hilarious. All the old cliches about sawing wood, snorting like a hog, gasping. croaking, wheezing and going pip-pip-pip are absolutely true!

“One woman I know keeps a salt shaker hidden under her side of the bed. When he is really taking off like a Boeing 747, she carefully shakes a few grains of salt in his mouth. This seems to give him pause just enough so that he turns over on his side and is silent for a while, without really waking up.”

Vintage menswear from 1976

On putting time to good use:

“Tell him that you are going to buy him a present. Then lead him to an expensive lingerie shop that has fitting rooms. Let him pick out three brassieres for you that he likes: he may be a little shy, but insist that he make the decision. Then go back to the fitting room. Find a chair for him outside, within earshot.

“When you’ve put on one of the new brassieres, call him in to see what he thinks. Don’t ask the saleswoman whether you can; just do it in a matter-of-fact way. Unless the fitting room is swarming with women, nobody will raise serious objections. Buy the one he likes best, and wear it out of the store.”

MORE: 129 ways to get a husband: Truly terrible tips from the 1950s

Cute vintage couple hugging from 1972

On building an equal, adult relationship: “Kiss his toes.”

There is more, of course. But you get the point.

I would attempt to close this piece with a sarcastic and semi-clever kicker, but what’s the difference — let people read whatever magazine they want to read.

And anyway, this column is being written by a person who recently changed airplane flights just so he could hear Dolly Parton sing “Jolene” on the TWA headsets, so I am full of charity toward the weaknesses of others. ⊚

How to snare a male: Dating & marriage advice from 1950

Cosmopolitan's Guide to Marvelous Men - How to know them and make them love you

Table of contents: Cosmo’s guide to marvelous men – Topics

ADVANCES Making Some to Men!
BEAUTY The Irrelevancy of it!
BEDS A Conscious Decision
BLOSSOMING Never Too Late!
BREAD Baking it — & Other Down-Home Delights

CIGARS & Other Oral Pleasures
CONSCIOUSNESS-RAISING What Alpha Man Would Be a Sexist?
COPING When Virtue is Vice
CURRENTS Keeping Afloat

Vintage clothing for men from 1976

DECIDING Your Turn to Lead
DRINKING As a Companion Sport
EARLY-LATE Corporate Visibility

FAIR The Male Game of Life
FAT Just a Little Bit
FOOD In Praise of Beef

'70s juniors clothes for teens from the 1973 JC Penney catalog

Man in suit jacket and vest from 1977
GIFTS For the Alpha Man
GLASSES Miss Parker Regrets
GOLF & Other Sports
GROWING As in Always

HANGOVER First Aid for Hapless Males
HARASSED An Approach to Priorities
HELL As a Card Game
HOTEL When You Rent the Room
HOUSEWORK Breaking the “Law”
HUMILITY When the Time Comes

Vintage men's fashion from 1970
ILLNESS On the Job
INVESTING What Not to Do!
JOBS Where to Look

JOKES Dirty and Otherwise
KOOK But Not Camp
LEADERSHIP Getting and Keeping It
LIQUOR With a Man

Groovy vintage clothes from the fall of 1970

MARRIAGE How We Pick a Mate
MENOPAUSE & Male Panic
MOANING & Other Signals

MONEY & Your Life Style
ODORS Yours & His
OUTRAGEOUSNESS Every Woman Needs Some

Vintage men's sportswear from 1977
PERFUME As You Like It
PHYSICAL Words & Fantasies
POETRY As a Seducing Agent

PRAISE Givers & Takers
PRO FORMA The Petty Waste in Your Life
PROSTITUTES They Are Also Your Problem!
PUNCTUALITY Disciplining a Man

Stylish vintage clothes - shirts for men from 1977

READING Alone & Together
REBOUND Less Than Meets the Eye

SEX Expressing Desire
SEX Fixing Time
SEX Oral
SMOKING A Solution
SMOKING & Surviving

TEARS For Men & Women
TELEGRAMS Outrageous Contact
T.V. Opiate of the Alphas
TRYING The Most Admirable Quality

VEHICLES As a Male Fantasy
WINE With Him
YEARNING Prelude to Action
Some Tips on Shopping

Cute couple from 1972

Could it be that the Cosmo Girl is jealous?

By Judith Martin

Cosmopolitan magazine’s ideal girl is well known for having everything, not the least of which is a major share of newsstand receipts. Life is just one mad whirl, from one nifty man to the next and one nifty job to the next and lots of nifty time in between to stay home and wash her hair.

True, the nose is stuffed up all winter because every stitch of clothing she owns is open to the navel. And true, she is in bad need of an orthodontist who can correct her bite so that her words don’t come out italic.

But her life was always full because she has devotion, dedication and faith. That accounts for her St. Theresa complexion. The devotion and dedication are to men and the faith is that someday she’ll have a good relationship with one of them.

Vintage office fashion for men from fall 1976

It is not, therefore, surprising that Cosmopolitan has given her a special extra issue of the magazine called Marvelous Men. It makes a catchy title, and think what fun the Cosmo Girl will have with that man at the newsstand, with the old windbreaker and the chewed off cigar, when she asks him if he has any.

But the shock is the new attitude it takes. For years, Cosmopolitan has been advising its readers to get out of bed in the morning an hour before the gentleman caller does, in order that he may never have the upsetting experience of looking on her unmade face.

The girl she was competing with was the slob who washed her face and brushed her teeth and slept through until breakfast. The girl who never had any nylon eyelashes to paste on at 6 am wasn’t in the running.

Not that Cosmopolitan ignored the women’s liberation movement. “The working world is where men are!” it once announced. And that Cosmo girl was instructed to “look into a women’s lib chapter — even radical girls know members of the opposite sex.”

But now there seems to be a plaintive note suggesting that that other girl, the one who never mastered all the pussycat techniques (such as keeping a sandwich under the pillow because — it says here — men get hungry after sex), is doing all right.

So Cosmopolitan, which is nothing if not adaptive, announces that the ideal man would “like you to be a more powerful woman, and this will enhance, rather than threaten, his ego.”

Dude with soft hair from 1978

As if  “15 thoughtful things to do for a man in the bedroom” weren’t enough, the poor thing is now told that the great man doesn’t want her to “live to please men, instead, she should focus all energies on being a strong person.”

“One way: Become an expert in a single small but crucial area. Pick a business subject, one not especially related to feminine interests, and plan to write a memo on it. Read, research, study, ask questions — both in and outside the company — until you are sure you know more than anybody else around… there’s a good chance you’ll get invited out for a drink to discuss further.”

Or try this example from the magazine: “I know a woman who subscribes to Forbes, because she is interested in the rise and fall of corporations as they relate to the stock market. Men find it fascinating that she should know exactly which conglomerates are making the best comeback, and whether or not the Alaska oil rush is going to pay off in the next five years. She also (and I’m not making this up) subscribes to Foreign Affairs. Frankly, she doesn’t read all of it…”

After all, there’s only so much even a Cosmo girl can do to catch a man. ⊚

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. OMG. Cosmo is still disgusting to this very day. MS Magazine used to be pretty good in the 70s and 80s but that publication has gone to hell in a hand basket because it doesn’t consider ALL women to be equal. Only certain women who fit MS Magazine’s box are equal.

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