Ever wondered what Cosmopolitan’s
relationship advice was like in 1922?
Nestled amongst short stories with names like ‘His
Children’s Children’ and ‘Broken Barriers’ in the July issue we’ve found a
revealing article penned by Elinor Glyn, the influential pioneer of mass-market
women’s erotic fiction, and inventor of the concept of the ‘It’ girl. Her face
floats gimlit-eyed above the title: ‘How to Keep Men in Their Place.’
How indeed! Well, Glyn argues that the first step to
learning how to keep men in their place is finding out yours, and, according to
Glyn, all women fall into three categories: the Lover-woman, Mother-woman, or
Which are you? Find out by taking our handy quiz:
1. You notice your man eyeing up another woman’s cleavage.
clean away, first making sure to fall precisely into his arms and give him a
great view of your own cleavage, then lazily accept his solicitous concern.
on your most Nigella-like voice and tell him you’re planning on making steak au poivre and chips tonight (his
favourite) and comfort yourself, even as his gaze turns back to you with
enthusiasm, that at least baby Johnnie, at that moment sucking vigorously on a
nipple, has eyes only for you.
don’t care! He’s only interested in breasts because he’s such a base animal.
2. Your little son wants you to take him to the swings. Do
him you’re so sorry darling but you’re busy being fed chocolate-dipped figs by
Daddy on your chaise longue.
him into your voluminous bosom, tell him he’s a darling boy and that of course
you will and you’ll prepare a sumptuous picnic to take with you too.
him he’d be better off learning about kinetic energy from his older sister.
3. You’re at a party. Are you:
the harem-themed chill-out room arranged exquisitely on cushions with men all
around bringing you drinks and nibbles and caressing you with their eyes.
petite-fours around and making sure everyone’s behaving themselves.
unihibitedly in the dance room. When a group of lads pull off their shirts in a
fit of exuberance you do the same – just to show you can.
4. Your man hits you. Do you:
beautifully in his powerful arms, accepting his apologetic kisses and end up
having glorious make-up sex.
him, laying his head in your lap, saying soothing things about how you’re so
sorry he had such a damaging childhood.
how dare he try to use his physical strength to subjugate you, report him to
the police and turn your back on him forever.
5. Your beach ball gets caught by a particularly large wave
and carried out to sea. Do you:
tragic while your man desperately swims out to get it back for you and then
throw your hat in to be fetched too just for good measure.
words of encouragement from the shore, towel him down when he gets back and
pour him out the lovely glass of beer he so deserves for his efforts.
your man to the ball, determined to get there first.
Mostly As: The
You feel that the man’s place is that of a passionate and
tender lover and that he should spend his time in giving you proof of his
devotion. You may feel that he should be masterful – even to the point of
beating if necessary – or perhaps you feel that he must be a slave over whom you
can wield absolute sway. Either way, his worship of you is the first essential
in your relationship. You never have a grudge against man in general. Men are
admittedly your central interest, and you are full of sympathy for their aims
and avocations and pleasures and tolerant towards their faults. You do not
bother very much about the woman question. You rule men instinctively and
unconsciously, and through the ages your type has received worship – even when
it have been most undeserving of it. Any little fluffy girl with your
lover-woman’s instincts seems to be able to draw any number of even intelligent
males and render them devoted; even though you haven’t a sensible thing to say
for yourself and the men would be much more satisfied mentally by being with a
Mostly Bs: The
Your first essential is that man should be a good father and
a good home man. He might be head of state or head of anything so long as the
father business is never lost sight of. Man – just man – is not your real
interest. He is only a means to an end – the father of your children – and in
the moment of your most passionate love for him, even in girlhood, there is a
strong element of motherliness and protectiveness in your affection.You often
call your husband ‘father’ or ‘daddy’ or some name indicative of the way in
which your subconscious mind is impressed with what he means to you. You do not
use allurements in your dealings with him. You are just thoroughly sweet and
domestic. You are known among your friends as a ‘dear motherly soul.’ Even if
you are an old maid you’ll be eating your heart out for the love of children,
your tenderness suppressed and given no outlet, your great mother-woman’s heart
crying aloud in the wilderness. If you have brains you will rule your sons, but
you will have not much influence upon husbands and lovers or men at large. Your
sons may give you worship, and your husband also may render you an abstract
worship and show appreciation for your goodness and unselfishness. But the passionate
love, the unreasoning devotion that prostrates itself for the merest caress you
will seldom if ever know. These things are reserved for the charmers of men’s
eyes and ears and senses, for those who can arouse and keep alight the hunting
instincts in man.
Mostly Cs: The
You feel that man should be made to realise that you are
equal mentally and so deserve the same rights and priviledges materially. And
to make the thing perfect you would like his place to be on a lower rung of the
ladder than your own, as you hold the belief that in many respects woman is
man’s superior. You never rule men – you conquer them sometimes through your
pertinacity so that men give way on the principle of “anything for a quiet
life.” You are seldom loved and never worshiped. You have no influence over men
except as a tiresome enemy has influence – a bore to be resisted or when very
strong to be fought with. You want things for yourself or for what you conceive
to be a principle. You are not interested in men or children in the concrete.
If you are the highest and most finely developed kind of neuter-woman you are
interested in human beings in the abstract, and in ideals and practical
benefits for them. If you are this kind you are more tolerant in your views towards
men, feeling a comradeship with them and desiring to prove not that you are
men’s superiors but that both are equal. You are generally positive and
arresting. You have leanings towards men’s games as well as men’s work. If you
are young and good looking often you will attract the weaker type of male and
make him a good, autocratic wife.
How then, to keep men in their place? Nothing simpler, says
‘It is up to men to make their own “places,” and it is up to
women not to take any dogmatic stand as to the “place” of men but to make
themselves into the beings to whom men will give whatever is the kind of
response they desire.’
Unfortunately though, just when we thought we were getting
somewhere, this is where Glyn’s argument seems to fall down. We can’t really
change our type according to how we want our men to be, she says, we are
lover-mother-neuter by instinct, and all we can do is resign ourselves to our
‘It is perfectly useless for the mother-woman to expect that
they will receive that slavish worship which they may see being lavished upon
the lover-women. And it is still more futile for the neuters to imagine that
they will draw the tender respect and protection which the mother-women draw,
or the passion which the lover-women arouse. And unjust as it may seem to the
end of time, I fear it will be the lover-woman who will secure most of the
Now we’re not sure at Vagenda HQ that we want to do anything
as provocative as keep men in any kind of place, but we definitely do want all the
plums…and then apples (great friends) and pears (great job) and bananas
(optional) too! Is this the main difference then from 1922 to now? Be like
this, we’re told in article after article, and you’ll have everything you
desire. Glyn just seems to set us up for a fall. Want this from a man? Well,
unless you’re a ‘fluffy’ lamb or vamp-woman you can’t have it.
So what’s the aim of relationship advice in today’s Cosmo? In a recent interview with the Guardian,
the editor, Louise Court, defends the magazine against allegations that it is ‘all blowjob tips and cheeky coverlines:’
people prize having a happy relationship as one of the most important things in
their lives, and one of the keys is having a happy sex life. [… Cosmo’s Sex
Features are] about a woman feeling confident she can make the right choices
about her sex life, and be in control of what she wants to do and doesn't want
to do in the bedroom.’
Hm, it’s still about winning men with sex though isn’t it.
Is being a lover-woman really the only way?