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Sexual Messages in Black and White: A case study of Essence and Cosmo
Unformatted Document Text:  The vast majority of the columns examined were in the category of advice (Table One). Many were presented in question/ answer format; others were presented in narrative style as dating guides or offering some specific information. Voice in articles was determined by the author’s gender. In Essence, 58.8% of the columns were written in a woman’s voice, 35.3% in a man’s voice. In Cosmo, women’s and men’s voices were approximately equal. This finding suggests that men’s voices have grown louder on the matters of women’s sexuality in the years since Matsau’s research was conducted – i.e., men’s voices increased from 14% to 43.5% in Cosmo and from 14% to 35.3% in Essence columns on women’s sexuality. In both magazines, the author (i.e., speaker) most often assumed the role of an authority on sex. Only 11.8% of the columns in Essence, and 4.3% in Cosmo were written from a more personal perspective. Most of the columns in Cosmo mentioned specific body parts in the discussion, compared to only about half in Essence. We defined standards speech as the use of terms that are clinically oriented, such as penis, ejaculation, clitoris, and breasts. Nonstandard terms included anything else, for example, “his soldier”, “his manhood”, “and crotch”. Most of these terms dealt with male genitalia. Nearly all of the Cosmo columns referencing body parts used non-standard language, and most of those references were to men’s genitalia. Many fewer (just over a third) of the Essence columns made references to body parts and then used standard language. Table One. Description of column Essence (N=17) Cosmo(N=23) Kind of column Advice 82.4% (14) 100% (23) Testimonial 5.9% (1) 0 Case study 11.8% (2) 0 Voice Woman 58.8% (10) 47.8% (11) Man 35.3% (6) 43.5% (10) 11

Authors: Byerly, Carolyn. and Reviere, Rebecca.
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The vast majority of the columns examined were in the category of advice (Table One). 
Many were presented in question/ answer format; others were presented in narrative style as 
dating guides or offering some specific information.  Voice in articles was determined by the 
author’s gender. In Essence, 58.8% of the columns were written in a woman’s voice, 35.3% in a 
man’s voice.  In Cosmo, women’s and men’s voices were approximately equal.  This finding 
suggests that men’s voices have grown louder on the matters of women’s sexuality in the years 
since Matsau’s research was conducted – i.e., men’s voices increased from 14% to 43.5% in 
Cosmo and from 14% to 35.3% in Essence columns on women’s sexuality.   In both magazines, 
the author (i.e., speaker) most often assumed the role of an authority on sex.  Only 11.8% of the 
columns in Essence, and 4.3% in Cosmo were written from a more personal perspective.
Most of the columns in Cosmo mentioned specific body parts in the discussion, compared 
to only about half in Essence.  We defined standards speech as the use of terms that are clinically 
oriented, such as penis, ejaculation, clitoris, and breasts.  Nonstandard terms included anything 
else, for example, “his soldier”, “his manhood”, “and crotch”.  Most of these terms dealt with 
male genitalia.  Nearly all of the Cosmo columns referencing body parts used non-standard 
language, and most of those references were to men’s genitalia.  Many fewer (just over a third) 
of the Essence columns made references to body parts and then used standard language.  
Table One.   Description of column
Essence 
(N=17)
Cosmo
(N=23)
Kind of column
     Advice
82.4% (14)
100% (23)
     Testimonial
5.9% (1)
0
     Case study
11.8% (2)
0
Voice 
     Woman
58.8% (10)
47.8% (11)
     Man
35.3% (6)
43.5% (10)
11


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