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Sexual Messages in Black and White: A case study of Essence and Cosmo
Unformatted Document Text:  Research Question Three (Table Four) was concerned with whether the two magazines’ sex advice encouraged women to “go-get” what they wanted. Analysis found that the two magazines were similar in suggesting yes, that women should make the first move in a relationship. Most of the columns discussed a woman’s role in meeting the man’s sexual expectations. The biggest category for Essence was setting limits; for Cosmo, try to excite. The matter of how and whether to address a man’s behavior that is problematic; e.g, he looks at other women or is not interested in sex, was considered as part of women’s “go-getting” tendency. The advice to Essence readers was more often to challenge him, for example, “Do not make excuses or allowances for your husband’s bobblehead behavior.” The advice to Cosmo readers was more mixed with about half the articles advising the woman to accept and about half to challenge his problematic behavior. Table Four. Go-Getting Essence(N=17) Cosmo(N=23) Making the first move Hers 82.4% (14) 82.6% (19) His 0 0 Other 5.9% (1) 0 Meeting his expectations Set limits 58.8% (10) 39.1% (9) Be who/ what he wants 0 21.7% (5) Try to excite 35.3% (6) 78.3% (18) Other 0 8.7% (2) Addressing his behavior Accept 35.3% (6) 52.2% (12) Challenge 58.8% (10) 47.8% (11) Research Question Four (Table Five) asked about how magazine columns advised women on issues of fidelity in sexual relationships. Only six columns in Essence discussed what to do if he were unfaithful. The advice in each of these was for her to leave the relationship. 14

Authors: Byerly, Carolyn. and Reviere, Rebecca.
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Research Question Three (Table Four) was concerned with whether the two magazines’ 
sex advice encouraged women to “go-get” what they wanted.  Analysis found that the two 
magazines were similar in suggesting yes, that women should make the first move in a 
relationship.  Most of the columns discussed a woman’s role in meeting the man’s sexual 
expectations.  The biggest category for Essence was setting limits; for Cosmo, try to excite.
The matter of how and whether to address a man’s behavior that is problematic; e.g, he 
looks at other women or is not interested in sex, was considered as part of women’s “go-getting” 
tendency.  The advice to Essence readers was more often to challenge him, for example, “Do not 
make excuses or allowances for your husband’s bobblehead behavior.” The advice to Cosmo 
readers was more mixed with about half the articles advising the woman to accept and about half 
to challenge his problematic behavior.
Table Four.  Go-Getting
Essence
(N=17)
Cosmo
(N=23)
Making the first move
    Hers
82.4% (14)
82.6% (19)
    His
0
0
    Other
5.9% (1)
0
Meeting his expectations
    Set limits
58.8% (10)
39.1% (9)
     Be who/ what he wants
0
21.7% (5)
     Try to excite
35.3% (6)
78.3% (18)
     Other
0
8.7% (2)
Addressing his behavior
     Accept
35.3% (6)
52.2% (12)
     Challenge
58.8% (10)
47.8% (11)
Research Question Four (Table Five) asked about how magazine columns advised 
women on issues of fidelity in sexual relationships.  Only six columns in Essence discussed what 
to do if he were unfaithful.  The advice in each of these was for her to leave the relationship. 
14


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