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 Neuter-woman.
Which are you? Find out by taking our handy quiz:
1. You notice your man eyeing up another woman’s cleavage. Do you:
A) Faint 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.
B) Put 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.
C) 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 you:
A) Tell him you’re so sorry darling but you’re busy being fed chocolate-dipped figs by Daddy on your chaise longue.
B) Gather 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.
C) Tell him he’d be better off learning about kinetic energy from his older sister.
3. You’re at a party. Are you:
A) In 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.
B) Offering petite-fours around and making sure everyone’s behaving themselves.
C) Bopping 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:
A) Weep beautifully in his powerful arms, accepting his apologetic kisses and end up having glorious make-up sex.
B) Comfort him, laying his head in your lap, saying soothing things about how you’re so sorry he had such a damaging childhood.
C) Say 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:
A) Look 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.
B) Shout 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.
C) Race your man to the ball, determined to get there first.
Diagnosis (after Elinor Glyn)
Mostly As: The Lover-Woman
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 clever neuter.
Mostly Bs: The Mother-Woman
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 Neuter-woman
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 Glyn:
‘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 lot:
‘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 plums.’
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:’
‘Most 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?