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One of the nation’s leading retailers is banning Cosmopolitan from checkout lines, and a ‘family values’ lobbying group is claiming victory.

Walmart shoppers will now have to hike to the magazine aisle to get copies of the iconic women’s magazine, due at least in part to the efforts of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE.) The organization (formally known as Morality In Media) said in an official statement that they have been “working behind the scenes” with the retailer for months to institute a policy designed to protect children from Cosmo’s “hypersexualized and degrading” headlines.

“Hypersexual,” perhaps. “Degrading,” however, arguably exists in the eye of the beholder.

Cosmopolitan we think is especially important to address because they really do target young girls,” Haley Halverson, NCOSE’s Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach, recently told the New York Daily News. “We see that with their bubble-gum pink covers, with the Disney stars that are on it, and they’re targeting young girls with messages that are equivalent to the messages about female sexuality that Playboy promotes.”

While the desire to keep adult content away from curious kids seems reasonable enough, it’s worth noting that Cosmopolitan’s famed sex tips and other provocative stories are targeted toward female audiences, and largely center the idea of personal pleasure and sexual fulfillment.

Halverson conflated the work of NCOSE with the #MeToo movement, telling The Daily News that “we can’t treat women as objects in these ways in our popular culture and then expect individuals to treat women with respect in their day-to-day lives.”

The connection between exposure to/consumption of sexually explicit media and the decision/propensity to commit acts of sexual abuse and harassment has been a subject of debate for a very long time, with ‘family values’ groups like NCOSE arguing that pornographic material essentially trains men and boys to devalue women and girls (if not worse.)

The #MeToo movement is largely focused on the need for women and girls to be safe from sexual harassment, assault and other unwanted advances. Like with most feminist movements, there has been a very clear call not to ‘victim blame’ or cite the behavior of women and girls as the reason that they are susceptible to abuse and mistreatment.  For that reason, the conflation of NCOSE’s anti-pornography mission and the work of #MeToo seems dubious, at best.

Should racy magazine covers be allowed in plain sight in stores that are frequented by children? What do you think of the suggestion that sexy photos and provocative headlines run afoul of the fight against sexual harassment? Let us know your thoughts.

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Media Studies is CASSIUS’ weekly look at news, moves, and mess-ups in the wild world we call “The Industry.” Got a tip? Email Stephanie Long: slong(at)ionedigital(dot)com.

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