Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Wendy Simonds

Second Advisor

Dawn Baunach

Third Advisor

Mindy Stombler


Kink has become a more widely discussed sexual practice over time. Recent pop culture releases like the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey have increased this discussion. Cosmopolitan magazine (Cosmo) is one of the most well-known women’s magazines in the world and its sexual advice is one of its defining characteristics. Using both quantitative and qualitative approaches, I examine Cosmo’s depictions of kink from 1996 to 2014. Cosmo was more likely to mention kink in later years than in earlier ones, and its mentions of kink in later years were more likely to be positive. These mentions were most common the year after Fifty Shades of Grey was published. However, though the magazine bills itself as edgy and boundary pushing, Cosmo’s sexual advice over the study period tended to reinforce the existing status quo that prioritizes male sexuality and tasked women with fulfilling their partner’s sexual needs.