As one of today’s popular authorities on American feminine culture, Cosmopolitan magazine has already established itself in the social realms of fashion, cosmetics and relationships. With “The Cosmo Kama Sutra: 77 Mind-blowing Sex Positions,” however, Cosmo’s latest attempt at reinventing sex falls substantially short of its lofty goal.

Book Reviews

The famed Kama Sutra, an ancient Sanskrit text, despite popular belief, much more than a guide to sexual positions: It is a treatise on relationships and society, with only one of its seven parts devoted to sex. Cosmo’s version, though updated for the modern reader with clever positions such as “Romp with a View” is less than revolutionary. Though it includes small sections on sex-related activities such as “Mood Makers vs. Deal Breakers” and “Lube Lowdown” (a guide to choosing the right lubrication), its primary focus — sex positions — is derivative and trite.

Each of the 77 positions is illustrated with bright colors and sharp angles. Unlike other sex guides, which provide elaborate illustrations or photographs, Cosmo delivers two-dimensional figures that lack shading, realistic features or detail of any kind. Although the angles are varied in order to allow the most comprehensive view of each position, readers will have difficulty understanding the realistic difficulties or advantages of each pose because of the absence of any anatomical detail. The illustrations’ only appeal is the bold color scheme, which places the figures on backgrounds of bright yellow or electric blue. Visual learners will find Cosmo’s depictions sadly lacking in constructive content — Ken and Barbie could do better.

While Cosmo’s positions are deficient in pictorial form, they are extensively explained by tongue-in-cheek instructions. Each different pose has four sections: Cosmo’s “Carnal Challenge” in which each position is rated on a scale from 1-5 flames depending on difficulty, a set of “Erotic Instructions,” background on “Why You’ll Love It” and a “Cosmo Hint,” small tips for variations on each new sexual exercise. In their attempt to maintain the titillating tone their magazine has made famous, Cosmo’s editors have infused their text with superfluous alliteration, smarmy slang terms and an overabundance of superlatives that turn the would-be lighthearted instructions into tiresome, immature directives.

Besides these basic shortcomings, “The Cosmo Kama Sutra” is narrowly focused. Many of the positions described would be impractical for couples in which either partner is larger than a size three. Twosomes with great height differences will also have difficulty, not to mention the fact that a few of these positions simply do not seem possible — some organs of the human anatomy just don’t bend that way. Sex according to this book has morphed from the physical seeking of pleasure into a whole lot of work, as illustrated by a section entitled “Pre-sex Stretches.”

Perhaps the best thing that can be said of “The Cosmo Kama Sutra” is that it meets expectations. The writing and the positions cater directly to its target audience of the same young women that read the magazine. This is also its weakest point. Instead of pushing the envelope with more sophisticated content, the editors of Cosmo are simply content to leave their sex book in the comfortably mediocre realm of pop culture sexuality.


Review: 2 out of 5 stars

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