Billboard campaign aims to label magazine as 'explicit content'

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) - You may have seen a billboard posted in multiple locations throughout the Salt Lake Valley that reads “Cosmopolitan Magazine Contains Pornography.” The billboard is part of a campaign to label the magazine as “Explicit Content.” 

Victoria Hearst is an Heiress to the Hearst Corporation, and the creator of the campaign. Hearst corporation owns Cosmopolitan Magazine. Victoria Hearst says she started the campaign, Cosmo Hurts Kids, to get the magazine out of the hands of children. Hearst says when her grandfather originally bought the magazine in 1906 that it was “a classy women’s magazine.” 

Hearst explained that the goal of the campaign is to get it placed on higher shelves and blocked with blinders. 

In early 2017 Hearst enlisted the help of Senator Todd Weiler and an activist against the sexual exploitation of children, Jennifer Brown. The two agree that the magazine is not suitable for children. 

“I've been in dentists offices and doctors offices, and I don't know that anyone knows how bad it's gotten in the magazine, so I applaud her for getting that message out,” explains Senator Weiler. 

However, not everyone agrees that the magazine should be labeled that way. Some people believe the magazine may even have educational value. 

Turner Bitton, the Executive Director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Violence says, “The thing about for example Cosmo...that's traditionally where we would see youth get this information. The things about an organization like that is that they're held to journalistic standards, generally, and there's liability there. No media, no magazine, wants to be responsible for a child being hurt, a child utilizing their information to experience violence or to get into trouble, so there's a little bit of accountability built into the system there.”

Bitton went on to explain that children do, however, need to be learning about healthy relationships as well. He said ideally, youth will get this information from trained professionals and their parents. 

ABC 4 reached out to teens at Salt Lake City’s Planned Parenthood Teen Council to see what they thought about the campaign, and they had mixed responses. 

Grace Ritter, a student from Salt Lake City, says “I think that sex columns in magazines are definitely not how we want to be receiving or teaching young people about sex...It also doesn't provide a lot of integral information that should be there, especially  things about safety and how to keep yourself safe.” 

Another student from Salt Lake City had a different opinion. “I don't think that it's porn. I think it's advice. I think it's to help people in their lives. Sex is a part of your life, and it's not something that you should shy away from,” says Sophia Gener. 

But Victoria Hearst disagrees, and feels compelled by a higher power to keep this magazine out of the hands of those under 18. “I'm not gonna let the devil get away with it, I'm not gonna let the devil sit there and argue that there's another side to pornography,” explains Hearst. 

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