Fashion (western) sexuality for sale : the case of sex and fashion articles in Cosmpolitan Hong Kong

Document Type

Book chapter

Source Publication

Gendering Hong Kong = 香港性別論述 : 從屬·不公·差異·越界

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First Page


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Oxford University Press


Theories of sexuality and consumption are increasingly entwined in the critical discourse of women's magazines. This reflects the growing importance of sexuality in the shifting representation of femininity. Women's magazines are seen as pivotal, not only in charting women's lives, but also in asserting the importance of consumption in constructing femininity. Contemporary women's magazines in Western societies feature the dominance of sexual images, from sexy models to the discussion of sex. Underpinning this trend is the notion that sexuality sells. Sexuality thus becomes a dominant phenomenon in the commodification of Western femininity.

In this paper, I want to question the universality of this phenomenon in the context of franchised magazines. The result of internationalization has precipitated the flow of images across overseas editions. Imported into the local editions, do these images of sexuality and sex necessarily sell in the same way as they do in the parent titles? Existing research around women's magazines concentrates on the sale of sexuality in the Western culture, without questioning its relevance to overseas editions. As a result, it neglects the importance of social and cultural specificities which affect the reading of women's magazines. Using Cosmopolitan Hong Kong as an example, I will redress this monolithic view by examining how a non-Western culture responds to the inflow of Western elements. Positing sexuality as a site for cultural debate, I will investigate the extent to which sexy images and sex articles pose a problem for the local edition, and how the edition has to repackage these images to cater for local readership. The analysis of images in the Hong Kong edition seems particularly urgent, as it is situated in a society which is under-going rapid political and economic changes. In so doing, I will also demonstrate the dynamism of women's magazines as a form of business as well as cultural commodity.

Publisher Statement

Copyright © Oxford University Press 2004 and Centre of Asian Studies, The University of Hong Kong 2004.

Additional Information

ISBN of the source publication: 9780195929713 This paper is part of the author's DPhil research thesis, which investigates the juxtaposition of cultural images in Cosmopolitan Hong Kong as a franchised edition. The objective of the thesis is to examine the different concerns in the production of the local edition: abiding by parent control, negotiating cultural differences, responding to social reality, and creating sales. The thesis also analyses the ways Hong Kong women's magazines shape local images of femininity.



Recommended Citation

Leung, L. (2004). Fashion (western) sexuality for sale: The case of sex and fashion articles in Cosmpolitan Hong Kong. In A. K.-W. Chan & W.-L. Wong (Eds.), Gendering Hong Kong (pp. 420-441). Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.

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