The Curious Case of Playboy's Guide for a Consensual Good Time
During my commute from work yesterday, I stumbled upon an eyebrow-raising website. Playboy—yes, Playboy —was heralding consent as the new sexy on college campuses.
Party with Playboy, it appeared, had elected to veer away from their traditional rating of the top ten drinking and partying schools, instead offering the Top Ten Party Commandments as a “guide for a consensual good time.” The website read,
Every year Playboy releases the ultimate guide to campus life: our infamous party school list. Over the years, it has been brought to our attention that some of our long-standing party picks have a not-so-toast-worthy, rape-ridden side to their campus life.
Somewhere in the countless hours we spent tallying up co-eds and scoring beer pong, we lost track of the most essential element of the Playboy lifestyle: sexual pleasure. Rape is kryptonite to sexual pleasure. The two cannot co-exist. For our revised party guide to live up to our founder’s vision, we had to put a new criterion on top. Namely, consent.
A good college party is all about everyone having a good time. Consent is all about everyone having a good time. Rape is only a good time if you’re a rapist.
My next few steps, as a blogger, were simple.
Step One: Forward said website to a co-worker with the smug subject line, “I sure know what I’m writing about tonight!” And, well, start to cackle, as quality topical material is hard to come by…. and Playboy tackling a complicated issue such as consent is the definition of quality topical material.
Step Two: Start my brainstorm of Playboy-related musings.
Obviously, my first step was to revisit Gloria Steinem's "A Bunny's Tale," the ground-breaking journalistic endeavor that took Steinem undercover as a Playboy bunny in the late 60’s. Next on the brainstorming front, a look at what Playboy offers beyond naked, thin, attractive women. Hugh Hefner fancies himself a feminist, tackling issues such as fidelity, personal freedoms, and ensuring that sex is pleasurable for all (not just men.) Hefner has also used his notoriety to argue for pro-choice measures. Digging deeper into the world of Playboy, I even discovered that their “Bunny Measurement Index,” which allows one to rate her potential for the Bunny mentality, went somewhat beyond the basics of height, weight, and attention paid to hair and style, with questions about one’s personal happiness making it into the quiz. (I myself was rated at 57% of a Blooming Bunny, needing more self confidence, a fact I feel quite mixed about.)
Step 3: Reach out to one of my colleagues who works day-in and day-out to make college campuses safer by truly promoting ideas of consensual sex. If this piece was going to be a worthwhile one, it couldn’t just be about Playboy. Solving the issues behind rape at college campuses isn’t as simple as a waving a magic wand—even one coming from Playboy. I needed to make sure I had support from someone who could ensure a well-composed, well-researched, and sensitively written article.
Step Four: Do my research.
Maybe I should have started with Step Four, because here’s where things started to unravel a bit—it turns out that the guide to consensual partying wasn’t actually a Playboy creation.
The organization FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture was first reported as the brains behind the website, created using Playboy branding. The Baltimore based organization describes itself as “a creative activist collaboration to upset the culture of rape and promote a culture of consent.” They got the ball rolling yesterday with a fake Huffington Post article on their fabricated Playboy site, one that pulled the wool over the eyes of much of the internet.
I’d be lying if I didn’t express my general disappointment at the fact that Playboy really isn’t doing enough to create (or shift) a culture that views rape as something normal (as this, unfortunately still relevant, newspaper article from 1985 shows us.)
But FORCE is doing something powerful: they are asking us to look deeper. As bloggers line up to examine Playboy and their policies, we’re all asking questions that we probably wouldn’t have asked on Monday. I’ve spent the past 24-odd hours really researching how Playboy treats women. And we’re all looking a little closer at the issue of consent at colleges and the legacy and messaging of the Playboy institution. So, regardless of the source of the “guide for a consensual good time,” let’s follow its advice.