As I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook last week, I was tripped up by a link a friend posted claiming “Party School List puts consent on top?” I never expected a sentence to claim Playboy and consent together, so I clicked on the link eager to see what is was about. I was sent to a website, partywithplayboy.com, where they had a list of Ten Commandments for how to have a good time by always asking for consent. Finally! An industry reliant on sex appeal appreciating women and their right to sexual autonomy! As I went back to comment on the original Facebook post as to how excited I was that people were finally talking about the importance of consent, I was deflated by the comments claiming the website was fake. In fact, the whole thing was a hoax and completely unaffiliated with Playboy.
The masterminds behind the clever, mainstreaming consent campaign? FORCE. The activist collaboration group, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, focuses on creating dialogue around consent and aims to help the world perceive sex as empowering rather than violent or dominated by men’s decisions. FORCE wanted to focus their next outreach consent project to be one popular for men and women within college student populations. Enter Playboy.
The website– now edited to admit its parody status- featured quotations such as ‘Over the years, it has been brought to our attention that some of our long-standing party school picks have a not-so-toast-worthy, rape-ridden side to their campus life,’ and ‘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. And fuck those people.’ The website is very well designed and on first glance would easily pass for a real Playboy website. Photos such as “party fouls” and the ten commandments were included as well to drive home what exactly consent is and the importance of it during sexual relations.
FORCE has also made headlines in the past year with their “PINK Loves Consent” Victoria’s Secret panty line. In a similar parody style, the group made a mock Victoria’s Secret page selling panties with phrases such as “Ask First”, “Let’s Talk About Sex”, and “Listen To What I Want”.
The website also features a straightforward definition of consent as to not allow there to be any confusion or vague interpretations of it. The homepage of the PINK Loves Consent page includes, “CONSENT is a verbal agreement (say it out loud—no “body language”) about how and when people are comfortable having sex. “Ask first”, “No means no” and “Let’s talk about sex” remind us that communication is the key to good sex. Pick your favorite slogan or write your own. Whatever you do, remember to practice CONSENT.” The faux panty line also features models of various ethnic backgrounds as well as women of all shapes and sizes.
This all seems like the perfect marketing ploy. I would buy a 5/$25 set of Consent is Sexy undies in a minute if VS carried them. I would have so much more respect for companies like Playboy if they were framed in a more sex positive nature. Why do we only see these improvements in mock advertisements? Instead, these industries are assisting in aiding rape culture by not taking an oppositional stance. Some even say, as shown on the PINK Loves Consent website, that some of the products for these companies are leaning toward rape culture- with Victoria’s Secret selling panties that say “No Peeking” as a tease, but undermining the power of saying no during sexual relations.
These large companies have built themselves off industries tied to sex and have the power to help transform our culture’s perceptions of sexual assault and consent. Sex is great, being sexy is awesome, but consent is the foundation for those experiences to be positive- for both parties involved. Instead of portraying women as sexual objects, these companies should take charge in presenting women as independent and in control of their sexual choices. You sure as hell would have me as a consumer. Responders to the recent Playboy mock spread suggested sentiments on Twitter including
Hopefully these fake advertisements will allow other companies to see the benefits of including conversations about consent and honest, open sex talks could not only help propel a new target audience for their product, but a beginning of change to soon reach FORCE’s goal and upset rape culture.