On Tuesday, there was a flurry of excitement followed by a wave of disappointment after a site purporting to be a Playboy guide to consent was circulated and then exposed as a hoax. “Every year Playboy releases the ultimate guide to campus life: our infamous party school list,” wrote the fake Playboy scribe. “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.” What follows is an infographic highlighting the various ways schools encourage students to talk about sex with their partners, because “[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.”
It’s a bummer to find out that Playboy is not behind a funny article with insights like, “Rape is kryptonite to sexual pleasure.” But there’s a solution that’s mutually beneficial to Playboy, the group of college kids responsible for Party With Playboy, and the audience who loved it: Playboy should go ahead and publish the guide. Sure, they’d have to tweak it, removing the faked quotes from Hugh Hefner, but overall the guide actually fits quite nicely into the long-standing Playboy tradition of both celebrating all things sex while maintaining an air of dignified intelligence. This is probably why so many smart people actually thought it was real.
As Kate Dries at Jezebel points out, an “ultimate guide for a consensual good time” could help Playboy with its rebranding efforts, which have gone into overdrive this fall. Playboy CEO Scott Flanders told our own Amanda Hess that in order to appeal to a new generation of readers, “we’ve got to be female-friendly.” And the company has decided that its best strategy for competing with online porn in the 21st century is to double down on its reputation for relative sophistication. To that end, it’s not enough to just include more arts coverage and limit the number of models with obvious plastic surgery. Putting an emphasis on women’s sexual experiences and desires—framing them as just as important as men’s—can help achieve the “we’re all smart adults and we all love sex” tone Playboy wants to convey. Publishing this hoax as a real article would show that the magazine can take a ribbing and that it embraces a more modern approach toward sexual pleasure. What’s more 21st century than that?