The XX Factor

Penn State Frat Member Says Pictures of Nonconsenting Nude Women Are “Satire”

Students play Frisbee, non-satirically, at Penn State.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Questions are being raised about the moral turpitude flourishing inside the walls of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at Penn State University, which was discovered to have a members-only Facebook page featuring non-consensual nude photos of women. Now Philadelphia has published an interview with one of the 143 men who participated in the group. His comments suggest that he may not be getting all he can out of his expensive education. 

After this anonymous member sent Philadephia a statement complaining that the media attention will “ruin people’s lives and unjustly ruin reputations” (coincidentally, also concerns for women subjected to nonconsensual nude photography), the magazine reached out to him. He explained:

[T]he thing is, that it was a satirical group. It’s like, there’s literally sites like that that millions of people access, whether it’s or any of the other thousands of sites that post, you know, pictures of girls and post funny text conversations and Snapchat stories and things like that. It was a satirical group. It wasn’t malicious whatsoever. It wasn’t intended to hurt anyone. It wasn’t intended to demean anyone…Some of the stuff, yeah, it’s raunchy stuff, as you would expect from a bunch of college-aged guys. But, I mean, you could go on any one of hundreds and thousands of different sites to access the same kind of stuff and obviously a lot worse and a lot more explicit.

Something can be “satirical.” It could be “not intended to demean.” But can it be both? It can if you’re a master of the satirical form (was Stephen Colbert in a frat?). It’s harder to pull off that balancing act when you’re busy choosing your favorite snaps of passed-out classmates to upload to Facebook.

Also, what is being satirized? Women’s bodies? College students’ proclivity for passing out at parties? The tendency of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity brothers to treat women as objects to be abused and ridiculed? No one knows.

Penn State is considering expelling some of the frat members involved in the Facebook group, but this interview suggests that the brothers may especially benefit from core humanities classes. Maybe a condition of receiving a Penn State degree should be the ability to discern satire from being a jerk online. Considering tuition rates these days, it’s not too much to ask.