Arielle Pardes | Playing Playboy
The Screwtinizer | Forget Playboy’s party commandments — Penn offers the ultimate guide for a consensual good time
September 18, 2013, 5:43 pm · Updated September 19, 2013, 12:15 am·
If only for a fleeting snip of a moment, it looked like Penn could be a contender for the Top 10 Party Schools of the Year.
The contest — a vacuous one, admittedly — is curated annually by Playboy magazine, which ranks universities on their quality of drinking and nightlife.
Penn never makes the cut. But on Tuesday, rumors circulated that Playboy had reinvented its annual party school guide to focus this year’s list not on the wildest parties, but on campuses that promoted healthy, consensual sex.
“Thou shalt ask first!” declared Playboy’s new Top Ten Party Commandments. “Thou shalt not take advantage of sloshed persons!”
The campaign went viral, lauded by media critics, feminists and students alike, for Playboy’s apparent turnaround take on sex. But by Tuesday afternoon, a Playboy spokesperson had announced that the entire thing was a sham — some Playboy pretender had created a look-alike website to endorse the campaign, and in the end, it was just a charade.
And so, the internet erupted with anger, bemoaning the reality that Playboy was still the same old boy’s club that had not condoned consent at all. College senior Nicole Grabowski, who had commended the article on her Facebook, flared in frustration over the fraud.
“Imagine if that was our reality — that international businesses and brands began to endorse consent as a main educational campaign,” Grabowski reflected. Then, reconsidering, she pointed out that this type of messaging isn’t confined to imagination or wishful thinking — in fact, it already exists right here at Penn.
Unlike many of our peer institutions, Penn has made it a priority to promote conversations about consent through programming from the Women’s Center, the Vice Provost for University Life’s website (which specifies that “sexual assault is never the fault of the victim — it is solely the fault of the perpetrator”) and perhaps most importantly, through student-run groups like One in Four (an all-male sexual assault prevention group) and ASAP (Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention), of which Grabowski is the outreach chair. Their combined efforts make Penn’s stance on sex unmistakable: If there isn’t explicit consent, then it’s sexual assault.
This message is promoted fiercely through the Women’s Center’s “Call it what it is” campaign, which peppers campus with posters that remind us “alcohol is not an aphrodisiac” and “once someone can’t stand up, consent doesn’t hold up.” Plastered on the walls of college houses and tacked to poles along Locust Walk, it’s impossible to miss the arresting campaign or misconstrue the message.
College freshman Devan Spear remarked that walking past the posters in her hallway every day makes a bold statement about how the Penn community approaches sex.
“I think Penn does a really great job of framing sexual assault prevention in terms of the aggressor rather than the victim,” Spear applauded, noting that Penn draws a bright line between the message “don’t rape” and “don’t get raped.”
Penn students are introduced to pro-consent messaging even before they arrive on campus, with educational programming from the Penn Alcohol Module. The module is tailor-made to Penn’s community and makes a point of introducing students to on-campus resources for situations which could involve excessive alcohol, drug abuse or sexual assault.
“We talk about what happens if you get sexually assaulted: physically, verbally or whatever. And the resources are there,” said College senior Marcus Mundy, who has become a campus celebrity for his starring role in the PennAM video.
“Since they’ve included [information about sexual assault], more people are using the Women’s Center and reporting these things than before. It’s working. I think that people just didn’t know before, but now that you have to sit there and watch it, it’s removed some of the stigma.”
“I have talked to one person who has said, ‘I didn’t hook up with her because she was too drunk,’ and I think that’s a really important part of a campus culture,” said Spear.
It’s a commendable part of Penn’s culture, and deserves the same praise that was (mistakenly) poured onto Playboy this Tuesday. Playboy need not be the agent in promoting healthy views about sex and consent — we can do it, too. Penn already is.
Arielle Pardes is a College senior from San Diego. Her email address is email@example.com. You can follow her @pardesoteric. “The Screwtinizer” appears every Thursday.