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A site called Party With Playboy caught some progressive blogosphere wind on Tuesday after a fake Huffington Post story drew attention to an apparently dramatic change of attitude from Playboy magazine. "Playboy Magazine re-invents its annual party school guide in a move that promotes healthy and open sexuality on college campuses," the "article" began, adding, "Rather than listing schools who rank first in drinking and nightlife, the 2013 “Top Ten Party Commandments” is a 'guide for a consensual good time.'" Except Playboy did no such thing. The site in question, partywithplayboy.com, is an elaborate fake.

But before anyone caught on that the site itself was a parody, the story was picked up by ThinkProgress as a real thing, launching it into the progressive Twittersphere  The narrative of the parody site argued more or less the best-case-scenario for those fighting against rape culture: that the magazine's annual list of top party schools (which itself turns out to be just a half-true myth) was retooling itself after complaints that the guide, along with the Hefner enterprise at large, was fueling the fire of blurred consent and campus rape culture. "Consent is all about everyone having a good time," the parody site explains, launching into a guide on how to show some basic respect to other human beings. That, if it had been true, would be a welcome message for many women and activists still recovering from the summer of "Blurred Lines." But it is not true. Here's a sampling from the fake site's explanation for their new approach to the party list: 

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.”

The Party With Playboy site redirects to a press-release style "interview" with Hugh Hefner, at a site called playboyco.com, which looks modeled after the design of the legitimate playboyenterprises.com. In the "interview," "Hugh" drops gems like these, underlining the parody's argument that Playboy, by minimizing an emphasis on consent, was actually making sex worse: 

Do you always practice consent?
I’ve had sex with thousands of women and they all still like me. That is because I never use coercion or force. I never fed a woman drinks, I’ve never drugged a woman, I’ve never insulted a woman to make her feel vulnerable, I’ve never manipulated my way into sex. The only sex that is good is when it’s good for everyone. And I’ve only ever had good sex.

By contrast, the real Hugh Hefner has gone on record responding to domestic abuse charges against his son by saying "If the  are about each other, they'll patch it up." But in any case, the story was picked up quickly on Twitter, where the magazine got a lot of (undeserved) praise: 

At this point, we emailed Playboy for comment. But there was no need to wait long: the company responded to ThinkProgress's article with an acknowledgement that it had nothing to do with a guide to consent, which kind of makes the whole point of the parody itself clear. Soon after ThinkProgress announced the fakery, the Twittersphere erupted again ... in disappointment: 

So, should those who were fooled feel bad about it? While the whole episode demonstrates the power of wishful thinking — Party With Playboy was too good to be true — it also seems to have accomplished what its creators intended. Now, at least, everyone's talking about what Playboy's message doesn't say about sexual consent. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.