AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The website looks like Victoria's Secret, with lots of sexy models wearing brightly-colored knickers. But look closely. One little lacy number has the word consent printed on it and they somehow managed to squeeze the words, no means no onto a skimpy pink thong. It turns out the site's a lookalike, a prank and it's just the latest effort by two Baltimore artists who are tired of the sexual messaging coming from companies like Victoria's Secret and Playboy.
From member station WYPR in Baltimore, Stephanie Hughes has their story.
STEPHANIE HUGHES, BYLINE: Rebecca Nagle sometimes finds herself asking the question, what would Hugh Hefner say?
REBECCA NAGLE: The only sex that is good is when it's good for everyone. And I've only ever had good sex.
HUGHES: Did you write that?
HUGHES: Nagle has spent a lot of time studying Hefner. She's one of the directors of a Baltimore-based group called FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture. The group is interested in promoting consent. FORCE thinks the way Playboy talks about consent is problematic. That includes the magazine's annual list of top party schools.
NAGLE: The way that they describe women on the list are like campus perks, sort of alongside things like good bars and a good football stadium.
HUGHES: FORCE wanted to change the message. So, last September, the group created a fake Playboy website. But instead of listing party schools, the site highlighted colleges working to promote consent. Nagle says it's not hard to imagine Hugh Hefner getting behind that.
NAGLE: If you're somebody who's all about sexual pleasure, it makes total sense that you'd also be somebody who's all about consent.
HUGHES: The website looks like it could have been created by Playboy. There's the bunny logo and language with just the right amount of smugness. FORCE also created replicas of several blogs reporting on the fake list, including the Huffington Post and BroBible.com.
Playboy hasn't responded publicly to the prank, but BroBible did. Andy Moore is the associate editor for the website, which is aimed primarily at college-age men. He agreed with FORCE's message that consent and party school lists can co-exist.
ANDY MOORE: They didn't say don't have a good time. I think that there's a way to rank these schools and to talk about this while keeping in mind that any sort of terrible behavior is not allowed.
HUGHES: That's something the artists are hoping more people will think about and not just those who read Playboy or BroBible. They've used other brands to get that message across.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV AD)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Victoria's Secret introduces Body Bare.
HANNAH BRANCATO: Victoria's Secret, in a lot of ways, publicly owns the idea of sexuality.
HUGHES: Hannah Brancato is another director of FORCE. The group was concerned with messages Victoria's Secret was placing on their underwear, such as stop staring and no peeking.
BRANCATO: The words stop and no are being used as a way to flirt instead of a way to set boundaries.
HUGHES: So, FORCE created a fake Victoria's Secret website. They pretended to release a new line of consent-themed underwear.
BRANCATO: We said that Victoria's Secret was apologizing for their past styles and instead they were releasing this new line promoting consent culture - the idea of loving your body, communicating about sex, asking first, no means no.
HUGHES: The prank fooled a lot of people, including 19-year-old Cinneah El-Amin from Baltimore. She was especially pleased to see models of all shapes and sizes wearing the underwear.
CINNEAH EL-AMIN: Being able to look into this prank and see someone who looks like me, you know, meant a lot.
HUGHES: The fake Victoria's Secret website received hundreds of thousands of hits. That's comparable to other corporate pranks. With the Playboy spoof, according to the count on each website, as of January 2nd, FORCE's list had been shared more times on Facebook and Twitter than the actual party school list. Hannah Brancato says that shows this kind of activism can be effective.
BRANCATO: This is how you change attitudes, by changing the culture that we're consuming on a day-to-day basis.
HUGHES: Until that change happens, Nagle and Brancato are planning to keep it up. They have other pranks in the works. For NPR News, I'm Stephanie Hughes in Baltimore.