FORCE confirmed to The Huffington Post late Tuesday night that the group was behind the prank, and announced the action in a statement Wednesday morning:
While FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture was in on the prank, the consent campaign was mostly carried out by a national conspiracy of college students. Students from over 25 school across the country banded together to create the historic hoax. Consent enthusiasts hosted consent-themed tailgating parties, played games of “Ask First” beer pong, and excitedly pushed the prank on facebook and twitter, which is how it exploded all over the internet on Tuesday.
The group posed as Playboy with a website that appeared to replace the magazine's annual party school list with a consensual sexual behavior guide, and offered a fake interview on consent with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. It was promoted with additional fake websites showing news coverage by HuffPost, BroBible and UpWorthy, though none of articles were legitimate.
The fake news pages received more than 3,000 hits an hour, FORCE said, and the mock HuffPost site collected 5,000 Facebook likes. The fake HuffPost story alone collected 30,000 visitors.
Rebecca Nagle, one of the action's organizers, told HuffPost they were happy to see one of the websites they spoofed, BroBible, have such a good attitude about it.
"We'd be remiss not to say that we do agree with the overall messaging, if not the way it was delivered. The world is safe for bros to be feminists too," wrote BroBible's Andy Moore after the hoax was uncovered.
Sophie Hess, an Oberlin College student in Ohio, said she was pleased to see people responding to FORCE's positive message.
"All day I've been overhearing people talk to each other about the article thinking that it was real," Hess said. "What I heard was really surprising. I thought that people would be dubious at best. But not only did they totally buy it, they loved it, saying it was refreshing, real, and 'about time.'"
Hannah Brancato, another organizer with FORCE, dropped a clue about targeting party schools during a February 2012 interview discussing the group's art show, which featured a consent-themed line of underwear.
"We’re currently formulating a proposal to have the show tour several different colleges, some of them falling onto the top 10 party schools according to Playboy," Brancato told the Hollaback Baltimore blog at the time. "Our rationale behind that is that the kind of dialogue that happened around FORCE would be really useful in the college setting, where a lot of date rape is happening."
FORCE's fake HuffPost article noted, correctly, that two of the schools on the 2012 Playboy list -- the University of Virginia and University of Southern California -- are currently under federal investigation for allegations they failed to properly address sexual assault reports. USC's started in June, and UVA has been under investigation since 2011. U.S. Department of Education officials recently confirmed to HuffPost that both investigations are ongoing.
Playboy confirmed the company was not involved in the fake guide, but did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the magazine's opinion of the prank.
In the lead-up to the mock Playboy list, FORCE recruited students from different universities that had groups or campaigns promoting sexual assault awareness and consensual sexual behavior. For example, FORCE tapped University of Michigan student Meghana Kulkarni, who is the coordinator of a men's activism group that does a "No Shave November" campaign to raise awareness about consent.
Another FORCE recruit, Kelsey Yale, created the slogan and organization “Badgers Get Consent" on her University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The UW group is working on printing boxers and condoms that say things like "consent is the first thing I do with my mouth," Yale said.
Kulkarni thinks people responded so well to the Playboy prank because FORCE used humor and put sex in a positive light. They didn't use "social justicey lingo," Kulkarni said, and avoided the negative "rape is bad" message because people tend to tune that out.
"I think the only way we're going to reach a broader audience like men is by using humor," Kulkarni said. "Taking ourselves less seriously, even though the issue is very serious."
Check out the FORCE infographic that accompanied the fake Playboy article below: