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Penn State frat member defends photos of nude, unconscious women as “satire”

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Members of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at Pennsylvania State University could face criminal charges over a Facebook page that included photos of naked, unconscious women. The page came to light when the police investigation was announced Tuesday.

The Facebook page had 144 members, including current students and alumni. That's a relatively large number of college students and recent graduates who knew the fraternity was posting nude photos of nonconsenting women for at least eight months and went along with it.

If you're wondering how something like that happens — and how 143 people, members and alumni, seemed to think it was a totally OK thing to do — an interview on Philadelphia magazine's website with someone who says he's a member of Kappa Delta Rho gives a pretty disturbing view into the fraternity's thought process.

In the interview, reporter Holly Otterbein presses the anonymous member on whether the group was inappropriate. (In an email to Vox, she said she "verified through a multi-step process that he is a student at Penn State, a member of KDR, and ... the person he said he was.")

His answer is revealing:

Philly Mag: Do you regret being part of the group at all?

KDR member: Obviously, retrospectively with this having happened, sure, but the 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. It was an entirely satirical group and it was funny to some extent. 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.

The member seems to be trying to defend his fraternity in any way he can. But the interview also gets at a bigger cultural issue: that as gross as the Facebook page is, in some ways it's not surprising — because this is what popular culture has taught us to expect from fraternities.

"There's a certain stereotypical Greek life culture and, as you see in movies, people try to live up to that and people try to kind of incorporate those elements," says the KDR member. Animal House was released 37 years ago, but to some people, it's apparently still the template for a good college party, no matter how many women end up as collateral damage along the way.

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