Last night marked the second rape scene in Mad Men (and the third time a man on the show has forced himself on a woman in a sexual manner). But still, the question lingers - is this really rape?
Interestingly, every time a rape or sexual assault is portrayed on the show, questions swirl around whether or not it was really, truly an assault. When Joan was raped by her fiancé in the second season the buzz on message boards was that it wasn't really rape. In an interview with New York Magazine, Christina Hendricks expressed her shock at the fact the rape scene was being debated:
[I]n the penultimate episode of the season, her doctor-fiancé rapes her. "Every time I got the script, I was like, ‘Poor Joan!' " says Hendricks. [...]
The rape was a shocker-but the audience reactions were perhaps more disturbing. "What's astounding is when people say things like, ‘Well, you know that episode where Joan sort of got raped?' Or they say rape and use quotation marks with their fingers," says Hendricks. "I'm like, ‘What is that you are doing? Joan got raped!' It illustrates how similar people are today, because we're still questioning whether it's a rape. It's almost like, ‘Why didn't you just say bad date?' "
The scene was polarizing, sparking heated online debates in which some questioned Joan's reaction (she and her fiancé head off for dinner afterward) while others wondered whether Joan would understand that it was rape, a taboo subject in 1962. Labels aside, Hendricks says Joan knew what was going on. "She's smart. She'd think it was awful and ‘Holy shit!' But she also thinks, ‘Pick yourself up, comb your hair. You've got a dinner reservation; don't be a baby. You know many girls this has happened to.' "
Our culture teaches us to excuse rape, to rationalize it away, to pinpoint all the reasons why a woman was partially or fully culpable for a man choosing to ignore consent and force a sexual encounter.
Also in the second season, Don Draper decides to regulate and sexually assaults Bobbi Barrett. But hey, does it really matter if Barrett likes it? (Let me be clear - that scenario is extremely complicated and needs a post of its own to parse out.) How many of us were turned on by (or, alternately, repulsed by) this scene, when the consent was not given beforehand, but complicated by their relationship afterward?