On this week’s show, Mindy brings a drunk Dr. L home to his apartment.
Usually The Mindy Project is one of the smartest and funniest shows on television. But this week’s episode makes light of rape.
This week’s episode, called “The Other Dr. L,” revolved around Dr. Paul Leotard (played by guest star James Franco) having sex with the ex-wife of one of Mindy’s coworkers. This is portrayed as a funny and dramatic plotline (that, most importantly, gives James Franco’s character an excuse to leave the show). The problem is that the sex is clearly not consensual.
In the episode, Mindy challenges Dr. L to a boozy “shot off.” Mindy wins and remains remarkably sober for someone who just downed 14 shots (her secret is that she ate a whole loaf of bread before she went out), but Dr. L gets so wasted that Mindy has to help him to his apartment. Once there, she can’t find his keys, so she just lays him down in the hallway. She then kisses him, and he yells “Woah, neighbors!” She puts her hand over his mouth and says “Nothing happened, you liked it,” before leaving him there.
Next, we see the character Christina, who is the ex-wife of Mindy’s coworker Danny, stop by Dr. L’s apartment (where Danny is crashing) to drop off some of Danny’s clothes. Dr. L is still in the hallway, but is no longer wearing pants—he took them off when he was trying to find his keys. Christina has a key (somehow?) and so she helps him into the apartment. Before shutting the door, she has a mischievous look in her eye and it’s implied that she’s going to try to sleep with him.
The next morning Dr. L tells Mindy that he was blackout drunk and had sex with Christina, and the rest of the episode revolves around the consequences of this action (such as Dr. L quitting his job). The first problem here is that the show does not acknowledge that someone absolutely cannot consent to sex when they are blackout drunk. Our cultural image of date rape is of a creepy dude slipping a roofie into a woman’s drink, but alcohol is actually the most common date rape drug.
This plotline ignores the fact that men can be raped. Imagine if the genders were reversed in this scenario—this episode would have looked completely different and likely Dr. L would be written as a predator. Our society perpetuates the myth that men always want sex, so much so that a woman having sex with a blackout drunk man is supposed to be funny. Why wouldn’t he want to have sex with her? She’s hot! This idea erases the reality of sexual assault and makes it harder for men who are assaulted to come forward. Saying that men always want sex is just as ridiculous as saying women never want sex. Individuals have different sex drives regardless of gender, and every person needs to consent to sex every single time.
In the past few years, there has been mixed coverage of male rape on TV. In True Blood, a group of werepanther women tie Jason Stackhouse to a bed and feed him Mexican Viagra so they can all breed with him. Different media outlets and some of the show’s creators made light of the scene and described what happened as sex. However, in a later episode Jason tells his friend Hoyt that he’s upset because he was raped. The show definitely didn’t take this plotline seriously enough—besides mentioning it to Hoyt, Jason seems to move on and forget about it. However, the fact that Jason, a sex fiend, acknowledges that this forced sex was rape is important.
Another example of male rape on TV happens on the British show Misfits. Misfits is about young delinquents who get struck by lighting and gain superpowers that are an extension of their personality. One of the women, Alisha, gains the power to make any person she touches want to have sex with her. When they touch her, they become mindless and do not remember what happened afterwards. Alisha uses this power on multiple men, including the man she is flirting with, Curtis. After Curtis breaks out of his trance, he is furious with Alisha, and in another episode he calls what happened rape. In later seasons Curtis gains the superpower to turn into a woman, and he experiences sexual harrasment and attempted rape which the show takes much more seriously. But again, it’s powerful for a man to simply state on TV that a gorgeous woman raped him.
While True Blood and Misfits are dramas, it’s just as disturbing to see male rape in a comedy like the The Mindy Project. It’s 2013, how could a whole team of writers and directors not think that this blackout drunk sex was rape? Many viewers immediately recognized the incident as rape—it was not okay to not address it in the show.