Subscribe to Bitch—an award-winning, 80 page feminist magazine. Image Map

What Happened On “The Mindy Project” This Week Was Not Okay

Mindy Lahiri carries a drunken Dr. L back to his apartment in The Mindy Project.

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.      


Want the best of Bitch in your inbox? Sign up for our free weekly reader!

Read and buy Bitch magazine's current print issue!

Want more from Bitch? Good news! Our quarterly magazine, Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, is packed with 80+ pages of feminist analysis, reviews, illustrations, and more. Subscribe today

Subscribe to Bitch


Comments

35 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Misfits and Rape

Misfits is one of my favorite shows. I actually think that the show doesn't take Alisha's behavior lightly when she is going around using her powers to force guys into sex. She ends up enduring a lot of fall-out from Curtis (who does really like her and is disgusted by her) and then the other guy she hooks up with, who once he's no longer in physical contact with her seems disturbed by his actions. Alisha seems to really dislike her power and avoids touching people. When her power is transferred to this guy who goes around pretending he's Jesus in a later season, you see that he is power-mad and evil and uses the power to abuse women.

I just re-watched the season 3 episode where Curtis turns into a woman and is almost raped. I thought this episode was actually powerfully feminist in a way, of how as a man, Curtis doesn't realize how women feel about things, but when he is presenting as a woman, he is disturbed by the flirtation, groping, and almost assault of the men around him. He very firmly says things like how men should ask for consent.

I love that episode!

That is seriously a great episode of TV. I feel like I could write a whole post on that episode! I do think that "Misfits" takes male rape more seriously than "The Mindy Project" or "True Blood." However, I think that they flesh out and deal with rape and attempted rape of the female characters more fully. I definitely think it's a mixed bag and there could be a ton of analysis done on it.
Thanks for your comment!
(Also why did "Misfits" get so horrible in season 4? Gah.)

Hannah Strom 

Misfits and Rape/Racism FAIL

I am astonished and disturbed that you brought up Misfits--and Alisha specifically--as a GOOD example of television portrayals of rape. While Misfits did correctly address what happened to Curtis as rape, it utterly fails to address the fact that Alisha's "power" is in fact a crippling, slut-shaming, racist limitation. When Alisha touches people--always MEN, if I recall S1 & S2 correctly--they do not mindlessly want to "have sex" with her. They mindlessly want to rape her. The verbal threats they make, the actions they refer to are all extremely degrading; at no point does anyone she touches indicate that he is thinking at all about her consent, and as Anonymous correctly pointed out, Alisha HATES this "power." She is visibly uncomfortable, frightened, and traumatized every time she uses her "power" and certainly when she is discovering it. The one exception to that occurs in her relationship with Curtis, which they have decided will be touch-less for her protection. Alisha, who was used to frequent sex beforehand, now cannot touch anyone without the instant threat of rape; she loves Curtis, is frustrated by their agreement not to be physical, and lets that overwhelm her. The show correctly labels that as rape, Alisha realizes that what she did violated Curtis, and Curtis requires her to make amends before their relationship continues.

But the show says nothing about the fact that Alisha's "power" is essentially punishment for having been a "slut"--and a "slut" of color, too. The powers given to the other misfits are magical extensions of their personalities that give them extra abilities. Simon, who is shy, quiet, and ignored, gains the ability to become invisible, which allows him to see and do much more than he could before. Curtis, the runner, gains the ability to manipulate time and change the outcome of events to help himself and his friends. Kelly, mocked for being a chav, gains the ability to hear others' thoughts--not all at once, but individually, and when it matters to her. Arguably this power is the closest to being a dobule-edged sword, since she doesn't always like what she hears, but it gives her access to a vast amount of information nobody else can know and enables her to manipulate people to some degree. Nathan, the annoying loudmouth, discovers he CANNOT DIE. Another double-edged sword, yes, but immortality is a pretty fancy sword.

Alisha, the only woman of color in the principal cast, is a joyful, carefree party girl who knows how to use her good looks and charm to wield power as an incredibly popular socialite. She gains no special, extra abilities. Instead, she suddenly develops a chronic and lifelong condition that prohibits her from coming into physical contact with others. When she is physically contacted by others--males, as we see in the show--they instantly become indistinguishable from rapists, raving and violent and lacking all reason as they immediately start forcing her to engage in sexual contact. The show clearly portrays Alisha as not wanting this contact at all, as pushing these men away. She can no longer initiate sex on her own terms, as she once used to, because her touch is some kind of magical poison that turns men into rapists.

There is no way that shit is a power.

Given the reality that women of color are repeatedly portrayed and treated as sexual commodities with no right to desires of their own, that women of color are at significantly greater risk of sexual violence and harassment than white women or men, and that women of color as major characters on television with unique and awesome powers are virtually nonexistent, the choice of Alisha's "power" is a disgustingly sexist and racist move by the writers of Misfits. There is nothing empowering about what Alisha received; it was punishment for a woman of color for enjoying sex and social contact, punishment that ended her ability to control her own sex life and to control her own body.

Yes, the show did so many other things well. But I cannot bear to hold anything about it up as a standard without mentioning the horrifying racism and sexism that is evident in Alisha's character development.

Your analysis is spot on.

Your analysis is spot on.

For real--I've only seen a

For real--I've only seen a couple of the show's episodes, but, yeah, I had BIG problems with the fact that Alisha's character was given that kind of power--which was of absolutely no benefit to her, and really made her a constant target for abuse and sexual assault. I though tit disgustingly sexist too, as if a woman is supposed to enjoy having that kind of power. Who even though that up in the first place? It's sick.

WOW

I watched this show while doing some work around the house yesterday and I was completely oblivious to the fact that she raped him. WOW. It just shows how desensitized we can be by the media. Thank you for posting this!

While I completely agree that

While I completely agree that this was rape, and do not condone it at all, I'm thinking it might be a setup for a villain Christina. It was fucked up all around and I don't think that we've seen the end of the situation. It was glossed over by the characters, but in their defense, they didn't see how drunk he was when Christina carried him in, and they had no idea she initiated it while he was in that state. If I remember correctly, he basically just said that they had sex while he was blackout drunk. The other characters may have assumed that he had initiated and Christina took the opportunity to hurt Danny, it's only the audience that knows otherwise. Hopefully it comes out a little later in the show and is dealt with.

Also, I thought Dr. Leotard was crashing at Danny's old place while Danny and Christina lived elsewhere. It looked like his place from the front and I thought it was mentioned that Danny couldn't go back to his place because Dr. L was there. I was only half watching at times though.

Yes to your last point

Yes to your last point -- Dr. L was crashing at Danny's old place, which is why Christina had the key.

BBC 'Doctors' Male Rape Story

A show that actually handled the situation of a man being raped by a woman really well was the British day time soap 'Doctors' . In the episode (which aired Monday 23rd of September 2013) a student named Mike wakes up handcuffed to his bed after a night out. He claims to his girlfriend that his mates had handcuffed him as a stupid joke, but this is quickly shown to be a lie as we later see Mike having a conversation with a girl about how she had slept with him the previous night, and he wasn't happy about it. In the next scene, Mike goes to the doctors for an STD/STI check where one of the main characters, Kevin, treats him. Kevin becomes concerned when he notices bruising around Mike's wrist (where the handcuff was), scratches up his arm and blood under his finger nails. When Kevin question Mike about this, he flees, and Kevin later mentions to one of the other doctors that he think Mike was in a fight with a girl, and possibly could have raped her, but the doctor points out that if that was true, why would Mike have come for an STD check and not the girl? Worried, Kevin goes to see Mike and finds out the truth; Mike had gotten so drunk he could barely walk and a female friend had helped him home, once there she handcuffed him to the bed and raped him. Kevin tries to convince Mike to go to the police, but he refuses, claiming they would either not believe him or laugh in his face. When Kevin persists that he should go, Mike asks him if he would go to the police, if it happened to him, to which Kevin replies he probably wouldn't. Unable to face the police, Mike does at least manage to stand up to his rapist, who claims that she didn't rape her as he had been erect. Mike doesn't back down however, pointing out how often he said no, and asking why she had handcuffs on her, wondering if she had done this before. Although she takes some convincing, the girl does eventually see that what she had done was a rape, and runs off crying. Mike then leaves to tell his girlfriend what happened (who had broken up with him earlier when the rapist girl told her they had had consensual sex)

I think this episode dealt with the subject of Female on Male rape really well, and was the first time i'd seen this tackled on television. My only criticism is i'd have liked to see Mike go to the police, mainly because..i'm wondering now how they would get evidence for a female on male rape. I mean..would the girl have to have an examine, or would the blood under his fingernails be enough?

Blackout drunk does not mean unconscious

I didn't see the show, but relying on your description alone, there is the possibility that Dr. L's character woke up enough being moved to the bedroom to give the impression he could consent.

BLACKOUT DRUNK DOES NOT MEAN UNCONSCIOUS.

Blackout drunk means no memory of what occurred.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackout_(drug-related_amnesia)

Blackouts are frequently described as having effects similar to that of anterograde amnesia, in which the subject cannot recall any events after the event that caused amnesia. 'Blacking out' is not to be confused with the mutually exclusive act of 'passing out', which means loss of consciousness.

You're nitpicking.

You're nitpicking. Unconscious and/or blackout drunk both equate to rape. Drunk means you're incapable of making decisions you would make when you're sober, and thus, cannot give consent. Still rape.

Bingo.

Bingo.

From what the author

From what the author describes it sounds like this was rape. [He's laying in a hallway, incapable of basic motor functions.]

However I want to second that blackout (does not automatically) /= unable to consent and is not the same as being unconscious or even stumbling drunk. You may or may not act pretty normal or functional actually.

I say this from experience. A few years ago that I initiated a sexual encounter while blacked out (having almost no memory). I was much more aggressive than usual. Various of my friends told me that I gave little to no indication of being blacked out and was quite lively actually. I would have had sex with this person sober fyi. Key here was that I was initiating actually. I also have one memory in that block of period of me asking if the other person wanted to have that encounter with me. [FWIW I am a woman if anyone is wondering.]

Don't want people to automatically conflate blackout sex = rape. At the same time people should tread very carefully. It's still prob not a good idea to have sex with someone who is so drunk that even though they are actively participating won't remember later.

The level at which a person is drinking and can still consent is by no means clear so it's better to be safe than sorry. I generally tell people who ask you should NOT be trying to have sex with someone who is vomiting or ill and drunk or stumbling or seems confused in any way at the very least. If you have any doubts you should prob not proceed further.

I've been assaulted and have had friends who were assaulted in their sleep and/or passed so I think a lot about issues of consent but being blacked out does not necessarily mean you cannot give consent. It's totally possible to be blacked out and unable to consent of course though.

Did you leave a "not" out of

Did you leave a "not" out of the last sentence? "It's 2013, how could a whole team of writers and directors NOT think that this blackout drunk sex was rape?"

Yep

Thanks for pointing that out, I just fixed it.

Hannah Strom 

Thank you!

I knew I could count on Bitch! Thanks so much for posting this--I was troubled by the same thing while watching the show, which I normally love. It's important to keep even the generally great shows accountable. Keep it up, Bitches! ;-)

I don't know why everyone thinks Mindy is so progressive...

I don't know why everyone thinks Mindy is so progressive. I find it one of the most problematic comedies on TV, not including Modern Family, Two & a Half Men and Glee. I wrote about it here:
http://earlybirdcatchestheworm.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/sexist-tropes-on...

It's a sitcom relax

Nothing was actually shown with them having sex so you have no idea how willing either fictional character was. You are over analyzing a scene in a fucking sitcom, nothing else happened in the last 24 hours that was more interesting to you than this?

how is it possible

How is it possible for a man to be raped without the use of viagra or similar? A man needs and erection to be able to enter a woman. An erection is under his control isnt it?

No, an erection most

No, an erection most definitely is NOT "under his control". It's an involuntary reaction to stimulus, sometimes mental or visual, and sometimes physical. Ask any man, erections can and do happen when you are asleep/unconscious.

also

ask about puberty for males. involuntary and embarrassing erections all over the place.

I would also add that the idea that men can't be raped without erections which are under their explicit control is a problem for other reasons. While it's easy to debunk control of erection (just search for involuntary erection), the larger problem here is a definition of what sex is - penis in vagina - and thus what rape can be. If all sex is penis in vagina (it's emphatically not, but I'm making a point here), then the definition of rape will become equally limited. Please note that I am not equating rape and sex. I am saying that a person who has a narrow definition of sex will have a narrow definition of rape. See above question about erections and consent.

No, it's not. An erection is

No, it's not. An erection is not consent.

I think its because men don't

I think its because men don't experience sexual abuse in the same way as women do. If a girl slaps a guy on the ass its considered a compliment (and 95% of guys just take it as a compliment) , if guy does it to a girl, well you know the difference.

I believe most men wouldn't find it too worrying if they found out they were drunk "raped" by a hot women as described above (unless it cause a problem afterwards, for example with a girlfriend). As pointed out in the text, if the victim instead were a woman it would be a completely different thing. Even though its technically the same. I don't think its about the stereotype that men always want sex and women don't, i think its because sex isn't considered as such a big thing to men. Which also explains the lack of men troubled by and discussing this problem. They simply don't find it to be such a big thing. Personally i would find it to be a quite funny story to tell the guys if it happened to me (been "exposed" to similar things before).

This doesn't mean i think sexually abuse should be taken more lightly, just that you have to realize men and women are different. You wouldn't try to convince somebody to "not make such a big deal" out of sexual harassment if they feel bad about it, in the same way you shouldn't force somebody to feel like a victim if they don't consider it a big thing.

You are assuming every man

You are assuming every man feels the same way about sex not being a big deal. The problem is, not every man feels the same way, nor dose every woman and lots people feel differently form one moment to the next. it its important to gain consent every time, because that one time he didn't want to could be incredibly traumatic. This is not a discussion about your feelings on sex, but about the portrayal of rape on prime time tv.

"If a girl slaps a guy on the

"If a girl slaps a guy on the ass its considered a compliment"

"Considered" by whom? Who is doing the considering, the creep going around fondling other people's asses whether they say they want it or not?

" (and 95% of guys just take it as a compliment)"

Do you have any surveys that support this or is this just self-serving mind-reading?

"Which also explains the lack of men troubled by and discussing this problem."

You are not paying attention to the ones who are complaining, obviously. Go onto the Mensrights subreddit and look at the posts that deal with this. There are often dozens of comments that would disprove what you are saying.

"This doesn't mean i think sexually abuse should be taken more lightly, "

Well, yes oyu do, and you've just posted a commnet proving you do.

America, U remember Double-Standard; I think you've met before?

And here we are again, folks. Another case of modern media happily wielding the double-edged sword of post-modern social interaction. Women have fought long and hard to be considered part of an egalitarian society, seeking the same rights and privileges as Men, and deservedly so, of course. What no one counted on - or what no one wanted to say - was that with the privilege of responsibility comes the burden of obligation; that is, the female gender is now being forced to own up to behavior that, in previous generations, would scarcely have been thought to even be considered as inappropriate, much less illegal. The truth? Female-on-male sexual assault has existed for as long as humans have been procreating. The difference now is that we have a name for it, and only in recent decades has the First World started to recognize the appalling nature of the act itself, thus providing precedence for legal persecution of the alleged offenders. Keeping this in mind should provide some perspective as to why the American media conglomerate has yet to truly address this kind of criminal behavior on the whole. Let's be honest: men still have an extremely difficult time admitting to their peers that a woman can best them at generic activities like job income or physical stamina, so having to tell anyone - another man, especially - that a woman was responsible for causing sexual harm or suffering is still a huge mental hurdle for our sex to jump. In that same line of thought, however, women, I'm sure, are going to find it very disconcerting when the legal ramifications of such deportment catch up to their gender counterparts (if they haven't found out already).

No bias either way, here, BTW, ladies & gents; just some objectivity. Regardless of my opinion, rape is rape, and the perpetrator of this horrific offense should be punished according to the letter of the law.

I'm so glad for this - great

I'm so glad for this - great analysis. The only thing I'd add is that seeing this from Mindy and her staff is really surprising. I'd never say that this show is basically a bell hooks-approved program, but it shows a lot of consciousness and feminism in spades. At the same time, on The Office, Mindy as Kelly Kapoor was once a part of this exchange, when she got in hot water at work and wanted an out (which has already been discussed at Bitch: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/televism-the-offices-problematic-construct...):

Kelly: I was raped.
Michael: You cannot say ‘I was raped’ and expect all of your problems to go away, Kelly. Not again. Don’t keep doing that.

While that is problematic, no question, it does tell a story about rape that makes Kelly a bad person - which she is - and comments somewhat on culture and dialogue. This past episode of The Mindy Project had the opportunity to legitimately address rape and consent, whether outright or through satire, and it did nothing. Really disappointing.

The way I understood the

The way I understood the apartment situation was that it was Danny's apartment that he had let Dr. L stay in because he had moved in with Christina. That's why I didn't find it weird that she had a key to it. I think earlier in the episode it was alluded to that Danny didn't want to kick Dr. L out of it even though Christina and he had split.

Hopefully that helps fill in some plot holes!

Blackout

Basically, blacking out, or being intoxicated at all and being able to say yes or not being able to say no, is NOT giving consent. The person must be completely sober for it to be real consent. Regardless of what he said, he was intoxicated and wasn't able to think properly..
"Circumstances in which a person, CANNOT, by law, give consent:

(no matter what s/he might verbalize):

The person is severely intoxicated or unconscious as a result of alcohol or drugs
The person is physically or mentally disabled
Once a person says “no”. It does not matter if or what kind of sexual behavior has happened previously in the current event, early that day, or daily for the previous six months. It does not matter if it is a current long-term relationship, a broken relationship, or marriage. If one partner says, “NO,” and the other forces penetration it is rape."

My 2 Cents

I think you are correct that the Mindy Project was a bit irresponsible with that episode. However, I think your statements about Misfits and True Blood are not true. In True Blood Jason had a lot of issues because of what happened to him, there was a lot of fear and anxiety there. In the most recent episode he even asked a female vampire not to rape him, so I do think it was taken seriously. Same thing with Misfits, what Alisha did was portrayed as wrong. They also explored why she felt she had to do things like that. Curtis understood that she had issues and forgave her. They were all experiencing heavy issues so i'm sure he sympathized with her, which allowed him to forgive her.

uh, right

Christina, who is the ex-wife of Mindy's coworker Danny, has a key to the apartment because she used to live there with her husband, Danny, who is letting James Franco's character, Dr. Leotard, stay there. Do you even watch this show?

THANK YOU

I've seen complaints about this season's introduction of the new character Tamara being portrayed as a stereotypical black woman with zero depth.. and there are other problems with the show but this bothered me a whole lot. And I can't seem to find any commentary on it but here. UGH. How could they think it would be OKAY to show TWO women taking advantage of a totally drunk guy. Get your shit together, Mindy Kaling.

Sitcoms with female protagonists

Doesn't it seem like people assume a sitcom with a female protagonist is feminist? I haven't watched all that much of "The Mindy Project," but what I have seen hasn't struck me as progressive. And what this article describes sounds just insensitive to very important issues. In these times, I think shows with female protagonists need to be extra conscious of these issues and tread lightly. Everyone will be looking to them for answers to what direction we should take the feminist movement in. I'm afraid this is the wrong direction.

The Mindy Project did it again

I was looking for anything talking about how funny Morgan's near-rape was the other week and came across this one, which I linked to in my post about said near-rape. Very disappointed.

http://syd1138mma.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/the-mindy-project-thinks-the-...