Mad Men: Joan Holloway’s Date Rape Probably Not That Rare

Last night’s “Mad Men” had an all-too-rare subplot involving Joan and her betrothed, The Handsome Doctor . In a previous episode, Doc’s abusive, douche-tastic tendencies were barely hinted at — “Didn’t you say you were getting me a drink?!” — but this episode confirmed it for any doubters. In one of the most disturbing scenes to have been featured on “Mad Men”, the good doctor forces Joan to have sex with him on the floor of Don Draper’s office despite her repeated protests and attempts to physically dissuade him. Perhaps the saddest and most resonant part of all is when she stops fighting and turns her head to stare fixedly at Don’s coffee table, resigned to her fate.Of all the ways in which the early ’60s of “Mad Men”‘s era and our present day differ, gender equality seems to be the most glaring, and the show has taken pains to elucidate this fact. It was a time of great civil, political and social upheaval, and one in which the seedlings of feminism and the sexual revolution were just being planted and beginning to sprout. Scenarios like the one Joan faced were probably all too common. I’ve heard plenty of anecdotal evidence from contemporaries of my grandmother — who raised a family in the late ’50s and early ’60s — to support this theory. Most of the time, the women didn’t think twice about what was happening to them. It was par for the course.

Unfortunately, these sorts of situations likely happen just as frequently today. Date, or “grey” rape, is, as the name would imply, murky territory when one’s aggressor is someone — like a fiance or husband — with whom a woman has already been intimate. But with any hope, a woman’s ability to identify when she’s been victimized and her sense of entitlement when it comes to reporting such assaults is much stronger now, a result of the huge strides that feminism has taken since the heyday of Joan Holloway. One prays that nowadays her voiceless resignation would be replaced by a swift knee to the groin, a 911 call and possible legal action.

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