An Apology for Mindy’s Rape Apologies

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First things first. Contrary to popular belief, I am not Mindy Kaling. I just get compared to her so often that I sometimes become confused. Since I’m confessing my true identity, I should apologize to the barista who asked for my autograph yesterday: sorry, but you’ve got a fake on your hands. (Okay, the very last part is an exaggeration; I admitted to not being Mindy as soon as the autograph request was made).

But being repeatedly mistaken for a celebrity starts to make you feel responsible for the weird shit they do. And so, on behalf of Mindy, I would like to apologize for this week’s Mindy Project. I am sorry for the litany of rape clichés I decided to package as the episode, “I Slipped.” (I am also sorry for that other episode last year where the rape of James Franco’s character was part of the joke.) Also, while I’m doing the preliminaries: spoiler alert and TRIGGER WARNING, because I’m about to make a list of rape myths.

Here’s the premise of the episode: Danny has “accidental” nonconsensual sex with Mindy. Making sure to leave (almost) no rape myth unturned, my doppelganger then proceeds to suggest all of the following:

  1. If you experience unwanted sexual activity, it must be because you’re that kind of girl. About five minutes into the episode, Danny tells Mindy this was okay because he assumes she has done it with “a long list of companions.”
  2. If you experience unwanted sexual activity, it must be because you aren’t doing a good enough job pleasing your partner. In fact, if you experience unwanted sexual activity, the best thing for you to do is probably to get a really bro-ey bro to teach you what women in porn do. The lesson will be especially informative if you get a doctor in a lab coat to act out the positions with a skeleton.
  3. If there’s a specific sexual act you don’t want to engage in, it’s probably because you’re not fun enough. (Though I guess Mindy tried to at least poke fun at this one by pointing out that the porn requirements are potentially injurious. Yes, that skeleton’s hip was supposed to pop out, guys. And Mindy wants to do all of this for “empowering feminist reasons.”)
  4. Women really want deep down to engage in sexual activities they do not overtly consent to. In fact, if a woman is drugged or drunk, it may be because she is trying to license herself to let loose. Mindy actually roofies herself in hopes of becoming more responsive to Danny’s desires. Yes, this is a thing that happens in this episode.
  5. Getting your partner to engage in unwanted sexual activity is a sign of your masculinity. When you don’t want to apologize, you should wink at unknown men and hope that they’ll cover for you. Also, pushing someone’s sexual boundaries is an act of bravery, because, well, “America was built on trying.”

So, ew. And also, while I’m in the process of apologizing for things I didn’t really do, I’d like to apologize for the fact that the only thing Jezebel had to say about this episode was “it’s about buttsex.” Jezebel, I’ve been wanting to break up with you for a long time—this may be the last straw. As for you Mindy, please try to be funnier and less rapey next time. Think of those of us who have to suffer through being mistaken for you.

6 Responses to “An Apology for Mindy’s Rape Apologies”

  1. Serene

    There’s (almost) no tea party I’d rather be at than an Emily Nussbaum/ Mindy tea party, and yet Mindy seems to have had only this to say: http://vult.re/1EQ48XH

    And all I have to say is more ew. Because,call my crazy but I have trouble believing that a relationship is love and no one feels unsafe or degraded when one member thinks they need to drug themselves to fulfill their partners’ sexual desires. And I’m pretty sure drugging yourself/asking yourself what is wrong with you when someone does something you don’t want them to does not constitute “busting” them. Come on, Mindy. For reals.

    Reply
  2. Kim

    Thanks for being the only feminist voice out there – as far as I can see/hear – to offer such a clear, concise, and spot-on response to an unbelievably troubling episode. Your approach – leading us through various rape myths that the show plays into – gives great insight and also helps lots of us to make this a teachable moment. Thanks for that. Also, The fact that MK often presents herself as a feminist makes it all the more damaging.

    Reply
  3. Serene

    @Kim, I was worried that when I wrote this I was going to be the 1000th person writing it. I was so wrong.

    Agree that Mindy’s insistence that she is a feminist makes things really confusing. Like how is it feminist to characterize the claim “nonconsensual sexual interaction is not okay” as a “red card used against men.” Silly me, I thought it was a claim used to protect women and other victims of sexual assault. The red card against men comment seemed straight out of the men’s rights activist playbook. Maybe filling your show with bros makes you start turning into one?

    Reply
  4. Emily

    Thank you for writing this!! I am a huge Mindy fan, but was shocked at this episode, and her response to the (underwhelming) criticism. I can’t believe she defended a self-induced date rape scene in the name of sexual exploration. MIndy, what?!

    I also totally agree with your last comment – I actually like Adam Pally – but the show is definitely tilting a little too far on the bro-y side.

    On a more general note – I love this blog! Great feminists viewpoints on every topic that commands one, and more. Thank you!

    Reply
  5. J

    I saw far too many parallels between the kind of ‘having a try’ non-consentual sex depicted on The Mindy Project and my real life experience of worrying so much about my rapist’s feelings that even as I was held down and unsuccessfully trying to fight him off, I was thinking ‘if it’s that important to him, I should let him’. As I was being raped I was already rationalizing my rape. In this aspect I think non-consentual sex in committed relationships really differs, because the victim is often worried about the rapist’s feelings.
    I was raped in a ‘loving’ long term relationship and I was blamed as being frigid and unadventurous, asked ‘well, can you blame me?’. Whilst Kaling didn’t go this far at all in her depiction, the way in which Mindy rationalized and further attempted to please Danny reminded me of the fact that it happened again after the first time, it also reminded me of the months I stayed in the relationship after that rape.
    I was not in the least surprised at Mindy’s attempts to spice things up, be more willing, or that she ignored the fact that the person she trusts most felt it unnecessary to seek her consent, nor was I surprised by her rationalization of the entire situation. They were by far the most accurate part of this episode, for me at least, as they reflected the utter denial and deep sense of inadequacy I felt after being raped by the man I’d shared a home with for several years. Sometimes it’s easier to ask how you’ve driven a man who loves you to do that and how you can better accommodate his needs, than it is to accept that you really have no control over your life at all.
    I’m sorry if this post is too much about my experience. I’d like to thank you for writing this piece and calling a spade a spade about what happened in this episode.

    Reply
    • Serene Khader

      J, thanks so much for sharing your story. You’re so right that Mindy’s suggestion that being in a relationship makes it less rape-like denies the fact that the vast majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by people who claim to love the victim. The idea that rape is only perpetrated by strangers in dark alleys is definitely part of what keeps victims from understanding what happened to them; it’s so unfortunate that Mindy had to add to that myth.

      Also, your point the accusation of frigidity/ unadventurousness could be used to manipulate women is really important and one we don’t talk about often enough. The idea that to be “liberated” one needs to do whatever another person wants can be really pernicious.

      Reply

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