The Mindy Project’s recent episode “Slipped” had potential—potential to tackle rape culture and issues of consent, even with humor thrown into the mix. It seemed perfectly timed with California’s recent “Yes Means Yes” legislation and the ongoing federal investigation into rape on college campuses. Sadly, the episode failed to treat a difficult topic with the warmth and empathy exemplified by films like Obvious Child, which was able to find humor in the sensitive issue of abortion without sacrificing compassion. Instead, “Slipped” just felt lazy: the episode engaged rape culture in a cursory way that ultimately disregarded and did a disservice to the very real violence of rape.
“Slipped” begins as Danny and Mindy are having sex. Danny—without asking—attempts to slip his penis into Mindy’s butt. The problem is not that Danny wants to try anal sex so much as the fact that he doesn’t ask. While he immediately pulls out and apologizes, he then lies repeatedly about his rationale: his aim was off, his eyes are bad, etc. Most damningly of all, Danny eventually reveals that he did it because he thought Mindy had had anal sex before, because she watches porn. His assumption, then, is that because Mindy has dated a lot and watches porn, that she is already and always sexually willing and able.
Consent matters both in relationships and outside of them. It’s always better to ask, and neither party should assume that various sex positions will be okay. What’s more, just because a person has done something once—had anal sex, watched porn, the list goes on—does not mean that their partner now has unfettered access or that they have a willingness or desire to do it again, a topic Sarah Todd tackled beautifully in her essay on teen sex, consent, and Switched at Birth.
Ultimately, Mindy decides—after a botched sex-ed session with her fellow doctor Peter—that she will give anal sex with Danny a shot. That’s all well and good, but her reasons are upsetting and also misguided. She believes Danny has ample sexual experience and so worries that she will bore him with her limited bedroom knowledge. Danny ultimately corrects this misconception, but the episode allows this sensibility to sit for far too long. So Mindy then procures the help of a sedative because she “has to do something she can’t be awake for, but legally can’t be a asleep for.”
This is a rape joke and it’s not funny at all. Instead of doing what she’s comfortable with in bed, Mindy’s decision is to cater to Danny’s desires and roofie herself in the process. When Mindy passes out, it’s played for laughs as she attempts to maintain some cool while her world literally spins. Here, the show makes a joke of the serious issue of non-consensual sex, eliding the very real danger and trauma that comes with being roofied.