Mad Men S1 - The SSL Review
I resisted watching Mad Men for a long time. I don't know. I guess I just didn't like all the oooing and aaahhing over the era. However, I had been hearing good things about it, and it is my belief that if one waits too long to watch a movie or TV show, it loses something. Especially if it is leading the way in style or content or something, The punch of the new dies when you watch a show's copycats first. So, I figured since it's coming up on its last season, I should get in and catch up.
So, here I am in Season 4 of Mad Men. As happens with all series on which I binge, it literally bleeds into my dreams and the characters's names pop up casually in me and Charlie's conversations. I'm not complaining though, I am enjoying it. I love TV.
To SSL review something, it needs to discuss or depict female sexual release or female masturbation. I then tell you all if I deemed it ridiculous or sensible and/or how I feel it contributed to our cultural understanding of female sexuality. That's how this works. This isn't on HBO or Showtime, so there simply isn't a lot to review, but what I do have to review is subtle and about female masturbation.
Season 1 Episode 11 "Indian Summer"
This one's simple. It's classic even. Picture it. A 1960 housewife has a young, persistent and somewhat attractive sales man come to the door. He almost convinces her to measure windows upstairs, but then she decides it's too dangerous/tempting and asks him to leave. It gets her juices flowing though, and when she gets too darn close to her jumpy washing machine, she starts to fantasize about this young salesman while she rubs up against the vibrating machine. We don't see her move too much or make a big porn-inspired show of her orgasm. This isn't HBO, but we assume, oh we assume.
Oh, Peggy Olson - what an episode you had! She got the rather important opportunity (she's really just a secretary at this point) to write advertising copy for a weight loss device that's supposed to somehow work the fat off the ladies. Well, turns out this thing is a harness that you step into like panties and it vibrates, and as soon as Peggy tries the device, at home and comfy in her PJs, she clearly gets what its actual selling point is...and immediately takes them off, appalled. Long story short, she, discreetly as possible, does a great presentation to the other copywriters for this device. It was a good day, and in the final scene, we see her again comfy at home in her PJs, but this time she willingly puts on that vibrating harness - fully aware of what it might do to her...
It also needs to be noted that before the company enlisted a woman to work on the copywriting, and thus when they still thought it was just a shit weigh loss device, a few of the guys in the room had their wives test it out. One dude's wife liked it and thought she'd use it again. Well, unsurprisingly, upon learning during Peggy's presentation that this device provides women "the pleasure of a man without the man," one guy in the room begins making fun of the dude who's wife was into it. That pissed the husband off hardcore and a fist fight had to be stopped.
Now, the idea that a husband's dick must not be doing the job if his wife likes a vibrator on her clit is certainly relevant for the time, but it's also not so foreign now. Same goes for Peggy's initial reaction to masturbation. Yeah, it seems like women of the 50's would be more against the idea of jiggling their junk, but it's not like women of this time are totally cool with it either. Check out the 2005 book Dilemmas of Desire, you'd find of the 34 teenage girls that were interviewed, very few thought masturbation was a normal thing for any girl, much less themselves, to do.
What I'm saying is I worry that this "oh 1960 was so different and funny!" perspective Mad Men - especially during this first season - takes could downplay the extent to which these problems still exist. I mean, in 2014, I can still write a blog that is like, "wow - I saw female masturbation depicted in this movie/TV show! Yay! We don't get to see that nearly as much as male masturbation!"
Gals doing it is still more stigmatized than guys doing it. There are plenty of women and girls who still flat out see it as inappropriate for ladies. There are still plenty of men who feel like they are not doing their job when women work their own junk. Our cultural view of female masturbation might be better in ways, but it is still a problem. All that said, I don't think this show set out to downplay this problem in modern times or anything. There was no harm intended, and my criticism is so subtle anyway, so I will focus on the basics. What it did do was heavily insinuated that 2 quite normal women masturbated. It also created somewhat realistic scenarios - in terms of whether the masturbatory actions these women did could actually cause orgasm. A vibrating harness against one's vulva? Why, yes, that should work just fine. A horny-ass woman rubbing her vulva against a warm gently vibrating machine? Well, the positioning may be a bit tricky, but sure, that could work too! In 2014, that kind of dive into the world of lady-bation is still revolutionary.
So, Mad Men Season 1 gets 4 out of 5 vulvas!