Hypocrisy in Missouri, Pro-Choice Themes in ‘Mad Men’

On this episode, host Amanda Marcotte interviews Brown University's Kate Carey about her study of college sexual assault. Also, Marcotte has a segment honoring Mad Men’s long reign as an adamantly pro-choice show, and she discusses how a scandal involving Missouri Rep. John Diehl reveals anti-choice hypocrisy.

Related Links

Left obsessed with sex

John Diehl sex obsession

John Diehl’s assault on birth control

Uh, girls play with water guns


On this episode, I’ll interview a researcher who has a new paper out measuring prevalence of sexual assault at one campus. John Diehl’s sex scandal reveals anti-choice hypocrisy and I’ll have a segment honoring Mad Men’s long reign as an adamantly pro-choice show.

As I was going into to record this episode, there was a big scandal breaking out about TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting series.

  • Duggar *

I don’t know that anyone is actually surprised by this. I’ve covered the Duggars on and off on this podcast for a long time, and their public persona is one of uber-creepiness on the sex stuff. But this scandal is what will finally end their terrible show that puts a positive spin on their creepy home life. If there are new developments, I will cover next week.


Recently, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, understandably trying to weasel out of expressing some of his more unpopular opinions on things like gay rights, told a reporter who was asking him about it that the left is “obsessed” with sex. No, I’m serious. A reporter asked him about gay rights and he whined, “Is there something about the left—and I am going to put the media in this category—that is obsessed with sex?” Because clearly the only reason you might ever want gay people to have human rights is you’re a compulsive masturbator.

Of course, there are political ideologues in this country who are, in fact, obsessed with sex. But they aren’t liberals who would, if they had their druthers, probably love to get sex out of politics entirely. What a glorious day that would be if people could just have sex on their own without having to worry about losing human rights or the ability to control their own lives and bodies because of it? But that day is not here, because of the right’s continuing and unwavering obsession with sex.

Earlier this month, we got a hilarious and almost picture perfect example of how this works. The Missouri legislature, under the leadership of House Speaker John Diehl, has been churning out a dizzying number of bills aimed at punishing women in the state for having sex. Checking the Rewire Data Center [http://data.rhrealitycheck.org/], I see that, under Diehl’s leadership, it’s been a non-stop assault on reproductive rights. There was even a bill that amended the state’s sex education standards to mandate lectures about how sexting is wrong and inappropriate and you should never ever do it.

So yeah, this happened.

  • Diehl 1 *

Hey y’all. He’s only 30 years older than her. That’s not like too bad, is it? Obviously, inappropriate sexual behavior is not limited to one party or one ideology, but this particular scandal is particularly ugly because the girl slash woman in question is a college freshman. She’s not even a sophomore! I mean, this is just egregious. I mean, we all have our sexual mistakes, but surely waiting until someone’s been an entire year out of high school before having sex with them behind your wife’s back is not too much to ask. It takes a high level of entitlement to chase after thirsty kids right out of high school, sir. That’s a new low.

But while John Diehl feels so entitled to sex he goes hunting amongst those who haven’t had the ink dry on their high school diplomas yet, he feels that your sex life is so wicked and out of bounds that your boss should be able to deny you the birth control of your choice.

  • Diehl 2 *

That’s right, the Missouri legislature is so hostile to birth control that they overturned the governor’s veto of a bill that would allow your boss to veto your choice of birth control, based on his religious beliefs. I’ve covered this issue extensively on this podcast, so it’s not worth rehashing here. The issue here is that Diehl doesn’t think you deserve even the basic right to privacy that allows you to make your own choices about birth control without your boss getting a vote. But when he was found out to be planning a sexual encounter with a girl that was barely of age, he initially refused to resign. So your age appropriate relationship is so naughty you deserve punishment, but his adulterous shenanigans are none of our business? Not buying it.

But of course, he did eventually resign because, at a certain point, these religious hypocrites have to keep up appearances. But make no mistake, this is not about conservatives suddenly growing a conscience and learning how to treat people with dignity and respect.

  • Diehl 3 *

Yep, because some adult hypocrite can’t keep it in his pants, a bunch of college kids are being forced to lose career and educational opportunities. Because conservatism has never been about right and wrong and treating people fairly. It’s about protecting the powerful and shifting blame and punishment, as much as possible, on those who are vulnerable and haven’t done anything wrong. This is just more of the same.




After seven seasons and eight years, the critically acclaimed and endlessly compelling TV series Mad Men, about ad executives living through the ’60s, has come to an end. There’s reams and reams of things that can and have been said about the show, but I want to focus on one of the more subtle but long-standing themes that was really brought to a head this season, which was how this was an era when mandatory motherhood was really called into question and started to fade as an unquestioned ideal. The ’60s was an era when reliable birth control really started to shape society, causing a lot of people to come around to the idea that motherhood should be something that’s chosen, not forced upon you by an accident of nature. And while this theme never got as much attention as other themes about consumerism or political change, it was persistent until the very last episode when a minor character, named Stephanie, gave this speech at a hippie seminar that is a thinly disguised version of the Esalen Institute at Big Sur.

  • Mad Men 1 *

The idea that many women of this era had babies when they weren’t ready and that created trauma that could never be forgotten or erased was with us from the very first season of the series. It was most obvious in the decision to have Peggy Olson get pregnant and, in denial, ignore all the symptoms and weight gain until she actually gave birth. The event is so traumatic that she is put in a mental ward and her baby is put up for adoption. Her boss, Don Draper, figures out where she is and visits her in the hospital and gives her one of the most famous speeches in the history of the show.

  • Mad Men 2 *

I imagine that sentiments like that were often shared with the many thousands of women at the time who, like Peggy, were unable to admit publicly that they were pregnant and therefore were sent away to give birth and give their babies up for adoption in secret. And since we all wanted Peggy to be happy and do well, I think a lot of us kind of agreed with Don at the time. But it became clear, as the series went on, that she never could really get on board with pretending this never happened. Oh, she kept the secret, like women of her era did. But it haunted her. It turns out that hiding that secret in shame was not good for her, and her character lights into her best friend Stan, angry because he doesn’t seem to understand that women are trapped by childbearing in a way men are not.

  • Mad Men 3 *

At this point, he realizes that she must have had this experience and asks her about what she did when she was pregnant unexpectedly.

  • Mad Men 4 *

Peggy finds some measure of peace, realizing that she did what she had to do and that it’s not like she had any great choices. But that expectation, that you simply bury it and pretend it didn’t happen, isn’t working for her. I don’t think it worked for a lot of women. That’s a story that didn’t get told a lot, and Mad Men tells it in many ways. Peggy’s is the most obvious, but you also see Don’s first wife, Betty, who clearly had kids without thinking about it and she ends up being a selfish, angry person who makes her kids sad all the time, though she really doesn’t mean to be that way. Eventually, though, the show shifts into the late ’60s, and we get to experience Megan, Don’s modern second wife who uses the birth control pill and who resists getting pregnant against his wishes because she’s unsure of him and worried about her career. That ends up working out for her. The show wasn’t polemical. I bet a lot of viewers didn’t even really grasp what they were doing here, since it was so subtle. But cumulatively, it made a very careful and convincing case for the importance of birth control and legal abortion. Not just because it helped free women to work, but because it prevented these sad and often forgotten tragedies. This is the world anti-choicers want to bring back, a world where women like Peggy are always burdened by the knowledge that their child is somewhere in the world without them. Or women like Betty who want to be good mothers but fail all the time because they weren’t ready for it. We should definitely not want that world back.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Fox News has weird ideas about what girls are capable of edition. So the Boy Scouts have a long-standing ban on water gun fights, mostly as a CYA maneuver because they have a ban on pointing any kind of firearm, toy or otherwise, at people. A blog post reminding scout leaders of this policy caused many to think this was a “new” thing and that caused the right wing press to go into an absolute frenzy, including Fox News, of course.

  • Boys *

I was unaware that girls do not have water gun fights. I guess I grew up as a boy, then, because water gun fights were a staple of my childhood. This entire issue is really ridiculous. So what if the Scouts don’t want leaders organizing water gun fights for outings? Kids can have them at home in their spare time. The best water gun fights are spontaneous anyway.