I have been catching up on 30 Rock lately and just reached season five. I have always loved the show, but I was shocked to discover a rape scene portrayed as sex in the first episode of season five. The context of the joke is that Pete has a lot of free time now that Jenna is doing some of his work. While expressing to Liz how much free time he has now, he says, “Yesterday, I went to the gym! And this morning, I made love to my wife! And she was still asleep, so I didn’t have to be gentle!” Then we see a shot of Pete’s wife, Paula, who is both sleeping and rocking up and down as if having sex. It’s a shot of her from Pete’s perspective. Liz’s answer to this is “That’s one of the most upsetting things I have ever imagined.” That would be my response too, because rape is certainly very upsetting, but Liz’s response is not the same as mine. She is responding to Pete’s perspective, not Paula’s. She is expressing that it’s upsetting to think of Pete “making love” to someone who is sleeping as if this is a bad experience for him. The fact that penetrating a sleeping person is rape is completely non-existent. Also non-existent is the realization that if Pete has to be “gentle” when Paula is awake, then presumably that’s because she wishes for him to be gentle, and in this case he is not. So not only is he “having sex” with a sleeping person, but he is directly going against what he knows she wants. It is so obvious that this is rape that I cannot believe no one on the show wanted to edit this. It means either no one knows that this is rape, or that they don’t care. Either of these possibilities is terrible.
When you present rape as sex, you contribute to rape culture. You enable men who do this to believe that what they’re doing is normal. It’s not. Sex without consent is rape. Shame on you, 30 Rock.