Did The Mick Break A "Masturbation" Record?

Photo: Patrick McElhenney/FOX.
As someone who watches a lot of cable TV, it’s no longer a surprise to see women in positions of sexual empowerment anymore. Just last month, Showtime’s SMILF opened with its heroine masturbating twice in a 30-minute episode. Before that, Starz showed a sex goddess (Yetide Badaki) literally swallow a man whole with her vagina on American Gods. Yet certain sexual basics can still seem revolutionary on broadcast, where decidedly sexless shows like Kevin Can Wait reign supreme. FOX’s The Mick pulled off one of those tiny revelations with Tuesday night’s “The Divorce,” which didn’t merely show female masturbation to the entire country, but also said the word “masturbation” on screen, many a time.
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Considering we’re talking about network sitcom, it would have been easy for The Mick to make a bottom-of-the-barrel joke about male masturbation, laugh it off, and leave it at that. Men’s sexuality has always been far less taboo than women’s, especially when we're talking about masturbating. If you don’t believe that, please think about the fact there’s an entire movie series whose foundation is a teen boy pleasuring himself with an apple pie. Despite the success of American Pie, Hollywood never rushed to make a spin-off called Canadian Eggplant.
But, The Mick doesn’t go for the simple joke. Rather, we first see the titular Mick, Mickey Molng (Kaitlin Olson) burst into her boyfriend-not-boyfriend Jimmy’s (Scott MacArthur) bedroom; before she even opens the door, you can hear loud porn blasting into the hallway. Inside, Jimmy isn’t flaunting his self-pleasuring habits and instead tries to hide what was going on, claiming he’s “reading the news.” But, we can all see the crusty old sock lying on his pillow. Still, Jimmy then tries to make his masturbation as close to romantic as it can be, saying Mickey is always “running around the track” of his fantasies, even when other people pop up.
After seeing Jimmy taking care of himself, Mickey decides to to do the same in her own space, complete with her own blaring porn. While Jimmy’s situation was all about about downplaying masturbation, the scene in Mickey’s room was dedicated to her proving she has nothing to apologize for. When Jimmy storms in, he shouts, “What the hell is going on?” Mickey responds, unblinkingly, “I’m masturbating.” She has nothing to hide because there is nothing to hide. In the same way a man like Jimmy self-service, women do too. To quote Netflix’s Big Mouth, which as a streaming show can get away with much more sexually explicit and creative content than network TV, “Girls are horny, too.”
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Like the boys of Big Mouth, it seems Jimmy has never heard girls are “just as horny as guys.” Despite the fact Mickey immediately admitted to masturbating, Jimmy says, “Don’t you dare tell me that you were ‘reading the news.’” So, she doesn’t, and calmly repeats the fact she’s masturbating. With that, some variation or reference to the word “masturbating” has been said on network television five times in less than a single minute. Before the Mickey bedroom scene, her niece Sabrina Pemberton (Sofia Black-D'Elia) tells Jimmy, “She caught you masturbating? Gross.” Soon enough, youngest Pemberton kid Ben (Jack Stanton) wants to know who’s the master, and can he be the master?
It’s unclear if some variance of “masturbation” has ever been said that many times on broadcast television in about 30 seconds, but Refinery29 reached out to FOX for comment on The Mick’s possible sexuality-on-TV record.
Whether or not the Mick masturbation craze is technically boundary-breaking, it definitely feels that way. Jimmy attempts to shame Mickey’s me-time, saying it’s a betrayal, and falls on some very tired, sexist stereotypes to defend his hypocritical position. The oaf claims men masturbate because they’re “different” and “need it.” It’s unclear why he thinks women do it, but Mickey doesn’t ask. Instead, she turns on her vibrator, which is clearly working its magic in that very moment. This is national network television showing us a woman actively using a sex toy in the middle of an episode. There are no suggestions or hints here, just straight-up self pleasure. Jimmy is made so uncomfortable by this rare-for-tv — and mundane-for-real-life display — of women’s sexuality, he runs out of the room, which is all Mickey wanted since she was “really ramping up to something” before being interrupted.
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For cable viewers, all of this might seem pretty chaste, but try comparing the storyline to those of broadcast TV’s most sexually empowered ladies. Scandal’s Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) once started an episode by getting oral sex on a secret island paradise, and consistently gets it on within the walls of the White House. Rebecca Bunch (vocal masturbation activist Rachel Bloom) brought the word “clitoris” to television and tackled “Period Sex” on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Even fellow FOX sitcom heroine Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel) has explored role play to comedic heights. Yet, none of them have talked about masturbation, said the word aloud, or penciled in some personal time of their own. They’ve definitely never even done the classic lady masturbation suggestion of laying under their covers, reaching down, and slowly letting their eyes flutter back in perfectly choreographed for-television ecstasy.
So, congratulations, Mickey, for once, you're ahead of the pack.
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