Swinging. Wife swapping. Open marriage experimentation among the formerly (at least officially) monogamous. Yes, as we’re going into Mad Men Season 6, it’s starting to be that time in history when the concept of monogamy-with-a-twist first began to penetrate America’s non-bohemian bedrooms in a big way. In 1969, the hit movie Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice demonstrated (both in the movie itself as well as with the movie’s massive popularity) that this was very much on the minds of middle-class Americans, the idea of, “Can our marriage be saved by consensually bringing other people into it?” (The movie’s answer to that question seemed to be, “Probably not, but you might learn something from at least thinking about it.”)
So if this was an idea something middle America was at least flirting with by 1969 (in a movie that was likely in the planning stages the year before), one would figure that sometime during the time period of S6, the idea would have occurred to at least one of our Mad Men couples, and it seems like too juicy a subject for this show to pass up. But who on this show would swing, or at least try it? Let the wild speculation ensue! (Warning: Potential NSFW stuff under the cut.)
Couple: Don and Megan
Who would propose it: Megan. Don is probably a little too ill at ease at the idea of seeing Megan with another man to bring it up himself, but Megan still has a foot in bohemia despite her new Park Avenue address and thinks it would liven things up between them.
Outcome: Don, being someone who wants to keep up with the times even if he doesn’t always do it, will play along, at least until it’s time to take his clothes off with the other guy watching. Then he won’t be able to get it up, which will ruin all the fun for Megan.
Couple: Pete and Trudy
Who would propose it: Has to be Pete. Trudy would be appalled by the very suggestion, but might go along just to get Pete to shut up about it.
Outcome: The other woman will detest Pete and hold her nose throughout the entire ordeal, while Trudy will love it and want to do it with them again real soon, which will make Pete sorry he ever asked her.
Couple: Peggy and Abe
(Yes, I know they’re not married, but they’re acting-as-if, so they count.)
Who would propose it: Abe. Peggy is still too hamstrung by Catholic guilt to spring this on Abe, but could be talked into it by a man with a way with words.
Outcome: Abe, who has convinced Peggy to try it by appealing to her need not to be seen as uptight, will freak at the sight of Peggy kissing another man and run out of the room screaming, never to be seen again. Peggy will be too blissed out by her third orgasm to notice until the next morning.
Couple: Ken and Cynthia
Who would propose it: Neither. They’d be at a party that turned out to be a key party, and they’d both shrug and go with the flow.
Outcome: Of all the couples here, they’d be the most likely to enjoy it, as both of them are extroverted and confident and feel quite secure in their relationship, and would regard it as an interesting and fun experiment. Plus writing fodder for Ken! But once would be enough for them. Okay, maybe twice.
Couple: Harry and Jennifer
Who would propose it: Who do you think? We haven’t seen Jennifer since a brief glance early in S4, but it’s doubtful she shares her husband’s newfound pretensions to hipness. But of course Harry wants to try it, all the cool kids in LA are doing it.
Outcome: Harry knows Jennifer will say no if asked, especially since she has just had a baby. So he will ambush her by bringing a willing couple home unannounced, then pulling her aside and telling her what’s up. Jennifer will consider this a violation of the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy in the Crane household and finally give Harry the boot. Poor Harry will have to settle for watching other people’s orgies.
Couple: Betty and Henry
Likelihood: Are you kidding?
Who would propose it: Sally. She will read about swinging in a magazine and say she’d want to do it if she had a husband, which will make Betty shit purple.
Outcome: Like I said, are you kidding? Republican operatives and their helmet-haired wives didn’t do such things. Except when they did. As with Roger dropping acid before any of the ostensibly hipper characters, having Betty and Henry be the ones finding themselves at the surprise key party (given, no doubt, by someone Henry wants very much to impress) and doffing their conservative duds for a mystery date would be Mad Men all the way. So now having expected the unexpected, we can expect the unexpected never to happen. Whew!