Though women’s fondness for fictitious sexy rascals has been there forever and will never go away, Don’s misbehavior comes as part of a package that women find hard to resist. In Don’s world, women aren’t likely to rise to the top in the working world but they assume total command of the household. They may not know where their men are in the evenings when they say they’re at “business dinners” (and frequently are, with young models or foxy department-store heiresses) but that leaves them plenty of time to conduct discreet little flirtations of their own.
And if Don and Co. close off large portions of their manly doings behind a wall of omertà, that means the women don’t have to listen to any sniveling about their men’s anxieties, their feelings, their doubts. The men know their mission is to take charge, work hard, and give their families what they need financially, not emotionally. Emotions are women’s work. The astonishing number of women with advanced degrees who today elect to drop their careers and stay home with the children shows that equality did not make women quite as happy as they thought it would. Maybe the working world is what men have always considered it to be: not a source of freedom or self-actualization but a necessary routine, a duty, a bore.
The women who watch the show aren’t just sighing with lust for Don. They’re sighing with relief in contemplation of a world that, though unfair and imperfect, is carefully ordered and stable, at least on the surface.