**CAUTION: There are spoilers for the books in here. Also, trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault and rape.**
The world of Game of Thrones is not a nice place. We get that, DB Weiss and David Benioff, we really, really do. We understand that because in the very first episode of the series we saw: a village worth of Wildlings’ frozen butchered bodies strewn about in the forest; we saw two men savagely hunted and murdered by the White Walkers; we saw the one man to escape the White Walkers beheaded for desertion; we saw this last bit intentionally be done in front of four children, one of who was only ten years old; we saw a dead direwolf gored by a stag’s antler; we saw the funeral of a man poisoned for political gain; we saw a girl of only 16 be sexually assaulted by her brother who then sold her off to be a stranger’s wife; we saw a man die at their wedding for no good reason; and then we capped off the episode by watching a ten year old boy be pushed out of a window and fall to his presumed death.
Seriously, this was just the first episode. Since then we’ve had such wonderful events as the Battle of Blackwater, the Red Wedding, the Purple Wedding, the mutiny at Craster’s Keep (hell just the existence of Craster’s Keep), and so forth. We got it, we understand. This world is shitty to live in. Death and violence are everywhere and no one is safe. Lord, lady, smallfolk, children, babies, none of them are safe from the brutality of the world. And in particular we are well aware that women are subjected to their very own brand of misogynistic torture via rape and domestic abuse. We’ve seen it in the way young girls are sold off in marriage to old(er) men, with Walder Frey and Craster being particularly abhorrent examples. We’ve seen it in the way women are vulnerable to exploitation because their primary value is in their virginity and that once they’re married they are subject to their husband’s rule. We got it. It’s not a nice world to live in as a woman or girl.
So why do they feel the need to add in rapes where there are none in the book canon? Drogo did not rape Daenerys on their wedding night. Jamie did not rape Cersei at the foot of their dead son’s altar. Those scenes did happen, but in the books they were scenes showing consensual sex (granted both scenes were highly complex and complicated instances of consensual sex because of the context surrounding them). Drogo waited until Daenerys consented to sex, he did not coerce or force her into that consent, and when she said yes he made sure she enjoyed herself. That is a big part of the reason that Daenerys fell in love with Drogo. He gave her agency at a time when everyone else in her life was trying to strip her of it. As for Jamie and Cersei, they both wanted to have sex, yes even with their son’s corpse rotting away in the same room. Cersei put up a few objections about someone walking in on them, but decided she didn’t care and met everyone of Jamie’s advances with her own. Jamie absolutely abhors the idea of rape and would never rape his sister, who he loves with all of his heart, and he would definitely never do it out of anger like he did on the show.
So why would the producers of the show warp these encounters into rape scenes? They completely destroy the plot context and character arcs of the people involved. The change adds no new weight to the plot and doesn’t seem to have any long-lasting impacts (we’ll have to wait and see if the Jamie and Cersei scene will have effects, but if they do they’ll be entirely non-canon). There’s just no good reason to do it.
In fact the only two reasons I can really think of are that either they a) want to punish female characters for having sex or b) think that female sexuality is really only useful to them to be exploited for views or shock value.
If we look at the punishment line of reasoning we see that very nearly every woman who has enjoyed the sex they’re having on the show has either been punished with rape or highly sexualized murder. Ros had loads of sex and seemed to enjoy her chosen occupation – sexually tortured and murdered by Joffery. Doreah enjoyed sex with Xaro Xhoan Daxos- locked with her lover in a vault to die. Talisa was in a loving, sexually fulfilling relationship with Rob – stabbed in her pregnant belly during the Red Wedding. And guess what? Not a single one of those deaths are from the book canon. Ros is an entirely made up character, Doreah died of starvation and exposure while crossing the Red Wastes, and Talisa (known as Jeyne in the books) is alive and well at Riverrun, albeit supposedly no longer pregnant thanks to some moon tea. Ygritte and Shae may be hale and hearty for now, but don’t expect that to last as both of those characters do actually die in the books. So I wouldn’t be surprised now to find that Weiss and Benioff have decided to add some extra special sexual torture flair to their deaths as well.
Daenerys, too, is not headed for pleasant skies, though she at least has some plot armor that should keep her from the worst of it. I say should because I thought that Cersei would never be raped now that Robert’s gone and definitely not by her brother/lover. So who knows! Maybe Darrio will take Danny by force before the season is over so her story line can have a little more Weiss and Benioff patented ‘drama’. And then we can all hate ourselves a little more for making their show so popular. What fun!
There’s also talk of Sansa possibly being subjected to a rape scene later this season, which completely blows my mind. That NEVER happens to her in the books. She has the one attempted rape during the King’s Landing riot but is saved by the Hound. And then later after her escape from King’s Landing, she is groped by a drunk bard who tries to talk/coerce her into sex, but that goes nowhere quick thanks to another well-timed save. If the producers change that upcoming scene into a full on attempted rape scene, especially a ‘beautiful’ one that’s ‘choreographed like a ballet’ as the rumor goes, it’s going to be absolutely disgusting.
So what about the other women who have sex on the show? Well if you take a quick accounting of them they are all either sex workers (very few of whom seem to have any real agency when you take a good look at their situation, ie Littlefinger’s women) or are being treated like shit (for example Ramasy’s torture-n-fuck buddies and Theon’s salt wife, all of who, again, have very little real agency when you take a good look at their situation). Or they’re Mellisandre, but she’s apparently a 400 year old blood sorceress, so she may be a special case. Then again, I thought Cersei and Daenerys were special cases too, so it could just be a matter of time.
Which brings us back around to the second possible reason for these added misogynistic brutalities visited upon the women of the series. If the women who have and enjoy sex of their own free will are punished and raped for it, and the women who are forced into having sex are constantly sexualized on screen, then perhaps Weiss and Benioff just like using women’s bodies and sexualities as nothing more than shock and awe tactics. If the show were really wanting to show ‘mature’ sexuality, then we would have seen a lot more penises by now. Instead we barely get as many bare chested men as we get bare breasted women. Hell, most of the last few sex scenes have involved completely naked women grinding on top of men who still have their trousers and shirt on.
So the moral here is that men can have sex and not be sexualized or punished for it. Women though need to be overtly sexualized while having sex and then need to be punished for enjoying it, because HBO definitely needs higher ratings on this behemoth of a show.
I hope they stop adding rape scenes in where they don’t need to be to drive some unneeded and asinine point about how brutal this world is for the women who live in it. I hope they stop unnecessarily stripping female characters of their clothes and their agency. I also hope they don’t go the ‘sexily shocking’ route for the already shocking enough deaths that are headed our way. Honestly, I just hope that DB Weiss and David Benioff get their misogynistic presumptions and predilections out of the actually really feminist canon that is the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Its getting harder and harder to reconcile the amazing feminist themes that you can find in the books with this show that takes every opportunity to exploit and depower its female characters.
P.S. if anyone wants to talk Queensmoot / female Azor Ahai / Sansa and Arya dark horse feminist theory crafting for the books, hit me up here or on tumblr!