Martin Defends Sexual Violence In 'GoT'

by Mallory Schlossberg

Game of Thrones has been a hot house of sexual violence as of late. In only a couple of episodes, we had the despicable Craster's Keep which fortunately got burned to the ground, Meera Reed nearly got raped, and of course, there was that incestuous rape scene between Jaime and Cersei. All of this makes me want to take a shower, but hold the raven (get it? Like hold the phone? Anyway), because George R. R. Martin has defended the sexual violence in Game of Thrones.

Before we get into Martin's thesis, I'll provide with you with this notion: in a show with war, much like the Daniel Day-Lewis film, there will be blood. In a show on HBO, there will be sex. But the combination of the two — which, yes, will happen inadvertently — does not need to be gratuitous. You've heard the term "gratuitous sex?" A term you didn't need to hear was "gratuitous rape."

Martin explained to The New York Times that his books parallel history — which is impressive, to say the least, but he added that to omit the sexual violence would be dishonest to history's narrative. As he puts it:

An artist has an obligation to tell the truth. My novels are epic fantasy, but they are inspired by and grounded in history. Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day. To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (And the heroes too). Each of us has within himself the capacity for great good, and great evil.

When it was noted that Westeros was a "dark and depraved place," he said:

I have to take issue with the notion that Westeros is a “dark and depraved place.” It’s not the Disneyland Middle Ages, no, and that was quite deliberate … but it is no darker nor more depraved than our own world. History is written in blood. The atrocities in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” sexual and otherwise, pale in comparison to what can bertae found in any good history book.

Okay, gotcha, GRRM. History is gory, history is scary, humans are capable of terrible things, including rape and bloodshed, but there's a line between "grotesque history" and "Disneyland." In fact, I would wager that there's an awful lot of room between Disneyland and Atrocity-Land on the "Rape in Entertainment Spectrum."

As a fan of the show, this season has been more gripping with its storyline than ever (Lord Petyr Baelish, you're quite a trickster, you!), but the gratuitous rape has been...well, gratuitous, and half of the time, not even dealt with (we're looking at you, Jaime Lannister). The best response we've received was when the women of Craster's Keep went forward and on, refusing to be protected by Jon Snow. As honest and brave and perfectly coiffed as Jon Snow is, at least the showrunners accurately depicted women saying, "no thank you, I'm gonna take care of myself from now on."

Which was a welcome departure from women, like Danaerys, falling in line and in love with her rapist. Because lest we forget — Game of Thrones is FANTASY. There are DRAGONS. If there can be dragons, we can marginally alter the depiction of sexual vioelnce, empowering women slightly more than they might have been in the Middle Ages. There's room for basis on history — there's room for violence, we're talking about war here — but if the books and show are equally capable of creating three dragons, they can cut back on the sexual violence.

Yet, regarding how the show is shot, Martin did say:

[The] television programs are in the hands of others, who make their own artistic choices as to what sort of approach will work best in their respective mediums.

We know — that rape scene was not intended to go that way...but it did.

Well, showrunners, now that the show is departing from the books, please do us a favor and instead of veering towards the gratuitous rape camp (ick), please steer us elsewhere. Continue to focus on the incredibly exciting complexity of characters like Cersei, Arya, and let Danaerys do more than give Braveheart speeches. It doesn't have to be Disneyland, but it doesn't have to be a nightmare, either.