Game Of Thrones‘ Obsession With Rape Is Getting Out Of Control

As Sonia Saraiya from the A.V. Club explains in an excellent piece titled “Rape Of Thrones,” the scene in the book features a significantly less disturbing situation. While the incest aspect will always be distressing to audiences (one would hope, at least), the scene actually went like this:

She kissed him. A light kiss, the merest brush of her lips on his, but he could feel her tremble as he slid his arms around her. “I am not whole without you.”

There was no tenderness in the kiss he returned to her, only hunger. Her mouth opened for his tongue. “No,” she said weakly when his lips moved down her neck, “not here. The septons…”

“The Others can take the septons.” He kissed her again, kissed her silent, kissed her until she moaned. Then he knocked the candles aside and lifted her up onto the Mother’s altar, pushing up her skirts and the silken shift beneath. She pounded on his chest with feeble fists, murmuring about the risk, the danger, about their father, about the septons, about the wrath of gods. He never heard her. He undid his breeches and climbed up and pushed her bare white legs apart. One hand slid up her thigh and underneath her smallclothes. When he tore them away, he saw that her moon’s blood was on her, but it made no difference.

“Hurry,” she was whispering now, “quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime.” Her hands helped guide him. “Yes,” Cersei said as he thrust, “my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you’re home now, you’re home now, you’re home.” She kissed his ear and stroked his short bristly hair. Jaime lost himself in her flesh. He could feel Cersei’s heart beating in time with his own, and the wetness of blood and seed where they were joined.

So…not the same. Unpleasant and incestuous and uncomfortable, yes, but certainly not the equivalent of a long, drawn-out rape scene wherein Cersei’s cries are ignored as Jaime assaults her. So, why are the show’s writers attempting to turn the book’s sex scene into a rape for the show?

We already know that Game of Thrones features a considerable amount of rape, torture, and psychological terror. It’s not an easy show to watch. From the sight of a prostitute’s body strewn up and full of arrows from Joffey’s bow to the aforementioned king forcing Sansa Stark to stare at her father’s decapitated head to a very pregnant Talisa Stark being repeatedly stabbed in the stomach, it’s consistently squeezed in a rather profound amount of violence–the majority of which is in the books. It does not make any sense to add in a random rape scene unless the show’s makers have some particular inclination towards making rape a fun little extra plot device.

Another frustrating thing about Jaime’s rape of Cersei is how it was commented on by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime. While discussing the scene, the actor made some points that may have taken an unintended meaning due to the difference between the book and HBO’s version.

“To understand the psychology behind it, and why he goes as far as he does, was really difficult.

“To me it became, When does physical desire take over? It’s one of those things where he’s been holding it back for so long, and then out of anger he grabs her, and instinct takes over, and he lets loose. He says, I don’t care. He wants to not care. He has to connect to her, and he knows this is the most fucked up way for it to happen, but in that moment, he knows it’s all he can do. It’s an act of powerlessness.”

Yes, “the most fucked up way” for somebody to behave, but it is certainly not a connection. It’s also not an act of powerlessness; in fact, rape is the exact opposite of that. It’s the total removal of power from one’s victim. It is not “all he can do”; rape is a choice, and Jaime actively chooses to rape his sister in this scene.

He goes on to comment on its difficulty to shoot:

“It was tough to shoot, as well. There is significance in that scene, and it comes straight from the books—it’s George R.R. Martin’s mind at play. It took me awhile to wrap my head around it, because I think that, for some people, it’s just going to look like rape. The intention is that it’s not just that; it’s about two people who’ve had this connection for so many years, and much of it is physical, and much of it has had to be kept secret, and this is almost the last thing left now. It’s him trying to force her back and make him whole again because of his stupid hand.”

Again, no. It doesn’t “look like rape”–it is rape. It is him trying to force her back, but force is not something involved in consensual sex. In the book, she tells him to “do it now.” But somewhere in between the book and what aired last night, consensuality went missing. In the show’s version of the scene, Cersei continuously says she does not want to do have sex. Not there, not then, not at all. It looks like rape because it is rape. That said, the way he is discussing the scene feels very relevant to the book’s version, and we don’t know if perhaps something that he shot for the scene may have differed from how it was edited.

Of course, this is not the first random non-consensual sexual act we have witnessed in Game of Thrones–it’s not even the first in this season. Just two episodes ago, Arya and The Hound walk into a scene where a woman is being groped by soldiers as her father begs to have them stop. It is barely touched on and it is not remotely integral to the plot, but the sexual assault of this unnamed woman is supposed to set the mood for the scene. In that same episode, Prince Oberyn removes a prostitute’s clothing and touches her as she looks noticeably uncomfortable. Rather than treating this situation as what it is (disturbing, unsettling, nonconsensual), it’s intended as being almost titillating.

We know that there will continue to be rape throughout the show. HBO IS KNOWN FOR HAVING MORE SEXUAL CONTENT THAN “NORMAL TV,” BUT AT THIS POINT< THEY”RE USING RAPE AS A TITILATING SIDESHOW RATHER THAN A PLOT ADVANCEMENT.

The world established by George R. R. Martin allows for an abundance of sexual abuse; these are the perimeters he has set, and that is something we have accepted as viewers and readers. However, we do not need to accept the show’s writers’ decisions to show more rape in extensive and dread-inducing scenes.

George RR Martin’s world in GoT is one where hyper-violence abounds, but HBO’s show is fetishizing rape. And that’s not OK.

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    • Kaitlin Reilly

      I didn’t see the new episode, but yeah, that sounds incredibly disturbing — and very, very different from the book version. I’m not sure why they didn’t just go with the novel’s version, unless the showrunner wants Jaime to be seen as completely unredeemable.

      • JLH1986

        Given that it’s been discussed many times that Martin likely won’t finish the next book before they series runs out he has supposedly told the producers how the books will end maybe they know something we don’t and are getting a jump on getting the character there sooner? I was unimpressed with the scene.

      • JMark

        1) I think it serves a plot of showing that Jaime hasn’t really redeemed himself.

        2) I’m not really sure you could call it rape. Firstly, consider the books: The same “Scene” was consensual. Secondly, from what I gathered, Cersei was saying no, but she ultimately seemed to be enjoying herself and going along with it as Jaime ripped off her clothes. This seems to fit Cersei’s character as an equally terrible and bizarre person. Lastly, to the extent she objected, her sole objection was that it was her son’s tomb; nothing to do with objecting to his advances besides that fact. In other words, ya, she seemed to fight it, but she probably wanted it.

        That, at least, it was I assume the writers were trying to communicate. Unless they come out and say, “ya, it was rape,” we’ll never truly know. Plus, either way it still makes Jaime look bad, which serves the purpose of showing viewers he’s not redeemed (at least yet), which seemed to be where he was going.

      • NoGratuitousRape

        Your comment is disturbing. I did not see Cersei enjoying herself. She said no, stop, over and over again. This is a woman who was repeatedly raped by her husband and when someone is constantly subjected to negative stresses for which they have no escape or recourse they enter in what is called learned helplessness. Fighting, resisting, or trying to escape becomes impossible so they give up. This has been documented in humans and dogs.

        After repeated rapes at the hands of her husband she is now raped by her brother. Two men who were supposed to love and protect her. The really damaging thing here is that Jamie’s rape of Cersei turns out to really be about Jamie’s internal struggle and the impact on Cersei, the victim, is of little concern. That is a dangerous message to send to impressionable young men and women who watch this show.

        If rape is shown on TV it needs to shown responsibly. No matter if it done by someone the woman knows and has had previous sexual relations with, the more common of real life rape instances, or the less common sterotype of the violent stranger ripping her clothes off, eithe way it needs to be shown as abhorrent as it is and always with the foucus on the victim. Showing a rape as a plot device for the man and breazenly attempting to gains the audience sympathy for the rapist and “understand” what he was going through at the expense of the woman, the victim, is reprehensible. GoT really dropped the ball with this scene.

      • Penelope

        “This is a woman who was repeatedly raped by her husband and when someone is constantly subjected to negative stresses for which they have no escape or recourse they enter in what is called learned helplessness” … oh, please! Cersei is no one’s victim. She’s probably the least “helpless” person in the series. She’s a monster.

      • NoGratuitousRape

        And here lies the problem. It’s OK to rape Cersei because she’s just a bitch who deserves it. The audience is much more sympathetic to Jamie than to Cersei, myself included, so raping Cersei isn’t that big of a deal. The “she deserved it” myth is prevalent in society today and leads to only 3% of rapists ever serving any jail time. It’s simply not OK to depict rape so irresponsibly.

      • Penelope

        I didn’t say she deserved it. I don’t believe it was rape. And in any event, whether she was “raped” or her son was poisoned or any awful event occurred in her life, I would never consider Cersei a “helpless” person.

      • kanyewesteros

        Have you read the books? If not, never mind. If you have, you should recognize that Cersei feels helpless basically all the time and absolutely has had some real undeserved shit to deal with as a woman. She’s a terrible person and I certainly don’t want her having any power, but she is not the mastermind she imagines herself to be and has at many times in her life been victimized and unable to control her own fate.

      • Penelope

        I think she made her beds and must lie in them. But in regard to this “rape” scene I see her not as a victim or as helpless. Perhaps the show deviates from the books in that way to emphasize the less helpless aspect of her character.

      • JMark

        The problem is 99% of what you’re saying just assumes it was rape, but that’s not 100% clear–which is my point. In fact, nothing you’ve said addresses any of my points that it may not be rape, or, at least, the writers didn’t intend for it to seem like rape for sure.

        Now, I’m not condoning rape, I just disagree with you regarding how I feel, what I know, etc., regarding the show, book, and characters. For you to assume what I’ve said is “disturbing,” seems a bit like an ad hominem.

      • NoGratuitousRape

        What was disturbing about your comment is your failure to recognize rape when you see it. The TV scene had little to do with the scene in the books. It wasn’t rape in the book but it was absolutely unequivocally rape in the TV show.

        I took from your comment that she didn’t fight back hard enough thus it wasn’t rape. That’s why I explained about learned helplessness. That was the first thing I thought of when I saw the scene last night. She had previously rejected Jamie and did so again before and during her rape. The “not here” was a last ditch attempt to Jamie to not violate her in front of their son’s dead body. In no way did I see it as her sole objection.

      • JMark

        Again, the problem is that you’re just assuming as a matter of fact that it’s rape. In other words, you’re relying on an un-argued, and therefore baseless, assertion that it’s automatically rape.

        You’ve basically said: It’s rape because I say so and that’s a fact (LMFAO) and you’re disturbed for not agreeing with me. Arguments don’t work that way…You don’t get to create your own facts, and I’m the only one that’s supported my reasoning as to why I think it’s not rape, all the while leaving it open that the writer’s know better than all of us; thus, I could be wrong.

        Ya, because reasonable minds can’t disagree, and the writer’s couldn’t have intended one thing??? Give me a break…

      • NoGratuitousRape

        I think it was rape because of what I saw on my TV last night. There was never any question or doubt in my mind that Cersei was being raped. I’m not sure how a woman repeatedly saying no and stop before and during her attack isn’t rape. What is disturbing is that you don’t recognize rape for what it is.

        I’m not sure where to go from here if you don’t think what was depicted was in fact rape. I pray you are never called to sit as a juror in the rare instances that an accused rapist is actually tried for his crime.

      • JMark

        Now you’re just being a d*(k and you’re refusing to reconcile the problems in your reasoning…So, with that, I wish you a good day :)

      • NoGratuitousRape

        I neither have nor am trying to be a dick. I’m genuinely perplexed and dismayed that you can see that scene as anything but rape. Your saying “In other words, ya, she seemed to fight it, but she probably wanted it.” is wrong on so many levels. But I’m the one with problems with my reasoning. K.

      • JMark

        Considering you’ve now resorted to cherry-picking a single aspect of my argument and have conveniently ignored the rest…Seriously…

        Either way, enjoy the last word :)

      • Chelsea DeLoney

        When someone says no it’s rape. You are a scary individual.

      • JMark

        Awww; the tried and true baseless ad hominem which superimpose personal beliefs based on incorrect assumptions from which you’ve dismissed everything I’ve said out of ignorance and convenience…

        I can play that game too: You’re an idiot.

      • Sarah M.

        Rape occurs when either person says “no”. It is clearly the rape of Cersei in this scene. Please reconsider what you think to be rape- for you it is “assuming” for the rest of the world it is plain and clear- nonconsensual sexual penetration is rape. “No” means “no”- even for fictional characters.

      • JMark

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    • Sheila Lopez

      This is not the first time that the show has changed a scene like that. When Danerys first has sex with Khal Drogo in the book, he is very gentle and things don’t go further until she says “yes” to him. In the show, however, he grabs her while she is weeping.

      • Samantha Escobar

        YES. Exactly. And it does nothing for the plot; she still falls in love with him. She still acts as though he is her one true soulmate.

      • Chelsea DeLoney

        They still could’ve gone the whole “assert yourself in the bedroom with him” while depicting Khal Drogo as gentle. It was so unnecessary to portray him differently.

    • http://maitribathbody.com/ Maitri

      Did Jaime say to the septon as he was walking in, “Please give me a minute with my son?” or was it “my sister?” I was like “huh? what? he’s admitting it openly??”

      • Kay_Sue

        He said “Please give the queen a moment alone with her son,” if I remember correctly.

    • Kay_Sue

      I really hate it because Jaime is currently one of my favorite characters in the book. I don’t know what they are doing with him, or how it will tie in with his character development later in the story but I hate hating the TV version. It’s pointless and disturbing for the sake of being pointless and disturbing.

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    • Penelope

      The scene serves to show both of them are pigs. They each deserve what happens to them. Cersei just has misplaced anger about Jaime being gone so long, and is disgusted by the fact that he lost his hand because she is shallow. She could have put up much more of a fight than she did, but the fact of the matter is she’s in love with her brother and desires him just as much as he has been holding out on his desire for her. She just doesn’t like that she desires a handicapped person. She’s no victim.

    • Tony

      You can’t apply 21st century values & morals to a medieval world. You’re seeing things that aren’t there because of who you are in 2014, rather then imagining what it might be like in the Middle or Dark Ages (the analog for GoT).

      This scene does not glorify rape, it does not try to stimulate the viewer, and it certainly does not try to be sexy. There’s a very obvious purpose to the scene: to challenge our sympathies.

      Consider… until recently, we’ve (viewers) been gradually starting to like Jamie. I mean heck, we were all giggling as he plodded through a sparring match with Bron. But, not so long ago…

      Jamie is the Kingslayer. He pushed Bran out a window. He’s killed & maimed his way around Westeros, and for the most part, doesn’t seem too concerned about it. He’s had a decades-long incestuous relationship (and children) with his sister. The suffering we’ve witnessed is surely more of a comeuppance for all of that than it was ever meant to be “see, Jamie’s really a good guy, he just had to make bad choices”.

      So, perhaps the rape scene is merely meant as a way to knock we viewers down a peg or two. And not only does it put Jamie back where he belongs, it also gives us a reason to sympathize with Cersei. Maybe she’s next on the chopping block? It won’t be as shocking if she gets killed WHILE we still actively despise her. Remember – there are a TON of things the show has to cut, edit, change, combine from the books to tell the full Ice & Fire story. This might have simply been the best way to do it via a TV show. (Please also remember, GRR Martin consults on the show, so these kinds of changes are 1st hand approved by the story creator himself.)

      I think you should leave the modern moral commentary out of this experience. There’s no reason to let anything in GoT offend your delicate sensibilities. You’re watching the wrong show if you want modern justice & equality…

      • Penelope

        And Tony drops the mic! …

    • Patrick

      This scene totally threw me for a loop. I haven’t read the books, but like most of us, I was really starting to sympathize with Jaime after his hand was cut off and he started acting like a somewhat decent person.

      Then comes this scene: Incestuous, forced rape by a committed by a character we’ve started to like on a character everyone hates… not to mention the fact that it was on top of/next to their recently deceased son. Just a really fucked up, weird scene that I hated to watch and I hope no one was entertained or amused by.

      However, for this article to say that the show uses rape as a titillating side show or a “fun” little plot device is a HUGE stretch. Just because rape is shown in a TV show does not by any means convey that the show is trying to glorify or promote rape. 99.9% of normal people are going to watch this scene and think, “Wow, wtf, that was really fucked up and uncomfortable.” No rational person is going to watch this and say, “Oh wow, Jaime Lannister just raped his sister. I like Jaime Lannister… I guess rape is kind of cool.” Literally no one.

      From what I’ve heard, this season has already strayed from the book in more ways than one, and its too early to say whether this scene does or does help to advance the plot. The character development is fantastic in this show and its safe to say that most of us assumed we would hate Jaime Lannister always after watching season 1, but in season 2 his character became more sympathetic and I was shocked to find myself liking him. Now, we have Cersei who is a cold bitch and an extremely unlikable character, and the tables are turned in this scene where suddenly we sympathize with her, despite how horrible she is, because no one deserves to be raped. The character development is extremely dynamic and though this show glorifies violence, betrayal, sex and exploitation, it is too much of a stretch to say that it uses rape as an entertaining side show.

      • NoGratuitousRape

        I’ve been fine with the way the show has handled rape in the past. I’m fine with rape, even a lot of it, so long as it’s depicted as the brutal, harsh, violation that it is.

        Even the controversial Dany-Drogo scenes. What happened between them was in fact rape. The same kind of rape that has happened to countless women and children throughout history who were married off against their will, pawns in men’s political games. It’s not unthinkable the strongest of them would take the lot their given and turn it around into something positive. Which is what IMO Dany did. It made Drogo less sympatheic but it made that entire story line more about Dany, which I was fine with. Drogo was simply a plot device for Dany’s growth. It’s usually the other way around and the woman is the plot device for the man.

        Cersei’s rape last night was the only one to which I really object. It was gratuitous, strayed unnecessarily from the book, and ultimately a rape was used to further the perpetrator’s story rather than the victim’s. It was gratuitous use of rape which is irresponsible under any and all circumstances.

      • Tony

        “… strayed unnecessarily from the book…”

        Your opinion and totally irrelevant in every way to this discussion. We are watching a TV show ADAPTATION of a story that was a book first.

        As well, the author of the books himself consults on the show, so if they change the story, it’s with his blessing. Martin has even said in various interviews that he prefers some of the changes.

      • Chelsea DeLoney

        If you watch interviews with GRRM he actually says they’ve killed more people on the show that are still alive in the books and they’ve changed a lot, sometimes he’s unaware of that. He is involved but there is a huge difference between what they portrayed on the show and what’s in the books in that scene.

    • Romylove

      I wish they’d translated it better from the book/stayed loyal to the book’s timeline. They are in the Sept of Baelor, not a tomb. The sex is consensual in the book. Cersei objects to the location and timing, worried that someone might walk in on them. But yeah, she’s totally down for some brother lovin’.

      In the books, Jaime doesn’t make it back until after Joff is dead. The first scene of him reuniting with Cersei is the scene in the sept where they get it on next to Joffrey’s corpse. The scene of her rejecting him that occurred previously and him getting the Valyrian steel sword should have occurred after Joff’s death.

    • Alec Barbour

      I found it intensely disturbing as well. The only thing I would say is that in the books, in the quote you included, Cersei initially says no, and Jamie keeps going until she started saying yes: plenty creepy in it’s own right. I would also say that the scene in the books is a lot longer. It seems to me that the show basically cut away while Cersie was still “pounding on his chest with feeble fists.”

      I would also say that I don’t think it was meant to be titillating. Not in this case. I think it was meant to show, basically, the most wrongedy wrong-wrong scenario possible. In the words of Jayne Cobb, “Where’s that get fun?”

      Still not sure I’m ok with it, but, differently? I guess?

    • jane11346
    • No more rape porn

      I am just as upset with the rape porn on game of thrones. Season 4 episode 4 there is a gang rape scene with Karl at Craster’s keep. And for all the men saying that rape happens all the time, yes it does. But you can allude to rape without showing bouncing tits and men’s “O” faces. The pig directors wanted to make a titillating scene for young men to jack off too. All they are doing is glorifying rape just like rape porn. Men who defend that can burn in hell.

    • No more rape porn

      What about showing the rape through the woman’s eyes adding empathy for the victim, not a full on body shot with camera ogling woman’s naked body.