Game of Thrones – Rape Culture

Paige Southall

In 1953, Paige Southall was scooped up by the TARDIS and dumped into 2005. Since then. she has lived life like a wino Mary Poppins. At present, she's working on her first novel, and becoming Queen of Westeros. @PaigeAndInk

I am a Game of Thrones fan. In case it wasn’t incredibly obvious in my reviews, I love Game of Thrones. Yet, the most recent episode has stirred up something very nasty that cannot be overlooked.

That scene was always going to be controversial. In the books, Cersei and Jaime have sex as their dead son’s body lies next to them. It is fuelled by grief, and anger, and the need for comfort. Just for a moment, we see Cersei protesting – not there, in front of their son’s body. Then passion and need takes over. However, the TV show took it a step further. In doing so, they have exposed a nasty underbelly of rape culture.

From the moment the episode aired in the US, there was a lot of anger about the scene. It started off with anger that the scene had been changed from the books. It had, in effect, destroyed much of the character arc of Jaime Lannister – he is many things, but he is not a rapist. Then, slowly, the anger changed. Why did they have to make the scene into one of rape in the first place? Why did the writers have to include yet another scene of violence against women?

Then it turned nasty. ‘What is everyone making a big deal of? It wasn’t actually rape.’ Hold on a second there. It wasn’t rape? We are given a scene where a woman says ‘no’ when a man tries to have sex with her. But wait. She gives in to him, once he’s on top of her. ‘She said no, but she just needed some persuading. It wasn’t rape.’

This is just an example of the tweets I saw:

 ‘I cannot say that what Jaime did was rape, as Cersei could have screamed. She was only half hearted in saying ‘no’.’

‘I’m not saying what he did wasn’t wrong. Cersei is the type who would use ‘love’ or her body to gain.’

I’d love to say that this attitude was from a lone voice. It wasn’t. Reasons such as ‘she deserved it’, ‘she was asking for it’, ‘some women say no and don’t mean it,’ buzzed around. The director himself came out in response to the fury and declared that it wasn’t rape, because it becomes consensual. Call Whoopi! It wasn’t ‘legitimate rape.’

A quote from the interview with the director:

 ‘Jaime in turn seizes the moment to finally perform the act he has been denied of since the war.’

Let me get this straight. He has been constantly denied sex since he returned. So he decides to take what he wants. How is that not rape? Because, according to the director, it is a turn on for Cersei that Jaime is taking control. Yes, some women like men to take control. But they consent to it. They say ‘yes’. They do not say ‘no’ and try to get away. Admittedly, Cersei has used sex to get what she wants. She has used sex to manipulate Jaime before. She also may want a man to take control of her. Does this mean that she wasn’t raped? Absolutely not.

It is often a tragedy that in our law courts, the victim’s character comes into question. What was the woman dressed like? Did she flirt with her attacker? Did she kiss him? Perhaps suggest that he went to bed with her? Is she known for being ‘easy’? The victim is the one who goes on trial, not the attacker. It doesn’t matter if the attacker is convicted or not. In the public eye, the victim was ‘asking for it’. It was the victim’s fault she got raped. Maybe it was the way she dressed, the way she acted, or if she had a bit of a bad reputation. It was her own fault, and it doesn’t matter anyway because it wasn’t rape.

As it stands, I am ashamed of parts of the Game of Thrones fandom. Together, we have wept over the Red Wedding, and cheered over the Purple Wedding, yet the Altar Scene has torn back the layers and revealed a festering horror of rape culture that is every bit as embedded in the show as it is in society. It is bad enough that the fans are insisting that it wasn’t rape for this reason or that. It is even worse when the director himself says that it wasn’t rape because it was ‘a turn on’ for Cersei. It didn’t look like she was having a good time to me. Will this become the new thing, I wonder? Hey girls, not only can you not dress how you want to, be sexual, or be powerful, you now can’t enjoy rough sex either. Otherwise, that will be used against you and be made a reason for how you clearly weren’t raped.

Cersei Lannister was raped. You can dissect it all you want to, but that scene was rape. When the camera cuts away from the scene, Cersei is kicking and fighting and saying ‘no’. No, she did not want to have sex with Jaime. She was forced to, against her will. How was that not rape? Please, tell me. Because she was asking for it by being powerful? Because she didn’t scream? Because she had slept with Jaime before, so clearly she would again? Bullshit!

Perhaps what is disgusting me most about all of this is the amount of women who are saying that she wasn’t raped. One fan told me that Cersei is evil, and so she deserves to be punished. Punished, maybe, but why must that punishment be rape? Why must it be something sexual?

Reader, I’m disgusted, and I’m upset. There should not even be a discussion about whether or not it was rape. Cersei said ‘no’, then continued to protest. It’s that simple. It should not even be questioned about whether she ‘deserved it’ or not. No one deserves rape. Rape is not something that should be used lightly, and it should not be used as a plot device.

Yet, perhaps that scene has done something good. It has started the conversation about rape culture. It’s about time we all woke up. If a fictional character can be treated in this way, it’s not hard to imagine how badly real life victims are treated. Enough is enough. In the game of rape culture, it’s time to win before we all lose.

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