On A Room of Our Own and feimineach: Game of Thrones, rape, and violence against women and girls
I’m THIS CLOSE to giving up on Frones completely because of its plot-point, titilation rape scenes (and I haven’t even got to all of *that* scene in the latest series). In the linked piece below, Sarah Ditum on the newstatesman talks rape, gender disparity, and misogyny. If I’m honest, I think that she’s watched some of the rape scenes closer than I have for there is only so much I can bear. She points out, for example, that in *that* rape scene with Sansa (which I gather lasts for most of the episode), a lot of the focus is on Theon’s reaction, because the programme makers believe that a man’s reaction to rape is more important than a woman’s brutal experience of it.
The rape scene that closed out this week’s episode of Game of Thrones is probably only the third worst act of sexual violence against a major female character we’ve seen in the series. The wave of revulsion it’s kicked off is at least in part because Game of Thrones has now unambiguously become the kind of show for which it’s necessary to maintain a critical ranking of acts of sexual violence against major female characters. But it’s not as though we weren’t warned – and by “we”, I mean viewers like me who’ve fastidiously hoarded the benefit of the doubt while the programme recklessly mixed grisly violations with the tits-out titillation that is the USP of cable television.
[…] But the programme makers had the choice of whether to make us watch or not, and they put us right there in the room, camera focused lasciviously on her suffering face. Even worse though is that they put Sansa’s stepbrother Theon in the room as a witness, and made his anguish at watching her rape the closing note of the programme. Apparently violence against a woman counts for more if it distresses a man.
And this is where I’m at with my concerns about violence against women and girls on television. I wrote here, ages ago, about what I consider responsible and irresponsible depictions of rape on television. Love/ Hate got it sort of right; True Detective got it very, very wrong. But Game of Thrones is in a league of its very own. Not only does it, as Ditum argues, ask the viewer to suspend a lot of disbelief when “decent” characters rape, suggesting that it’s shoe-horned in for other reasons (titillation), but it’s reached the stage where it’s now possible or even likely that there will be a rape or other act of sexual violence in every episode. It’s that common. (I wonder if anyone has ever done the math. Perhaps one in four women will be raped in her lifetime in Game of Thrones like they are in, you know, real life.) And, further, we seem to be asked to wade past the perfectly toned and no doubt titillating bodies of the victims in such scenes (scenes which are often positioned alongside other scenes in which other perfectly toned and titilating bodies are enjoying themselves) to see the brutality of the act. You’ll forgive me for questioning how many viewers do the wading. That’s not just irresponsible television; it’s misogynistic and dangerous.