You know nothing, Jon Snow: rape in Game of Thrones
Written by Kalyn H|
April 24, 2014
If you haven’t heard of “Game of Thrones”, you need to spend more time on the internet and get cooler — or nerdier — friends. Game of Thrones is a medieval drama TV series and adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s book series A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s full of political intrigue, dragons and death, and follows the white upper class as they fight for the throne while the common folk go about their daily, shitty existence. Just like real life!
It’s a great show. The actors are fantastic, Peter Dinklage is ridiculously attractive, the special effects are on point, and there are dragons. Any show with dragons is inherently awesome, especially when dragons are coupled with a give-no-shits strong female character.
And now for Kalyn’s Patent Criticism On Why That One Scene Is Totally Rape. For those who haven’t caught up on the fourth season, I won’t be revealing any major spoilers; and for those who are triggered by mentions of sexual assault, you might want to stop reading now and take comfort in the knowledge that I am a raging feminist.
In the most recent episode, Jaime and Cersei, two romantically embroiled characters who also happen to be twins, meet up in a church and consummate their passionate love, despite great tragedy and a world bent on tearing them apart.
Or at least that’s what Director Alex Graves wants you to think.
In reality, Jaime sexually assaults Cersei. He kisses her, and when she pushes him away, obviously repulsed, he calls her a “hateful woman.” (Sound familiar? It’s like every neckbeard who’s ever been offended by a woman refusing him sex.) The scene progresses with Jaime becoming aggressive, literally tearing her clothes off, and when the camera cuts away, Cersei is still telling him to stop and attempting to push him away as he forces her to the floor.
That doesn’t sound too complicated, right? Cersei says no, and Jaime forces himself upon her. That’s rape.
However, in the novel, the scene is a little different. Jaime kisses Cersei, and she objects. He kisses her again until she moans and, taking that as consent, lifts her onto the altar, even as she beats on his chest. Yet when Jaime rips her clothes off, Cersei begins to encourage him, urging him onward, until he does the deed.
Guess what? That’s still rape. The scene in the novel is perfectly analogous to the scene in the TV series, even if the latter is more violent. The show’s writers most likely decided to amp up Jaime’s physical aggression to make it all the clearer that the disturbing scene in the novel is not up for interpretation. A “no” is a “no,” regardless of context.
Yet in Googling the scene to find the specific passage from the novel, I ran across some interesting headlines, like “‘Game Of Thrones’ Team Was Wrong To Have Jaime Rape Cersei” and “The ‘Game of Thrones’ Rape Scene Was Not In Books.” Even some of my favorite feminist-friendly blogs claimed that the scene in the novel is not rape and that the scene in the show is “unnecessary and despicable.”
Director Alex Graves, in an interview with New York Magazine’s “Vulture,” said that though initially their sex was not consensual, Cersei wrapping her legs around him and holding onto the table — showing pleasure — made the act consensual.
George R. R. Martin, the man behind the books, said that the scene in the novel was meant to be disturbing and uncomfortable to the readers, but that the situation was still complicated.
To Mr. Graves, all I can say is shhh. That is not how consent works. For anyone about to jump on the defensive, shhh. Just stop. Cersei said no. Cersei said no, and later “willingness” does not negate that initial denial.
At the risk of repeating myself but in an effort to spell things out clearly, consent cannot be implied. If a woman says no — even once, even uncertainly — that is dissent, and any further action taken regardless of that dissent is, by definition, sexual assault. If a woman takes pleasure during that assault, consent is not reinstated. It is still rape.
Additionally, consent is not a default state. If a woman does not say no, she is not consenting, especially if the act takes place in a setting in which there is an obvious power imbalance between men and women, where a woman cannot say no.
Kalyn H is a Behind Closed Doors Columnist and believes that consent cannot be implied.