The Art of Winning Blog

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

On the Rape of Sansa Stark

Warning: This article contains triggers. I know because I wrote it. 

I watched Game of Thrones on Monday (finally caught up--thanks Tivo)! I was astounded by all the hype around her rape scene. Unlike the Lannister rape (which was definitely non-consensual. Even though they'd had sex before doesn't mean Jaime can his way any time he wants it.  See this article on tea and consent if you are still confused), everyone seems really clear that this was in fact, rape. I thought GoT deserved kudos for tackling a subject like marital rape, which is still contentious. It wasn't even acknowledged as a crime until the late 1970s and wasn't illegal in all 50 states (and DC) until 1993. It's still rarely prosecuted.

The click bait headlines referred to it as gratuitous rape (an idea I found so offensive that I had trouble deciding to even click on the articles). Here's why I thought the show was on the money.

  1. Rape happens and it's disgusting, messed up, and gross. 
  2. Rape happens in marriages. 
  3. It happens under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Rape also happens under the influence of power, social norms, and peer pressure (which is why there's a need to change the cultural conversation around rape).
  4. In GoT, the rape was in character for Ramsey. He expresses his disdain for others, like Tyrion, who didn't consummate the marriage. He needs a witness, not just to control Theon/Reek and Sansa, but to cement his need for position. He can do what the powerful Lannister men could not.
But what really got me were the critics who said that it didn't make sense since Sansa has been coming into her power. Really? The truth is the rape isn't about Sansa because it's never about the victim. Strong, powerful, beautiful women get raped in real life. It happens, not because of the dress she wore, but because of the choice the rapist makes. Her strength doesn't protect her from being raped, but I believe it will help her recover from being victimized. (I also predict that in the next few episodes we'll get to explore what it's like to be stuck in a relationship with a power-hungry narcissist.)

While I'm at it, where's the outrage over the tragedy of the House of Tyrell? The faith is now a militant force that can imprison people for having sex with someone of the same sex? His own grandmother called him a "pillow biter". Yet, like the rape scene, this "trial" accurately portrays the effect a militant religious force can have in the modern day. When I searched for articles about it, I mostly found people celebrating the "anti-gay" sentiments they see portrayed in GoT

One of things I like about Game of Thrones is it's willingness to go there and to cross the line. It doesn't hide from the idea that rape happens, and it effects the victim and the people who care about her. Rape isn't nice. It's not an expression of love (ewww, Lannisters, ewww). Prejudice exists. Abuse of power exists. Bad things happen to people even when they make all the right choices. Finally, please don't reduce rape by calling it just a "plot device". Go deeper Senator McCaskill, because one person can change the world...the question is will you change it for better or worse?

Links to Referenced Articles:
Tea and Consent:
Marital Rape:
GoT rape:,
GoT gay trial:
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