Thoughts on rape and objectification in Game of Thrones


The characters of Sansa Stark and Cersei Lannister have both been raped on Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones takes place in a fantasy preindustrial world filled with politics, human relationships, smoke monsters, dragons, giants, ice zombies and who the hell knows what else.  The show is so popular because we recognize something of ourselves in the stories they tell, but from day one, I couldn’t help but question the manner in which they tell those stories (I started a ‘boobs‘ tag which I loosely kept up for the first two seasons).  I don’t profess to be a GoT expert (and I certainly haven’t read the books), but now, I must take a closer look at both rape and the objectification of women in the land of Westeros and beyond. 

“Breaker of Chains,” Season 4, Episode 3
This episode features the rape of Cersei Lannister by her twin brother, Jaime.   Their incestuous relationship predates the show and has produced three children and, as far as I know, was completely consensual up to this point.  It goes without saying that their relationship is difficult to understand, and I’m told this scene seems less like rape in the book than how it was presented on the show, but as far as I’m concerned, this is rape.  (I feel that there is some ambiguity surrounding this scene around the web, so I just want to make sure my interpretation is clear.)

The worst part about Cersei’s rape is that to me, it changed nothing.  As far as I can see, this has not changed Cersei or Jaime’s character, nor has it changed their relationship.  It’s as if the scene never happened; I don’t understand why it exists in the first place.

“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” Season 5, Episode 6
This episode concludes with the rape of Sansa Stark by Ramsay Bolton on their wedding night while the brainwashed Theon Greyjoy (aka Reek) is forced to watch.  I think this scene was met with such disdain because Sansa’s character has already endured so much horror, this seemed like the last thing the audience was willing to tolerate.  Also, it didn’t tell us anything new about the characters involved:  Ramsay is a monster, Theon/Reek is completely broken and Sansa is in a helpless situation.  However, in the next episode (“The Gift”), Sansa asks Reek to help her escape (as Reek was once her father’s ward, and a kind of brother to her), but he immediately betrays her to Theon.  I believe all of this was to show that she’s in the worst situation of her life; she’s a prisoner, raped nightly by her monster of a husband and no one is coming to help, so she’s going to have to grow as a character get out of this on her own and officially become a player in the game.  I think this is leading to Sansa murdering Ramsay in episode 10 of season 5 (which will be the most satisfying death of a character ever), escape from Winterfell with Brienne of Tarth and emergence upon the stage as someone who doesn’t need anyone to care for her.  Meaning, her rape was not without purpose the way Cersei’s was  – I don’t approve of using rape as a plot device, but at least this is a plot thread and not just some random occurance.

That’s how crazy Game of Thrones is; they’ve got me quantifying rape.

“The Gift,” Season 5, Episode 7
You ever see Back to the Future?  I’ve always thought it was weird that Loraine just went right into the dance with George after almost getting raped by Biff.  In this episode, Gilly is about to be raped by men of the Knights Watch, and Sam, with help from the direwolf Ghost, saves her, so she has sex with him, because…

I dunno.  I’m not a fan of this “Getting saved from rape gets me so hot,” thing that appears in media.  GoT isn’t the first to use this device and they probably won’t’ be the last, but that’d be nice if they were.

“And that’s just the first episode.”

Meanwhile, BOOBS
Holy hell, is this show excessive with the boobs.  I don’t have any data to back this up, but I feel as though the random topless women ratio has actually decreased as the show goes on (Season 5, Episode 9 is a perfect example – no topless women at the brothel – I was shocked).  The attitude used to be:

“You know what this scene is missing?  Boobs.”
“Why do we need boobs?”
“The question is ‘Why not?’  You’re fired.”

Now, it seems like they’ve shifted to a position of:

“Try to wedge some boobs into this episode somewhere in a way that makes some semblance of sense.  I’m probably going to have to defend this in the press at some point.”

So… progress, I guess.


I don’t know if this is factual, but this is how it feels.

While both the rape and the objectification of women on Game of Thrones have received attention from society, I feel that the rape, while extremely troubling, is not as troubling as the random naked women.  The rape is at least the focus of the scene (for whatever that’s worth) during which it occurs – boobs are often just there, sometimes extra ones in the background – there’s not always a reason.  Game of Thrones is very “Thanks for listening to that monologue about politics.  Here’s some boobs as our way of saying we value the market share you provide.”  Look, I like boobs, boobs are great, but we can’t just have pointless boobs all over the place.  That scene in the prison (again, “The Gift”)… that got out of control fast, and that just happened a few weeks ago, so clearly, the infectious boob disease the producers have isn’t going away, but maybe just not as rampant as it once was.

So what does all of this mean?  I dunno… Game of Thrones has some serious issues, that’s for sure.  It seems possible that they could get through the rest of the show’s run without another rape, but boobs?  Yeah, the boobs are never going away.  I appreciate that the show exists in a patriarchal society, but sheesh – I guess all one can do is hope for no random boobs and rape in season 6.

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on June 10, 2015, in tv review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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