selfaware soup

Esther Weidauer

The Weekly Sexual Violence Show™


Content warning: This post will be about the frequent theme of sexual violence in Game of Thrones.

I’ve been watching Game of Thrones since season one and I enjoyed in a lot. Now, with season four almost halfway through, I’m actually not sure, if I want to watch next weeks episode, or the one after that, or any future episodes.

Despite the exciting plot developments over the past few weeks, one constant theme of the show became increasingly obvious and disturbing to me: sexual violence all over the place. By now, there’s almost no single episode that doesn’t at least suggest sexual assault and/or rape.

For three seasons I tried to ignore this and focus on the political schemes, backstabbing, zombies and dragons but it’s no longer working. I realised this after last weeks episode (“First of His Name”). While this episode is full of suggested occurrences of rape, none actually happen on screen, at least as far as I noticed. That seemed like a positive change.


I started feeling uncomfortable with this show as it was no longer an entertaining distraction but actually kept reminding me of my own experiences with sexual violence. I can deal with a few occurrences of rape in fictional stories but there’s a limit after which it becomes really uncomfortable for me. I think that limit has been reached now with Game of Thrones.

The TV adaptation of the material has been known to add several rape scenes that are not in the books, according to people who unlike me actually have read them. So I thought that maybe I should just read the novels instead of watching the show.

Then I stumbled across this article about George R. R. Martin defending the use of sexual violence as a plot device where he states that

An artist has an obligation to tell the truth. My novels are epic fantasy, but they are inspired by and grounded in history. Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day.

So, for reasons of historical accuracy, a story about zombies and dragons has to include rape to be “honest” about the nature of war? Excuse me, what?

Even if it would be a more realistic story, I’ve seen a lot of movies that are actually about the horrors of war and most of them don’t rely on rape scenes to tell their story. This is just a bullshit excuse!

There’s also the usual “reality is even worse, so this is ok” argument:

The atrocities in A Song of Ice and Fire, sexual and otherwise, pale in comparison to what can be found in any good history book.

Then victim blaming:

As for the criticism that some of the scenes of sexual violence are titillating, to me that says more about these critics than about my books. Maybe they found certain scenes titillating. Most of my readers, I suspect, read them as intended.

And for good measure he closes with this:

I don’t want distance, I want to put you there. When the scene in question is a sex scene, some readers find that intensely uncomfortable… and that’s ten times as true for scenes of sexual violence.

But that is as it should be. Certain scenes are meant to be uncomfortable, disturbing, hard to read.

So, this is exactly what he wants? Thanks, but I think I don’t want to have anything to do with this anymore. I like dark and gritty fantasy stories but I don’t want to watch or read someone’s rape fetishizing show or book.