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Misogyny and Consent on “Game of Thrones”

That’s NOT how that was supposed to go down.

Warnings: this piece will discuss rape and here be spoilers for season 4, episode 3 of “Game of Thrones” as well as the books up until this point.

What the hell world do we live in that we can’t even have consensual menstruation incest anymore?

During this week’s episode of Game of Thrones (which will get a full recap later this week) we saw some of the immediate follow-up to Joffrey’s death, including a scene between Jaime and Cersei.

In the books, Jaime is not present for Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding, and does not return to King’s Landing until after his nephew/son is dead. His first encounter with Cersei is when he enters the sept — this is chapter 62 of A Storm of Swords — as she stands over the king’s body in mourning. The pair have grief-fueled period sex right on one of the altars, which plays out like this:

There was no tenderness in the kiss he returned to her, only hunger. Her mouth opened for his tongue. “No,” she said weakly when his lips moved down her neck, “not here. The septons… “

“The Others can take the septons.” He kissed her again, kissed her silent, kissed her until she moaned. Then he knocked the candles aside and lifted her up onto the Mother’s altar, pushing up her skirts and the silken shift beneath. She pounded on his chest with feeble fists, murmuring about the risk, the danger, about their father, about the septons, about the wrath of gods. He never heard her. He undid his breeches and climbed up and pushed her bare white legs apart. One hand slid up her thigh and underneath her smallclothes. When he tore them away, he saw that her moon’s blood was on her, but it made no difference.

“Hurry,” she was whispering now, “quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime.” Her hands helped guide him. “Yes,” Cersei said as he thrust, “my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you’re home now, you’re home now, you’re home.” She kissed his ear and stroked his short bristly hair. Jaime lost himself in her flesh. He could feel Cersei’s heart beating in time with his own, and the wetness of blood and seed where they were joined.

There is some resistance from Cersei at first, but ultimately she is enthusiastic about wanting him. The notion of consent in this scene as written starts off a little murky but is is, in my opinion, a clear yes at the end. This entire situation played out very differently in the show.

On television, Cersei never gives consent, and never says or acts as though she wants her brother/lover. Jaime forces himself on her, in a rather brutal and violent way, while she begs him to stop. It’s rape. There is no other way to look at it. The show writers took a scene that is complicated and full of grief, passion, and a whole host of other emotions and boiled it down to Jaime assaulting Cersei next to the body of their dead son.

While the universe that this story is set in does include regular threats of rape, there are a lot of times where it fits. It’s brutal and horrific, of course, and it’s not comfortable to watch, but given the point in history on which Westeros is loosely based (yes, it is a fictional world, but there are elements and events that are inspired at least in part by medieval times), it does work within the narrative.

So, yes, I expect a certain amount of violence against women, because there’s violence against everyone — men, women, children, direwolves (I’m still not completely over Lady). But since there already is so much brutality going around, the show’s writers do not by any means need to add in any additional horror, and they certainly don’t need to mangle character development to do so.

Previously, they added in the murder of the prostitute Ros. If you don’t remember, she was one of the women Tyrion hired to try and screw away some of Joffrey’s more horrible qualities. That didn’t work, of course, because instead of sex the boy king decided to make the women abuse each other, then ultimately killed Ros with a crossbow. It seems that the scenario was added in to highlight Joff’s cruelty, but that was already quite clear. He beheaded the father of his betrothed and then made her look at his mounted head, among many other things. We were already well aware of what a skidmark the kid was, which made Ros’ murder completely gratuitous. In the books, when Daenerys marries Khal Drogo, they do not consummate the relationship until she says “yes.” However, on the show, he forced her to have sex regardless.

Jaime Lannister was, until last night, on something of a path to redemption. We knew him as the Kingslayer, and someone who is willing to murder a child, but on his road back with Brienne of Tarth, he seemed to be growing, even softening a little. He lied to their captors to save Brienne from being raped, for example. Even some of his prior brutality — like pushing Bran from a window — was done out of love. Whatever else he may do, he adores Cersei and will do practically anything for her. It was torture for him to know she was being harmed when she was married to Robert. There is no sense to or context for the way he attacked her.

There is simply no good reason for this scene to have played out the way it did. It’s gratuitous, does not further the story, and is completely out of character. As great as this show is in many ways, it has made a few misogynistic missteps, and this week’s unnecessary rape scene was one of the more egregious ones.

By [E] Liza

PhD student. Knitter. Brooklynite. Long-distance dog mom. Reluctant cat lady. Majestic unicorn whose hair changes color with the wind.

6 replies on “Misogyny and Consent on “Game of Thrones””

“It seems that the scenario was added in to highlight Joff’s cruelty, but that was already quite clear.”
“We were already well aware of what a skidmark the kid was, which made Ros’ murder completely gratuitous.”

I disagree that this is what Ros’s death was supposed to be about. It appears during the episode ‘The Climb’ and we see her death while Littlefinger is lecturing over what it takes to win the Game of Kings. She doesn’t die to show what Joffery is like; she dies because she’s completely in over her head. She tried to play the Game (as it was recently revealed that she was spying for The Spider) and was grossly outmatched for it. Ros’s story is about ambition and ability. She had plenty of one and lacked the other.

I don’t think Ros’s death was gratuitous per se, but I have big problems with the fact that she ended up getting shot between the legs with an arrow, and receiving others in her groin area and her breast. I think her manner of death was simply an opportunity for the writers to escalate the sexual violence and titillate a certain type of viewer. We get it, it’s not a good life for any women in Westeros. We don’t need to see ever-more horrifying grotesqueries perpetrated on women to remember that.

Wow. I’m surprised about what they changed, particularly Daeny’s wedding night with Khal. I remember seeing the GOT Facebook page promoting t-shirts with “My moon and stars” on it for Valentine’s Day and being very bothered by it because well, Daeny fell in love with her rapist. Two friends (one who read the book, btw) never mentioned that it was different in the books, that it was consensual. They actually defended it! Just like we’re seeing people do now with Jamie and Cersei. I sat there mute and slack-jawed afterwards. Just confused by that choice. Even though I’ve never read the books, I thought a sex scene would take place, not a rape.

I read GRRM’s reaction and while he did a good job of explaining why Cersei reacted differently given the changed circumstances from the book to the show, it didn’t at ALL explain why show!Jaime would do that given the same plot changes. If they wanted to bring him back early and have Cersei disgusted with him, they could have had him proposition her and storm away after she rebuffed him. Or they could have left the scene out entirely. If they really just wanted to show the twincest scene next to Joffrey’s corpse, then they shouldn’t have brought him back to King’s Landing early or they shouldn’t have made Cersei reject him in the first episode. Instead, they chose to set it up where there was no way she would consent but then wanted the scene anyway, which meant it had to be rape.

(I hope that made sense.)

Clarification: If they’d gone with a scenario where he stormed away after she refused to fuck him, I meant that as him being upset that she really was done with him, not him just being upset about being denied sex. Because I think he really is sort of at a loss as to how to get their relationship back, which is why the rape makes NO goddamned sense.

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