HBO has made a business of turning pornography and pornographic sexual violence into mainstream entertainment. A range of programs on HBO feature sexual content including pornography, prostitution, as well as depictions of rape, incest, orgies, and gratuitous allusions to child sexual abuse. As a case in point, we wish to draw particular attention to Game of Thrones (GOT) and its persistent, perverse, and sadistic sexual themes.
HBO’s Game of Thrones is brimming with pornographic sex scenes, awash in misogynistic dialogue, and bloated with depictions of sexual violence and torture so savage as to be unrivaled in television history. In GOT, HBO has given a stage to an amalgam of pornography, rape, prostitution, child abuse, sexual violence, sexual paraphilias, and wholesale carnage that succeeds in bringing the ambiance of torture pornography to the American living room.
Sexual violence is not a topic for HBO/GOT to exploit for mere shock value or titillation. Nor is its unremitting theme in the show an issue that HBO can whitewash with claims of artistic license or historical conformity. Sexual violence is a real social harm, with real (not fictional) victims, who bear the scars of their abuse for their entire lives. By the excessiveness to which sexual violence is an element of the GOT plot—the graphic depictions of incestuous sex, rape, prostitution, child sexual abuse, and sexual torture, and dialogue which portrays abuses like incest as simply a matter of love or taste—GOT normalizes heinous sexual abuses and exploitation.
We doubt that HBO would present the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade or the Jewish Holocaust in ways that failed to humanize and preserve the dignity its victims. Yet, the sensitivity and care most recognize that is required to present these critically important historical themes is conspicuously absent in GOT’s handling of issues of rape, sexual abuse, and violence.
HBO has not simply failed to present sexual themes in a thoughtful and nuanced manner, it actually revels in misogyny, pornographic sex, perversity, and multiple forms of sexual violence. The sexual themes of Game of Thrones are so central to its plot that the show should be more aptly named Shame of Thrones: Where Rape and Sexual Violence is King.
To learn more about the content depicted in Game of Thrones, visit our campaign webpage.
[Trigger Warning: The discussion of Game of Thrones content is sexually explicit in nature and discusses wide-ranging themes of sexual violence and exploitation. Discretion advised.]