Is the Sexual Violence in Game of Thrones Just Representing a “Historical Reality”?

It’s no secret that Game of Thrones, a popular fantasy epic on HBO, has become well known for its salacious depictions of sexual assault.

Full nudity and pornographic depictions of incest have been the wallpaper of this storyline, and “character development” for male protagonists has often hinged upon degrading and violating women. In fact, last year there was nearly universal fan backlash over the pervasive graphic sexual violence on GOT after a young character, Sansa, was horrifically raped on her wedding night.

This uproar eventually reached the ears of GOT creators. In fact, director Jeremy Podeswa — who is directing the first two episodes of season six — said that Game of Thrones writers would take the fan feedback on board for the sixth season. So problem solved, right?

Not quite. Podeswa also stated: “It is important that [the producers] not self-censor. The show depicts a brutal world where horrible things happen.”

This claim that Game of Thrones is merely representing “real to life” historical scenarios has been touted by several associated with the franchise. But it is clear to any who watch the show that GOT creators are fixated on producing sexually graphic scenes which are better suited to a pornographic torture website than the average American household. 

In stark contrast, films like Shawkshank Redemption and the Color Purple manage to convey the gravity of rape in a plotline without exploiting the scene in a way that is salacious, dehumanizing, or disrespectful to real victims of sexual violence or domestic abuse who often struggle to stop re-living the horrors that Game of Thrones writers so carelessly portray.

Game of Thrones_rapeculture

Further, as a nation, we must remember that the stories we tell will shape us. Do we really want to be an uncivilized culture that gathers around to watch brutal scenes of rape and sexual carnage? Do we really think that millions of viewers getting a weekly dose of entertainment intermixed with images of rape will have no impact on sexual assault on college campuses, in our military, or in our communities? When sexual violence is normalized to the extent that rape victims become mere props in scripts of sexual violence, as in Game of Thrones, it is time to take a stand.

It is possible to portray the anguish, the heartbreak of sexual violence, as well as the strength to overcome it, without stooping to the level of gleeful spectator of, or worse, vicarious participants in, humanity’s darkest crime.

Therefore, “historical accuracy” for this fantasy TV show is no excuse for its explicit depictions of sexual violence.

To learn more about why HBO is listed on the 2016 Dirty Dozen List, visit EndSexualExploitation.com/HBO.

The Numbers

300+

NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

100+

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

93

NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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