January 25, 2018

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.

Further, as a nation, we must remember that the stories we tell will shape us. Do we really want to be an Game of Thrones_rapecultureuncivilized 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 take action, you can email HBO executives below to ask them to stop normalizing sexual exploitation.

If you are outside of the U.S. place 00000 in the zip code section and select a random state.

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

Haley Halverson

Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach

Haley Halverson is the Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation where she develops and executes national campaigns to change policies and raise awareness. Most notably, she promotes corporate social responsibility by constructing annual activism campaigns like the Dirty Dozen List, which names 12 mainstream private companies that facilitate sexual exploitation. Her advocacy work has contributed to instigating policy improvements in the native online advertising, retail, and hotel industries.

She is a member of the Washington DC Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, September 2018-2019. This Committee advises DC Mayor Muriel Bowser on the multi-faceted continuum of the District of Columbia’s child welfare services, including prevention, early intervention, treatment, and sources of permanency.

Haley regularly speaks and writes on topics including child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, prostitution, sexual objectification, the exploitation of males, and more. She has presented before officials at the United Nations, as well as at several national symposia before influencers from the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Croatian government officials. She has provided training to Arlington County Child & Family Services on the social media grooming, recruitment, and advertising for sex trafficking. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts at Johns Hopkins University.

Previously, Haley served for two years as Director of Communications for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation where she oversaw strategic messaging development, press outreach, email marketing, and social media marketing.

Prior to working at NCOSE, Haley wrote for Media Research Center. Haley graduated from Hillsdale College (summa cum laude) with a double major, and conducted a senior thesis on the abolitionist argument regarding prostitution. During her studies, she studied abroad at Oxford University and established a background in policy research through several internships in the DC area.

Haley has appeared on, or been quoted in, several outlets including the New York Times, NBC’s The Today Show, BBC News, New York Post, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Fox News, San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, Yahoo News, Voice of America, Dr. Drew Midday Live, The DeMaio Report, the New York Daily News, the Washington Examiner, USA Radio Network, the Washington Times, CBC News, The Rod Arquette Show, The Detroit News, Lifezette, The Christian Post, Lifeline with Neil Boron, EWTN News Nightly, KCBS San Francisco Radio, LifeSiteNews, The Drew Mariano Show on Relevant Radio, News Talk KGVO, and American Family News.

She has written op-eds for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, FoxNews.com, Townhall.com, Darling Magazine, the Daytona-Beach News Journal, and has been published in the Journal of Internet Law and the journal Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence.

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