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- This is a sub-page branching off from the main article on "Gender and Sexuality"
"Rapist" is not a word in the storyverse of Westeros, either in the novels or TV series. The term consistently used for anyone who has committed rape is "raper", plural "rapers", not "rapist" (though a handful of times actors have misspoken and said "rapist", these are not canonical).
Rape in the Game of Thrones TV series
Executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have defended that scenes were in some cases from the source material itself and they felt it would detract from the integrity of the drama to shy away from it - i.e. Daenerys's wedding night with Drogo in the first episode.
This explanation does not account for all changes, however: many critics familiar with the novels have complained that they are outright inventing rape scenes which did not exist at all in the source material, for shock value. The general counterargument from the scriptwriters has been that they want to stay true to the situation in the narrative, due to scenes being condensed and moved around, even if it wasn't word-for-word described in the text. Another counterpoint has been that rape scenes, even those directly adapted from the novels, can be more shocking or disturbing in television because it is a visual medium, compared to the novels simply mentioning that a rape occurred without going into too much visual detail.
The following is therefore a comparison of rape or sexual violence scenes in the Game of Thrones TV series and their equivalents in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels:
- Note: while discussing instances of rape in the TV series, this section intentionally avoids using screenshots that contain graphic assault imagery.
The following are scenes of rape (or attempted rape, or even mentioned rape which occurred off-screen) which generally match similar instances from the novels: they are either directly based on something from the novels, or based on something from the novels which was condensed and moved around in the adaptation process, but fundamentally not very different from what happened in the books.
A key distinction is that they are also not very different from how the novels presented rape scenes which occurred: just because Gregor Clegane and his Lannister soldiers are described as raping women in enemy villages during the war doesn't mean that the novels devoted five to ten pages in an unbroken stretch describing these scenes in explicit detail - rather, other characters in the novels mention that Gregor and his men were doing this, and only in a few sentences. A few times characters will mention that they see women being raped, i.e. when Daenerys is moving through the Lhazareen village the Dothraki raided, but the book does not dwell on it in explicit detail for many pages. Similarly, the TV series "includes" that Gregor's men (such as Polliver) are raping women in enemy villages throughout the Riverlands, primarily by mentioning it in dialogue, but not by including a ten to twenty minute long montage of scenes in which the camera shows women being raped in graphic detail - which would be quite a major change from how Martin presented rape in the novels, which was generally to tell the reader that it happened but not to show it by actively describing it moment by moment in graphic, live narration. Some of the examples in this list do "show" women being raped in passing, i.e. it handles women being raped in the Lhazareen village as an event in the background that Daenerys catches a glimpse of in establishing shots, as in the novels, but the episode didn't drastically change this by outright fixating on their rapes for five full minutes in graphic detail.
- Daenerys Targaryen's wedding night with Khal Drogo - This happened in the novels, essentially in the same manner. Viserys gave away his sister Daenerys to Khal Drogo to secure a marriage-alliance, which was (as she later described) basically selling her to get an army. The TV producers stated that they did not want to shy away from this. Indeed, in the novel version, the impressionable young Daenerys gradually starts saying "Yes!" as the night goes on, but in the TV series's version it is presented as much more tragic, and in the Blu-ray commentary Benioff and Weiss openly describe it as "rape".
- Later in Season 1, Drogo's Dothraki warriors ride south and carry out a warm-up raid against the Lhazareen, simple shepherd-folk, to take plunder and slaves they will sell to pay for passage to Westeros on ships. Numerous Dothraki warriors are seen (in the background and briefly) who have been gang-raping captive Lhazareen women, and the rest are being gathered up and corralled off so they can be taken as sex-slaves by other warriors. This raping and pillaging is a specific plot point - Daenerys gets so upset about it that she complains to Drogo, who chides that war is always like this (in contrast to Tywin Lannister, who hypocritically doesn't acknowledge all of the rapes his men commit in war, such as when Elia Martell died). Seeing she is quite upset, however, Drogo grants her request to give all of the captive women to her custody so they won't be raped further. This entire sequence essentially occurred the same way in the novels.
- In Season 1, Queen Cersei Lannister mentions to Eddard Stark during their confrontation that her husband King Robert Baratheon has drunkenly forced himself onto her several times, though she managed to finish him off in ways that avoided getting pregnant. She doesn't call it "rape" but clearly loathed having sex with him. Basically the same exchange happens in the novels.
- While seated on the Iron Throne, Hand of the King Eddard Stark is disgusted to receive the rattled report of a refugee from the Riverlands (Joss), who mentions in dialogue (but no visual depiction is given) that Ser Gregor Clegane and Lannister soldiers have been raiding in the Riverlands, and as a terror tactic, burned their homes, covered children in pitch and set them on fire, and gang-raped their women, after which they cut the women to pieces. Horrified, Stark declares Clegane an outlaw, and sends out a company of men led by Beric Dondarrion to arrest him and bring him to justice. He also demands that Clegane's overlord Tywin Lannister come to King's Landing to answer for Clegane's crimes. Stark doesn't realize that this is exactly what the Lannisters had planned: knowing that Stark is an honorable man disgusted by violence against the unarmed and innocent, they sent Clegane to raid the countryside, to force Stark's hand and provoke him into challenging Tywin, providing the Lannisters with a pretext for war. This sequence plays out similarly in the novels - Clegane and his men are often described as using rape as a terror tactic against villagers, along with burning their homes and fields and torturing captives, though it mostly occurs "off-screen" in the novels, as it does in this episode.
- Joffrey Baratheon is a tyrannical sociopath, but a surprisingly asexual character. He enjoys torturing helpless prisoners, but he doesn't get sexually excited by this - it is the glee of a wanton boy pulling the wings off of a fly. He repeatedly vents his frustrations by having his Kingsguard publicly beat Sansa Stark and even begins to have her stripped as well before Tyrion makes them stop. This happened in the novels, and indeed, had to be toned down somewhat (in the TV show they only begin to strip her, in the novels they rip off her top leaving her covering her breasts with her hands, as multiple Kingsguard members take turns beating her with the flat side of their swords against her bare skin for a protracted period of time).
- An invented scene in Season 2 involved Joffrey ordering the prostitute Ros to bludgeon the prostitute Daisy with a staff. This was inspired by something in the novels: Tyrion ponders if sending Joffrey some prostitutes would help him vent his pent up frustrations away from the valuable hostage Sansa, or that as he is nearing the age of manhood, he might even be grateful for it - but this is never mentioned again. The TV producers stated that they read that line and thought it would be interesting to see how darkly that would really play out. Either way, this isn't really a "rape" scene as much as a torture scene, as the writers state that, again, Joffrey isn't tormenting these prostitutes for sexual pleasure - he's annoyed that Tyrion was trying to flatter him, and as a deliberately calculated move he's having one beat up the other to then present to Tyrion, to show that he rejects his attempt at humoring him. This scene may have been included to try to make up for the omission of the more graphic parts of Sansa's torment (the actress was underaged and they legally could not have her stripped to the extent she was in the novel) - though having him torment some prostitutes in private somewhat misses the same point that Sansa's torment does - Joffrey has utterly no shame and will publicly commit various atrocities, with no thought to how this affects his reputation.
- Later in Season 3, Joffrey gets a bit drunk at the forced wedding of Sansa to Tyrion, and walks up to her and directly boasts that after Tyrion is done he may want to rape her, and he'll have the Kingsguard hold her down (though he doesn't specifically use the word "rape" his meaning is obvious). Again, Joffrey doesn't threaten this out of sexual desire - he's threatening it because as an utter sadist, he knows it will terrify Sansa. This exchange didn't happen in the novels, though it is not that out of keeping with Joffrey's character (publicly making absurdly sadistic threats, ignorant that it makes everyone realize how crazy he is) - also, Joffrey and Sansa in the TV series continuity are simply older than their book counterparts (Sansa is two years older, Joffrey is four years older). Thus the 14 year old Joffrey in the novels (corresponding to this point in the story) doesn't seem to really know what sex is, while the 18-year-old Joffrey in Season 3 would probably be intellectually aware of what sex is (though he isn't physically interested in it), so it is not unfitting that TV-Joffrey would make a sexualized threat if he thought it would frighten Sansa for his sadistic amusement.
- After Littlefinger finds out that his prostitute Ros has been spying on him for Varys, he gives her over to Joffrey her murders her simply as a thrill-kill, having her tied up and then shooting her multiple times with his crossbow. Ros is an invented character for the TV series and even the situation doesn't have a direct counterpart in the novels - though it isn't explicitly "sexual" in nature, and Joffrey indeed frequently kills subordinates in the novels just for the fun of it (at one point, when refugees from the war come begging for bread at the castle gates, Joffrey stands atop the battlements and shoots several dead with his crossbow in full view of the rest of the crowd, who flee).
- In Season 2's "The Old Gods and the New", the Riot of King's Landing breaks out when starving mobs rush the royal party as they return to the Red Keep from the docks. Joffrey, Cersei, and Tyrion are rushed back inside a gate, but in the confusion Sansa Stark gets lost in the crowd. Sansa gets chased down by several rioters into a nearby building where they knock her down and are about to rape her, but then Sandor "The Hound" Clegane arrives to save her, killing several of her attackers and making the rest flee. He then hoists her over his shoulder and returns her to the safety of the castle. This is loosely based on how the riot occurred in the novels: Sansa was indeed lost in the crowd, but then saved and returned to the castle by the Hound, but because the chapter is narrated from Tyrion's POV what exactly happened to her isn't revealed. Sansa only mentions that Sandor cut off the arm of a man who was reaching for her, but is too stunned to say anything else. Arguably it was implied that the mob tried to kill or rape her, but the TV version isn't limited to just Tyrion's POV so it can show Sansa's perspective. Nor is Sansa's near-rape presented without long-term emotional consequence: in the next episode she is shown to still be having nightmares about the attack.
- Many women actually were raped during the riot in the book version, so showing rioters attempting to rape Sansa too may have just been due to economy of characters (and it was loosely implied that this nearly happened to Sansa in the book version). The worst example was probably Lollys Stokeworth, who was taken by the mob and gang-raped "half a hundred times" behind a tanner's shop. The sweet but simple-minded Lollys was heavily traumatized, and worse, she became pregnant from the rape. Later she gave birth to a son that she and Bronn named "Tyrion" after Bronn's benefactor, and the surname "Tanner" due to where he was conceived (instead of "Waters" as is more common for bastards in the Crownlands). It isn't directly stated why Lollys didn't have an abortion, as it is fairly easy for noblewomen to obtain from their maesters an abortive drug called "moon tea" (maybe Lollys and/or her mother just chose not to). Lollys Stokeworth was only introduced into the TV series in Season 5, meaning that she wasn't raped in the riot that occurred in Season 2, and never got pregnant either.
- The Season 4 Histories & Lore includes a pair of animated featurettes on The Kingsguard narrated by Bronn and Jaime Lannister, which recount part of Jaime's background taken directly from the novels: when Jaime was first named to the Kingsguard, at only 17 years old, he was in awe to join the order alongside such living legends as Barristan Selmy, Arthur Dayne, and Gerold Hightower. However, he quickly learned that King Aerys II Targaryen had been going progressively insane for years (despite the court's best efforts to hide it), and now he was openly a raving lunatic having men burned alive in the throneroom for his own amusement. After burning men alive, he was often so aroused that he would force himself upon his sister-wife Queen Rhaella Targaryen, savagely clawing and biting her as he did so. Jaime recounts how horrified he was to be standing guard outside the royal bedchambers and hearing the queen's screams as the Mad King raped her (Jaime outright calls it "raping" her). It is heavily implied that Daenerys Targaryen was conceived during one of these rapes that Jaime overheard. The frightened young Jaime asked the other Kingsguard if they should intervene, but was bluntly told that they swore to guard the king and queen, but not to guard the queen from the king. These supposedly "honorable" knights stood by and did nothing as Rhaella was raped time after time, leaving Jaime's beliefs deeply rattled that things like "honor" or "justice" really exist in the world. By the end, when Aerys ordered his pryomancers to burn King's Landing to the ground, and its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants with it, rather than let it fall to the rebels, Jaime finally snapped and killed the Mad King at the foot of the Iron Throne itself - he was the only Kingsguard who ultimately stood up against the Mad King for his crimes, and for this men nonetheless damn him as "Kingslayer". In the novels, it is heavily implied that Jaime's past experiences being horrified while the Mad King raped his own wife as he stood guard outside the room have, more than many other knights, left him deeply disgusted by rape in general - consider that "marital rape" isn't a legal term in Westeros, but Jaime was so shaken by it that he quite bluntly describes it as the Mad King "raping" his own wife. When he relieves Gregor Clegane's garrison at Harrenhal (after Tywin's death - this was cut from the TV series), and discovers that one of the Mountain's men had raped a washerwoman named Pia, he promptly has Ser Ilyn Payne behead him. This probably also influenced why he saved Brienne from being raped when he didn't need to.
- Late in Season 2, Brienne of Tarth leads the captive Jaime Lannister through the war-torn Riverlands, heading to King's Landing to exchange him for Sansa Stark. On the way they see the corpses of three dead tavern girls hanged from a tree, with a sign displayed declaring "They lay with lions" - they were tavern girls who had sex with Lannister soldiers, though they might not have had much choice in the matter when the Lannister army came through in strength. Nonetheless, Stark soldiers hanged the girls when they moved into the region. Brienne and Jaime then run into the three Stark soldiers who hung the girls, who boast about killing them and imply they raped one of them. At the end of this they realize who Jaime is, and the frustrated Brienne kills all three of them so they won't recapture Jaime (whom Catelyn freed for the prisoner exchange against Robb's orders). This essentially happened at the beginning of the third novel, when Jaime observes the girls hanged from a tree for "laying with lions" - though in the novels they don't encounter the Stark soldiers who did it, and thus Brienne doesn't get to kill them for it as she did in the TV version.
- In Season 3, Locke and his Bolton soldiers try to rape the captive Brienne of Tarth, and she struggles to fight them off, until fellow captive Jaime Lannister grows disgusted and convinces Locke that as a noblewoman, Brienne's father will pay a much larger ransom if she is unharmed, so he orders his men to stop (then cuts off Jaime's hand, partially out of annoyance at having their fun taken away). This is essentially what happens in the novels, though "Locke" and his men are a condensation of a larger group of characters: Tywin hired the most infamous group of sellswords in the Free Cities, the "Brave Companions", to fight in the Riverlands, to terrorize the local population by raping and pillaging entire towns, and leaving heaps of severed hands and feet in their wake. It is their cruel leader Vargo Hoat who captures Jaime and Brienne and cuts off Jaime's hand. The TV series simply condensed this to make Vargo into "Locke", leader of a particularly vicious group of Bolton soldiers.
- In the Season 4 premiere, Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane ride through the devastated landscape of the burned out Riverlands, with destroyed farmhouses and corpses littering the landscape, until they arrive at a still-intact inn. There they find the Lannister soldiers responsible, led by Polliver (who earlier had callously killed Arya's travelling companion Lommy, a small boy with a wounded leg, simply because he didn't want to carry him). In the main room of the inn the drunk Lannister soldiers are accosting and feeling up the terrified (though fully clothed) innkeeper's daughter, as her father begs them to leave her alone but to no avail. Arya and Sandor then get into a confrontation with Polliver, and end up killing all of the Lannister soldiers. This doesn't specifically happen in the novels, but is essentially a condensation of the subplots showing how badly the front lines of the war have ravaged the Riverlands. Arya had many chapters while she was a prisoner at Harrenhal providing a viewpoint on the suffering of the commoners in the region, but they were heavily condensed in Season 2. Gregor Clegane and his men are indeed mentioned to frequently use rape as a terror tactic, and more generally to be pillaging the countryside. After Robb Stark is killed and his army destroyed, many Lannister soldiers start pillaging the countryside with impunity - and bandits such as the former members of the Brave Companions sellsword company maraud around almost unchecked by the Lannisters or Freys, raping, burning, and looting, even destroying the major town Saltpans. Led by the bandit Rorge, the Brave Companions' destruction of Saltpans (a town inhabited by hundreds to thousands of people) was complete, every building burned, and every female raped regardless of age, even a 12 year old girl who served the Faith of the Seven. Given that all of this did occur in the background in the novels but it was cut for time, the TV version condensed this by having one scene showing Polliver and his men on the verge of raping an innkeeper's daughter, and mentioning that they have been frequently raping and pillaging during the war.
- Rape by enemy soldiers frequently happens during many wars in Westeros. The Lannister soldiers, particularly those led by Gregor Clegane, frequently use it as a terror-tactic against the villagers in the Riverlands whose towns are loyal to the Tullys and Starks. Even some of the Stark soldiers are loosely implied to be using rape as a reprisal method against women who aided the Lannisters when they moved into a region (i.e. the women that Brienne and Jaime saw hanged with a sign saying "they lay with lions"). The honorable Starks such as Eddard or his son Robb try to restrain their soldiers from committing rape, but they can't be everywhere at once. When Arya is with the Brotherhood Without Banners, at Stoney Sept they capture and execute several Northern soldiers in service to House Karstark, specifically because they were caught raping local women. During the timeframe of the novels, the military commander who most stringently punishes rape by his subordinates is Stannis Baratheon, due to his strong belief in duty, law, and discipline. After the Battle of Castle Black thousands of wildling prisoners are taken, many of whom were spearwives (women warriors). When Stannis learns that two of his knights were caught raping wildling women they took prisoner, he has them both publicly hanged (a punishment for criminals, more degrading and painful than a beheading, the normal punishment for disobeying orders), as a warning to the rest of his men that he will maintain discipline in his army. This measure works: no further wildling prisoners are raped afterwards. Chronologically this would have taken place at the beginning of Season 5 (the battle occurred in the Season 4 finale), but apparently - along with much of Stannis's storyline in the North - it was cut for time.
- In the TV series Cersei flippantly tells Sansa when they are besieged during the Battle of the Blackwater that all of the noblewomen will be raped if the city falls to Stannis's larger army - which might contrast with Stannis's stated position on rape. Yet while this was also said in the novels, Cersei's comments were also given a bit more context: what she meant was that even such a strict and lawful commander as Stannis, who is insulted when his soldiers commit rape and punishes them severely for it, couldn't realistically prevent any women from being raped during the massive chaos of the city's fall, with tens of thousands of soldiers pouring through the city - even if he explicitly announced that any of his men caught committing rape would be executed. Medieval sieges are simply chaotic, even when the commander is a strict disciplinarian.
- Forcibly castrating (gelding) males to turn them into Eunuchs against their will is a form of sexual assault (under a more broad usage of the term "rape", though in-universe the specific terms "rape" or "sexual assault" aren't applied to it, though "mutilation" sometimes is). In both the TV series and the novels, Varys explains how he was castrated by a sorcerer who wanted to use his genitals in a magic ritual, then threw him still bleeding out into the street and left him for dead. In the books he tells Tyrion before the Battle of the Blackwater; in the TV version he was about to but then said he would later - apparently for time/pacing reasons - though he did later give the same story as in the novels to Tyrion soon afterwards in Season 3 (in a slightly invented scene, as in the novels Varys never captures the old sorcerer who mutilated him). In both versions this is just a story Varys relates, it isn't shown in flashback (or through a live narration flashback in the novels). The Unsullied warrior-eunuchs are described as being castrated when they are young boys, but in both the TV series and novels the actual act of mutilation is not shown or narrated in any detail.
- In the TV series, Ramsay Snow castrates Theon Greyjoy during Season 3 while he is his prisoner. This is not an outright invention of the TV series though it is reshuffling some scenes around: after Ramsay takes Winterfell at the end of the second novel (corresponding to the Season 2 finale), Theon isn't seen again until the fifth novel, corresponding to events as they were ultimately adapted in Season 4 (and parts of Season 5). For two full novels it was strongly implied that Theon had been tortured to death in the dungeons of the Dreadfort, only for the shocking revelation that he was alive in book five, horrifically tortured and mutilated during over a year spent in the Boltons' dungeons, and long since driven insane from the torture. He is left almost unrecognizable, losing over half his bodyweight and looking like an emaciated old man, his hair turned white from shock; Ramsay also partially flayed him, cut off three of his fingers and some of his toes, and knocked most of his teeth out. Most of what happened to Theon isn't actually "shown live" in the narrative, but it could be said to be recalled through vivid narration as Theon's POV recounts some of the horrors Ramsay subjected him to. The TV series chose to present Theon's torture in chronological order, possibly because of fears that it would be too confusing for Theon to simply disappear for over a full TV season, and also to introduce Ramsay in Season 3 to interweave with his father Roose's betrayal of Robb Stark that same season. At any rate, much of the torture that the TV series actually shows of Theon is psychological; when Ramsay outright castrates Theon he comes at him with a special castration knife and announces his intentions, but the camera pulls away without actually showing him do it. In the novels, it wasn't actually clear if Ramsay had castrated Theon, though it is heavily implied that he did (i.e. Theon thinks to himself that Ramsay cut off four of his "fingers" - three from his hands, i.e. euphemistically referring to his penis as the fourth). Theon/Reek suffers deep psychological trauma from his overall torture by Ramsay, in both the TV series and novels.
- The novels...loosely imply but never gave any definite clues that Ramsay repeatedly raped and sexually abused Theon, in addition to castrating him. Theon spent over a full year in the Dreadfort's dungeons as Ramsay tortured him physically and psychologically to utterly break him. Apart from partially flaying him, cutting fingers and toes off, knocking out his teeth, etc. there were no real limits to what Ramsay did to him and it wouldn't be surprising if he tortured Theon sexually - though it hasn't been mentioned. After the Fall of Moat Cailin Ramsay does kiss Reek/Theon and whisper to him like a lover - though Ramsay doesn't seem to be doing this out of physical satisfaction so much as to sadistically establish his dominance over Reek, another means of humiliation. In the TV series Ramsay has loosely also acted somewhat like this; leaning in intimately close to Theon's face when he's talking to him, etc. Either way this plays out as ambiguously as it did in the novels.
- In Season 3's "Walk of Punishment", Ramsay allows Theon to escape soon into his imprisonment just to recapture him later and crush his hopes, as psychological torture. This wasn't directly portrayed in the novels, though Theon recalls in the fifth novel that Ramsay let him make a fake escape early on only as a trick, so he could hunt him for sport and recapture him. The TV series invented the detail that when the Bolton soldiers knock Theon off his stolen horse, the Master Torturer says he's going to rape Theon and pulls down his trousers revealing his buttocks - only to seconds later be shot with an arrow by Ramsay (tricking Theon into thinking he was rescuing him) before he could do anything. Again it is implied that Theon was subjected to all kinds of tortures.
- Ramsay Bolton hunting women for sport: In the novels, Ramsay Bolton is an utter sadist, considered by many to be almost a beast in human skin, gleefully Flaying prisoners who surrendered to him in good faith, after they can no longer fight back. Ramsay has also raped at least several dozen women.
- After burning Winterfell, Ramsay has the men of the castle put to the sword and takes many of the women as captives back to the Dreadfort. There he uses them to engage in his twisted hobby of hunting them for sport: he has girls stripped naked and released unarmed into the woods outside the castle, where he then hunts them down armed with his bow and hunting dogs. If he feels a girl doesn't give him good enough "sport" in a hunt once he catches her, he will rape her, the flay her alive, then cut her body to pieces and feed them to his hunting dogs. If he feels a girl gave him good "sport" in an exciting hunt, he will slit her throat before he flays her - but he will still rape her first.
- Also, while all of the Northern soldiers were away fighting with Robb in the south, Ramsay kidnapped the neighboring head of House Hornwood, the widow Lady Donella Hornwood, and forced her to marry him, so he can claim the Hornwood lands. He then keeps her as a prisoner locked in one of his towers, probably raped her, and then engages in another one of his sadistic "games": Ramsay often flays the skin off his captives' fingers one at a time, until the pain is so great that they beg him to cut the finger off, after which he mocks them that they asked him to do it. Ramsay flayed the skin off Lady Hornwood's fingers then simply locked her in her cell to die, not even bothering to feed her. When she was eventually found dead in her cell, it was learned that she had bitten off her own fingers to end the pain, and then in delirium from starvation, ate the flesh from her own fingers.
- Ramsay is utterly brazen about his hunting and raping, as well as flaying dozens of enemy soldiers who surrendered in good faith to him on promise of safe passage. Even his father Roose Bolton, who conceived Ramsay during a brutal rape of a miller's wife, chides Ramsay that he has no sense of shame or discretion and the entire North has learned of his "amusements".
- All of this was only mentioned in the novels, reported by other characters, not presented through live narration. Similarly, the TV series has not really presented scenes of the numerous times that Ramsay hunts and rapes female captives - one scene is shown of him hunting a girl named Tansy at the beginning of Season 4, but he then decides to just let his hunting dogs finish her off because he was annoyed at her. His lackey/bedwarmer Myranda also mentions in Season 5 that in the past he has raped and killed several female servants, such as Violet and Kyra. Overall, however, the TV series handled this specific aspect of Ramsay basically how the novels did: mentioning that he frequently hunts, rapes, and kills female prisoners, and showing a few establishing shots of him hunting one girl, but not having the camera actually shows all of this in a lengthy sequence. The incident with Lady Hornwood was also omitted from the TV series entirely.
- In Season 5, Roose Bolton explains to his legitimized bastard son Ramsay the circumstances of his conception: Roose was out hunting one day and stumbled upon a miller who had married a woman without his permission, so, as Roose nonchalantly recounts, he had him hanged, and raped the peasant woman beneath the same tree that her husband's corpse swung from. While he doesn't happen to use the specific term "rape" in this instance, in the TV episode Roose does make a point to almost casually point out that "she fought me the whole time" (and also remarks that she was lucky he didn't hang her too for that). This is also the story of how Ramsay was conceived in the novels, though Roose explains it to Theon/Reek, not to Ramsay himself. Just prior to that, when Ramsay was foolishly feasting on breeding stock he forced a lord to slaughter (giving no thought that he needs them in the upcoming winter), Roose becomes upset at his overall stupidity and short-sightedness, and in an uncharacteristic moment of almost genuine anger, he bluntly warns his son: "All you have I gave you. You would do well to remember that, bastard..." and finishes by saying that Ramsay had better shape up, "before you make me rue the day I raped your mother."
- In the novels, Roose goes on to explain to Reek that he claimed the miller's wife under the ancient laws of First Night - which have been banned throughout the Seven Kingdoms for over two centuries, but which the Boltons keep trying to get away with in private. The TV series omitted the detail about First Night - but considering that nothing remotely like First Night ever actually existed in the real-life Middle-Ages, it is perhaps better that it was not included. See the section on "First Night" below for full details.
- In Season 3, Melisandre is convinced she needs the bastard Gendry's royal blood for a human sacrifice involving blood magic, but due to Davos's protests she is argued down to just using leeches containing his blood as a test of her power (which may or may not have worked, though Stannis's enemies do start dying). Melisandre seduces Gendry by disrobing naked and pushing him onto a bed and undressing him, and he is consensually interested in sex with her, but it is a trick - as he is distracted she binds his hands to the bed, and starts dropping a few leeches on his body (including apparently on his penis, for some reason). Subsequently Gendry isn't particularly hurt of emotionally traumatized but generally annoyed that Melisandre tricked him, after which he is being held in Dragonstone's dungeon (before Davos frees him). He blames himself for being a foolish boy who had never even seen a naked woman, easily swayed by Melisandre's charms. This is a condensation from the novels, in which Melisandre wants to sacrifice a different bastard son of Robert, Edric Storm (his only acknowledged bastard). Edric Storm apparently doesn't exist in the TV continuity, and Gendry's storyline was condensed with his, including the part where Melisandre takes leeches containing his blood for a magical ritual. In the novels, however, they just give Edric a regular leeching to take his blood (which is not an uncommon medical practice in Westeros), without needing Melisandre to get naked and feign that she is going to have sex with him before doing it. Still, overall Gendry wasn't too traumatized by these events and it does not deviate very drastically from the general situation in the novels.
- In Season 3's "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", when Qyburn explains that he was thrown out of the Order of Maesters, Jaime asks if it is because he "fondled one boy too many" (though Qyburn then explains he was actually thrown out for conducting human experimentation). In Season 4's "The Mountain and the Viper", when Tyrion mentions old Maester Volarik who was stationed at Casterly Rock when they were boys, Jaime scowls that Volarik tried to touch him once (tried - nothing actually happened). There has been no mention of a Maester Volarik in the novels, or that Jaime nearly ran afoul of a maester in this fashion. However, multiple points in the novels mention that now and again in Westeros, there have been problems with men in trusted positions of authority belonging to celibate organizations (the maesters and the Faith of the Seven) that were found to be sexually molesting little boys. In the books, a group of sellswords brought in to the Riverlands to terrorize the local population are the "Brave Companions", a rogue's gallery of the worst dregs of humanity from across Westeros and Essos. They are led by Vargo Hoat in the novels, who has Jaime's hand cut off - the TV series heavily condensed this to make the group just a particularly vicious group of Bolton soldiers, and made Vargo into the TV character "Locke". One of Vargo/Locke's men in the novels was Septon Utt, an infamous pedophile known to prey on little boys. Ultimately Utt is captured during a small battle between the Brave Companions and the Brotherhood Without Banners, after which they hang him for his crimes. Therefore, both the TV series and novels make sporadic mention that sometimes men in positions of authority have been known to sexually abuse children under their care, and this is not a major invention by the TV series.
- Since Season 1, the story has been related of how Robert's Rebellion began: Robert Baratheon was betrothed to Eddard Stark's sister Lyanna Stark, but she was allegedly abducted by the Prince of Dragonstone Rhaegar Targaryen, was generally assumed by Robert and others to have been raped by Rhaegar while in captivity, but shortly after Rhegar's death by Robert's hand at the Battle of the Trident, Lyanna died of fever where she was being held at the Tower of Joy. Anger over thoughts of Rhaegar raping Lyanna have kept Robert having dreams about killing Rhaegar again and again every night in all the years since. In Season 4, however, Oberyn Martell explains that Rhaegar had been married to his sister Elia Martell (who died along with their children, Rhaenys and Aegon, in the Sack of King's Landing), and that the Martells think that Rhaegar shamefully abandoned his wife to run off with Lyanna Stark, and she was actually his consensual lover. In Season 5, Petyr Baelish explains to Lyanna's niece Sansa Stark that he was present at the Tourney of Harrenhal as a boy, when infamously Rhaegar won the final tilt then rode past his wife Elia to give the victor's crown to Lyanna, and the entire crowd of thousands of people fell dead silent in shock. Baelish ponders how many had to die because Rhaegar chose Lyanna, at which Sansa says that he chose her, "and then he kidnapped her and raped her" - at which Baelish makes a wry look, implying that like the Martells he thinks Lyanna ran off with Rhaegar consensually. This plays out essentially the same way in the novels - some characters say Rhaegar raped Lyanna, others accuse that she ran off with him willingly, but the truth is clouded. The TV series moved around some of these scenes but the basic ambiguity remains (i.e. Baelish's scene with Sansa doesn't have a direct counterpart in the novels, but he is giving a description that other characters did give in the books). In Season 6, Lyanna's nephew Bran Stark learns through his gift of the greensight that she was the mother of his bastard "half-brother" Jon Snow and that she ultimately died after giving birth to him. In her final moments, Lyanna whispered Jon's birth name to Bran's father Eddard Stark, revealing that Jon was actually fathered by Rhaegar, and implored Ned to protect Jon from Robert's wrath. Although this revelation doesn't necessarily disprove that Rhaegar raped Lyanna, it does lend credence to the possibility that they were consensual lovers.
- In Season 4, the story of the rape and murder of Elia Martell by Gregor Clegane during the Sack of King's Landing is very prominently introduced by her brother Oberyn Martell and others. Previously in Season 3, Jorah Mormont mentioned that he saw King's Landing right after the sack, which occurred at the end of Robert's Rebellion nearly 20 years before: the Lannister army led by Tywin had turned on the Targaryens after being let through the city gates as allies, and Jorah says that more women were raped than could even be counted. When Lannister soldiers breached the Red Keep itself, Gregor killed both of Elia's children, the toddler Rhaenys and infant Aegon, because they were the children of the recently killed Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen (in the novels, Gregor only killed the baby Aegon, Amory Lorch killed Rhaenys). Still covered in the blood and gore from her children, the massive Gregor proceeded to brutally rape Elia, and afterwards killed her (it is rumored that he cut her completely in half with a blow from his greatsword). This is essentially also what happened in the novels: Gregor raped Elia Martell, but years before, and what happened is recounted by several characters but not actually "shown" in flashback. House Martell was so utterly horrified by the crime of Elia's death that while they surrendered at the end of the war, they have passionately hated the Lannisters ever since, and barely tolerated Robert Baratheon's rule because the Lannisters were his major financial backers (after switching to the rebel side at the last minute at the end of the war, only when it became obvious the rebels would win).
- In the novels, it is more clearly explained that even Robert Baratheon knew that Elia's two children had to die because they were Rhaegar's heirs, but the murder of Elia (not even considering her rape) was considered pointless, because as Rhaegar's wife she didn't have any claim to the throne. That Gregor not only killed Elia but raped her first was considered a heinous crime by all, as were the brutal deaths of her children (hacked to pieces when they could have just been gently smothered). After the Red Wedding, when Tyrion points out that Catelyn Stark didn't need to die, Tywin says that he ordered the Freys not to but she got killed in the confusion of the ambush anyway. When Tyrion points out that the same thing happened when Elia Martell wasn't supposed to die but Tywin's vassal Gregor not only killed her but raped her first, Tywin becomes uncharacteristically defensive, and explains that he never told Gregor to do that. His focus was mostly on the sack of the city, and had he known Gregor would do something so brutal he would have given explicit orders to spare her, but he didn't know what kind of monster Gregor truly was yet, so he didn't. By omission it was Tywin's indirect fault for not controlling Gregor, and in fact he had not ordered her rape and murder at all. However, he was so embarrassed to be associated with the event at all that he took no action to punish Gregor afterwards, nor did he explain this to the Martells - in his mind, punishing his subordinate and admitting what happened would have been an indirect admission of guilt. Of course, this tactic completely backfired on Tywin: by offering the Martells no answer and seemingly ignoring their demands for justice, they concluded that Tywin must have directly ordered Gregor to rape and kill Elia, and hated him even more for it than if he had simply told them the truth. The TV series condensed some scenes around and didn't include the dialogue between Tywin and Tyrion, but did later invent a scene between Tywin and Oberyn Martell in Season 4. When Oberyn directly asks if Tywin was responsible for what Gregor did, he firmly says that soldiers often commit crimes during wartime without their commander's knowledge. This shows Tywin hypocritically attempting to placate Oberyn by passing the full blame to Gregor, given that back in Season 1, when Tyrion said that he was having difficulty controlling the rowdy hill tribesmen they had hired as sellswords, Tywin angrily chastises him that when soldiers lack discipline, the fault lies with their commander (in this case, Tyrion). For that matter, Tywin's army as a whole has committed mass rape in two separate wars (during the Sack of King's Landing after Robert's Rebellion, and as a widespread calculated terror tactic in the Riverlands during the current War of the Five Kings) but he doesn't feel personally responsible for restraining or punishing his soldiers.
The Jaime/Cersei sex scene in "Breaker of Chains"
Multiple reviewers and websites were very confused and upset by the sex scene between Jaime Lannister and Cersei Lannister in the Great Sept of Baelor in this episode - saying that it was apparently portraying Jaime raping Cersei. This allegation/interpretation was near-universal – not simply "on messageboards" but in every measurable manner, as a reaction seen on almost every major critic or review website. These ranged from io9 and the A.V. club,, to the front page of Yahoo News,, Entertainment Weekly and Time magazine,, and even the front page of The New York Times itself.
What made this all the more confusing is that the sexual encounter between Jaime and Cersei in this scene in the books is presented as consensual.
The TV writers were slow to respond to such massive outcry, and what few statements they did make were very vague, leaving reviewers and critics even more confused and to draw their own conclusions. As the premiere of Season 5 neared, it became obvious that the implication that Jaime was raping Cersei was never intended by the writers, not in the script, and purely the result of unusual camerawork and editing. Both the actors and director have publicly stated that they were never told this was intended as a rape scene nor did they play it as such. This is confirmed by closer freeze-frame analysis of the footage, in which Lena Headey is clearly leaning in to consensually kiss Coster-Waldau in several freeze-frame shots. . Even George R.R. Martin wasn't informed that the scriptwriters ever intended such a massive change.
Therefore, throughout the "Game of Thrones TV continuity" as documented in Game of Thrones Wiki, Jaime and Cersei are considered, in-canon, to be having disturbing, rough, angry sex next to their own son's corpse - but consensual sex. While the scene as-aired is misleading, after analysis of subsequent comments by the actors and director, freeze-frame analysis, and the scriptwriters' conspicuous avoidance of even discussing it, it is blatantly obvious that this was not intended as a rape scene. It is unknown why HBO did not simply re-edit and re-release the episode as soon as possible (as has been done in the past in Season 1) and it is unknown if the scene will ever be remastered and fixed in the future.
- For the full explanation of all of the evidence indicating that the scriptwriters could not possibly have intended this as a rape scene, and it only appears to be so due to unusual camerawork and editing, see the longer sub-page: "Breaker of Chains/Jaime-Cersei sex scene"
The wildling Craster incestuously marries his many daughters, who in turn produce more daughters. He is considered a disgusting and godless man by both the Night's Watch and the other wildlings, but the Watch has to grudgingly tolerate him because he's one of the few wildlings willing to give their scouts shelter in the dangerous lands beyond the Wall. His wives don't resist him because they have lived in terror of him for years. Generally this is presented in the TV series the way it is in the novels (neither includes actual sex scenes between Craster and his daughter-wives, though it is discussed).
In the Mutiny at Craster's Keep (adapted in Season 3), disgruntled Watch members kill Craster and turn on other Watch members who remained loyal, killing Lord Commander Jeor Mormont in the process. They then take over Craster's Keep, feasting on his winter food stores and raping his many daughter-wives. The Mutineers are primarily criminals who were sent to the Watch as punishment, led by Karl Tanner (a professional cut-throat) and Rast (a convicted raper). The mutiny itself more or less occurred this way in the novels, though the TV series condensed many minor Night's Watch characters together: "Karl Tanner" and "Rast" are condensations of several ill-reputed recruits in the Watch, some of whom are indeed rapers. Samwell Tarly and Craster's daughter-wife Gilly flee in the confusion.
This is a complex case, because in the novels, the mutiny is told from Samwell Tarly's POV narration, and after he flees Craster's Keep with Gilly, the narrative never returns there again. The mutineers are already raping many of Craster's wives, and it is heavily implied that they intend to just stay there as the new "rulers" now that Craster is dead, keeping his remaining wives as sex slaves and eating up his food stores - but the narrative doesn't actually fixate on it or even show it to a significant extent.
The third novel in the book series is so long that it had to be split in half in adaptation, which resulted in Jon Snow not having much to do in most of Season 4 - as the Battle of Castle Black happens soon after he returns to the Night's Watch in the novels, but his return happened in the Season 3 finale. The TV series addressed this by inventing a subplot in which Jon Snow leads several Watch members to return to Craster's Keep to take revenge on the traitors.
The invented return to Craster's Keep subplot in Season 4 presented an outright lengthy montage of Craster's wives being raped by the mutineers in graphic detail (showing nudity). On the one hand, this is assuredly what happened in the novels, but off-screen. On the other hand, while it occurred within the novels' fictional universe, the novels' narrative did not actively depict it, only mentioned it - so it didn't fully "happen that way in the novels". In the behind-the-scenes videos the writers and cinematographers even say that they got a bit "carried away" trying to show the Apocalypse Now-esque situation at Craster's Keep under the traitors, and they actually had to cut out some shots which even they felt went overboard. This is in contrast with how both the novels and TV series handled Gregor Clegane and his Lannister soldiers raping dozens to hundreds of women in the Riverlands campaign: they both mentioned that they were raping and pillaging throughout the countryside, and showed a brief glimpse or two of it in establishing shots, but they did not make a lengthy five minute montage of naked women being raped by Lannister soldiers.
The TV series also tied this subplot in with Bran Stark's storyline, who was traveling beyond the Wall at that point, but never went to Craster's Keep or encountered Jon again (though in the TV version at the last minute Bran realizes he made his choice, and decides not to get Jon's attention). During this subplot Bran and his companions are captured by the traitors - Hodor, Jojen and Meera Reed. The lead traitor Karl then starts leering over the tied-up Meera and threatening that he is going to rape her, though ultimately they escape before he actually does. Nothing remotely like this happens to Meera Reed in the novels. Meera is a young but capable female warrior, and even in the rest of the TV series is presented as a dangerous fighter; later in the same TV season she is seen battling numerous undead wights. At Craster's Keep, Meera also remains tied up the entire time, not taking any part in the Raid on Craster's Keep led by Jon Snow, until Bran wargs into Hodor to free them all and they just escape back into the woods. Some critics felt this subplot took one of the few established female warrior characters in the TV series and reduced her to the stereotype of a tied-up damsel in distress.
In Season 1, Tyrion recounted how he was married once as a teenager, to a girl named Tysha. He was out riding with Jaime one day outside of Casterly Rock when a commoner girl with half-torn off clothes ran across the road begging for help, as she was chased by two would-be rapers. Jaime went chasing after the rapers while Tyrion took the grateful and frightened Tysha to the nearest inn to recover. After giving her a hot meal they both got very drunk, and before Tyrion knew it he was in bed with her, the first girl who ever had sex with him and didn't seem to care about his extreme ugliness as a dwarf. Tyrion fell so madly in love that he bribed a drunken septon to marry the two of them in secret. Two weeks later the septon sobered up and told his father Tywin, who made Jaime tell him the truth: Tysha was really a whore, and the whole incident with the rapers was staged, they were just men he paid off too - Jaime wanted to do something nice for Tyrion and thought it was time he had a woman, and wanted him to think it was real so it wouldn't hurt his feelings, but he didn't expect Tyrion to marry the girl, who was really just after his money. As punishment, Tywin then forced Tyrion to watch as he gave Tysha over to his castle guards, who each proceeded to have sex with her in front of him, each giving her a silver coin as payment until there were so many they fell out of her hand onto the floor. Tyrion never saw her again.
Tyrion's backstory with Tysha was drastically changed from the novels: at the climax of the third novel, as Jaime is freeing Tyrion from his prison cell in the Red Keep, he is overcome by guilt, and confesses what really happened: Tysha was not actually a whore, nothing about the incident was staged, it was all real. Tysha really was just a commoner's daughter who was attacked by rapers, whom they really saved, and who genuinely fell in love with Tyrion. When their father found out he was utterly furious, so he forced Jaime to tell Tyrion that it was all an act. Jaime went along with this out of fear of their father, and because given that Tyrion would never see the girl again, he thought it might be for the better if Tyrion didn't think she ever really loved him so his heart wouldn't remain broken - Jaime had no idea what Tywin intended to do next. Tywin also threatened Tysha in private to make her give a false confession to Tyrion, and threatened he'd kill her if she resisted when he gave her to his guards. Tysha was not merely a whore that Tywin had abused in front of his son: Tywin's guards were actually raping Tyrin's lawful wife.
Tyrion is utterly stunned: this was a complete betrayal by his father, compounded by the fact that he kept the truth from Tyrion for the past 15 years - during all of their interactions during that time, at Casterly Rock or on the Small Council, during subsequent seemingly normal conversations between them, Tywin always knew what really happened. Not only had Tywin so violated and harmed the woman he loved, he had tried to rob Tyrion of even his happy memories of her by convincing him that it was just an act. Everything Tywin did to Tysha, having her gang-raped by his guards, was petty revenge on Tyrion for killing Tywin's beloved wife in childbirth years before. Consumed by rage, Tyrion makes a detour through the secret tunnels into the Tower of the Hand - not necessarily to kill Tywin but to demand to know what he did with Tysha. There he finds Shae naked in his father's bed, while Tywin stepped out to use the privy. Tywin not only robbed him of Tysha but was now having sex with Shae, as one more almost childish slight against Tyrion. In a fit of rage he strangles Shae to death - she does not go for a fruit knife to defend herself as in the TV version, he simply strangles her as she begs for her life. Tyrion then heads to the privy to confront his father with a crossbow.
When Tyrion confronts Tywin about Tysha his reaction is completely callous and flippant, though he bluntly admits that he didn't kill Tysha but simply let her go, and doesn't know where she is. Tywin continues to insist that Tysha was functionally a whore because she couldn't possibly love Tyrion and was probably just after his money. Given the weight that 15 years' worth of tricking Tyrion into thinking Tysha was a whore when she really wasn't have caused, Tyrion says that if Tywin utters the word "whore" again he will kill him, then demands once again where Tysha is. Tywin pauses, then to deliberately try to reassert verbal dominance over Tyrion, announces, "Wherever whores go" - at which Tyrion shoots him through the bowels. Tyrion does not shoot him a second time but simply waits a few minutes for him to slowly die in complete agony, as shit pours out of his wound.
The TV series prominently introduced Tyrion's backstory with Tysha in Season 1, then mentioned her again at least once in every subsequent season. When the scene came in which Tyrion kills Tywin during the Season 4 finale, however, without explanation no mention was made of the truth about Tysha at all - despite the fact that it is the primary if not sole reason that Tyrion kills his own father in the novels, serving as the final climax of the storylines that were building across the first three novels.
Tysha's status in the TV continuity therefore remains ambiguous - it has never been established that she was never a whore, but just an unlucky commoner girl that Tywin had gang-raped to intimidate his son.
Tywin's death in the novels makes his story come full circle: the man who allowed (if not commanded as a terror tactic) so many hundreds if not thousands of women to be raped during the Sack of King's Landing and the War of the Five Kings, and who was indirectly responsible for Elia Martell's rape and murder (through inaction, and not punishing the specific culprit), was in the end not killed for the death of Ned Stark or Robb Stark, not for his part in the Freys' violation of sacred Guest right at the Red Wedding, but specifically to avenge the gang-rape of Tyrion's wife so many years ago. In effect, Tywin's use of rape as a tool of intimidation - on a large scale in war or in private against his son's wife - came back to cause his own downfall. In the TV version, Tyrion's only seeming motivation is annoyance at Tywin possibly trying to have him executed and a lover's quarrel over Shae (who didn't really love Tyrion in the novels), and thus Tywin's mass use of rape as a tool of intimidation and terror doesn't really get specifically punished in the TV version.
In Season 5's "The Gift", soon after Maester Aemon dies, Gilly gets accosted by two Night's Watch members who intend to rape her (though they don't tear her clothes off or show nudity/extensive violence against Gilly in the scene), but then Samwell Tarly intervenes to stop them. He gets badly beaten up but continues to challenge them, until Jon's direwolf Ghost then arrives and scares them off. Gilly subsequently tends to Sam's wounds, and grateful about how he defended her, she proceeds to climb on top of them and they have consensual sex.
Nothing remotely like this happened in the novels. After Maester Aemon dies, Samwell and Gilly are overcome with grief and get very drunk, upon which Gilly starts making making sexual advances on Sam. He holds out at first because he fears breaking his vow of celibacy, but he quickly gives in due to a combination of grief, being in a drunken fog, and his great attraction to Gilly. His cock swayed in the air like a "fat pink mast", and Gilly proceeds to ride him as they have sex, whimpering that she is his "wife" now. After they both sober up they become very embarrassed and haven't had sex again since.
It is not a great invention in-universe that something like that could happen, in that many of the Night's Watch recruits are indeed convicted rapers who were exiled to the Wall, and in-dialogue since Season 4 Sam had been warning that he thought it was dangerous to leave Gilly alone with men like that at the Wall.
Multiple professional critics complained that this was unnecessary and formulaic - and also insensitive, given that there were already several other sexual assaults in the TV series (some of which had more reason to be in the TV series than this scene, given that they were in the novels, i.e. Gregor Clegane's and Ramsay Bolton's activities). Several critics said it was apparently just invented to introduce dramatic tension in the episode.
Because the brief scene in which Gilly is accosted by two would-be rapers ends with them being scared off by Ghost the direwolf, it actually had to be specially filmed in Calgary, Canada. The actor-wolf that began to play Ghost in Season 5 is based in Calgary, and there had been negotiations about bringing him to Northern Ireland, complicated by various laws about international transport of live animals. In the end, the production team decided that it was easier to just fly the actors out to Calgary to film with the actor-wolf instead of the other way around. This meant that to film this near-rape scene, they had to go through the trouble of not only flying the cast out to Canada, but constructing a mock set to film in it on a Calgary soundstage (just a generic hallway in Castle Black). So this probably wasn't just a scene inserted at the last minute, but one that the showrunners had to put in a considerable amount of planning to produce.
Ramsay Bolton, Jeyne Poole, and Sansa Stark
While the storylines with House Bolton in the North and Sansa Stark in the Vale of Arryn are related in the novels, the TV series made a major condensation in Season 5 by having Sansa marry Ramsay Bolton, in episode 6 "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken". In the novels, Sansa never even meets the Boltons - she stays in the Vale and is planning to marry Robert Arryn's cousin and heir Harrold Hardyng, in order to rally the Vale against the Boltons, while Ramsay marries Jeyne Poole, an old friend of Sansa's who was taken prisoner, brutalized and passed off as Arya.
Ramsay's treatment of his bride was quite toned down compared to the novels, in which he tortures Jeyne in several violent and sadistic ways, bizarre even by his own standards. Ramsay makes Reek "warm up" Jeyne by performing oral sex on her, to humiliate them both (threatening to cut out Reek's tongue if he doesn't). Among his other torments (not fully revealed), it is implied that Ramsay forced Jeyne to have sex with one of his hunting dogs for his own sick amusement, threatening to cut off her feet one at a time if she didn't. Jeyne is left a horrified shell weeping uncontrollably, the sound of her sobs filling the halls of Winterfell, to the consternation of Northern lords who came to the wedding feast. When Ramsay marries Sansa in the TV version there are no other Northern lords present as guests (such as House Manderly), leaving out the point from the novels' that Ramsay's shocking treatment of his new wife is angering many of the major Northern lords in attendance, who were previously willing to submit to the Boltons for the time being.
In the TV series, the only thing that Ramsay does to Sansa on their wedding night is to command that Theon/Reek stay in the room to watch, in order to humiliate both Sansa and Reek. Subsequent episodes show that he keeps her locked up in her room all day, and that he is brutalizing her with rough sex, hitting her during it so her arms are covered in bruises - though not remotely approaching the level of physical torture he subjects Jeyne to in the novels. On the actual wedding night in Season 5 episode 6 "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken", the camera doesn't actually show Sansa naked or Ramsay roughly force himself upon her: Ramsay starts to undress Sansa but then the camera pulls away, and as Ramsay and Sansa remain off-screen, the camera zooms in on Reek's face to show his horrified reaction.
Some critics (listed below) were upset that this camerawork arguably made the scene focus more on Reek's reaction than on Sansa's, though other critics agreed with the choice of camerawork, that it would have been too graphic and disturbing to even zoom in on Sansa's face to watch her crying (i.e. that it was both more tasteful and more horrifying to leave what was happening to Sansa entirely to the viewer's imagination).
Regardless of how the scene was filmed, many critics were very critical of this condensation on the grounds that it didn't make sense in Sansa Stark's overall storyarc, in which she had been growing away from being a prisoner and victim into a political player in her own right in the Vale.
The TV writers gave an interview with Entertainment Weekly, in which they said that they have been planning to condense the Sansa and Bolton storylines like this since back during the writing stages of Season 2. That was before Ramsay was even cast or mentioned by name (though his father Roose had made brief mention of sending his "bastard" to retake Winterfell from Theon). Therefore, this was not a snap decision made for Season 5: instead they had three years to devote time to thinking out how to adequately condense the two storylines together. As they explained, Sansa's storyline in the Vale from the novels removes her from interacting with the rest of the established cast (except Littlefinger) for an entire book. Additionally, the various subplots about Littlefinger consolidating his hold over Vale lords that have never appeared prominently before would have made it extremely difficult to introduce them all, and even then, Sansa's subplot in the Vale simply doesn't have that many chapters.
- David Benioff: "We really wanted Sansa to play a major part this season. If we were going to stay absolutely faithful to the book, it was going to be very hard to do that. There was as subplot we loved from the books, but it used a character (Jeyne Poole) that's not in the show."
- Bryan Cogman: "The seeds were planted early on in our minds. In the books, Sansa has very few chapters in the Vale once she's up there. That was not going to be an option for one of our lead characters. While this is a very bold departure, [we liked] the power of bringing a Stark back to Winterfell and having her reunite with Theon under these circumstances...You have this storyline with Ramsay. Do you have one of your leading ladies — who is an incredibly talented actor who we've followed for five years and viewers love and adore — do it? Or do you bring in a new character to do it? To me, the question answers itself: You use the character the audience is invested in."
When David Benioff was asked in the Entertainment Weekly interview if it was contradictory that Littlefinger is so obsessed with Sansa, but would nonetheless hand her over to the Boltons, he pointed out that Littlefinger truly cares about no one - he has a stalker-crush on Sansa but doesn't truly "care" about her, and his obsession with power is ultimately greater than his obsession with Sansa:
- Benioff: "That's the thing about Littlefinger — as much as he might care for Sansa, he cares for nothing more than power. And now he sees an opportunity to gain more power for himself."
Director Jeremy Podeswa was later asked about the wedding night scene in an interview with YahooTV in August 2015. When asked to discuss the accusations about too much violence against women in the TV series, particularly focusing on this change which wasn't in the novels, Podeswa repeatedly declined to comment, but pointed out that the decisions were all made by the scriptwriters, not himself, so there really wasn't much he could say about it, it wasn't his decision. He did confirm that he was instructed in the script for the camera to turn away from Ramsay forcing himself on Sansa, to instead play off of Theon's reaction (some critics disliked this, though other critics felt it was more tasteful). Podeswa confirmed that a lot of time was invested in reviewing over the actual filming and cinematography of the entire sequence (starting with the ceremony itself in the godswood), so everything that appears on screen carefully matched what the scriptwriters instructed him to do.
Elio and Linda of Westeros.org, co-authors with George R.R. Martin of The World of Ice and Fire sourcebook, made a special ten minute long video separate from their regular episode reviews (after episode 6), specifically devoted to discussing the major condensations of Sansa's plotline. While they had some misgivings they stressed a nuanced approach to this condensation, pointing out that fundamentally, no one really knows what is going to happen to Sansa in the next novel. Indeed, there has been considerable speculation that Littlefinger himself might try to rape Sansa at some point (as in the TV show, he's kissing her on the mouth now and his stalker-crush with her may soon advance further). For that matter, her dashing new betrothed Harrold Hardyng might turn out to be very violent and domineering in private, and force himself on her. As for criticisms that this damaged Sansa's storyarc, in which she seemed to be growing as a political player in her own right in the Vale, they pointed out that character arcs are rarely predictable in the story, i.e. based purely on Seasons 1 and 2, it would seem that Robb Stark's "character arc" was to become a powerful young boy-king ruling an independent North - only to suddenly have this subverted in Season 3 when he is killed at the Red Wedding. Therefore, they cautioned, it is difficult to tell how drastic of a change this was without actually being able to compare it to Sansa's unpublished storyline in the next novel.
In Westeros, just as the Middle Ages, most marriages among the nobility are not out of love but arranged to secure political alliances, and they lack a concept of sexual abuse within marriage; a married woman has no right to refuse her husband. Sansa knew the marriage would entail going through this kind of experience since she accepted Littlefinger's plan to undermine the Boltons from within, though of course neither Littlefinger nor Sansa were aware of Ramsay's true level of cruelty, as writer Bryan Cogman explained in an interview. Cogman went on to state that Sansa knew she would have to have sex with Ramsay, but she didn't expect him to hit her and punch her during it (because he enjoys sadistic rough sex), leaving her badly bruised. Cogman's exact words were:
- "The difference between the Ramsay Snow of the books and the show is the Ramsay of the show is not a famous psycho. He’s not known everywhere as a psycho. So Littlefinger doesn’t have the intelligence on him. He knows they’re scary and creepy and not to be fully trusted and it’s part of a larger plan."
Benioff and Weiss made no particular comment about this controversial change to Sansa's storyline after it happened or during the rest of Season 5. Afterwards they were unable to appear at the San Diego Comic-Con 2015 Game of Thrones panel (due to the massive amount of work preparing for Season 6) so they could not be asked about it during the usual Q&A section. One line of reasoning circulating among critics was echoed by David Benioff's wife Amanda Peet: that Westeros is a misogynistic world, etc., and violence against women is true to the situation. Multiple critics (cited below) have pointed out that if Sansa was going to be married to Ramsay, it would have been untrue to the situation if Ramsay did not sexually mistreat her, as he is a sadist. However other critics pointed out that this deflects focus away from the core issue: why make Sansa marry Ramsay in the first place, which didn't happen in the novels, by drastically condensing her storyline. Benioff only briefly addressed this in the statements he made in Entertainment Weekly, in which he said that fundamentally, they had a choice to either drastically condense Sansa's storyline by making her marry Ramsay (meaning she would therefore be a victim of his sexual violence), or, have Sansa barely appear in Season 5 while the focus shifted to other subplots - though this is exactly what happened to Jaime in Season 2, and within Season 5 itself, Sansa's own brother Bran Stark doesn't appear at all. Faced with the similar choice of inventing new storyline for Bran Stark or simply giving his character a year off, in that situation they chose to give Bran a year off in the TV show.
Several major critics (cited below) argued that Sansa being raped by Ramsay was true to the situation of realistic violence in a brutal fictional universe - as was the near-rape of Gilly in the very next episode. Several other critics, however, argued that these were only examples of the "Women in Refrigerators" trope (also known as "Stuffed Into The Fridge") often found throughout pop culture, when violence against women is used purely as a plot device to motivate the main male protagonists (even if that violence is realistic or even expected given the situation, such as in police procedurals, war dramas, etc.).
This scene of Ramsay's marital rape of Sansa has been panned by many critics, both as an adaptation and an artistic choice:
- TheMarySue.com officially announced that they will no longer actively promote the TV series, including canceling their running recap and review article series devoted to it. Their chief editor Jill Pantozzi said this cannot be waved aside as an inevitable result of the need to condense longer story arcs in adaptation, but that Benioff and Weiss were aware or should have been aware that this would both offend viewers in the short term and damage the integrity of Sansa's characterization in the long term. She concluded that: "The show has creators. They make the choices. They chose to use rape as a plot device. Again."
- U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill publicly announced on her Twitter account that she was similarly going to stop watching the TV show entirely after this episode:
- "Ok, I'm done Game of Thrones. Water Garden, stupid. Gratuitous rape scene disgusting and unacceptable. It was a rocky ride that just ended.
- Salon's Steven Attewell said: "We already knew that Ramsay Bolton was a sadist and an abuser of women, we already knew that Theon Greyjoy was his tormented puppet. Showing Sansa’s dress ripped, showing her face shoved down into the bed, hearing her screams did nothing to reveal character, or advance the plot, or critique anything about Westerosi society or about our own conceptions of medieval society that hasn’t already been critiqued."
- Wired's Laura Hudson said: "In general, I'm not a big fan of people getting raped in entertainment as a manipulative way of heightening the stakes, but I'm even less of a fan of people getting raped in entertainment when it accomplishes absolutely nothing."
- Vanity Fair's Joanna Hudson said: "Was it really important to make that scene about Theon's pain? If Game of Thrones was going to go there, shouldn't they at least have had the courage to keep the camera on Turner's face? But the last thing we needed was to have a powerful young woman brought low in order for a male character to find redemption. No thank you...The biggest defense HBO’s Game of Thrones might muster for showing the sexual assault of yet another female protagonist is that 'it happens in the books.' And, yes, as I said up top, Ramsay’s bride does get assaulted in the books. She has it much worse than Sansa. But given that the show runners have seen fit to change so much of the book plot this season, 'it happens in the books' really isn’t any kind of defense."
- Vulture's Nina Shen Rastogi said: "To show Sansa being raped as the kicker to an episode — and then to cut to Theon, as if it’s his view, his reaction, his internalizing of the moment that matters — just felt like more of the same old same old we’ve been getting since Ros died, since Tansy was hunted, since Cersei was raped."
- Hypable's Michal Schick said: "What character development could be wrung from this tragedy that could not have been created without a violent rape? Why does Game of Thrones — and so much popular entertainment — revert to this horrific crime when they want their female characters to “grow”?"
- Bustle's Rachel Semigran said: "There are thousands of ways to make a character and a series compelling without having to humiliate and dehumanize her with sexual force. Come on, Game of Thrones, you should know better than that."
- Vox's Jen Trolio said: "Now with Sansa and Ramsay, Game of Thrones is seemingly confirming that it has no idea how to use rape as a storytelling device — crass as it may sound, fictional sexual violence can be extremely powerful if managed carefully (see: The Americans) — and rape is just about the worst storytelling device to deploy clumsily."
- New York Daily News's Lauren Morgan said: "The show pretty much added a new, and in my opinion, entirely unnecessary victimization to her story. More concerningly, after Jaime’s rape of Cersei last season, it’s yet another rape Benioff and Weiss decided to add to the show that was not in the text and at this point, we don’t need anymore."
Other critics have been favorable to the scene:
- Slate.com's Laura Bradley proposed that Sansa might have realized Ramsay is too insane to ever seduce to her will, but she wouldn't want to tip him off that she is actively planning to betray the Boltons. So, if Ramsay was expecting her to be frightened and submissive, she may have just been putting on a performance to match his expectations - and thus erase his suspicions.
- Rolling Stone's Sean T. Collins said: "[B]y involving a multidimensional main character instead of one introduced primarily to suffer, the series has a chance to grant this story the gravity and seriousness it deserves. The novels present this material through Theon’s eyes, relegating Bolton’s bride to a supporting role in a man’s story. Sansa has a story of her own, of which this is now an admittedly excruciating chapter — but she, not Theon, is the real victim here, and it remains her story nonetheless."
- The Guardian's Sarah Hughes said: " I have repeatedly made clear that I’m not a fan of rape as a plot device – but the story of Ramsay and Sansa’s wedding was more than that. From the moment she agreed to Littlefinger’s plan, this evening was coming, as it came to many young women throughout history married off against their will for dynastic power. [...] The writers are walking a very fine line here. They handled it well tonight, telling a gothic tale of innocence sacrificed, which at times recalled Angela Carter and Neil Jordan’s dark and haunting The Company of Wolves, and hinted perfectly at horrors to come, but they must be careful not to tip from there to gratuitous violence for its own sake."
- The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg said the scene "managed to maintain a fine balance, employing a dignity and care for the experiences of victims that “Game of Thrones” has not always demonstrated." She also criticized the writers who found this scene unacceptable: "The science fiction and fantasy site the Mary Sue [...] seemed to fatally misunderstand the difference between doing journalism about and criticism of a show and acting as a publicity subcontractor for HBO. [...] I think it’s important to preserve the distinction between saying that something simply isn’t for me and drawing a more definitive conclusion that something is a poor artistic choice. You can assert the former, but you have to argue the latter, using the text and the language of the artistic form at hand. For me, the scene of Sansa’s rape was tremendously unpleasant, but the care taken in the staging, acting and shooting of the scene made it impossible for me to regard it as lazy or slapdash. [...] Instead, this scene felt of a piece with the way I’ve always understood “Game of Thrones” and George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire”: as a story about the consequences of rape and denial of sexual autonomy. […] Sansa Stark isn’t ruined, as a character or as a person, because she was raped. She lives, and her story continues, even if you’re not tuning in to watch it."
- RawStory's Amanda Marcotte, in response to the claim that the scene doesn't tell us anything new, argued it did advance the plot in terms of "whether or not Ramsay was going to be able to hold back once he got Sansa alone", and it "completely altered" the relationship between Theon and Sansa. As for why Theon didn't save Sansa, she denounced it as the kind of cliche this TV series always takes and turns on their head. Similarly, she decried the criticism that Sansa should've attacked Ramsay, as it "relies on the ugly and sexist belief that being a victim of sexual assault means you are weak or lack agency", calling it "victim-blaming". Marcotte then added "this whole storyline shows how strong Sansa is, because she went into this with open eyes and a will to survive—and to try to take Winterfell back." Likewise, she argued "the series is not siding with Ramsay and Littlefinger when it comes to using Sansa as a pawn." Regarding the charge that "they made it about Theon instead of Sansa" she retorts that "both experiences were well-represented. But done so in a way that minimized seeing Sansa actually get fucked. Which was clearly done so that the scene was not titillating." Marcotte concluded by disputing the idea that showing the rape was gratuitous or unnecessary: "It would be ludicrous to do a series that investigates the consequences of a patriarchal, semi-feudal society where women are used as objects to be sold and swapped in the game of thrones and then pretend that somehow rape isn’t a part of that process." As for the book-based argument that it should have been a lesser-known non-protagonist such as Jeyne Poole who suffered the rape, she laconized: "That assumes rape is less horrible if we don’t know the victim as well. Morally indefensible."
The cast and crew has commented on this issue in a number of ways:
- In an Entertainment Weekly interview before the episode aired, co-executive producer and co-writer of the show David Benioff said they "really wanted Sansa to play a major part this season. If we were going to stay absolutely faithful to the book, it was going to be very hard to do that", while writer Bryan Cogman argued that, though "this is a very bold departure, [we liked] the power of bringing a Stark back to Winterfell and having her reunite with Theon under these circumstances. You have this storyline with Ramsay. Do you have one of your leading ladies —who is an incredibly talented actor who we've followed for five years and viewers love and adore— do it? Or do you bring in a new character to do it? To me, the question answers itself: You use the character the audience is invested in."
- In another EW interview with Cogman, after the episode aired, he said that Sansa is not intended to simply be a victim in her wedding night with Ramsay. Rather, she"is a hardened woman making a choice and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland." Cogman later clarified that by the "choice" he was referring to "Sansa’s choice to marry Ramsay and walk into that room. She feels marrying him is a vital step in reclaiming her homeland" and that this was not supposed to be "an attempt to ‘blame the victim.’"
- In a EW interview with actress Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, commented that, though she was horrified to find out her character would marry Ramsay and have to go through this, she loved the scene.
Bryan Cogman later discussed the scene at length in the Season 5 DVD commentary. Cogman explained that the decision to merge Sansa's storyline with the Bolton storyline in the first place was made not because of the shock of the wedding night but because they wanted to have Sansa back in Winterfell, trying to reclaim it from the Boltons, as well as encountering Theon again, which would allow for the two actors to play off each other:
- "If you ask why we wanted to bring Sansa into this world, it didn't have to do with this [rape] scene —It had to do with the idea of her coming back to reclaim her family home and encountering this broken character who betrayed her family, and the fireworks of these actors, two of our finest actors, playing off each other. That's why we made the decision to put Sansa in Winterfell."
Earlier in the commentary, Cogman stressed that once this decision was made it was a fait accompli that if Sansa married Ramsay he would mistreat her on the wedding night:
- "I think it's important to talk about because of the response this storyline got. It's sort of 'damned if you do, damned if you don't.' If you don't talk about it, people think you're ashamed of it; if you do talk about it, everything you say is taken out of context. Basically, when we decided to combine Sansa’s storyline with another character in the books it was done with the idea that it would be hugely dramatically satisfying to have Sansa back in her occupied childhood home and navigate this Gothic horror story she’s found herself in and, of course, to be reunited with Theon – setting her on the path to reclaiming her family home and becoming a major player in the big overall story. That said, when we decided we were going to do that we were faced with the question: If she’s marrying Ramsay, what would happen on her wedding night? And we made the decision to not shy away from what would realistically would happen on that wedding night with these two characters, and the reality of the situation, and the reality of this particular world....It was a very difficult scene for me to write. I've known Sophie since she was a kid...I think it was the attack on our motives behind it that upset me. Because I love these characters. I've spent the better part of the last decade with these characters, and I love these actors – I'm getting emotional talking about it – I love Sophie, I love Alfie, I love [Maisie] and it's...very personal to me and it's not an easy thing to put a character that I love through a scene like this."
Cogman also discussed in the DVD commentary that some critics were upset and felt that the camera cutting away to Theon at the end as Ramsay tears Sansa's clothes off was changing the scene from being about Sansa to being about Theon - though other critics felt this was more tasteful. Cogman reiterated and confirmed the position of the latter group of critics: he felt the entire scene was from Sansa's perspective and about Sansa, not Theon, and the camera only focuses on Theon's reaction at the end because they felt it was more tasteful not to actually show Ramsay raping Sansa on-camera:
- "Another argument – and I get why this criticism was leveled at us – is idea that we took Sansa's story away from her and made it all about Theon. I personally don’t believe that’s the case...Certainly Theon's redemption journey is an element of the subplot. But if you really watch this scene it's played from Sansa's viewpoint, for the most part. The main reason we cut away at the end, frankly, is that this was Sophie's first scene of this nature, and we didn't want to show the attack. And so we cut to Theon to hear the attack. I understand why many people reacted to that, [thinking] we were making this scene about Theon and not Sansa. I’m sorry it was viewed that way. All I can say is it's certainly not my intention when I wrote it or when we were producing it...We could have stayed on her face of the entirety of the attack, that would have been a perfectly valid choice. To me it was about being respectful to Sophie."
Ultimately, Cogman did stress that the scriptwriters know more about Sansa's ongoing storyarc in the future - possibly implying that something similar was going to happen to Sansa in the next novel but they can't discuss that publicly.
Speaking later in December 2015, director Jeremy Podeswa said that the widespread negative reaction to this rape scene and change from the novels actually did reach executive producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss and has influenced how they are moving forward with Season 6 in some fashion. Podeswa said:
- "[Benioff and Weiss] were responsive to the discussion and there were a couple of things that changed as a result. It is important that (the producers) not self-censor. The show depicts a brutal world where horrible things happen. They did not want to be too overly influenced by that (criticism) but they did absorb and take it in and it did influence them in a way...I welcomed the discussion about the depiction of violence on television and how it could be used as a narrative tool sometimes and the questionable nature of that. We were aware ahead of time that it was going to be disturbing but we did not expect there would be people in Congress talking about it [Senator Claire McCaskill]."
Meryn Trant in Braavos
Several of the men from Arya Stark's kill list were condensed in the TV series, or their roles moved around. One man omitted from the TV series was "Raff the Sweetling": in the books, it was Raff who mockingly killed the boy Lommy that Arya was traveling with (because his leg was broken but Raff didn't want to carry him), though he used a spear to do it, while Polliver stole her sword Needle. The TV series condensed this so that Polliver both stole her sword and killed Lommy with it.
In a preview chapter from the unpublished sixth novel, Raff accompanies the Master of Coin on his embassy to Braavos, which results in the disguised Arya stumbling into him. She then hunts him down and manages to lure him into privacy away from the other guards by pretending to be an under-aged prostitute, as Raff is a pedophile. Once they are alone, she stabs him in the leg with her sword Needle, them taunts him using the same mocking dialogue he exchanged with Lommy when he killed him, but with the roles now reversed, and Raff begging to be carried to a healer. After repeating the taunts he said to Lommy back at him, she then stabs Raff through the throat with Needle, killing him.
More clearly, of the men on her kill list in the novels:
- Book-Raff killed Lommy, and was a pedophile. Arya used this to lure him away to kill him in Braavos while mockingly repeating the taunts he used when he killed Lommy.
- Book-Polliver stole her sword, and Book-Tickler tortured many people at Harrenhal. Both of them are killed in an inn by her and the Hound - and she kills the Tickler by stabbing him repeatedly in a frenzy.
- Book-Meryn helped betray Arya's father and (apparently) killed Syrio (and also beat her sister Sansa, though the Hound only told her about that later). Book-Meryn is still alive.
When the TV series condensed and moved some of these roles around:
- TV-Tickler was killed by Jaqen at Harrenhal.
- Raff doesn't exist in the TV series. TV-Polliver both killed Lommy and stole Arya's sword. She and the Hound later ran into him at an inn and killed him. The Tickler was dead already so she couldn't brutally kill him in a frenzy there the way she did in the novels. Instead, because Polliver killed Lommy, Arya uses this opportunity to kill Polliver by taunting him with how he killed Lommy (the way she taunted Raff in the novels).
- TV-Meryn is a pedophile the way book-Raff was, which in both cases Arya uses to get close enough to kill each of them. She then kills TV-Meryn - in the Season 5 finale "Mother's Mercy" - in the manner she killed the Tickler in the novels.
Due to condensing some of the characters, Raff doesn't exist in the TV series, so his status as a pedophile was given to the Kingsguard Meryn Trant - though the action of "a Lannister guardsman interested in sex with an underaged girl" indeed occurred in the novels. Neither the novels or TV series actually show Raff or Meryn actually having sex with an underaged girl, but just show them selecting one. In each case being a pedophile was a plot point, not introduced by the TV writers, because it was specifically what allowed Arya to get close enough to kill her target.
What the books did not include, however, was a scene of Raff brutally beating child prostitutes with a stick the way that Meryn does in this episode (either to test their pain tolerance prior to selecting them our just out of pure sadism, it is unclear). This aspect of the scene was apparently invented to emphasize that Meryn is a villain, going beyond Arya's explanation that she is killing him because he betrayed her father and killed Syrio Forel.
Behind the scenes
There was a marked increase starting in Season 4 and continuing into Season 5 of rape scenes invented in the TV series that didn't occur in the novels (either because they occurred "off screen" - as was the case with Craster's wives, or scenes which simply didn't exist in the source material at all). This caused TheMarySue.com to ask why the showrunners didn't run these scenes by "outside eyes" during writing and filming, to weigh whether they were offensive, or if it was leaning too much on rape as a source of dramatic tension. They also asked why these decisions to invent rape scenes weren't coordinated with female members of the creative team.
The answer is that from Season 4 onwards, there have been no female members in the creative team - that is, not production design, but those actually in a position to influence story adaptation decisions. There has only ever been one female staff writer on the TV series, Vanessa Taylor, who joined the writing staff in Season 2 and continued through Season 3, but then left to work on film projects. Jane Espenson also wrote one episode in Season 1, but she wasn't a staff writer (that is, actively a member of the roundtable meetings at which the other 3-4 writers discuss adaptation decisions). Thus in Seasons 4 and 5, the TV series had no female scriptwriters whatsoever - corresponding to the increased frequency that multiple critics have noted of introducing rape scenes that weren't in the novels.
There has only ever been one female director on the TV series, Michelle MacLaren, who worked on the series in Seasons 3 and 4, but who also left for other film projects afterwards. Season 5 was therefore the first TV season in which there were no female scriptwriters or directors.
Rape in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels
George R.R. Martin's views on presenting rape in medieval fantasy literature
Much of what author George R.R. Martin wrote in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels was a reaction to previous High Fantasy literature, which typically had simplistic black and white morality, and did not particularly focus on the realistic brutality of medieval warfare, i.e. while Martin is an outspoken fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the morality of it can at times be simplistic. Martin criticized that all of the opponents are demonic forces of "Evil", no one minds when Orcs get massacred, but real life wars are fought between morally grey human beings, over resources, etc., or because their leaders got into a disagreement. There wasn't one "good" and one "bad" side in the Hundred Years' War. Similarly, while many people die in The Lord of the Rings in a massive war, nobody is ever mentioned as being raped during it. In contrast, as medieval armies advanced through enemy territory they frequently raped local women, along with pillaging their lands in general. Martin was also famously a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War draft, and strongly opposed mythologized glorifications of warfare. Therefore, the A Song of Ice and Fire narrative devotes a substantial amount of time to showing the suffering of the smallfolk (commoners) in wartime: poorly armed peasant conscripts get slaughtered by knights on the battlefield, dead refugee children are shown in the streets of the capital city who starved to death because of wartime shortages, and opposing armies often rape women in the other side's lands, as a terror tactic (along with burning out their homes and torturing their children to death). Martin's reaction was to show a darker, more realistic portrayal of the horrors of war. Martin has said that one of his major literary influences is William Faulkner, and Faulkner did not write positive stories depicting people as they should be, but tragic "southern gothic" stories (some of which included rape) containing flawed and at times detestable characters, as a social criticism or critique on the human condition.
When asked about sexual violence in his novels, after Season 5 aired, Martin himself responded in an interview at length - though it should be noted that he strictly discussed the appearance of rape in the novels, and declined to comment on new rape scenes the TV series had invented, such as between Ramsay and Sansa:
- "The books reflect a patriarchal society based on the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages were not a time of sexual egalitarianism. It was very classist, dividing people into three classes. And they had strong ideas about the roles of women. One of the charges against Joan of Arc that got her burned at the stake was that she wore men’s clothing—that was not a small thing. There were, of course, some strong and competent women. It still doesn’t change the nature of the society. And if you look at the books, my heroes and viewpoint characters are all misfits. They’re outliers. They don’t fit the roles society has for them. They’re 'cripples, bastards, and broken things' — a dwarf, a fat guy who can't fight, a bastard, and women who don't fit comfortably into the roles society has for them (though there are also those who do — like Sansa and Catelyn).
- Now there are people who will say to that, 'Well, he’s not writing history, he's writing fantasy — he put in dragons, he should have made an egalitarian society.' Just because you put in dragons doesn't mean you can put in anything you want. If pigs could fly, then that’s your book. But that doesn’t mean you also want people walking on their hands instead of their feet. If you’re going to do [a fantasy element], it's best to only do one of them, or a few. I wanted my books to be strongly grounded in history and to show what medieval society was like, and I was also reacting to a lot of fantasy fiction. Most stories depict what I call the 'Disneyland Middle Ages'—there are princes and princesses and knights in shining armor, but they didn’t want to show what those societies meant and how they functioned.
- I have millions of women readers who love the books, who come up to me and tell me they love the female characters. Some love Arya, some love Dany, some love Sansa, some love Brienne, some love Cersei—there’s thousands of women who love Cersei despite her obvious flaws. It’s a complicated argument. To be non-sexist, does that mean you need to portray an egalitarian society? That’s not in our history; it’s something for science fiction. And 21st century America isn’t egalitarian, either. There are still barriers against women. It's better than what it was. It’s not Mad Men any more, which was in my lifetime."
- And then there's the whole issue of sexual violence, which I've been criticized for as well. I'm writing about war, which is what almost all epic fantasy is about. But if you’re going to write about war, and you just want to include all the cool battles and heroes killing a lot of orcs and things like that and you don’t portray [sexual violence], then there’s something fundamentally dishonest about that. Rape, unfortunately, is still a part of war today. It's not a strong testament to the human race, but I don’t think we should pretend it doesn't exist. I want to portray struggle. Drama comes out of conflict. If you portray a utopia, then you probably wrote a pretty boring book."
Speaking at a panel in 2006, Martin also cited that he set about to write realistically flawed characters who are never entirely "good" or "evil"
- "He also answered some questions, and had some interesting things to say. He repeatedly emphasized that he prefers to write grey characters, because in real life people are complex; no one is pure evil or pure good. Fiction tends to divide people into heroes who do no wrong and villains who go home and kick their dogs and beat their wives, but that reality is much different. He cited a soldier who heroically saves his friends' lives, but then goes home and beats his wife. Which is he, hero or villain? Martin said both and that neither act cancels out the other."
In the narrative, King Robert Baratheon has several good qualities: he was a great warrior in his youth who won his throne on the battlefield, and is very loyal to his lifelong friend Eddard Stark. On the other hand, he is unskilled at rule (both politics and finance), and has a violent and bitter relationship with his wife, Queen Cersei Lannister. Robert nonetheless would drunkenly make Cersei have sex with him when he could (though she often made sure to get him very drunk then finish him off in ways that didn't involve vaginal sex, because she loathed the idea of giving him a child). From a modern definition, Robert may be termed as committing marital rape against Cersei - it would not be called "rape" in Westeros, as legally Robert is considered to have sexual access to his wife. Even if he is not physically attacking and forcing himself upon Cersei, it is certainly a situation she doesn't want to consent to, but she is trapped by familial and political coercion - her father Tywin forced her into this arranged marriage, so she can't complain to him. Robert and Cersei's relationship was very bitter and violent - on a few occasions he slapped her, and once she slammed a wine goblet into his face and chipped a tooth. Overall, however, Martin wasn't trying to glorify the horrible arranged marriage between Robert and Cersei - he was making a critique of other medieval fantasy literature which portrayed a whitewashed and sanitized version of domestic relationships among the nobility in the Middle Ages.
Rape in the real-life Middle Ages
Martin's intention was to portray rape within the society of Westeros much as it was in the real-life Middle Ages. In that time period, rape was considered a horrific crime, though generally defined as when one man raped a woman who "belonged" to another man - "the husband, and no one else, had legal rights to sex with the wife". More generally, rape of a young daughter still living in the household of her father and under his authority was considered an offense against the father (as pater familias and head of the household). The raped woman's consent was not emphasized. There does not appear to have been much focus on or awareness of rape of males.
There was a very drastic double standard of male privilege in the Middle Ages, and when it came to sex outside of marriage for men, i.e. with prostitutes, a general "boys will be boys" attitude predominated, while women who had sex outside of marriage were heavily shamed and punished.
Rape was considered one of the most severe crimes, though punishment varied by context. Rape of a child (i.e. a girl below marriageable age) was severely punished. Rape of a married woman was often punished by amputating a hand or foot. Rape of a single woman of marriageable age, however, was often prosecuted quite lightly - and if the woman was a commoner and she was raped by a nobleman, it was hardly ever punished.
Court case records about rape focused on physical violence against women, i.e. being beaten into submission while trying to fight off her attacker. The records never include questions about her consent - "to focus only on the evidence of violence and not on consent could mean that if the means of coercion were merely a threat rather than actual physical force, the crime could not be prosecuted."
"Marital rape", as a term or even as a concept, simply did not exist in the Middle Ages. Between husband and wife, "in many kinds of sources, they drew very little distinction between rape and heterosexual intercourse generally. The woman's consent really did not matter." This is not to say that husbands didn't force their wives to have sex with them, physically or through emotional/economic coercion, but husbands had the legal right to sexual access to their wives' bodies, and married women knew this. Women did not tend to choose their husbands, their parents did, often to secure political alliances through their marriage. Other than overt, physically violent coercion, they didn’t have a legal concept of emotional/economic coercion, threats, etc. If a woman was put into an arranged marriage by her parents, and her husband subsequently forced her to have sex without her consent, under the contemporary legal definition "rape" had not occurred. Moreover, a woman in this society would not conceptually know that the term "rape" could be applied against her husband. Most would know that they simply had no other viable option but to submit to their husbands' sexual access and coercion - if she tried to fight him off, he had the right to beat her; she couldn't complain to her own father, because he arranged the marriage for political/economic reasons and typically would want to keep this arrangement (though if a husband was violently physically abusive to a very extreme level, the wife's parents might be concerned and seek redress).
- "The lack of attention paid to whether or not the woman consents is perhaps not surprising given the role of consent (or lack thereof) in other aspects of life. Although according to canon [ecclesiastical] law a woman had to consent to her own marriage, in practice the choice was often made by her parents."
"First Night" never existed in the real Middle Ages
There is a persistent myth that a right called "First Night" (also called Prima Noctis or droit du seigneur) existed in the Middle Ages: the right of a nobleman to have sexual relations with a commoner woman on her wedding night. In truth, there is not a shred of evidence that "First Night" or anything like it ever really existed. It is purely a stereotype about the Middle Ages that developed in the modern era without any basis in reality. By the late 20th century, the idea that "First Night" ever existed had been debunked for over a century. The popular Oscar-winning 1995 film Braveheart, however, prominently presented First Night as a practice which actually existed. Even when Braveheart came out in theaters, it was met by outright howls of protest from major academic historians for presenting First Night as real, but nonetheless the film singlehandedly impressed into the public consciousness as a whole the view that First Night was ever a real phenomenon.
- "A persistent myth holds that medieval custom allowed a lord to deflower his serf women on their wedding nights. This myth still appears, for example in the 1995 film Braveheart, even though historians have demonstrated repeatedly, for more than a century, that such a custom did not exist...each of the medieval texts that have occasionally been interpreted as referring to such a custom has either been misinterpreted or was a fantastic explanation even in medieval times...No doubt many peasant women were raped or coerced by their lords, and there was not a great deal that they or the men in their families could do about it. But this offense was not institutionalized. It was never an official or customary right of the lord."
By an interesting coincidence, the English lord who claims the right of First Night on his Scottish subjects in Braveheart was played by Rupert Vansittart - who plays the recurring character Lord Yohn Royce in Game of Thrones (James Cosmo, who played Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, also played one of the lead Scots in the film).
George R.R. Martin started writing the A Song of Ice and Fire novels in 1991, and the first novel A Game of Thrones was published in 1996 - during this interval, Braveheart was released in 1995, and appears to have influenced Martin's writing.
"First Night" does exist in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels in Westeros - or rather, it did exist. According to the novels, First Night was practiced in Westeros for centuries, but it was banned throughout the Seven Kingdoms by King Jaehaerys I Targaryen, over two hundred years before the main narrative of the novels takes place (the Targaryens were not purely vicious conquerors: they put an end to internal warfare, built a continent-wide system of unified laws, built roads like the Kingsroad to boost economic prosperity, and banned abuses of the commoners by nobles like First Night). In the fifth novel, A Dance With Dragons, Roose Bolton explains to Reek that some lords whose Houses are located on the fringes of Westeros still practice First Night when they think they can get away with it, though it is officially illegal and considered heinous. Roose relates to Reek that his bastard son Ramsay is the product of a rape he committed: knowing that the Boltons try to exact First Night when they can, a miller living on his lands married in secret, but Roose stumbled upon them while out hunting. He had the miller hanged and raped the miller's wife under the same tree that his body swung from. A year later she showed up at the Dreadfort and presented him with the infant Ramsay. Roose senses that Reek might be inwardly surprised, but he then scoffs that the Boltons aren't the only lords who still enforce First Night if they can keep it a secret, saying that the northern mountain clans (poor small Houses loyal to the Starks who live in the mountains of the northwest) as well as the alleged cannibals on Skagos island still practice First Night. Roose also accuses that members of House Umber have also exacted First Night from their commoners, though he says the Umbers adamantly deny it (and the veracity of Roose's claims cannot be confirmed).
- Rape on Wikipedia
- First night on A Wiki of Ice and Fire
- Main article on "Gender and Sexuality"
- Main article on "Differences in the status of women between books and TV series"
- Main article on "Sexposition"
- ↑ io9 - Someone Has Done A Statistical Analysis Of Rape In Game Of Thrones
- ↑ The Mary Sue - Motivating Female Characters
- ↑ CNN video discussion of Sansa Stark Season 5 rape scene
- ↑ [http://www.wired.com/2015/06/rape-scenes/ Wired.com "Rape Scenes Aren’t Just Awful. They’re Lazy Writing" by Laura Hudson
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- ↑ George R.R. Martin explains why there's violence against women on Game of Thrones
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- ↑ Ruth Mazo Karras, Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing Unto Others (Routledge, 2005, 2d ed. 2012), 86.
- ↑ Karras 113
- ↑ Karras 121-123
- ↑ Karras 126-128
- ↑ Karras 114
- ↑ Karras 114
- ↑ Karras 113
- ↑ Karras 114
- ↑ Karras 86
Rebellion · Regicide · Treason · Violation of guest right