- "We don't get to choose who we love."
- ―Jaime Lannister to Brienne of Tarth
There are numerous different expressions of sexuality in the world of Game of Thrones. These differ greatly across the many different cultures, and are generally influenced by social customs, religion, and personal preference.
"Preferring the company of men"
- Olenna: "Did you grow up with boy cousins, Lord Tywin? Sons of your father's bannermen? Squires?... Stableboys?"
- Tywin: "Of course."
- Olenna: "And you... never...?"
- — Olenna Tyrell defends her grandson's preference for male company.[src]
Throughout the known world attraction to one's own gender is relatively commonplace, and attitudes to it differ greatly depending on cultural customs and religious beliefs. Although generally looked down upon, "same-sex" behaviour is not punishable by law in Westeros, though it is considered a sin by the realm's dominant religion, the Faith of the Seven, and is considered a taboo subject, carrying considerable social stigma. Men who engage in sex with other men are usually referred to by a variety of derogatory euphemisms, such as "sword swallower" or "pillow biter", or more bluntly "deviant", or "degenerate".
Although not as egregious as incest or kinslaying, the newly reformed and highly puritanical Faith Militant go on a spree of arresting those suspected of homosexual behavior, outright attacking those who are caught in the act.
- Olyvar: "Everyone has a preference."
- Oberyn: "Then everyone is missing half the world's pleasure. The Gods made that, and it delights me. The Gods made this... and it delights me. When it comes to war I fight for Dorne, when it comes to love... I don't choose sides."
- — Olyvar and Oberyn Martell[src]
In the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, the Dornish have a reputation for being hot-blooded and sexually licentious. Indeed, Dornishmen have more "relaxed" views towards sexuality and love than the rest of Westeros. Paramours are not shunned or kept in secret: instead they are held in a similar status as a lawful wife or husband, and it is not unusual for noblewomen to have paramours. The Dornish also have no particular stigma against homosexual behavior.
Attitudes in Reach
- "We don't tie ourselves in knots over a discreet bit of buggery, it's true."
- ―Olenna Tyrell defends her grandson's preference for male company.
Although nowhere near as relaxed as the Dornish, House Tyrell doesn't make a big fuss of same-sex behavior, with Olenna Tyrell even referring to it as "natural". This would seem to suggest a winking tolerance for the subject in the Reach, assuming Olenna's attitude is typical and not just a symptom of accepting her grandson for who he is. Nonetheless, it's clear that discretion is key to the Tyrells' acceptance of the subject, and they would likely frown upon openly flaunting same-sex relations as the Dornish are occasionally accused of doing.
The "Dothraki way"
- "The Dothraki don't believe in modesty, they make love under the stars for the whole Khalasar to see."
- ―Daenerys Targaryen
- "No act done in service to the Lord of Light can ever be considered a sin."
- ―Melisandre to Stannis Baratheon.
The Lord of Light
Melisandre indicates that there is no shame in sexual behavior, as R'hllor made humans male and female for a reason, and expects them to enjoy their bodies and the union of their bodies. As a result, most Red Priests are trained and expected to engage in sacred sex, with some temples outright practicing temple prostitution.
In the books
Depictions of sexuality in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels are much the same as they are in the show, with a few notable exceptions:
The relationship between Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell is not explicitly confirmed in the novels, although it is strongly hinted at, and other characters frequently make snide jokes about the two men.
One character who is homosexual in the books, but not in the show is Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Although Xaro does propose to Daenerys, he openly confirms her suspicions about his sexuality, citing this as a reason why they would be compatible, as they are both interested in men.
Varys mentions a Lord Redwyne, who is said to "like his boys very young". It is unclear whether or not this refers to Paxter Redwyne. No mention is made in the books of Paxter being a paedophile.