Game of Thrones, we love you, but we need to talk. You have a sex problem.
We've all known it for quite some time; the seed was sown early on with your tendency toward "sexposition." But it's not just about nudity or about women — it's about how the TV version of Westeros uses nudity and sex to show vulnerability and power imbalance. It's, partially, how the sexual politics of Westeros have been badly-translated from the page to the screen. And in a big way, it's about how now, this fantasy world too closely resembles a reality.
Yes, we know that things are really messed up in the Game of Thrones universe, and we're not about to advocate any kind of censorship. What we want is a serious attitude adjustment. We've come up with seven tips to help Game of Thrones with its sexual dysfunction. Let us know your own ideas in the comments below.
Consensual sex happens. Show it. Yeah, yeah, we get it, it's hard out there in Westeros, and rape is a serious problem in the various cultures of the Seven Kingdoms. It's not that we're seeing a difficult reality on-screen — it's how we're seeing it, and how it compares to how we're shown other aspects of life. Let's take a look at how this has played out recently:
Littlefinger and Lysa
Shown? Implied. Noises heard.
Marauders and Crastor's Daughters
Consent? Nope, those non-canon Disney villains were raping everyone in sight just to show how evil they are.
Shown? Yes. At length. In background of basically every scene except for the one where they're threatening to rape Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick). Much thrusting, much bouncing.
Jaime and Cersei Lannister
Consent? Nope, even if the episode's director saw something there that nobody else seemed to.
Shown? Yes, in all its disturbing glory.
Oberyn Martell, Ellaria Sand, et al
Consent? Yes, although some participants were paid.
Shown? Not exactly. We get some sweet semi-nudity and makeouts the second time we see Oberyn Martelll (Pedro Pascal) and his paramour Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) with their brothel playmates, but Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) interrupts before anything can go too far.
Stop turning consensual sex into rape. Fans are getting fed up with the show's tendency to take consent away from pivotal scenes. It started in Season 1, with Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)'s first night together — a sweet scene with really explicit consent in the book that was turned into the most casual, distressing rape scene in the show. In the book, Drogo's "no" was a question. "No?" he'd ask with each step of their first night together, and Dany would find a way to give consent through the language barrier. In the show, "No" is a command, and seems to mean "stop crying so we can do it."
The switch was an early one, so it didn't cause as much outcry as the twincest rape scene from this season, but it may be more profoundly damaging and problematic. In the book, Dany learned different positions while experiencing personal, sexual growth, exploring a new facet of her identity, and, above all, learning how she likes it; in the series, Dany got on top as a power play, in order to please and tame her savage, brown husband. The othering of Dany and Drogo's sexual switch-up is apparent in a line from Dany's handmaid, who taught her how to "seduce" him: "If he wanted it the Dothraki way [from behind], why did he marry you?"
George R. R. Martin did not create a friendly world — and while he didn't write the series in a vacuum, and the privileged in his world mirror those of our own, he still carefully portrayed the sexual politics and dysfunction of the universe in which his books take place. George's world as imagined by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, on the other hand, seems to possess less of that nuance.
Yes, adapting book to screen is not an exact science, but this specific trend in the adaptation is troubling.
Get less hetero. Dudes, seriously, you play up queer characters all the time through gazes and above-the-clothes action — like Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) staring longingly at Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), or Oberyn grabbing "Brothel Aaron Carter" in the crotch with his pants on after evaluating the naked bods of a few ladies. After the naked lady of choice went to get it on with Ellaria, the camera pans away — to Oberyn and the male that caught his eye, with just a single, bared nipple. The interaction becomes more subtle.
Honestly, there are a lot of ways to explore sexuality in GoT — uh, Lord Varys's recently-outed asexuality? — but giving some extra screentime to consensual same-sex lovin' would at least be a nice start. While you're at it with showing us some sweet consensual sex, let's get Loras laid. Seriously, it's not like there's not source material for more queer sex. Anyone that reads the novels remember Daenerys and Irri?!
Equal-opportunity nudity. We like looking at some gorgeous naked bodies as much as the next entertainment site, whether they're male or female — but everyone in Westeros, as in real life, is naked under their clothes, and somehow we end up seeing a ton more from the female-bodied folks. It's not just about men versus women, either — it's that we see a lot more from already-vulnerable characters, while characters in positions of power remain secure and clothed.
We saw Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) stripped down when he was about to be raped in the Season 3 finale, and we've seen the developmentally disabled Hodor running around nude. Working women are often casually nude in the background of scenes in brothels. But casually showing someone powerful like Tywin Lannister or Stannis Baratheon while dressing? Never.
Learn from other HBO series. Because HBO allows basically anything to appear on-screen, the network has become a sandbox for television producers to just go nuts. This allows for the Game of Thrones ultraviolence and rape-parade, of course, but it also allows for a more in-depth look into the sex lives of an alternate reality. Here's the point we're ambling toward: GoT has a lot to learn from True Blood in this regard. (TB could learn some things from GoT, too, but that's a whole other piece.)
On True Blood, sex isn't always pretty. Sometimes there are even really weird and super-sketchy situations that couldn't happen in any other universe — like Sam's little brother shapeshifting in order to get it on with Sam's girlfriend at the time, Luna. But sex isn't pigeonholed, and sex doesn't tell a single story (in GoT, often, one of dysfunction and power) — sex is a device used to tell many stories. Take note.
Let Kit Harington get naked. This is related to the above, but is not an ideological concern. We would simply be super-happy to see Kit strip down anywhere and everywhere. Kit even wants to get naked, you guys! Just please give the man what he wants!