Patriarchal Ideas in Modern Culture: Game of Thrones and Sexual Consent

Patriarchal Ideas in Modern Culture: Game of Thrones and Sexual Consent April 26, 2014
This might have been Dany’s wedding night but there’s still no much in the way of sexual consent going on.

by Suzanne Titkemeyer

How can we expect the ideas of sexual consent by women to be understood by people such as Chris Jeub when patriarchal fundamentalist ideas of rape and purity culture have been adopted by many way, way outside of the patriarchal world. Not only adopted but embraced, promoted, explained away.

This week there has been quite a discussion going on in the blogsphere on the idea of sexual consent because of last Sunday’s episode of “Game of Thrones” and the reaction of the writer and director over the outcry over the sexual encounter shown between two of the main characters.

If you’ve not seen “Game of Thrones” here’s the short explanation. It’s a series of books written by George R. R. Martin that have been adapted into a television show for HBO. It takes place in a made up Medieval world and is about various members of seven different kingdoms fighting for the right to be king of all the kingdoms. The show is graphic, bloody and interesting. Many of the storylines were lifted straight out of ancient British royal history.

It’s not for the faint of heart to begin with. Real history is frequently messy and violent. This show reflects that.

This week Queen Cersei and her twin brother Jaime Lannister were shown having sex near the body of their slain son, Kin Joffrey. They’ve been having a sexual relationship for many years according to the backstory in the book. It wasn’t pretty or fun sex, in fact, it looked like rape to most viewers with Cersei pleading no, no, no to her brother’s advances.

There is a lot of rape going on in the GoT world, along with prostitution and incest and other frowned up sexual practices, but many of us were outraged because this scene was completely out of character for the two participants and those connected with the show shrugged off so many people calling this rape. They acted like sexual consent wasn’t actually a thing.

Cersei & Jaime

Here’s some of what is being said:

Salon – Game of Thrones glamorizes rape: That was not consent and rape is not an narrative device

In last night’s episode, Cersei was raped by her brother and lover Jaime, next to the corpse of their son Joffrey. Jaime was enraged because Cersei had asked him to kill Tyrion Lannister, their brother, whom she blames for the murder of Joffrey. There was no ambiguity to the scene. Cersei repeatedly said no. She said, “Stop.” She said, “Not here.” She said, “This is not right.” She resisted Jaime’s efforts, to no avail. The scene was unequivocally a rape scene and it was not merely shocking. It was thoroughly senseless. The episode’s director, Alex Graves, said, of the scene, “Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.” He goes on to add, “That’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever done.”

Think Progress – What That Game of Thrones Scene Says About Rape Culture

When asked directly whether it’s rape, Coster-Waldau responded, “Yes, and no. There are moments where she gives in, and moments where she pushes him away. But it’s not pretty.” The director, Alex Graves, has expressed a similar perspective. “Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle,” Graves told Alan Sepinwall in a recent interview.

Although Game of Thrones fans recoiled at the scene between Jaime and Cersei, it’s unfortunately not hard to see the attitudes that could have contributed to creating it. We’re raised in a society that doesn’t teach people they can withdraw their consent at any moment, doesn’t emphasize that sexual partners need to be seeking explicit consent every step of the way, and doesn’t draw hard lines in the sand when it comes to what’s considered assault. We frequently tell sexual assault survivors that what they experienced didn’t really “count” as rape.

If Graves and Coster-Waldau were attempting to portray something that viewers would perceive as consensual, they obviously didn’t succeed. And the fact that there’s such a gulf between those apparent intentions and the scene’s reception speaks to some fundamental truths about our society’s failure to clarify what constitutes a consensual sexual relationship in the first place. These two men certainly aren’t alone in their assumptions that sexual assault can have blurred lines, that something violent and invasive can become a “turn-on,” that two people who have a previous sexual history aren’t likely to have a purely nonconsensual experience. Those are incredibly common rape myths, and they’re pervasive in influencing our attitudes about sexual assault.

View for yourself and tell me this isn’t rape.

If even people not involved with patriarchy can claim that rape is not rape, then what chance do we have to educate others about purity culture, rape culture and sexual consent? What is the best way to wake up the world to the truth of sexual consent?

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Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

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