This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Karthik Shankar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why This Disturbing Scene From The Game Of Thrones Is Worse Than The Rest

More from Karthik Shankar

By Karthik Shankar

Spoiler Alert!

This week fans were taken aback as Game of Thrones unveiled another of its infamous shock moments. After Sansa Stark marries Ramsay Bolton, the psychopathic son of Roose Bolton, in a hauntingly beautiful wedding, he takes her up to their chambers and then forces himself on her all while forcing Theon Greyjoy/Reek, his tortured prisoner, to watch. The scene was the final straw for some fans. The Mary Sue, a popular female oriented pop culture site announced that they would no longer be recapping the shows. Author of the book series George R.R Martin distanced himself from the controversy on his personal blog saying that the book and TV show were different entities. Even a U.S Senator Claire McCaskill weighed in, saying she would no longer watch the show.

sansa_stark

So what is it about the scene that made so many fans angry? It’s the show’s repeated use of rape as a plot device. Sansa’s rape is the third on the show so far, after Daenerys’ rape by her husband on their wedding night and Cersei’s rape by her brother/lover Jamie Lannister. Even more notable, both those scenes are written as consensual sex scenes in the books. The latter scene which happened in season 4 further drew the ire of the fans because the creators insisted that the scene was consensual, even though nothing of the way it was filmed spoke otherwise.

Now it’s a given that Game of Thrones is set in a misogynistic world. Just because a movie or piece of work is set in a world of gender inequality doesn’t mean that the piece of fiction has to be misogynistic itself. Look at the recently released Mad Max which has a bevy of ass-kicking females in a world where sexual violence is common.

Yet, there are many problems with the latest episode’s rape scene, and they are not just related to matters of prurience. The first is that this move makes no sense for Sansa’s character. A more horrific version of the scene does take place in the book but with another character, Jeyne Poole. Jeyne, who was Sansa’s companion in Winterfell, is married off to Ramsay after posing as Arya. She is raped, whipped and also assaulted by Theon on Ramsay’s orders. It is also heavily implied that Ramsay has her copulate with his hounds.

Comparatively, the scene in the show was tastefully shot. We just see Ramsay tear Sansa’s dress from behind and then the camera pans away to Theon, tears streaming down his face, while we hear her screaming. No one can call the scene gratuitous. However, the book doesn’t dwell on the sexual violence the way the show does. Jeyne’s torture is mentioned in passing only. There’s a clearly a world of difference between the written word and audio visual media.

But in the show’s insistence for shock scenes, it interchanges two very different female characters. Sansa is not Jeyne Poole. The former is a character who increasingly gains agency through the books and the show. Sansa’s story in Game of Thrones has been a tragedy so far. Brought up with tales of brave knights and princesses, she wears femininity much more comfortably than her sister, Arya. All that changes, after her father’s execution, when she becomes the plaything of cruel monarch, Joffrey Baratheon. After Joffrey’s murder, she then became the pawn of the scheming Master of Coins, Peytr Baelish.

The relentless passivity and victimisation of Sansa is in stark contrast to her younger sister’s agency. But the show began to show that things were changing. Sansa learns to play the game of charade by revealing her true identity to the Lords of the Vale and surprising Peytr. She also refuses Brienne of Tarth’s help when on her way to Winterfell with Lord Baelish. By the time they arrive there it seemed like Sansa was a newer, more self-aware person. Even her earlier scene in the same episode where she rebukes Myranda, the paramour of Ramsay, she displays a quiet strength we rarely see from her. Which is why it is all the more distressing that she seems to have no say in her wedding night (especially when it is mentioned that Ramsay is infatuated with her). Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if the show allowed Sansa to use her sexuality with the smitten Ramsay? It would be a character evolution rather than regression at least.

The scene is also repugnant for the way it is shot. Rather than make the scene about the indignity that is taking place with Sansa, the camera focuses on Theon’s face as his façade finally begins to break. This is a man whose identity was beaten out of him, who was flayed and even castrated by Ramsay. However, this scene is what breaks him. It plays into patriarchal ideas of rape once again. Men must protect our women. Why is this scene even about Theon? Wouldn’t it have been braver if the camera focused on Sansa’s face?

Now some might say that all this will become a recurring part of the plot. There have been TV shows that dealt with rape commendably, such as Veronica Mars. Possibly Sansa’s rape will have repercussions in her arc rather than leading to her being rescued than someone. That being said, I no longer trust the show’s writers to deal with this empathetically. In an interview, the episode’s writer Bryan Cogman remarked, “This isn’t a timid little girl walking into a wedding night with Joffrey. This is a hardened woman making a choice and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland. Sansa has a wedding night in the sense she never thought she would with one of the monsters of the show. It’s pretty intense and awful and the character will have to deal with it.

In other words, Sansa’s rape was a ‘choice’ made by her. If anyone wants to drown out the screaming voices from their head, they can watch the amazing Peter Dinklage instead.

You must be to comment.
  1. Soham Pal

    Howsoever repugnant the scene might have been, it wasn’t about Theon, a male, failing to protect Sansa. It was about someone, who has seen Sansa grow up to be the Lady she is, failing to protect her. And to say the truth, it wasn’t really unexpected and might prove to be the catalyst that finally changes Sansa’s life.

    1. Nameet Jain

      I agree.. I think media just hypes eveverything up..

More from Karthik Shankar

Similar Posts

By Mister August

By Pawan Dixit

By Tapesh Upadhyay

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below