Just because you like it, doesn’t make it feminist: On Game of Thrones’ imagined feminism

Someone messaged me yesterday asking my perspective on Game of Thrones; wondering if I had any feministy links or insights to share with him.

I stopped watching GoT early in the second season, after Joffrey forces one prostitute to beat another unconscious in a horrifically sadistic and gruesome way. I’d already been having a hard time digesting the women’s-bodies-as-wallpaper theme in the show, never mind the sexualized violence, and watching this misogynist man-child force a woman to beat another bloody pushed me over the edge. It was bad enough that, in the very first episode, teenaged Daenerys is raped by her new husband and it was bad enough that the directors feel it’s necessary to include naked prostitutes roaming around in the background of scenes that don’t require porny, decorative ladies there for any particular reason, but this just did it for me. I feel like I’ve watched enough rape and violence and sexed up sadism to last me a lifetime. No more please.

To be clear, I have zero problem with depictions of sex or nudity on screen. I wrote about Lena Dunham’s non-porny nude scenes in Girls as an example of the difference betweeen pornified objectification and non-sexist depictions of women’s bodies and of sex on screen to show that, yes! it is possible for women to be naked or sexual without turning it into porn. But we just don’t much like doing that these days in mainstream media and pop culture. It’s as though we’ve forgotten how, or are simply too lazy to imagine anything different. Women are to-be-looked-at and we expect women’s bodies, in imagery, to turn us on — We’ve learned that’s pretty much the whole point of women’s bodies.

After receiving this message, I started looking around online to see what feminists were saying about GoT, having stopped paying much attention to commentary on it since I stopped watching the show.

The first thing I came across was this article at Buzzfeed: 9 Ways ‘Game of Thrones’ is Actually Feminist.” And man, am I getting sick of people trying to force feminism into places it doesn’t exist. Last week I read a post over at Bitch about how, while the actresses who play Peggy and Joan on Mad Men were reluctant to call their characters “feminist,” they (according to the writer, Yoonj Kim) actually “displayed feminist thinking” and were only rejecting the label because of negative connotations. But both actresses point out that their characters have little interest in any kind of radical movement and while they may want respect, or to get ahead in the workplace, that doesn’t necessarily equate to feminism. Why Kim feels so adamant about pushing the feminist label onto these characters, I don’t quite understand.

I get the feeling that (some) women, especially younger feminist women, really, really want the things they like to be feminist. Which is a nice thought, of course, but is also ridiculous. Just because you’re a feminist doesn’t mean that everything you do, think, or watch is, or must also be, feminist. I watch Real Housewives on the regular, for example. I really, really love it. It isn’t feminist. Not in any way. And that’s fine. I’m over it. Why do we feel like we need to look for feminism in places it doesn’t exist?

It’s how we end up desperately insisting that burlesque or porny selfies are “empowering” or even feminist. “IT MAKES ME FEEL GOOD RIGHT NOW. PEOPLE ARE LOOKING AT ME. I MADE A CHOICE. TO SHAKE MY TITS ON STAGE” has nothing to do with a movement to end patriarchy. It just doesn’t. Feel free to post photos of your cleavage on Instagram all you want, but don’t call it feminism. It just makes me feel sad. Likewise, trying to force feminism on things you like — Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Magic Mike, whatever — doesn’t make it true.

The argument being made by Kate Aurthur, the author of the Buzzfeed article, seems to be that the creators of the show altered the female characters in the books in order to give the characters in the TV series more power and agency, making some of them into more multi-dimensional characters than those which were depicted in the books. And sure, that might be true, but having some forms of power or having moments of agency doesn’t equal feminism. Particularly in a show that unnecessarily objectifies and sexualizes pretty much all of the female characters. Just as, while some individual women may hold power in the world, that doesn’t necessarily equate to an equal world or work towards the collective liberation of all women.

In a post over at The Literati Collective, Elizabeth Mulhall points out that “none of the female characters demonstrate power that is not in some way mitigated by their gender.” So these characters may be allowed to be temporarily powerful in certain contexts, but we’re always reminded of their subordinate status or their role as object of the male gaze. Even in the books, author George R. R. Martin (who claims to be a “feminist at heart” HAAAAAAAAA) obsessively reminds his readers about Daenerys’ young, sexy, lady-boobs, which certainly has translated into imagery in the show. From the books (and inside the mind of a, supposed, male feminist):

“When she went to the stables, she wore faded sandsilk pants and woven grass sandals. Her small breasts moved freely beneath a painted Dothraki vest …”

Don’t forget about her boobs, you guys. She has boobs. And she thinks about her boobs whenever she does anything. We all do. As Mulhall points out, “Her demonstrations of power are almost always balanced out by observations about her nubile body and general boob-havingness.” It’s like, ok, we’ll give you some power, but stay sexy. Which is pretty much how things work in real life too, if you hadn’t noticed. Sure, a few of you can have some money and some power, but also pose for photos in your underwear. Deal?

Martin seems to think he did his female characters (and, actually women everywhere!) a favour by letting them be humanish, but I’m afraid that isn’t enough to make the show, or the books, for that matter, “feminist.” Nor does “less rapes,” as Aurthur seems to think.

Not only that, but when confronted with criticisms about the over-the-top sexualization, the show creators, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss can only muster up defensiveness, saying:

“I don’t know why sex and violence get highlighted so much… You don’t hear people talking about gratuitous punch lines and gratuitous politics: It’s all about what belongs in any given scene. We put in the show what we think belongs in the show.”

“Wah! We like it!” Is pretty much their response. If you can’t even accept and address these kinds of criticisms, I’m not inclined to put any effort into buying some garbage about how “Oh, but the female characters are human beings!” Whatever. So a girl runs an army. Not only does the ability to kill other people or have some power over a certain number of other people not equate to the liberation of women, like, in any way at all, but if feminists are telling you you’re objectifying women and sexualizing violence and your only reaction is to defend said objectification and sexualization, you lose pretty much all your credibility in feminism-land.

I’m afraid we’re grasping at straws on this one, ladies.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • jo

    Thank you!
    A show can be less horrible in it’s treatment of women, but that doesn’t make it feminist.

    I was interested in GoT, until I heard of the sexual violence and unnecessary female nudity. I don’t want to see women assualted, that’s not entertainment, that’s a horrible reality that I wish to escape from when I watch something unrealistic. I also don’t want to see women as boob-wallpaper-background-decoration. That’s just insulting – we are so much more than that.

    I have met some women who really love the show, because while it’s full of sexism, there is those kick-ass female characters and that makes it all good apparantly. I disagree. But I think this is because we are so starved for good female characters, so that when a piece of media shows some kind of interesting female characters, we really latch on to it, despite the work’s imperfections or downright misogyny. I’ve done it too!

    What I would love to see a big budget fantasy tv-series or movie with human female characters in a free world, or at least no sexism from the writers.

    • MLM

      “But I think this is because we are so starved for good female characters, so that when a piece of media shows some kind of interesting female characters, we really latch on to it, despite the work’s imperfections or downright misogyny’.

      I think you hit the nail on the head. Maybe there’s just such a lack of meaningful female presence onscreen anyway that women kind of try and “make the best” of what’s there.

      • I agree. I never went for GoT for the reasons listed in the article. However I do find myself consuming “entertainment” that is insulting and reductive because there are no alternatives. I guess eating a little bit of shit everyday is what we live with in Patriarchy, but no one is going to convince me that it tastes good or has any constructive value for women.

        • James Bearclaw

          Agree with essentially everything said. Minor note: the Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze, while useful, has come under rigorous academic scrutiny (especially with the emergence of queer cinema), making it problematic to simply strike it up as a general truth.

          Still. Everything you said. Yes.

  • Vouchsafer

    “don’t know why sex and violence get highlighted so much… You don’t hear people talking about gratuitous punch lines and gratuitous politics: It’s all about what belongs in any given scene. We put in the show what we think belongs in the show”

    That’s hilarious, actually, because some of the sex and violence you’re describing (I’ve never watched the show) doesn’t seem like what I remember from the books. If that’s not the definition of gratuitous I don’t know what is.

    They better not be perving up Arya. I only read the first three books because I got bored of waiting for the rest to come out, but Arya was only a year or two behind Daenarys. I hope we don’t have to read/hear descriptions of her nubile young breasts as she gets older. gag me.

    If the books don’t stand on their own well enough to translate into modern-day tv fodder, then i’d say the fact that they felt they had to throw some naked female bodies in there to ‘make’ it fit our culture is pretty telling. About our culture.

    Maybe it’s not the meek that shall inherit the earth but the only ones not staring at boobies 🙂

    • Aurelia

      Great comment, thanks. Re: perving Arya: I just had a week-long marathon of watching every single passed episode of GOT (on Free Project TV*) because I wanted to get to the bottom of all the hype put out by various people in my circle of friends. I was quite disgusted that in addition to all the gratuitous sexual violence, even the smallest girl in the show is repeatedly told (by men) that she could get raped at any moment. This is one of the reasons her hair gets cut off to disguise her as a boy: for “safer travels”, aside from disguising her royal birth. Nevertheless, she’s still threatened with rape by a couple of pedophiles. Wanna puke yet? Meanwhile, Arya’s older sister Sanza, who’s only 13-14 gets sexually assaulted by 4 or 5 men, and her “honor” is barely spared in time by Joffrey Lannister’s “dog”. Then, on the night of her forced wedding to Tyrion Lannister, Joffrey threatens to rape her, then orders the wedding party guests to drag the girl and her dwarf groom into the bed where she is to do her “duty”, for what he calls a “bedding ceremony” – his father stops him. The show is not only disgustingly full of gratuitous sexual violence against women, little girls are not spared either.

      *I never watch tv otherwise, because the same formulas of violence and misogyny pervade tv programming. Whereas some people choose to just put up with it, I personally choose to boycott mainstream tv, finding alternative media and literature far more stimulating!

  • MLM

    “I feel like I’ve watched enough rape and violence and sexed up sadism to last me a lifetime. No more please”.

    I hear this. I only managed one episode of “Game of Thrones” in spite of having it much hyped by several friends. It is really sad how often women take the easier option and reframe inherently patriarchal/status quo choices as “feminist” instead of asking themselves the more confronting questions about why they might enjoy them, and examining their own internal contradictions. If this happened more often we might get closer to actually changing the toxicity in the culture instead of just finding ways to live with it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Totally. Should we really have to look that hard to find the feminism? Wade through a sea of rape and pornification?

      • MLM

        I know. And, if anything, it seems to be getting harder all the time to really challenge those things, precisely because almost anything can apparently qualify as being “feminist” these days.

  • Beige

    Timely post for me. Recently one of the Official(TM) Feminist Bloggers claimed the word “fuck” is gender neutral on the sole basis that she likes to say it and she’s a feminist. I’m a feminist and I say fuck too, but that doesn’t make the word gender neutral in this virulently woman-hating rape culture.

    These people also speak about how supposedly “neutral” pornography is, like the mini amount of niche non-hateful stuff somehow cancels out the rapey content of mainstream porn just because they like to watch some porn so pornography has to be neutral at worst.

    Have feminist goals fallen so far that aiming for neutral is the new liberation, the modern Women’s Neutrality Movement?

  • Greg Abbott

    One point to remember is that the GOT universe is an absolutely terrible place to live, for both men and women. Ordinary people, going about their lives, are caught up in the bloody war waged by wealthy elites for control of Westeros. Many, many innocent lives are lost.

    The books don’t minimize this at all. The whole “Brotherhood without Banners” is a reaction to ceaseless and stupid violence – a bit of a Westerosi take on the Great Peasants’ Revolt. And, I suspect, equally unlikely to succeed at improving life for the average peasant.

    And, from the standpoints of stereotypes, male characters in GOT are frequently reduced to: (1) how strong or skilled they are in battle; (2) how much money they have; or (3) whether they have noble or royal blood. One of the few enlightened male characters, Ned Stark, is shown to be weak and incapable of surviving political infighting because his moral or ethical nature emasculates him (and he is murdered at the end of season one as a result).

    I can’t imagine describing GOT as containing feminist elements – except that a faithful rendering of actual medieval life is so revolting that it reminds us of how much both men and women have progressed since then.

    • Christine

      I take your point, Greg, but the thing is: GOT is not meant to be “a faithful rendering of actual medieval life”. It’s fantasy. You might as well call The Lord of the Rings “a faithful rendering of actual medieval life”. It’s not. There are elements of Middle Earth that may remind us of medieval Europe, but that don’t make ’em medieval Europe.

      I should qualify this by saying that I haven’t read Martin’s series, nor have I watched the T.V. show yet. I will still probably give them a try, but having heard Meghan’s views, I am less likely to spend money doing so!

      • Asmo

        “I should qualify this by saying that I haven’t read Martin’s series, nor have I watched the T.V. show yet.”

        So basically your opinion on the subject is worthless.

        The whole point of A Song of Ice and Fire from the beginning was to write a fantasy story that doesn’t gloss over all the shitty parts of medieval European life. You mention The Lord of the Rings; that’s a perfect example of what GRRM was trying to get away from. The fantasy genre is absolutely saturated with these shiny, happy, magical utopias that are supposedly based on medieval Europe but conveniently erase all the abuse, disease, rape, famine, and suffering that were inherantly a part of life in that time period. People look at LotR and see this idealized, glossy version of medieval life and they get the wrong impression. GRRM’s books remind people that, yeah, swords and plate armor and house sigils and stuff were really cool and all, but a fuedal caste system actually fucking sucks for almost everyone who lived in it. They were called the “dark ages” for a reason. That’s a huge part of the message of the series.

        I don’t blame people for not being able to stomach it; but I don’t for a second buy the argument that just because a fantasy setting is deeply sexist and flawed and filled with rape that that automatically makes it anti-feminist.

        • Coromandel

          “deeply sexist and flawed and filled with rape = automatically makes it anti-feminist.”

          Fixed that for you.

        • Safron

          Spoilers following

          The problem isn’t that these things exist in this world; I think it’s important to confront them. The problem is how they are dealt with. Many womin are raped in this series and it’s highly sexualized, with no focus on how the womyn in question is faring afterwards. These womin aren’t people, they are scenery, the horrors they have suffered only acknowledged when a man can use them to bolster his reputation for saving the damsel (the Hound), refusing to rape them (Tyrion), or by avenging them (Oberyn). The feelings of the men are always deemed more important than the womin actually suffering in this society.

          Rape is only used as a way to make the story more “dark” and “edgy”; womin’s pain is mere set dressing (see the episode “Oathkeeper”, the scene in Craster’s Keep for a particularly horrifying example; the womin being raped don’t even have faces, while the men can be easily identified. If there is any way to make a rape victim feel more like an object, I don’t know what it is.)

          Let’s be clear: once you rape someone, your feelings don’t matter. The victim is always more important. Yet, as demonstrated recently (Cersei’s rape by her her brother/lover Jamie), this doesn’t happen. Cersei is shunted off to the side, branded a callous monster after her son was just murdered, while Jamie gets more screen time posing as a caring, level headed rebel against his father (see his scenes with Brianne and Tyrion).

          Daenerys is repeatedly raped as a child by her husband, while she is clearly uncomfortable/in pain, but their relationship is later painted as one of true love once she learns how to serve him properly. I don’t think I need to say how dangerous an idea like this is (“the abuse will stop if only you learn to obey and pleasure him”). There is nary a mention of the abuse after she learns her place.

          The series glorifies prostitution, even while it acknowledges that the womin exploited were often sold as children to these “pleasure house[s]”. The character Shea is framed as a womyn who can take care of herself, implying that she is being exploited by choice. Tyrion is a particularly egregious example of this; he admits that womin would not willingly engage in sexual relations with him, so he feels he has the right to buy them, even when he knows they are owned by a man like Littlefinger. Tyrion is also set up as the most heroic character of all. When Joffery abused Ros and Daisy, it is only framed as a shock device, not as something that was potentially life altering (PTSD was still a thing even in the “dark ages”, even if they didn’t have a name for it).

          The harms of prostitution are invisiblised, so the argument that this is how life would be in a world such as this falls apart. It’s only the suffering of men that is featured. When the men are harmed in this series, it’s not because they are men. They are harmed because of situation not oppression. And still they receive more sympathy because of how it is shot. We are meant to feel for Theon as he is tortured, but not for the countless womin raped throughout the series. It’s interesting to note that the torture most equivalent to rape done to Theon, that is cutting his cock off, isn’t even shown. Try imagining if every man, not just in fiction but in real life, were faced with the constant threat of having his cock cut off, and you may see why womin are so offended and upset over this. It trivializes the reality that womin live with every day.

          It’s important to remember that there are many ways to convey facts, information and stories and none of them are neutral. Their presentation will always be influenced by the creators and story tellers. The writers managed to work in a “male homosexuality is okay” stance despite the era, so they have no excuse.

          It is incredibly dangerous and offensive to abuse victims to use rape as decoration, a prop for men to give them tragic backstories so they can have proper motivation to actively influence the plot, while the womin have little influence on the over arching story line. Even Arya is just being dragged along for the ride for the entire third season.

          This show is the most triggering thing of all the things and these are just the things off the top of my head; I haven’t even discussed the misogynistic slurs used without discussion or reflection, the absolute hatred the womin characters have for one another, or the utter failing of the Bechdel test (outside of “pleasure houses”, there is at most, two womin to a scene, and when they are not surrounded by men, they are almost always discussing men. Given the length of this series, they again, have no excuse).

          • Spiros

            great points.

            i like the show, but i grimaced and skipped over some of the scenes you talked about (Ros’s abuses, Craster’s keep), either from boredom or disgust.

            in the latter, i never noticed that the victims’ faces were shown less than the rapists. (i did notice that cersei’s face was not shown in the sept scene.) that’s really scary.

            as a first step, it should focus on the physical and psychological effects a crime has on the victim, who is in fact a complex human being, and not the pleasure or punishment of the criminal.

            “I haven’t even discussed the…”

            please do!

          • Leea

            You are brilliant, so elloquently put, you said everything I’ve tried to convey.. Cheerz

    • I never knew mediaeval life looked like a costume ball at the Bunny Ranch.

      • Meghan Murphy

        NO, NO, clearly GoT is a factual account of HISTORY, lizor. Facts. History. They can’t change the facts and the history. Especially when there are boners at stake.

        • Aiden

          Clearly it isn’t meant to be a factual depiction of specific events in history, although the novels and subsequently the tv series’ are adaptations of certain political, economic and social dynamics of medieval history. One of the biggest reasons that GRRM was interested in creating his series was because of his experience in modern war and because he is a man who is greatly motivated by medieval history, his story is going to be influenced by it.

          There are absolutely no characters, locations, events in the timeline or otherwise that are accurate descriptions of real events in history. If there were, and these were more prevalent throughout, Game of Thrones and A song of Ice and Fire would be considered creative nonfiction which is obviously not its genre of fiction. However, the influence of medieval history is important in world building not in the writing of the events as any fantasy writer (or fiction writer) will tell you. If you want to creatively illustrate some of the dynamics of the time period, especially during a war period, you aren’t going to skimp on the social dynamics of the people during the time, otherwise it will go against the consistency of the writing.

          Both those claiming this series to feminist and those adamantly trying to make claims that is it “anti-feminist,” are misinterpreting the work and trying to make it out to be something it is not. The series is not at all political in terms on feminism, but only political in the dynamics of the time period which were of course illustrated by objectification and oppression of women (and lower economic and social classes which is another key aspect involved in the world building).

          So to try and claim that the series is attempting to be anti-feminist through its voluntary depictions of prior social dynamics, is both irresponsible and lazy journalism. There is no validity especially, in trying to link the events in an author’s books to his personal political identity when it has no context in his political affiliations. That’s just ignoring his active attempt to separate his politics on feminism from his writing by stating, “he is a feminist at heart.”

          • Stan

            “So to try and claim that the series is attempting to be anti-feminist through its voluntary depictions of prior social dynamics, is both irresponsible and lazy journalism.”

            No one tries to claim that. What is claimed is that it succeeds at anti-feminism without even trying.

  • Edward Gemmer

    I totally disagree. While I quite understand the objection to objectifying women, feminism isn’t puritanism and objecting to nudity or sex doesn’t make one a feminist. However, fictional pieces displaying fully-formed female characters who have minds of their owns is part of feminism, and Game of Thrones has this in spades. So I think it goes the other way, yes – there is lots of nudity and sexual violence in Game of Thrones. That is barely relevant to whether it is in fact feminist.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Who’s objecting to nudity or sex?

    • Diana

      Did you even read Meghan’s fucking post? Another man seemingly going out of his way to miss the entire point. Nice mansplaining, btw.

    • Lara

      I don’t think it’s helpful to shoot a man down for giving his opinion with ‘mansplaining’. Especially when said opinion was not particularly arrogant, obnoxious or patronizing. Mansplaining is a very real thing but when you start to use it to attack any man with an opinion it looses credence. Mansplaining is when a man tells you how something is as if it’s fact. Giving an opinion is giving an opinion and everyone is allowed to do that. This man opened with ‘I disagree’ which is a totally acceptable thing to say. And it is a bit dismissive to assume the only reason he disagrees with Meghan’s article is because he ‘didn’t understand it/didn’t read it/too busy mansplaining. As if no one who fully comprehends this article could help but agree with it.

    • Missfit

      Using the word ‘nudity’ in that context without addressing whose overrepresented nudity we are talking about, the way it is portrayed and the purpose it serves, as if it was gender neutral, is an attempt to erase feminist critic, which is the whole point of the article.
      And then stating that ‘feminism isn’t puritanism’, as if to teach us a lesson (which I’d say derserves the term mainsplaining), as if we did not know the meaning of these two words (do you?), is a convenient derail when you benefit from having men’s interest predominates everywhere that it is easier to just ignore the double standard and women’s point of view.

    • You know… I watch plenty of TV shows, movies, etc. The amount of rapes I’ve ever seen depicted is in the single digits (minus Deadwood, which probably has a lot of rapes, especially if you count prostituion, but I’ve never counted them). Most of what I watch has NO rapes at all.

      So I guess my wife and I must be super-duper-mega-jackbooted-feminazis who castrate men as a hobby.

      • Women are continuously raped on this show – yet the show completely neglects how the woman is negatively effected by it (thereby objectifying women & neutralizing rape). You’re taking this news by saying to criticize this makes us all desire to castrate men. I’ll tell you how we feel. We are horrified, angry, deeply saddened as a response. Some of us might entertain the castration idea but how many women who have had this reaction turn around and act on that impulse? Or get behind the screen and write some revenge rape scenes for men? In fact nobody has mentioned castration here but you. You’re taking what honestly should be a lot of people’s response (imagining revenge for the victim on screen as a result of seething rage), you’re picking the most extreme, graphic, and vile thought (to make US critics look like the monsters – turning the shame around on us) and projecting this extremist idea as truth for ALL of us feminists as a whole. As though this is our only conceiveable thought or emotion as a response. Where did you put your compassion, your empathy? Are you really going to sit here and tell me how we should feel, how we should think about rape? Shame me because I’m angry?

        And why are you EVEN talking about how most of the shows you watch do not have rape?

        Just because most of the shows/films you have watched don’t have rape – does not mean there aren’t a lot of shows/films out with them. That just means you just haven’t seen them yet. You’re using an illogical fallacy – it’s called “Anecdotal” : Using personal experience or an isolated example instead of a valid argument, especially to dismiss statistics. And let’s assume you are right – there aren’t a lot of rape scenes in most movies / shows. What would be your point? Are you coming to the conclusion that few rape scenes = not dehumanizing?

        And you negate to even respond to any of the ways in which MANY women on THIS show have been raped. Even though it’s been thoroughly discussed here on this thread with many examples on not only how often these rape scene’s occurred, but how they were depicted (lack of traumatic responses to the rape, woman loving her abuser) . Instead you’d rather refer to the little you actually know & use that as evidence of it not being so bad? Have you even stopped to notice whether those rape scene’s gave the female a valid emotional response as a result in the shows/films you’ve watched that do contain rape scene’s?

        The answer is a resounding ‘no’. You have been officially desensitized to rape, and angry at women for it – congratulations. As a self proclaimed feminist you must be very proud of yourself, CLEARLY.

  • ldr

    In my opinion, feminism has evolved beyond critiquing “representations of women” (is she good? is she an activist? or do her boobs show?) to contextualizing those representations within larger systems of meaning-making. Just as there can be dramatic differences between the value systems of a novel, its narrator, and its main characters (Wuthering Heights comes to mind), in a TV program the show itself can be saying one thing even though the characters, taken individually, say something different. Mad Men is feminist to me not because of how Peggy and Joan behave, but because it exposes patriarchal hegemony as a construction predicated upon power, money abuse, alcohol, deception, and the objectification of women. This critique is more incisive to me than if suddenly Peggy were, quite uncharacteristically, shown burning a bra and then rising to the top of the advertising world as reward for her good feminist behavior.

    Game of Thrones — well, what can I say, other than that is a whole other conversation about genre (in my opinion).

    • Meghan Murphy

      I kind of agree with you, re: Mad Men, and think it has a lot of feminist elements. That said, I’m not sure why that writer felt it necessary to call the characters of Peggy and Joan feminist. Nor would I call the show, in it’s entirety, ‘feminist’ per se. I think there are certainly some feministish story lines in there though… Now everyone go watch Top of the Lake!

      • MLM

        Top of the Lake is AWESOME! And Jane Campion is a storytelling goddess. Absolutely love her work.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I KNOW! So good.

      • lizor

        Top of the Lake rocks. It (what I have seen so far) deals bravely with male violence without turning it into jackoff fodder like pretty much every single crime show on the airwaves.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Exactly! It IS possible. Everyone stop making excuses now.

  • Toni B

    As a new screenwriter who tends to write period pieces with magic, a lot of people have literally begged me to watch GoT. But I have been hesitant. Every time, I went to put it in my Netflix queue, something inside just said no. My rape-sadism radar went up. Specifically, the rape/sadism radar without consequences for the rapists. I too can’t handle the sexual sadistic stuff because A. I have humanity and B. I’m a survivor of incest and rape.

    That’s not saying I don’t write about rape in my scripts. I do. And I show the long term trauma it causes and my characters always get even with the perps.

    I don’t object to nudity. But if you’re going to show boobs, you need to show balls. European films are definitely more balanced in this regard.

    I call the woman-wallpaper thing womaccessories.

    • gxm

      Oh, but men in medieval times never took their clothes off. Never! Not for their entire lives. They even bathed fully outfitted. (That’s why they were so smelly.)

  • Morgan

    Why is it that with all these really great fantasy series, the authors are able to get very imaginative about almost everything except the power difference between men and women. So much opportunity to create new/different structures in society and the way relationships operate, but it’s way SEXXAY to maintain that dom/sub dynamic, isn’t it???

    Why can’t any of these “great authors” imagine an alternate universe where women aren’t raped, assaulted, harassed, not allowed to have a voice, etc. on the regular. I mean, imagine if women were allowed roles other than wife or prostitute! (Btw one female character being a knight of sorts only proves the point: she’s not taken seriously in her role until she kicks some ass, and even then she’s an anomaly.) They can come up with so much other awesome creative stuff but women are still basically sex slaves or servants in other ways. Arya having to pretend to be a boy is another example – she knows life is harder for a girl, and her options would be limited.

    “Oh but the menz have it hard in GoT universe too!!11!” Yeah, I’m sure there are MRA’s who would love to have that discussion with you.

    • Max

      Because it would likely be dull. Not saying it can’t be done, but if it was easy, it would have already happened.

      Authors don’t imagine universes where no one has the power of another to force them to do things they don’t want to do because those universes would lack conflict. The oppression of women by men gives great scope for conflict; and it’s a conflict we understand because it’s immediate.

      Besides, the best fantasy stories are just universal themes in fancy dress. Lord of the Rings is just little guys beat big guys because power of friendship.

      The extra helping of adversity the female characters get in GoT makes them more sympathetic and gives them a deeper story arc. Brienne wouldn’t be nearly so memorable a character if she was just a weird, awkward and naive dude. Arya would never have discovered her gift for subterfuge if she was a young boy. Dany wouldn’t have the personal journey she has taken if she didn’t need to stand up and be Khalesi on her husband’s death (Even if George RR Martin is weirdly obsessed with her boobies).

      That said; they’ve made the TV series waaaay rapeyer than it needed to be. The whole Dany-Drogo thing particularly grated with me. The book portrayed Dany as being pretty into Drogo from the get go, and him being a gentle and kindly husband in contrast to his fearsome reputation and appearance.

      • jo

        “Because it would likely be dull” to have a tv-series where men do not oppress and attack women simply for being women? Do you think all stories without violent racism or homophobia are boring too?

      • Diana

        Women must be raped/assaulted/dominated because otherwise media would be dull? Are you freakin’ kidding me?

        How about some media where women unilaterally oppress men? Oh, but that’d be man-hating, right?

        Oppressing men is a tragedy; oppressing women is tradition.

        • An

          Dont you see both are traditions one is just older than the other.

        • Max

          “How about some media where women unilaterally oppress men? Oh, but that’d be man-hating, right?”

          Hate away. If it had a good script, I’d watch the crap out of it.

          But it’s much harder to make believeable. And thus I said “Not saying it can’t be done, but if it was easy, it would have already happened.”

        • FE

          Thats not what he said. He just meant that the characters would be less captivating if they were male, and that is true.
          Thats all he meant.

      • vouchsafer

        Dull? Dang.
        As a novelist that just finished a novel without those aspects, with the conflict being between the capitalist oppressors and us low level humans, and the main character being a strong female lead that yes, pursues a man sexually on her own terms, while leading a revolution to fight the 1%, I hope that’s not the case.

        Now, anyone know a good feminist literary agent…

        • Me

          I don’t know about these things, but could kickstarter do you any good? I’d buy for sure.

        • MLM

          I don’t know about literary agents, but wondered if this might be of any help to you…

          “Spinifex Press is an award-winning independent feminist press, publishing innovative and controversial feminist books with an optimistic edge”.


          (They are based in Australia but seem to have published titles from all over the world, and in the age of e-books and digital publishing/communications I’m guessing probably matters a lot less now if your publisher is based in a different part of the world from you).

          All the best with it! I’ll buy it, too 🙂

          • joy

            Spinefex is probably not going to buy the publishing rights to a heterosexual romance novel. Spinefex is Sheila Jeffreys’s publisher.

          • MLM

            I know, but they seemed to have quite a diverse list of authors on their site and they do publish fiction. Probably was off base though. Sorry, Vouchsafer 🙁

          • vouchsafer

            Hey no worries. Thanks for the suggestions guys 🙂

      • mal

        “The whole Dany-Drogo thing particularly grated with me. The book portrayed Dany as being pretty into Drogo from the get go, and him being a gentle and kindly husband in contrast to his fearsome reputation and appearance.”
        Ugh, this!

        The wedding night rape scene of Dany and Drogo in the show blows.my.mind. I mean, good grief. In the book, the sex was not akin to “rape”. It was actually romantic; he was patient, and his unexpected kindness to a very obviously terrified Dany softened the unfortunate position Dany was forced into. And, in this moment, Dany offered a sense of curiosity/anxiety/excitement. He waited until the comfort he offered her allowed her to partake in intercourse. Still a horrible position to be placed in, still inhumane the way she was “given” to him, still awful in that she had no say in who she was to marry. But this moment was the first moment she felt that her fears and terrified confusion were taken into account.
        The show took that moment and made it into something that they thought the viewers’ interests would grasp more tightly onto. “Guys, here’s the plan. Let’s scratch the ‘love-making’ and replace it with ‘rape’. It will help with ratings, guys!” Sad truth, they were right. Therefore, TV Dany ultimately falls in love with her rapist, thus creating an unexpected romantic duo that the crowd goes wild over.
        As opposed to novel Dany falling in love with a man who treated her with gentleness, and who she did not intend or expect to fall in love with, yet still being an unexpected romantic duo that the readers go wild over.

        In the end, the dynamic between the two of them is the same, as perceived by the majority of the viewers/readers. So why was that rape scene necessary?

        • Coromandel

          I read that scene as a man grooming a child for her inevitable rape. Most rapists don’t rely on violence, they rely on the youthful inexperience and vulnerability of girls from sexually abusive families.

          That most fans seem to prefer the emotionally and physiologically manipulated version in the book over the more blunt TV portrayal is part of rape culture.

          • elise

            Thank you! Finally someone says it. The perving up of children thing goes beyond anti-feminist, it is the most insidious part of Martin’s creation.
            His depiction of the wedding night between Daenerys and Drogo is down right pedophilic. I mean she’s 13, Drogo is decidedly adult, and it’s not a rape scene, but rather one where he eventually incurs her consent (“she slipped his finger inside of her”) by buttering her up first, massaging and fondling and all this. I mean, the message there is that it’s OK for grown men to have sex with children as long as you turn them on first. Barf, gag, hurl and everything else. HBO gets little credit from me, but depicting that wedding night as a more traditional rape scene (also terrible as it desensitizes viewers to rape) at least communicates that it was an unjust and incorrect situation, whereas Martin goes all Lolita on us and would have have us believe that this 13 year old and grown man have some kind of beautiful love scene. That is very wrong. There is nothing romantic, beautiful, or remotely OK about the molestation of children. So yeah, if he makes that much of a grievous moral error, the corollary sexist shit doesn’t surprise me at all. And sorry, the whole ‘keeping with the standards of the times’ logic is nonsense. Where in being faithful to depictions of medieval times is it necessary to romaniticize child pornography? Hey, I’ve read all five of the books, entertaining as hell, but the consistent sexualization of children makes my heart hurt, and it is 100% gratuitous.

    • RainbowBryte

      “Why can’t any of these “great authors” imagine an alternate universe where women aren’t raped, assaulted, harassed, not allowed to have a voice, etc. on the regular.”

      Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series seems to do this. I’m only on the 3rd book but the women actually seem to have more power than the men.

    • Ami

      I seriously don’t think that any of you people have read the series or watched the show.

      So the women are sexualized. Okay fine, I admit that’s a problem. But if you’re seriously going to say it’s ‘anti-feminist’ just because the women are sometimes sexualized, you’ve got issues bigger than I can help you with.

      The Tyrells, which is basically a matriarchy. The women are the ones that have the power. Arya. Dany rises to power on her own terms after Drogo dies. Like, have you actually taken a look at these ladies and their characterizations and their journeys lately?

      I don’t think you have.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I’ve watched the show. It’s not feminist. Just because some individual women hold power doesn’t make it feminist. It’s really not that complicated.

      • gxm

        Oh good grief, it doesn’t matter how much “power” the women supposedly wield in the fictional Westeros. It’s how real actresses bodies (leads as well as extras) are used to satisfy and perpetuate a misogynistic, androcentric, heterosexual power structure. The sexualization and nudity of the actresses in the series is inescapably lopsided in comparison to the male actors. Compare Theon’s castration scene to Ros’ murder scene which lingers over her naked, trussed up, arrow-riddled body. Theon’s castration happens off camera. Ros’ murder scene consists entirely of her carefully staged and abused body. And you say we haven’t watched the show? Again and again and again, the actresses perform entire scenes naked while their male counterparts don’t even lose their pants when they’re castrated. The absurdity would be laughable if it weren’t that people like you are so indoctrinated that you can’t even see it.

        • SwatBot

          You’ve summarized why I’ve no use for the show and have had difficulty sitting through it. I prefer to deal with rape and sexual mutilation in a constructive way in the real world, by say donating to Doctors without Borders, calling out idiots who blame PTSD/RTS victims for their own trauma, and following reports of the real thing.. Most people out there don’t give -any- of these things enough weight in the real world, and entertainment does nothing to alleviate this problem. For example how many women are raped in our culture? What about in war zones? Speaking of castration, know that in Kenya in 2011, women’s groups were trying to have male genital mutilation recognized as a form of sexual violence, and the powers that be shut it down because apparently having your sexuality destroyed for life isn’t sexual violence? But hey, mention these things in the real world and you can hear the crickets. Shows like this do nothing at all for the above issues.

          I find it bizarre how people can hate rape jokes (you know, out of respect for trauma victims because up to 1 in 3 women are victims) and be totally a-ok with shows that normalize frequent depictions of sexual violation in the media. That, besides it all just being too conveniently perfect for the sickos out there who get off on watching violent men violate, with just enough of a (oh this is actually bad, remember?) to make you forget the moments where you have to buy into it all somehow to find it entertaining. EG making it seem that a character in the show deserves to be tortured because the character has done something terrible. Scenes of sexual torture aside. And it’s not like people actually bother to read about ethics either.

          Also I’m dubious of the so-called ‘matriarchy’.. what I saw appeared to be sexualized women merely fitting into the standard patriarchy, aka really still just a bunch of violent men.

          I personally think some watch shows like this just to turn their brains off and they really don’t think about the content too much. And I realize I’m not perfect in my viewing habits either. I’d be a little more tolerant of it if people as a whole seemed more aware of all of the above problems.

          Okay, done ranting about how much I hate GoT.

          • Leea

            You are brilliant, thankyou for this.

    • Mike

      “Oh but the menz have it hard in GoT universe too!!11!” Yeah, I’m sure there are MRA’s who would love to have that discussion with you.
      Maybe you missed all that has happened to Theon Greyjoy and further what happens in the books, or what the Unsullied actually are, or maybe the way Joffrey “remembered” Renly fondly at his wedding ceremony.
      The Song of Ice and Fire series is pretty wretched to both sexes, just the women like a lot of low fantasy novels are cast more into the dark ages roles they had. It’s an interesting blend of more low fantasy with some high fantasy elements in the dragons and white walkers.
      Arya, Cersei, and Catelyn Stark are all good examples of overcoming the odds.

    • Spiros

      i know!

      when i read the books i thought “westeros is europe, i get it. but why can’t essos have alternative cultures?” like a successful powerful society where women were equal and safe. if you need conflict, let’s say those people are even worse than we are to the old and ugly because of some weird religion.

      there are many ways to show the pain in the world. there are many cultures we can imagine (obviously, at a small enough scale, like a group of friends, many of those subcultures exist).

  • Hecuba

    Game of Thrones is another malestream porn film. Reason why the producers focused incessantly on close ups of naked female bodies is to provide sexual entertainment for the male viewers. This is why Game of Thrones sexually eroticised sadistic male sexual violence being meted out to ‘uppity women’ because it not only sexually entertains the male viewers it also reminds women ‘step out of line’ and men will enact swift revenge by putting you non-human females back in your place. That is to sexually serve men 24/7.

    Eroticising and glamorising male sexual violence against women is commonplace within malestream media and Game of Thrones is no exception.

    By the way ‘boobs’ is a derogatory term men created to describe female breasts and every time we say ‘boobs’ we are reinforcing universal patriarchal language.

    It is essential real critique of this porn film must not happen because this would mean recognising what is actually being portrayed and that is rampant male hatred/male contempt for women. It also means recognising sadistic male sexual violence against women is eroticised and promoted as ‘entertainment.’ This shows how easy it is to dehumanise women and desensitise female viewers because the scenes of sadistic male sexual violence against women are claimed to be ‘oh soo sexy and empowering!’

  • MLM

    I watched “Alien” again the other night and I couldn’t stop thinking about what a great character Ellen Ripley is and how groundbreaking that film was on so many levels. I know Ripley became a more archetypal (and masculinised) “warrior” with each sequel, but she was initially just a member in a crew of (very ordinary and human) “space truckers’, forced to try and deal with/survive an extraordinary situation, with a lethal alien aboard their freight ship. (“Alien” was also a revelation for horror films of the time, and very much tapped into zeitgeist fears about a terrifying but mysterious disease called” AIDS” which people had only just starting hearing about, but had no solid facts about).

    The argument for upholding the status quo is often based on the fact that it’s more “popular” (largely because on some level it’s familiar and unchallenging) and therefore wiser financially. But actually people seem to love it when convention is challenged and genre is transcended (if it is done well). They’re excited by stuff that seems new and original. There is still far too much “safe” marketing to (primarily) young males. Maybe women need to actively resist this and stop paying to see films/stop watching television that fails to address that fact that they do, in fact, make up half this planet’s human population, and they want to see themselves depicted onscreen as more than “womaccessories” (great expression for it @ Toni B).

    • Lex

      Wait, one of your favourite movies is one where every character (men and women) is brutality murdered including a man who is raped and dies giving birth to his rapists child?

      • MLM

        What impresses me about the movie (and the reason I brought it up) was that there was far less of the usual patriarchal power dynamics between the human characters in the film, and Ellen Ripley is about the opposite of a “womaccessory”. But your point is really interesting, actually. Maybe having a parasitic alien, which provided equal (and lethal) threat to the men and woman (in using their bodies to reproduce itself), was actually the story device that allowed for the crew to be “believably” equals? It’s probably rare to see situations onscreen where men and women are facing the very same kind of jeopardy.

        • MLM

          Sorry, should be “threat to the men and women”. (Typo. I hadn’t forgotten about Veronica Cartwright’s character).

    • amd

      Ripley was originally supposed to be a man. That’s why she’s such a great character and why we don’t want to puke or scream when we watch her. Want a good female character? Tell your writers it’s a man. Then, at the last minute, swap.

      • Spiros

        thank you for this fact.

  • Ivan Sorensen

    This is probably a pretty common thing in general: People like all sorts of stuff, so they try to fit what they like into their general world view. I’ve seen all sorts of crazy things, like communists defending pornography or conservatives claiming MLK was in fact a fiscal conservative, etc etc.

  • Rye

    While Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t feminist, I think there is a potential for its conclusion to have a more feminist ending, and I strongly believe Daenerys Targaryen has been mischaracterized. As the story progresses, Daenerys increasingly possesses power in her own right. True, she is sexualized, but men soon learn that they had better fear her. Some men also express their respect for her. In “A Dance With Dragons,” Tyrion Lannister states:

    “Daenerys Targaryen is no maid, however. She is the widow of a Dothraki khal, a mother of dragons and a sacker of cities, Aegon the Conqueror with teats…”[1]

    Even though he mentions her breasts, it is clear that he respects her and compares her to the greatest man of her lineage.

    Here, Tyrion also describes her as strong.

    “I know she is proud. How not? What is left to her but pride? I know she is strong. How not? The Dothraki despise weakness. If Daenaerys had been weak, she would have perished with Viserys. I know she is fierce. Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen are proof enough of that. She has survived assassins and conspiracies and fell sorceries, grieved for a brother and a husband and a son, trod the cities of the slavers to dust beneath her dainty sandaled feet”[1]

    Moreover, the men living in her world would be wise to respect and fear her, and keep their sexualized fantasies of her to themselves. For one, she has an army of unsullied at her command. The unsullied are elite and highly-disciplined soldiers. While they are men, they are men who have been castrated and stripped of their individuality. Although she frees them from slavery, the unsullied are absolutely loyal to her. So no matter what other men think of Daenerys, the unsullied will die for her. Combined with her dragons, Daenerys is in a position to become more powerful than any man.

    Secondly, it’s becoming clear that Daenerys may be intended to be the heroine and savior of the GoT world. As the lords, knights and soldiers of Westeros cause death and suffering to defend their king’s claim to the iron throne, Daenerys is the rightful heir of the Seven Kingdoms. Meanwhile, a brutal winter is coming and the Others/White Walkers are returning from beyond the wall. According to the R’hllor faith, the Others are servants of the evil god of ice and death, enemy of R’hllor, the god of light, heat and life. And, Daenerys is arguably the prophesied hero/heroine who can defeat the “Others”/White Walkers [2]. Moreover, Daenerys has a special connection to fire – she gave life to dragons and her skin can not be burned by fire.

    Still, there are competing theories about who Martin intended to be the hero/heroine, and whether or not the hero/heroine refers to a single individual. But if the prophesy only refer to Daenerys Targaryen, a case could be made that GoT has a lot more feminist elements than it’s been given credit for. It would then be possible to connect the aspects of R’hllor to Daenerys after she assumes her rightful place as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and triumphs over the Others/White Walkers. It would make her a kind of mother who restores life to the world of GoT.

    Figuratively, Daenerys gives birth to dragons, who have been extinct for over 150 years [3]. Keep in mind that the major reason Dragons became extinct is because a male Targaryen sparked a civil war because he didn’t want to submit to the rule of his half-sister [4]. After the last dragon died, the result was weaker magic and colder winters [3]. In other words, one man’s misogyny and greed shifted the balance of power between two deities and now the Others/White Walkers are coming to bring an eternal darkness. While this is happening, the resources of Westeros have been largely exhausted by the ongoing political conflict between men for the iron throne, which has been especially harsh for women, common and noble alike. The message: men have really screwed up and stooped very low. But by giving birth to her dragons, Daenerys symbolizes rebirth and renewal by returning dragons from extinction. Thus she is not just the mother of dragons, but, in a sense, a mother to the world of GoT.

    If I am right, then the GoT/A Song of Ice and Fire series might turn out to have a feminist conclusion. Daenerys increasingly possesses more power in her own right and has already demonstrated that she will not tolerate the common practices of war rape or slavery. With the unsullied and dragons at her side, and her status as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and heroine of the war with the Others, Daenerys would possess power so supreme that she could liberate women and there would be nothing men could do about it.

    But even if I am wrong about what Martin intends Daenerys to become when he is finished with the books, she still possesses considerable power in her own right, even if she is sexualized. It has already happened in the HBO series. Look at the youtube clip below from the fourth episode of the third season. Here, Daenerys comes to possess real power in her own right. She outmaneuvers a slave merchant selling her an army of unsullied and makes him regret his misogynous insults, orders the death of all slavers in the city, and frees the slaves and unsullied, who pledge their loyalty to her anyway. The looks on the slaver’s faces as they witness their power dissolving before their eyes is priceless. At the same time, Daenerys looks so drunk with power that she seems more than human.


    [Disclaimer] The above video displays violence. There is no nudity or violence against women, but there is a lot of men getting burned and stabbed by the order of Daenerys Targaryen for their roles in slavery.

    [1] http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Daenerys_Targaryen#Quotes_about_Daenerys
    [2] http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Azor_Ahai/Theories
    [3] http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Dragons
    [4] http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Dance_of_the_Dragons

    • Me

      These stories are really male/masculinist fantasies of power. They portray inflexibility and lack of introspection as strengths, cowardice as bravery etc. It’s antithetical to my idea of feminism, no matter who wields the power. Sexualizing power (as you described) isn’t feminist either.

      I haven’t read the books, but from your description of them I would have a problem with a “mother of the world” being a teenage girl, immaculate looking at that. I would have a problem with her having been raped, her having to clean up the men’s mess, the expectation that she in her “virginal beauty and power” could do it, her not being able to think of herself, her “thinking of herself” taken to mean being drunk with power. It’s not like all fantasy/science fiction has to be this way, or that this is in any way interesting. I find Ursula Le Guin’s work often captivating and it doesn’t enact these same fantasies.

      Max commented above how oppression and conflict creating more fertile ground for an interesting story and characters, but to me the opposite seems obviously true. There is nothing inherently interesting in these monotonous, self-repeating “grand sagas.” They need to put up a pretense of grandiosity precisely because the underlying narrative is so dull, uninteresting, lifeless, superficial and predictable. Somehow it all leads to this sterility and nothingness, which should be obvious from the start and from the portrayals of sexuality (which turn it into something else than a life-affirming force). They cover all that nothingness up by adding “tits and violence”, which obviously detract from the story, or maybe I should put “the story” in quotes. You don’t wonder why these fantasies, even from the typical male perspective, are never in the end satisfying and always need to promise more explicit nudity, more brutality and greater battles?

      • MLM

        “They need to put up a pretense of grandiosity precisely because the underlying narrative is so dull, uninteresting, lifeless, superficial and predictable”.

        That’s absolutely true. A friend of mine used to call that “sizzle over substance”. It’s the same thing when action films feature eleventy billion explosions and car chases instead of just relying on a well told, unpredictable and engaging story that precipitates the drama and the events.

      • Max

        I guess we just like different kinds of stories, Me.

      • Mike

        One of the main draws of the books is the violence that’s for sure, but it’s also that GRR Martin can and will kill your favorite characters in the most wretched and unexpected way as they play for “The Game of Thrones” (the political game to sit in the iron throne as King or Queen). It’s a series set in a dark low fantasy world where yes women often get treated like they did in the dark ages, but also includes quite a few females playing the game as well and in non traditional roles.
        The rape and sexual violence isn’t so much glamorized in the books as it is represented as a means to dominate or break someone along with the sexual violence (Theon Greyjoy and the Unsullied come to mind immediately along with some of the other atrocities Ramsay Bolton later commits) .
        The world has it’s gray characters definitely, but it also casts many into traditional black/white good/evil roles using some tired tropes as well.
        If you’re not liking the series and some of the changes it’s made (personally I think they’ve been sexing it up too much as well, even though the books do as well, not to this degree like introducing Oberyn by having him an oversexed prince who immediately grabs a male prostitutes penis, when in the books he just is bi and has as much sex as he can due to his role for example).
        The joy of low fantasy is that it handles real world issues from both current and previous times instead of sugar coating everything like say JRR Tolkien. Another good example is The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski, which while including elves and dwarves like much high fantasy tackles modern day racism by having them take the place of real world minorities throughout the series.

        • Jie

          I agree with Rye. Yes, true, the series is American and has sexualized a lot of things, and yes, the books themselves also depict the world a lot according to men’s fantasy and desires. However, rape is not undermined: Tyrion is haunted with the rape of his first love by his father’s soldiers, almost to the point of turning mad ; he refuses to commit rape on Sansa once he is married with her, and underlines a lot of times the fact that she is only a child; Daenerys, once she is Khaleesi, forbids the Dothraki to rape women; Theon, who has one of the most disgusting behaviour toward women at the beginning, is punished by emasculation, reduced to the lowest state of humanity, Jame cannot stand the idea that Brienne is in danger to be raped, we are in Sansa’s mind when she’s about to be raped…
          Surely, the setting is disturbing (well, violence too is disturbing, but we accept the fact that people are killed by the thousands because it is a fiction), and it is disturbing on purpose; but it is the development of the characters in such a background that counts. Almost none of the story’s heroes is the typical white male superhero: apart from the many women, Tyrion is a dwarf, Jon is a bastard, Sam is obese and terrified by the perspective of fighting, Bran is crippled and has to be protected by Meera. The other important male figure either die or have to change their perspective on women, or are dependent on a woman (Jaime is humbled after he has been Cathelyn’s and Brienne’s prisoner, and finally considers Brienne as a more honourable knight than himself, Stannis is manipulated by Melisandre, Tyrion becomes a slave and meets Penny, whose aptitudes to adaptation will save him, Jon is initiated to sex by Ygritte, and relies more or less on her protection on the other side of the wall; Quentin Martell comes to Easteros thinking he has a right to Daenerys’ hand and is swallowed by her dragons).
          And finally, I agree that there are failures, like a 13 years-old consenting to have sex with and feeling desire for a man twice her age; but the books also tackle women’s desire from their own point of view (even if in the end it is always Martin writing but well, he’s the author).
          You’re right in saying that a few improvements don’t make a book feminist, but really, I have never been more able, as a woman, to identify myself with real female round characters (and I really am the kind of person who gets angry at masculinist stereotypes to the point of throwing a book through the window — of course I’m subjective, but still). Yes, one’s disturbed by all these rape/brothel scenes, and the book certainly depicts the most morbid sides of the human nature, but you rejoice all the more when a female character kicks the ass or shuts the mouth of a man, just as you rejoice when any character finally escapes danger, after the three thirds of the other characters have their heads on a spike.
          Once again I’m not saying that the book is perfect but I definitely think that its narrative make it feminist, although HBO’s adaptation choices are sometimes annoying. Just my personal point of view, of course.

          • Ramona

            Well, yours is the best list of feminist moves I have seen, so kudos to you. Still, I am without time to quote/reference the many passages which ‘write rape’ from a third place voyeuristic point of view.

          • Ramona

            Kudos, great points. Now this is the discussion I wanted to have.

          • Jie

            Thanks you ! I really feel myself hugely concerned with feminism, although I acknowledge it is difficult to remain subjective about a work one really likes. Of course, there are countless extracts which objectify women: we are in Victarion Greyjoy’s mind in book 5 for example (not a big spoiler), and he keeps a prostitute with him, which he really treats like a pet/slave. He also sacrifices young men and women to the sea god (we’re still in his mind). But although the reader shares his thoughts, it is made clear that he’s a basic, brutal man. The proof of this is (potential spoiler), he believes he will bring back Daenerys like a trophee and marry her, and we know that the Dragon queen is definitely not going to end with this brute, and that he will probably be burnt to ashes and returned to his sea god before the end.
            Martin’s point, in writing ASOIAF, is to show us a world at war in all its aspects; we are in the mind of the young girl as well as in that of the experienced warrior, in the thoughts of the slave and of the ruler; the raped and the rapist; and giving access to the “bad people”‘s viewpoints as well as the “good”‘s to the reader makes Martin’s fictional world appear as complex as our own world really is. The victim viewpoint is there to remind us that abuses toward women are horrible (in the books, Joffrey is seen mainly through Sansa’s eyes; so male readers also find themselves in the mind of this fictional character who is constantly humiliated and often physically attacked, there’s NO WAY for anyone not to want to kill Joffrey), but still, a woman first sold to her husband still can be strong and become the most feared pretender to the iron throne ; an frail orphan can survive and kill strong men… And on the other side, we are also sharing the thoughts of people we have been made to hate from the very beginning (Cersei, for instance); and having access to their own motives participates in showing us a less black and white world: yes, we still shiver at the horrible things they do, but it is there to remind us that criminals are humans, not machines or green monsters not belonging to this world (as in LOTR..) ; and that the world is not black and white, especially in a time of war and harsh winter. And it makes for a much deeper introspection into human psyche than in most of stereotyped boring books, which is, I think, what fascinates everyone about it.
            I must admit, though, that having read the books perhaps influences my vision on the GoT series, and although I like it because it gives life and scenery to a world I’m addicted to, a person who only watches the series may not have the same impressions… I can’t say. What I know is that, when I leave the books, I’m left with the anguish of what will happen next to a character, if he’ll or she’ll survive, I’m in despair because two characters who could have helped each other haven’t met, I hope that families will be reunited and expect revenge on the part of characters who have previously lost everything; I dream of flying on dragons’ wings and running with the direwolves… You’ll say, very nice, but nothing to do with feminism: well I believe it has something to do with it, otherwise I would be left with an impression of mere display of pornography and butchery, which is not the case. And as far as I remember my discussions with watchers-only, they were left with the same feelings after the series, though everyone admits that the undertone is definitely gore. It may be unbearable to watch, but horror films also exist, it’s a genre.

          • Jie

            (I’m sorry I’m not able to sum up things, there’s so much to say)

            On the particular topic of feminism and the vision of women (spoiler), I believe there will be more concern with prostitution as a problem in the books: in book 5, Tyrion and Jorah Mormont meet a former prostitute who is now the powerful widow of a monarch of Volantis, and as a former slave, she transmits a message to Daenerys: “Tell her we are waiting, tell her to come soon” (chapter 27). What is expected from Daenerys is that she will abolish prostitution as well as freeing all the slaves, which she has already begun to do.

          • Jie

            Mh, now that I re-read myself I think I haven’t really answered to your point about the third place voyeuristic viewpoint. I think that it is part of Martin’s strategy to present the reader with things in a very crude way, partly to shock us and partly to tell us: this is what happens in this world, and I’m not going to filter out sexuality, be it violent or not. At the same time, it is voyeuristic, but I’m not sure that voyeurism in the book is only at the expense of women. Martin also describes Tyrion’s ugly genitals, homosexual love between Renly and Loras.. I must say I haven’t read the books since a long time, I’m short of examples.

          • Ramona

            When I took a group of students from my science fiction class to see the original “Alien,” one of the male students exited the theater with this comment, “That character should have been a male.”

            Nuff said?

            We need tons of movies which elicit this reaction.

  • Laur

    Thank you for this post, Meghan. Not everything a feminist does/likes is feminist. It does seem rather funny how *every* show and choice can be defended as “feminist” today. Is the word to have any meaning at all?

    • Morgan

      It reminds me of something the Onion did a little back: “Women Now Empowered By Everything A Woman Does.”

      • Meghan Murphy

        Ha! I remember that one. So awesome, Onion.

  • vouchsafer

    Passionately argued, rye, but don’t you get that any discussion of the tv series (not so much the books)that tries to identify subtly feminist themes is lost in the rampant misogyny of having objectified naked female bodies in there as nothing more than window dressing?

    There are minds and hearts behind those nipples.

  • Colin

    Have you read all the books? I bet you have not. Get reading, then you can judge.

    • Meghan Murphy

      According to all the intelligent people I know, the books are garbage. And why shouldn’t I ‘judge’ based on the imagery in the TV series? That’s what we’re talking about, when we talk about objectification, after all. The books are irrelevant when it comes to the choice to objectify and sexualize women on screen.

      • Morgan

        How many of the books should one be required to read, anyway? I got through the first and it was terrible. All 864 pages.

      • Salman R

        If you haven’t read the book, then why did you quote mine a line from the book for your argument’s sake?

        The line with the “breast” word in it is in context to the heat under blazing sun. Daenerys was wearing a very warm garment before that because of the tradition in that place, but then she switched back to a free flowing garment.

        There are many references to male genitalia too. There are eunuchs who have their penises cut off, and the Unsullied army which Daenerys commands now is made of eunuchs.

        It is a brutal fictionalised world imagined by the author, that’s it.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Well, because the books/the author of the books don’t seem to be feminist either. I don’t see why I should have to read a bunch of shitty, sexist books in order to argue that a TV show, based on books, isn’t feminist.

          “It is a brutal fictionalised world imagined by the author, that’s it.”
          Fine. Great. Still not feminist. What are we arguing about?

          • Lex

            And here I was thinking feminism was about equality.

          • dmol

            >I don’t see why I should have to read a bunch of shitty, sexist books

            How do you know, you havent read them.

      • Adam

        The books are garbage? Ha! They’re almost universally considered to be among the very best books in the entire fantasy genre. Do you have any idea how pretentious you sound, when you say “All the intelligent people I know say the books are garbage.” To me, your argument lost all credibility at that point.

        PS The books are phenomenal.

        • Angus

          Adam, I think that you need to refer to the title of Meghan’s post. I think, also, that I am unwilling to accept literary recommendations, or accusations of snobbery, from someone who misuses uncomparable adjectives; to you, everyone must seem a snob, hmm? The very best in the whole fantasy genre? I’m afraid you’re setting the bar awfully low here, my friend. This, in itself, is not criminal, but I’ll ask you to recall that Meghan is not making an argument against GoT’s place in the heirarchy of fantasy series, but instead, against GoT’s place on a list of pro-Feminist pop-culture items. I imagine you’ll respond with something along the lines of BUUUUUUUUT I LOOOOOOOOOV IIIIIIIIIIIT! so I believe I will say ‘good day’ to you, sir.

          PS I have read the books and they are fucking terrible.

          • dmol

            >Adam, I think that you need to refer to the title of Meghan’s post.

            He was taking issue with the contents of a comment of hers regarding the quality of the books, referring to the title would not be necessary.

            Its a valid position to consider ones views on the matter to be somewhat limited when by their own admission they have failed to read or view the entire available contents of the subject being discussed.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Oh Christ, I’ve pissed of the fan boys. Here’s a tip: If you aren’t interested in feminism, we don’t care what you think about GoT. This isn’t a GoT fan page.

          • dmol

            >Oh Christ, I’ve pissed of the fan boys.


            My comment is pretty fair.

            The fact that you are attempting to belittle it by accusing me of being a “fan boy” is poor form on your part.

            >Here’s a tip: If you aren’t interested in feminism, we don’t care what you think about GoT.

            By this logic if I am interested in feminism then in turn you would be interested in what i think about GoT. As it stands, yes i am interested in feminism.

            >This isn’t a GoT fan page.

            I never once considered it to be one, it is a page where one seems to be passing judgement without (by their own admission)observing the entire contents of the subject at hand.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Wasn’t referring only to you re: fan boys. And no, I don’t care what you think about GoT. I care about feminism.

          • dmol

            >Wasn’t referring only to you re: fan boys.

            I never claimed that you were only referring to me.

            I was only pointing out that throwing out the term fan boy about is a weak substitute to a logical counter point.

            > And no, I don’t care what you think about GoT

            You stated:Here’s a tip: If you aren’t interested in feminism, we don’t care what you think about GoT.

            The implication here is that in turn if someone is interested in feminism, then one would one take note of their views of GoT’s.

            Now you are implying that regardless of ones position on feminism their view on GoT’s is something that is pointless.

            Try to make up your mind on the issue and stop saying contradictory things.

            It is also highly arrogant and rude to express your view about something and then claim that the view of others on the matter is something that you do not care about.

            You are the one who brought it up therefore one should expect and pay attention to different viewpoints on the matter.

            Seriously, do you really think it is appropriate to engage with another person or persons about a topic in which you give your views wholeheartedly only to then turn around when they offer their views and express that their views on the matter is irrelevant.

            > I care about feminism.

            I do too, and because of this i have to say that your weak, contradictory and arrogant comments do it no service.

            Feminism is about equality, someone who genuinely cares about such a thing would accept the viewpoints of others after they have given their viewpoint about a topic which they themselves brought up.

          • Meghan Murphy

            You are literally the most boring person ever. Go away.

    • lizor

      ???? No critique of a film/tv show if it is an adaptation without reading the book? A trope adhered to by No Critics, Never.

      Sorry, you might like making up your very own rules for talking about video entertainment, but your complaint about this blog post is hollow and a bit desperate-sounding.

  • rif

    How about a reversal?

    “When he went to the stables, he wore a painted Dothraki vest and woven grass sandals. His small testicles moved freely beneath faded sandsilk pants …”

    Highlights the ridiculousness doesn’t it?
    And it is funny.

    From now on, whenever I hear any reference to breasts made for male benefit, I am going to substitute testicles or balls for breasts or boobs. Hilarity will then ensue.

  • Rye


    I agree with you that the world of Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire is not Feminist. Events in the story make it abundantly clear that it is a man’s world, after all. I meant to say that a) I disagreed with the way Daenerys Targaryen was characterized and b) the series has some pro-feminist elements and may have a pro-feminist conclusion.

    I think the main reason the series is popular is because Martin’s weaves the historical, geographic, economic and political aspects of his fictional world in to a web that seems real. I think his grasp of politics is especially attractive to his audience, because he allows them to observe elite politics in action. This allows him to move beyond the simple good/evil characterized by most literature in the sword/sorcery genre. Secondly, he heavily focuses on character development. He makes them human, no one is inherently good or evil, no one is perfect, they learn, they make sacrifices, and they face dilemmas between justice, duty, desire and security.

    While the series portrays patriarchal relations between men and women, the decisions made by his female characters wouldn’t make sense without understanding their societal expectations or relationships to the men in their lives. Of course, women are sexualized more than necessary in the books, and the tv series goes so overboard that it would seem the producers were looking for any opportunity to sexualize women.

    Although Martin seems pre-occupied with Daenerys’ beauty and sexuality, I don’t believe he portrays her as a sex object. After all, she is the last descendant of a family that regarded themselves as godlike, and she may be a deity’s chosen. True, she is an object of desire for many men due to her beauty, but a goddess can not be a sex object to mortal men.

    Also, Daenerys still has faults and undergoes a great deal of character development. With the latest book, I believe she is close to adulthood and since then has matured from a young girl who was weak-willed, dependent on her brother and his political pawn, to a confident and powerful young woman in her own right. Her power is masculine in nature, yes, but she doesn’t use it to dominate like most lords and kings do in the GoT world. As she carves out her dominion outside Westeros, she has offered sanctuary to women, prohibited war rape, opened economic opportunity to marginalized classes of people, and freed slaves from their chains. And, she has struggled to rule morally when faced with threats to her political security, and she has had to learn to compromise her moral convictions because she is not all powerful (yet). Moreover, I would argue she does a lot of introspection. For example, she had to learn how to forgive her deceased brother for the cruel abuse she received from him, relate her experiences with his to understand what drove him mad, and reason how she would avoid the same psychological fate.


    Fair enough. I think the objectification of women in the tv series goes extremely overboard, as though the directors were looking for any opportunity to do so. Moreover, the vaguely feminist themes in the books appear either neglected or expressed less explicitly in the tv series. But still, I think the tv series is starting to portray Daenerys as powerful in her own right.

    • Me

      From what I’ve seen and read now, it takes at the very least numbing to the female characters’ perspectives to enjoy the story. And that’s typical. I suppose one could enjoy parts of the story for what they are and the rest of the time be pissed and angry at the writer and well as the directors/producers for what they put forth. But you don’t seem to feel and experience the troubling elements as troubling, and that leads to this discussion going not very far.

      If you could put the same amount of effort and feeling into seeing the troubling elements in the story as troubling, as you put into trying to see them in a good light, we’d be having an entirely different discussion. This to me is the essence of every criticism I’ve ever made to your comments here.

      For instance, it doesn’t make sense when you write:

      “True, she is an object of desire for many men due to her beauty, but a goddess can not be a sex object to mortal men.”

      In the story she seems to be constructed as a sexualized girl. Therefore she very much can be a sex object to any man within the story. That’s patriarchy. Were she not also a sex object, she would not be “an object of desire for the men due to her beauty”, simple as that. And I don’t know how you consider yourself in relationship to these stories, but one of the big selling points of these fantasies is to make the male viewers into virtual gods. Therefore, she can very much be a sex object to the viewers as she most likely is to the creators. That’s part of the shared masculinist power fantasy. In relation to the male viewer, she has no power, she is made available for him to make whatever he wants of her. Again, that’s a choice that reflects how the creators saw her and wanted to make her available.

      I’m not too far off if I say that MRAs, pornographers and other misogynists try to do a similar thing to feminists or any women they decide deserve it for being too powerful. They try to construct them as sex objects and animals (bitches), and seem obsessed to scrutinize their purity/sexuality to find something, anything that would indicate they go down at least on some men, that against the odds they could be rapable by men like them. That’s again how those power fantasies play out and goes to show they’re not benign and are in fact hateful.

      “Of course, women are sexualized more than necessary in the books,”

      There is no reason to sexualize women in any way. Relationships can be sexualized, experiences can be sexualized, maybe even a person, but a whole gender no.

      “While the series portrays patriarchal relations between men and women, the decisions made by his female characters wouldn’t make sense without understanding their societal expectations or relationships to the men in their lives.”

      It is one thing to create context for someone’s actions, and quite another to use context to justify decisions one wants to make about the characters and to create a fit for some kind of masturbatory hate material.

      That is such a worn out rationalization anyway. In real life we see and hear all the time of women whose decisions would not make sense without an acceptance of patriarchal power relations. That should become an imperative to change those power relations, not an imperative to find some acceptable purpose and empowerment in those decision, insofar as they are “decisions.”

      The meaning of what you wrote changes dramatically if I leave out/change just a few bits like this: “[T]he series portrays patriarchal relations between men and women. The decisions made by [the] female characters wouldn’t make sense without [an acceptance of] their societal expectations or relationships to the men in their lives.”

      See? Now here’s the task: If you trace the part I quoted from you back to the story that called you to say it, what kind of a story would you get? Martin’s GoT most likely, a masculinist power fantasy. If, on the other hand, you trace the quote as I altered it back to a story, what would that story look like? Try that out. It could be a number of things, some such as Le Guin has written, but it would unlikely be a masculinist power fantasy. The key is, I could not write what you said about Le Guin’s stories, about the ones I’ve read anyway.

  • Shayne

    Anyone here who comments on the series while at the same time saying, “I haven’t seen/read it” automatically invalidates said comments. The story is fantasy, it’s entertaining; it has moments where both men and women are subjugated and moments where they are powerful. If you can’t stand to see or read that sort of thing, then don’t. Putting a “feminist” or “non-feminist” label on it is pointless. Putting those labels on it when you haven’t even bothered to check it out for yourself? Idiotic.

    • Meghan Murphy

      That’s ridiculous. I’m commenting on the shows I’ve watched and specific scenes. Also, the whole ‘it’s fantasy’ excuse is the laziest, most thoughtless defense you could possibly come up with. You think images don’t impact reality? Just because they’re ‘fantasy’?? How do you think advertising works? Product placement in films that are, supposedly, ‘fantasy’? Why do you think so many women hate their bodies and diet obsessively? The images we see on TV, in film, and in magazines impact our real lives, how we see ourselves, and the world around us. Give me a break. Try harder, brain-wise.

      • Swatbot

        ‘It’s fantasy’ makes it worse.. If it really is just fantasy, all that means is that lots of people find gratuitous sexual violence entertaining, and that is a depressing thought.

        • Mike

          The main intrigue is like many mysteries/thrillers with all the power moves and political plays. There are many “whodunit” moments and twists. Funnily enough one of the main players is a eunuch who was sexually mutilated and abused at a young age (Varys the Spider) who’s lack of a sexual organ makes him one of the most dangerous players.

  • gxm

    Brilliant post. Pretty much the only time you find feminism in popular culture is when it is being maligned. There is little to no feminist-infused entertainment on TV or at the movies. As for literature, I’ve reached the point of giving up on male writers. Most just don’t seem to have the ability to see beyond heterosexual male privilege, even their “strong” female characters are forced to endure abuse and objectification; it’s simply seen as the price all women (regardless of how strong, smart, or resourceful) have to pay. The ever-present male edict seems to be: The world revolves around my sexual appetite, female bodies exist for male pleasure, be grateful we gave some women speaking parts.

    I haven’t read the GoT books, have no intention of reading the series, and I’m not commenting on them. I’m commenting on the TV show, which I have followed. And what I’ve seen is actresses conducting entire scenes naked vs. male actors conducting love scenes either clothed or modestly filmed, women raped and beaten ad nauseam vs. one “almost” male-on-male rape that is quickly nipped in the bud. The (male) sexual mutilation one commenter mentioned is presented in dialog only, no visual. Even the torture scenes where Theon is (presumably) nude are filmed obliquely, whereas the (apparently) necessary brothel scenes feature numerous fully nude women including a contortionist (GoT defenders, please explain how close-ups of the contortionist’s barely concealed vulva add to the story line). Considering the staggering amount of gratuitous female nudity and the considerably less substantial male nudity, GoT is inarguably a fantasy created for and beholden to heterosexual male privilege. That anyone would attempt to claim otherwise only shows how readily most people accept male sexual privilege as the “natural” norm. As an incidental viewer (as women almost always are), the rampant objectification and abuse is very disturbing and it has made it difficult to maintain interest in the show. It’s not easy when one is constantly required to disassociate oneself from the action on the screen and, for this reason, I find myself not really caring about any of the characters. After reading the writers’ justification that they “put in the show what we think belongs in the show,” I’m even further removed. Perhaps a dragon will simply scorch the GoT earth and we’ll be done with the lot of them. A happy ending, indeed.

    That said, this post beautifully articulates the dilemma all women face, daily, in popular culture. We are so awash in this shit that we need blinders just to muddle through. And that’s okay, but let’s not kid ourselves.

    • Mike

      There is gratuitous female nudity on the show, that I will defend, there is also male full frontal which HBO hasn’t been bashful about since OZ. If they had shown the castration and some of the worse things like flaying etc from the books on the show it would also mean they would be showing scenes of bestiality which happen at the hands of the same person later on as he is just a sadistic twisted character with zero morals.

  • Rye


    True, I think you are right that I have been desensitized to violence in literature and film, which allows me to enjoy other aspects of the story without being affected by the violence. Not that I wouldn’t be disgusted by a certain level of violence, but GoT has yet to meet that threshold. And, I think you would be right to criticize the fact that men as an aggregate have been desensitized to violence, and especially violence against women in literature and film, which reinforces patriarchal institutions and norms.

    As I am having difficulty understanding you, I wonder if it has something to do with us having different conceptions of objectification? For example, it appears you are saying that “object of sexual desire” is the same as “sex object”. I am taking “object of sexual desire” to mean “a woman I find sexually attractive,” which I insist is different from “sex object.” For example, I would feel like I was living in paradise if 3 out of 10 women immediately thought of me as sexy everywhere I went. So being seen as sexually desirable doesn’t seem to be what’s objectionable by itself.

    I would feel like a sex object if, for example, I lived in a matriarchal society where I am expected to spend hours each day maintaining a “sexy” appearance for my wife, have sex with her on her demand, and am expected to consume a drug that numbs my senses to experience sexual pleasure. What I would find objectionable about having sex with my wife is the fact that it’s entirely about her, and I am expected to allow her to interrupt my life at her whim. I would also feel like a sex object if I couldn’t take the most direct route to my destination because I would encounter women who thought it was okay to make me feel uncomfortable with their staring or inappropriate sexual comments. And, if women treated me as a sexual instrument in these ways, I would feel as though women treated me as less than human, because it would mean they gave me less moral consideration than what people are entitled to.

    True, my capacity to imagine what it is like to experience life as a woman is limited due to the privilege I possess as a male, but I can not understand why “sex object” and “object of sexual desire” are the same. Although I agree that women are portrayed as sex objects in GoT, it is because they are portrayed as moral inferiors to men, which also clarifies the social status that women occupy in the world of GoT.

    While I agree that Daenerys is portrayed as a sex object in the beginning of the series, I disagree with that as the series progresses. As the story progresses, my opinion is that she is portrayed as a woman who ought to be respected, and whose body is sexy but sacred and untouchable. So, I don’t think she is portrayed as a sex object because her “sexy” aspects are not connected to a context that clarifies her status as beneath men. If she is turned in to a sex object, it is because she has been imagined in a context separate from the story.

    Still, the patriarchal context of our own society needs to be taken in to account. For one, plenty of youtube comments are from men who apparently can’t live with the fact that a woman is portrayed as powerful in her own right, so they try to degrade her by finding something faulty about her. Secondly, I can see how patriarchy is behind why Daenerys is portrayed as beautiful, and I imagine that readers might take an unattractive woman less seriously.

    That said, the author nevertheless seems obsessed with Daenerys’ body. As you say, readers are god-like because they possess an omniscience that the story’s characters do not, and it could be that the author’s obsession with her beauty objectifies her for the entertainment of his readers and himself. So while Daenerys may at some point no longer be a sex object to the male characters in the story, her creator imagines her as one. Is that what you mean?

    • Me

      “I am taking “object of sexual desire” to mean “a woman I find sexually attractive,” which I insist is different from “sex object.” For example, I would feel like I was living in paradise if 3 out of 10 women immediately thought of me as sexy everywhere I went.”

      Okay, so if three or more out of ten creepy, older gay men gave you the look that strips you down naked and tells you your only worth is in being fucked by them, you’d feel like you were living in paradise? When their reaction was immediate and obvious to you every-fucking-where you went, no matter where you went?

      As men, we don’t have the same understanding of what it means to be made into a sex object like that your whole life. It seems clear that this “object of sexual desire” you talk of doesn’t exist for women, but exists for you to make objectification feel good to you. You’ve argued the same thing to make your use of your prostitute seem acceptable.

      • Rye


        The look you describe satisfies the principle about moral consideration that I mentioned. It has a measurable impact on a person’s life, and it means that the person looked at is treated as someone who deserves less moral consideration than what ought to be afforded to a human being. It means treating them as not worthy of, for example, the right to dignity.

        So the “look” is objectionable. What’s not objectionable is the aesthetic appreciation of a person’s body inside one’s own private thoughts.

        Make sense?

        • Lilas Mauve

          If you think women don’t notice you perving on them when you believe you’re discretely “appreciating” them you’re an even more deluded pay-per-rapist than prior posts have confirmed.

        • Me

          No, it does not make sense because you don’t live up to your standard of “appreciation of a person’s body inside one’s own private thoughts” in the first place.

          In these fantasies like Martin’s men have the power to impose gender on women even when they’re considered gods. The male supremacism is that stunning and that arrogant. And you claim you don’t even see it, that somehow the objectification is conditional and not intended through and through. But these men could not write it otherwise because they’re shits, and you enjoy what they produce and would hate it if you didn’t have the opportunity and privilege to it.

          What you do in your comments is that you keep insisting on being okayed to disrespect women. I’m not going to.

          For example, nobody in their right mind would qualify an abusive look and attitude with whether it has “measurable impact” on its target or not. But you do. Men like you hell bent on protecting their entitlements do it all the time.

          I’m also pretty sure no women will be creeped out by your “aesthetic appreciation of [their bodies] inside [your] own private thoughts”, ever. As that in no way contributes to rape culture or anything like that.

        • Rye

          Lilas Mauve,

          I can understand if the man is staring at the woman, which I have already stated is wrong. But you are saying that a woman can understand what a man is thinking even if he is not looking at her direction? Even if he is looking at the floor or out the window?


          I’m not sure if I understand you. Based on what you are saying, I gather that you are trying to tell me that it is disrespectful to women to have any aesthetic sentiments with regard to human bodies? Am I understanding you correctly?

          • marv

            The true value of conceptual analysis of portrayals of patriarchy or feminism is determined by follow up deeds of social action and resistance. Idle inquiry and intellectual speculation are deeply problematic if they avoid praxis. It would be like theorizing about the ills of prostitution without committing oneself to abolition, and even worse while using prostitutes (hint, hint). There would be no integrity in such a person’s words. He would be a talking head disengaged from crushing affliction, tepid and grating like a rambling erudite.

          • Me

            “I gather that you are trying to tell me that it is disrespectful to women to have any aesthetic sentiments with regard to human bodies? Am I understanding you correctly?”

            Yes, Rye. For YOU specifically, it is not acceptable to EVEN THINK of women or children, let alone have any contact with either. You’ve made that abundantly clear. It is best if you spend the rest of your life staring at a wall.

          • lizor

            So Rye, you’re telling us that in a culture where everyone, EVERYONE, is barraged with reductive, homogenized images of sexually available female bodies, your own ogling is immune to this sort of brainwashing and you are merely exercising “aesthetic sentiments”?

            I think what’s going on is exactly as marv has so eloquently stated in response to your disingenuous BS.

          • vouchsafer

            Me, lizor and marv.

            Bear with me but I’m going to suggest Rye is somewhat a victim of the patriarchy as well.

            He certainly seems to have been indoctrinated into the whole self worth based on sex appeal school of thought. That’s why he says he ‘d love it if 3/10 women checked him out, or whatever it was. It’s all fodder for the next erection, right?
            That’s what happens in the patriarchy, modern day. Mass propaganda that dictates that the male orgasm is the most important thing, that’s why he feels frustrated and constantly seeks it out through prostitutes and doesn’t seem to get that his posts still miss the mark because they still assume that everyone has also been indoctrinated into thinking male orgasm is the only thing that matters.
            There’s so much more to life than sex. I think it’s so sad that so many porn sick people nowadays are missing out on life, on love,or beauty. Its a fucking tragedy, but who’s to blame? The owners of the means of production, or rather, whoever is profiting off of selling the lie that women are sub humans to be fucked, and that men are the sum total of only their own sexual prowess.

          • Me

            Vouchsafer, I agree with you except about asking who’s to blame. I would like to rephrase that and ask who is responsible, as in whose is it to respond to this. In the case of Rye, it’s Rye himself, or should be.

            I think you put it very well why Rye’s (or more generally men’s) idea of themselves usually isn’t a loving one. and isn’t a loving self-focus, that they’re missing out and that there is so much more to life and experience.

            One problem with addressing male entitlement through dialogue is that focusing on the entitled individual tends to feed his self-focus, which is the problem in the first place. It’s not a deeply loving self-focus as you pointed out so well, there is so much more to life like you said. But do remember, he’s been skirting around this issue in his comments here for a while now. I pointed out earlier that most of his comments are veritable how-to’s to changing his life and his relationships: he just needs to do everything he /himself/ brings up and suggests is not an option for him. Yet he keeps coming up with the same arguments, insisting that we okay behavior and attitudes that are not okay.

            ****SPOILER ALERT (Top of the Lake)****
            It happens that men who are abusive and have issues want to somehow touch on those issues and communicate about them, but not directly. In the show Top of the Lake that theme was used a number of times. In the show when the men made those mentions, it protected and helped nobody and didn’t change what they intended to do, which was to get just the same fix as before. When they were confronted, they responded with more violence and by insisting on keeping on the same track, which seems typical too. Abuse may speak of past abuse to oneself, but it’s still dead wrong and doesn’t mean the abuser to his own mind wants to stop. I know of a man whose daughter killed herself and who, to all other appearances grief-stricken, promised a new tenant girl the same age as his daughter who had previously lived in the house, to “treat her like he would his own daughter”, only to leave behind signs of unwanted visits to the house, including playing with her underwear and disappearing a pet rabbit. Perhaps Rye here is trying so hard to “love” “his” prostitute because he can’t feel loved himself. And perhaps to him the abusive act he substitutes for loving is as genuine as it gets, even though orgasms and sex are poor substitutes for love as you pointed out so well. But he knows from our responses, and I would venture to guess from his own understanding just beneath the surface, that what he does is abusive and not okay. It’s been pointed out to him it is not a loving act. If he really wanted to love this person (and himself some more instead of getting a fix), he could offer to pay her a stipend and not have any sex in return. He could try to support her and let her go her own way. Or offer a stipend to someone else or to some group where it’s easier to let them go their own way without interfering, feel good about that and start with that feeling in his heart to look for relationships and hobbies where he’s accepted for who he is, and maybe find love there.

            I think Rye’s posts often hit the mark. He draws very well the line between abusive and respectful behaviors and attitudes, it’s just that he insist on coming out the on the wrong side of that. I don’t doubt that his self-loathing and inability to love himself are real. That’s why porn culture is an easy sell, but he’s still buying.

            @Rye, there’s a book you might want to read called The Healing Path by Marc Ian Barasch, and there’s I Don’t Want to Talk About It by Terrence Real if that gets you better. They might help raise some emotions of genuine empathy towards yourself, might help with grieving what you’ve lost, but you absolutely need to turn it all out into action, into breaking the addiction, into stopping abusive behavior of your own, into respecting women who then may (want to) help you find a way home.

          • Me

            I’m sorry about my last comment. I went from agreeing to disagreeing in an ugly and mansplanatory way. This topic and trying to think of the humanity of pornsick people got to me. I don’t want to do that anymore.

          • vouchsafer


            I am at a place now where I have to focus on restoring harmony between the sexes. Yes I think it’s fucked what’s going on right now. I identify myself as radfem, which means I’ll never give up the fight to end female oppression. As I’ve mentioned, I feel like it’s a point of honor being as I have a daughter.
            I’m just at this point where I don’t want to waste my energy proving the misogyny of various instances or individuals. Yes, I know these things exist, but the time has come to focus on solutions.
            How can we get to a state where men and women live in harmony? Free from violence or sexual oppression?
            We have to move beyond the way things are right now. We have to recognize that this right here is fucked, which I think thanks to Meghan and this site and others that we’re doing. Then we have to have compassion, not just for women victims of pornsick oppression, but yes, male victims too, because in buying that whole ideology of oppression they’re trading in their ability to find true love or equally with a female mate.
            and you, Me!
            You give me hope, your a man and yet you see it too. That means there’s hope for all of us

          • Me

            What really prompted my previous response is that I dread we lose if we hesitate when our instincts tell us to attack. I dread /I/ lose if I hesitate when my instincts tell me to attack. As in movies, as in nightmares, as in waking life, with that hesitation I end up fighting ineffectively or not fighting at all, not fighting the way I may know within myself I should’ve fought. Like that mother bear. I give up the initiative, I give up trusting my perceptions and acting on them and set myself up to fail. Some kinds of compassion seem to lead to that, the wrong dysfunctional kinds of compassion most of us grow up with. From what you write I get that’s not the kind of compassion you mean, and that’s a beautiful, inspiring thing, like the point of honor you mentioned. If you know you must focus on restoring harmony between the sexes, then you should trust yourself on it. But that still doesn’t answer questions of what that means, does it? For me, right now, it was not a waste of energy to point out some of the misogyny above because it helped me along, but I understand how my doing that might feel something of an assault to you if what you needed is something else. I don’t think I have answers for you, but I hope what I’m writing now encourages and expands on that idea of compassion and finding your own answers.

            I would like nothing more than be able to help process other people’s issues for them, but mostly I just don’t see how that works out with men. I used to try that to a fault, but not anymore. For Rye, accepting his misogyny would be the first step towards taking responsibility for himself and the first step in making the dialogue meaningful, yet to do that he would have to incriminate himself somehow or otherwise take a real risk. We can’t move him forward for him any more than we already have, except through things like the Nordic model push which is important. For ourselves, I think we need more connections with “adults” to relate with and work with, at least I do. My response to you and my offered support might be completely wrong because I don’t really know what your daily challenges are and what kind of support you’d need to go forward. The only way to get to know that and to give that support properly is to know others in person. Don’t underestimate the level of support you need and deserve. What kind of encouragement and engagement would you like from us?

            On changing men, I think we men need to be stopped first to change us. We won’t build a connection with our humanity and rewire our brain otherwise, so I think the compassion that restores harmony needs to have that element of confrontation in it. We do have a death urge, not only culturally but often as individuals. It is serious. Just yesterday I saw a very sullen neighbor in his twenties smile openly and without reservation for the first time in the two years I’ve known him. I saw his face really light up when his friend pulled a stunt with his car on the main road just behind his, nearly causing an accident. What can I say. I think lasting society wide changes will come only when the old guard dies off and there’s safe space enough for a new generation of men and women to grow up not knowing all of this except in cautionary tales. I might start trying to build harmony between the sexes by asking what it would mean for children.

            In stopping us men I don’t think it helps to communicate how stopping would benefit us, because it’s not how we perceive it. It may be important for you to think of and focus on the benefits to find your way forward and be creative about what you want to do and how, but communicating to us that it benefits us to stop doesn’t make sense to us. Keeping on as we do is a benefit. So, I think compassion is very much necessary, but I’m not so sure what it means or what it should look like. I think compassion for yourself may be just as important, compassion for whatever one needs to have compassion for to stay human. Because the minute you try to stop us, we turn it into a war. And war changes both sides, or that’s the fear I think: that it only makes things worse and bogs everyone down. I’m not sure how accurate and necessary that fear is however, because it already is a war that’s shaped and formed both sides and our expectations of what we can and can’t do, of who we are. There’s more than one way to conceptualize a war and I think it might be helpful if women’s conceptualization of it was less “feminine”, because I doubt doing that would override your socialization to the point of driving you nuts and shedding your imperative for compassion. On the other hand for me to try to conceptualize war in less masculine terms is unlikely to override my socialization enough so I won’t have bad and stupid masculine ideas, impulses and responses and tendencies. I think as a warrior I will need women leaders and I will need to accept their authority on the masculine terms I’m familiar with. That’s not theoretical, it’s something I think I need to do or resolve to move forward. It seems that way anyway and it’s partly why I read and try out my responses here, because there’s leadership here I can learn from.

            As for what men trade in, I don’t think we are exactly trading in our ability to find true love and equality. (Maybe women trade that in?) From my perspective, we did not have that ability to trade away in the first place because we were raised not to know it. I’m not saying we were told nothing of it, we were raised specifically to not know it. What we are trading in is a kind of pain, a fear of abandonment and the work of numbing it. We’re trading those for ejaculations and infantilism and salvation in orgasm, for pleasure in sadism and power and having our serfs and superiority, and often for trepidation or outright fear on the faces of “our dearest” to convince us the pain and abandonment are good and deep down as well as on surface we’re violators. What we do is we make sense of the pain and the feeling of abandonment. We don’t question it, we don’t seek to transcend it, we don’t try to put love in its place. We force sense into it, ergo the porn and the death urge. So one outcome of a compassionate outlook can be to see that we, many of us, are too badly damaged to help. It’s not the only one, but sometimes it’s a sensible one. And after that there may still be pride or other things to tap into, maybe.

            I think boys especially should be taught from early on the right kind of compassion for “men who want to die”, i.e. the typical problem male. It comes with the understanding that someone who has decided to want to “die”, such as an alcoholic father, can’t be brought back by pleas. Otherwise we model ourselves after those men, in part because to “die to yourself” like your model resolves the hurt of having watched and endured and feared for him (or of him). There the work of the living is to encourage life and draw healthy boundaries that those who want to die may not cross unless they go through some ritual of death and rebirth first. Obviously girls grow up watching the same from their perspectives, but the challenges with girls may be somewhat different because compassion and self-respect are distorted differently for boys and girls. I don’t know, maybe you do? Even though I’m heavy on metaphor here, I think this is one of those things that’s easier to relate to at the level of dramatic metaphor, because it’s accurate. For instance, children of alcoholics often learn to live with a fear of death of their parent anyway, and the fear of death in those parents is often very powerful if unacknowledged, so it’s not too dramatic to talk about death. If children of alcoholics could learn to see how alcoholics often have decided to die, they could also learn compassion for themselves and have compassion enough not to try to save their parents their whole lives, because when they try to do that, they get hurt and allow their parents to refuse to take responsibility for helping themselves.

            To give one example, as a teen, when I started driving around, I didn’t see anything particular to it. It was just what we did, no particular emotions or meaning attached for my friends and me, though some thought it more liberating. Now that I see a teen of a severely alcoholic and often close to death diabetic dad starting to drive around, it’s obvious he’s shutting himself up further, adding noise and speed, further closing up the experiences he’s always kept in. I can see and articulate that now. I perceive what he does as somehow obviously suicidal, I’m sure he doesn’t. He just does it. But it’s obvious he’s nearing a breaking point, thought it could take a long time until he breaks and he might break others first. But he has to crash somehow to realize he’s at a crossroads and could take a different direction. To heal he would need support, some kind of therapy, good friends and models, as well as to get away from further traumatization, which would likely be further traumatizing in itself because it would involve breaking some of his strong attachment to the traumatizing father who blames everyone but himself for everything. The best way forward would be for the men around here to get together and make the alcoholic father stop drinking and start acting like a parent or at least like an adult. I’m not sure if I can make that happen because the will of those who have less trouble is to not touch these issues for some fear of inviting more trouble into their own lives. Adults leave the kids to deal with the shit and men leave the women to deal with the shit. Of the above forms of support, at the moment all the boy has is the compassion and support for healing and growth which he gets from women (mother, sisters), which isn’t sufficient in itself and which he seems to mostly reject, especially as his friends are in much the same situation and the (alcoholic) men around support each other and defend their way against women’s as right. It’s seems obvious that men and women working together could do so much better than either by themselves, so that the men would work together and be good models, but would also take their directions from the women and make that known. No person alone and neither group alone has the resources, physical, emotional and relational, to help the teen and others like him and his sisters heal, to stop the alcoholic and (possibly) also offer him a way to rebuild his life. If I had a solution how to get this going and knew how to fix this, I could fix about anything I’m sure. What I can come up with and get people interested in seems vastly insufficient or outright delusional. I probably need to take more risk and be reckless. In the long run it would help if people lost their faith in the economy and had to start working on their livelihoods on a local scale without money and imports. Heck, I’m hoping the net would crash permanently so men would be forced off much of their porn and people would get back into personal relationships with their neighbors again. Local power and local forces are something I can work with, but this national/transnational business is a bit much because it gives such easy escapes from responsibility while the going lasts. I’d also so like to see pensioners invest their to-be-worthless savings in young people and in some forms of sustainable employment for them, as a means of old-age support for themselves. There may be people out there who could be persuaded to do it. I also liked your business idea on your blog, I hope you can get people involved. It’s the kind of thing people need to do.

            For myself, I know I dreamed of an infant suffocating in a car and that I was supposed to help open it up. I later recognized the car and the infant and talked to the mother. This is the kind of thing I know. A couple of weeks ago when I saw four geese flying overhead, they had so many of their dead with them, I think encouraging them on. Now there were only four, but flocks must’ve been something. They still could be, they’re still trying, they need our help, my help. Any of this doesn’t answer questions of strategy or leverage, but it does answer for me where and how I need to look.

          • Me

            Btw. if anybody actually reads that whole thing, you’re all nuts! ;P

  • Patrick Henry Downs

    How can anybody think the show is feminist? I’ve watched the show and read the book and they are completely different in the way they portray the characters, not just the women. The books have sex in them but it’s always depicted in relation to a character’s viewpoint, the show is just gratuitously sexual with no context.

    • Mike

      Amen it’s an HBO ratings grab for being paid cable with overly sexing up the books to the point of old school “Skinemax” softcore porn. Excessive breasts, full frontal both male and female taking up time that could be used on the story and that were minor mentions in the books.

  • Confuscan

    How about an older male perspective? I totally agree with you. I’m watching GoT with my spouse. We’re enjoying the series. However, it’s pretty obvious that Martin wrote the story for a decidedly male fantasy-type audience. Arthurian setting, knights, virgins, whores, violence and sexual violence is all part of that gendre. If you have yet to watch it, then bear that in mind. We’re enjoying the show immensely and she has read all the books (I have not). Perhaps the ability to enjoy this and any other show is a willingness to simply enjoy the show and leave the critical assessment and dissection till later. I think back to “a willing suspension of disbelief” which includes all our personal biases. An interesting experiment would be to compare GoT to LOR which for the most part, was devoid of female characters and the sexual violence that goes with it. But that’s another story.

    It is extremely amusing to watch anyone attempt to force fit feminism into the story line or any other story line, e.g., Mad Men. Although it predates me a bit (a child in the sixties), I don’t understand the obsession with labeling the lead female characters as feminists. What they are in the show are strong female characters who struggle within a very male dominated industry (even compared to others at that time) in two different ways. I actually find their stories and background considerably more interesting than any of the other supporting characters other than Roger Sterling, and I like him because he has a seriously cool office and he always gets great lines.

    Enough said from the peanut gallery.

  • Steve

    I’m actually a little surprised to hear that some feminists think Game of Thrones is sexist. All my female friends (many of whom see themselves as feminists) who watch the show, really enjoy it. Especially those who are bi/lesbian, and like me, have a massive crush on Danerys.
    Also think it’s odd that few of you have talked about Brienne. Brienne has always struck me as a very interesting character from a feminist perspective. There’s a woman who is very competent at handling herself at activities traditionally considered masculine, in a patriarchal world. She is instinctively uncomfortable with the limited version of femininity foisted upon her by the society she lives in and struggles against it with great courage and ability.
    To be brutally honest I’ve always found it a tad depressing to see women wasting their time and breathe railing (very eloquently in some cases) against how women are portrayed in fiction, instead of spending their time and mental energy creating alternative fiction that better embodies their values.
    Ladies, If you don’t like the way your portrayed, stop whining and write something where you’re portrayed in a better fashion. If it’s any good then the audience will vote with their feet and get behind it. After all, you live longer than us and make up more than half of the viewing/reading public so what are you waiting for? Get creative already! Not doing so just plays into the hands of sexists wankers who reckon you can’t lead by example.

    • Meghan Murphy

      So, the whole point of the post is that it doesn’t matter whether or not your female friends (who may or may not identify as feminist) like the show. That doesn’t make the show feminist. Yep. The whole point. Thanks for the lecture though.

    • lstan

      my goodness if this is not a prime example of mansplaining i dont know what is.

  • Steve

    Also, since when has gratuitous sex been a bad thing, unless you’re some kind of catholic prude, or whatever. Gratuitous sex is awesome and plenty of people (women as well as men) want to see more, not less of it. If it’s done right it can further the audience’s sense of involvement with a story rather than detract from it, and from what I hear from my vagina owning mates, Game of Thrones is getting it right more often than it gets it wrong.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Are you stupid? Maybe illiterate? Sincere question. Be sure to let us know.

    • Candy

      Gratuitous is sort of an opinion. One person might say it furthers a story line or says something consistent about a characters’ personalities (for instance, one could interpret the graphic sex scenes in the film Lust, Caution as a breaking down of boundaries and taboos between the characters in a wartime, or one could say we only needed one of these scenes to “get” it).

      Done right is far too subjective as well. More gratuitous sex in a TV show? I’m not bothered by depictions of sex on TV (except for maybe a few scenes on Girls, gag puke vomit), but I don’t think gratuitous anything, be it violence, dialogue, you name it, is warranted, because gratuitous implies it doesn’t contribute to the artistic vision.

      • Meghan Murphy

        OK so, we are all aware that the problem is not ‘gratuitous sex’, yes? The problem is rapeyness, objectification, naked women as wallpaer, etc.

    • RainbowBryte

      I wouldn’t be as against it if the random naked women walking around had anything to do with the storyline, and if maybe we got to see a naked man every once in a while also. Seems the balance is thrown off, the guys get to see pornstars (seriously there are at least 3 pornstars in the cast that I know of). And women get to see the occasional guy butt. I guess it annoys me less if everyone is being objectified and not just one gender.

    • lstan

      the problem here is the term sex and how its used in this context. what we are talking about here isnt really sex-its a pornified version of sex which is naked women objectified and degraded for the male gaze, not actual sex which is a mutal loving exchange. my goodness did you even read Murphy’s article? really-you say GOT is getting it right in regards to sex? dipciting rape, women being beaten and degraded as getting it right? yeah, you really do sound like a mysoginist fanboy mansplaining. go back under the bridge troll.

  • Candy

    I haven’t seen the show nor am I interested in it so I can only take your word for it. Naked women as wallpaper sounds unappealing, but I was just referencing his post.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I know — mostly just clarifying for Steve 🙂

  • Hysterical Dark

    As someone who actually enjoys The Lord of The Rings movies and medieval fantasy settings, when I heard of GoT for the first time, I thought it would be something awesome, with lots of battles and nice dragons…well I don’t care anymore if GoT has nice battles and dragons, your post made me tottally lose my interest in this series. And I thank you for that, really. As if the series/anime/videogames I consume don’t have enough sexism already ó_ò

  • Rye


    After further thought and research, I’ll clarify what I said using more feminist language I found. I believe you said that I was neglecting the interaction between the reader and the character by narrowly focusing on the interaction between the characters. So even if a female character is not portrayed as a sex object to other characters, a misogynist reader still will imagine her as such. In reply, I said that that isn’t the fault of the material.

    But okay, you have a point. Moreover, Martin makes it easy for Daenerys to be objectified because he portrayed her as a sex object earlier in the series, and even after she becomes powerful, he still gives the reader privileged information about her sexuality.


    I understand why you might think I am lacking integrity. Except, I have consensual and mutually pleasurable sex with the prostitute I frequent. Secondly, I do not and will not purchase sex from a woman other than her.

    In light of this, the best counter argument anyone has given me has amounted to “it’s anti-feminist.” Well, a lot of things are anti-feminist, like women’s cosmetics and marriage. That doesn’t stop all feminists from doing them. So by itself, because it’s anti-feminist sounds like a dumb reason to stop. I would see your point if I, say, hurt or degraded her, or her bodily autonomy was violated, but that is not the case.


    I can experience aesthetic pleasure from either a male or female body. Although I am heterosexual, that is not what I think of as ogling. Ogling includes staring and creepy. It is rude and disrespectful.


    I suppose you’re largely right about sex appeal. I wish I had more of it, at least then I would have had an easier time dating (I think).

    You also have a point about male orgasm. I used to think that women rarely liked sex, and most would be asexuals if men weren’t around. So I thought a quicky was sex and it explained all the stories I heard from husbands who complained that their wives never wanted sex sometime after they had kids. Thus, I thought it was normal for a woman to just lay there, as long I didn’t hurt her and it was consensual. However, that is not satisfying sex, and I think it has a perverse way of making a man crave for more sex.

    But since I found the prostitute I now frequent, I will call her K for simplicity, experience taught me that sex just isn’t sex without the female orgasm. To see K look all reddish/flushy, sweaty and relaxed, and naturally soaked… is amazing! And when it’s my turn to orgasm, she is in to it – she’s on fire! What’s also amazing is to see her face tell me that she likes it when I rub her clit, and the closeness I feel with her. It doesn’t matter that her orgasm takes 5x longer than mine, nor does it matter that I feel less sensation. The closeness and her “look” are worth it. PIV just doesn’t feel right if she doesn’t look the way she does after orgasm.

    Sorry for the porny description. But it had to be said to illustrate how unconvinced I am that I am abusing K. Really, it utterly flies in the face of experience.

    Moreover, I think I love K (I am reserved because it’s a different kind of love than what I have for relatives, close friends or women I had crushes on). And I know it sounds odd, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with loving a prostitute.

    • Candy

      “Well, a lot of things are anti-feminist, like women’s cosmetics and marriage. That doesn’t stop all feminists from doing them.”

      I don’t think cosmetics necessarily have to be anti-feminist. Granted, I certainly don’t think of rubbing on some foundation and concealor before leaving the house and rinsing it off when arriving home as empowering acts, and it’s beyond bothersome the amount of beauty conditioning present in society, but I don’t think that invalidates that just like fashion, it can be a way to express yourself. I don’t think there’s anything anti-feminist about wearing purple lipstick or glittery eyeshadow (aka, cosmetics not meant to hide perceived flaws) in theory, as long as in practice you don’t feel compulsed to wear them.

      The hard part is really knowing if you feel compulsed or not. I don’t believe many choices we make are truly for ourselves, as very few people get fancied up in the privacy of their own homes, for their eyes only.

    • ginrosewater

      “Sorry for the porny description.”

      Fuck you and your one-handed posts, I don’t think you’ve ever been sorry for sexually forcing yourself on women.

    • elise

      Rye, I’m moved by your honesty here, but you have to know this one very simple truth: prostitution, as an institution, is one of the most damaging things to ever happen to woman kind. You are doing your K no favors by ‘patronizing’ her services.
      The commercialization of sex, predominately women’s sex, is based on the principle that market forces supersede a woman’s choices regarding sex, and it is this commercialization that fosters a growing demand for coerced sex, and thus human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
      The idea that paying a prostitute for sex is some kind of mutually consensual, clean business transaction is a myth.
      It is rooted in a deeply misogynistic principle that male orgasm trumps all other human needs in importance, and by partaking in sex-for-money you are enforcing an economic demand for sex that comes at any cost.
      Since you are keen to research, I suggest you research what I’m talking about, there’s a sea of credible literature on this topic.

  • q____q

    GRRM a feminist, I facepalmed. Just like Jim Butcher, Abercrombie and all the other rape-culture fantasy authors.

    • Leea

      Exactly this, thanx

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  • Thank you for putting into words some of the thoughts I’ve had about GofT. I’ll admit I have not seen the show, but I’ve read the books. And I really do like the books. I know that Martin claims to be quite feminist, and many of his female characters rock… but as in the show there are many “female props” for many of the male characters.
    And the female characters who don’t conform to gender roles have a lot of bad shit happen to them (even some of the ones who do stick to gender roles have bad shit happen to them.
    He did invent his world after all. It was in many ways a choice to make it as patriarchal a society as ours.

  • pkgo

    How come I don’t see writing like….”When he went to the stables he wore a sandsilk vest and grass sandals on his feet. His small, fuzzy balls moved freely inside his loose riding pants.

    • RainbowBryte

      OMG that made my night!

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  • RainbowBryte

    I agree that the show goes way overboard with the sex stuff. Its HBO so I should have expected that I guess. They just look for any excuse to show “titties”. I watch the show and I do like the show to an extent but the show is in no way feminist! Maybe I would be less judgmental if they would show a sexy naked man here and there. But they don’t.

    I do have to say though, because I saw people insulting the books. Saying they had never read them but that they are garbage and such. The books are not the same as the tv series. Every other page doesn’t have naked women prancing about. And there is not constant rape. On the show they have Dany raped by Drogo after they get married. It did NOT happen like that in the books. He was actually super nice and concerned for her needs and she consented COMPLETELY and was not sad about it. I have NO idea why HBO decided to change it to a rape. That always bothered me 🙁 Also the stuff with Joffery and the hookers never happened in the books although he did assault Sansa by ripping her dress off and Tyrion came in and chewed him out for acting that way. Joffery is not meant to be cool or a hero, nobody likes him because of the messed up shit he does.

    Now there are some descriptions of rape happening in the book. But its more a character in the book hearing about rape happening, not really any rapes I can think of happening within the main storyline (if that makes sense) and it is not meant to be looked upon in a sexy way. Oh wait, except for when Dany sees the girls getting raped and stops it. I think George RR Martin including things like rape, torture (worst of the torture was actually done to a male character), and violence was more of an attempt to show how messed up people can be, not to glorify these things. Though the show just seems to miss most of that in their constant need to show naked women in every other scene.

    Oh and lots of crappy things happen to men in the books. Eddard is beheaded, Robb is killed has his head cut off and the head of his dead pet wolf sewn onto his body. Verys had his genitals cut off by some crazy guy when he was a kid. The unsullied are all sexually mutilated at a young age. Men are burned, skinned alive, have body part chopped off. Theon is captured and tortured for a very long period of time to the point where he barely even seems to have any humanity left in him. I’m just pointing this out for anyone who says the books are misogynistic, they are not. It was a misogynistic time but horrid things happened to everyone. There are more descriptions in the books of violence against men than women.

    Also when you realize how horrid the world they are living in is and the things these women have to face it makes you appreciate them even more for their strength.

    But I do agree the show is crap. Just felt the need to defend the books a bit

    • Amanda

      Dany was 13 ffs. In Dany’s chapter (the second/third one?) we see her brother pinching her nipple, saying he would sell her and let Khal Drogo’s entire army and their stallions to rape her if it meant him taking his kingdom back (idk), and then Drogo grooms her (she is 13) (she is 13 I repeat) (attention she’s 13) (do you think it would be okay for a grown man to have sex with a 13 yo girl child because she “enthusiastically consented”?).

      Go out on the street. See any 13yo girl. Now imagine her in Dany’s place. It was rape. Dany’s entire storyline was centered on her Stockholm Syndrome. Ffs I always see feminists defending Drogo and Dany’s relationship in the book because “it’s not rape”. Can you actually understand what you’re implying?

      Also do you understand what you’re implying with this “most bad things are done to men characters”? Men do bad things to men in this novel and in the real life, and men to bad things to women in this novel and real life. Does it mean women and men suffer the same? Does it mean that their opression is the same? They’re very different things.

      • elise

        Thank you Amanda!! I reiterate my earlier comment, in a way the book depiction is worse because it gives sick men a justification to molest 13-yr-olds, as long as they you know, ‘do it right like Drogo did.’ Ugh, revolting.

      • Leea


    • lstan

      “I’m just pointing this out for anyone who says the books are misogynistic, they are not. It was a misogynistic time but horrid things happened to everyone.”

      was it now? what time was this-because i dont recall a time in history with dragons flying about the place. i think the issue here is that you dont fight misogyny with more misogyny. if people want to like this series fine-but when they start saying how women should feel “empowered” by this sort of thing thats when shit hits the fan.

      • Leea

        Hell yes!!!

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  • nca

    Thank you for writing this blog post. I’ve read all of the books, and watched all of the episodes of the TV show, and I’ve mostly enjoyed it as entertainment. That said, I’ve felt very conflicted about the portrayal of women in GoT. When I Googled “Feminist response to Game of Thrones,” hoping to gain some perspective on how other women felt about it, I was very disappointed that the BuzzFeed list was the first thing to come up– “less rape” does not make something feminist. I was also really surprised and disappointed that the show creators/producers couldn’t come up with a better response to the (valid) criticisms. There are many examples of sexual/violent scenes that are not essential to the plot, were not in the books, and only exist for gratuitous reasons, including the one you cited in your post, which forced you to turn of the TV. I enjoy being entertained like everyone else, and there are sexual/violent moments in the show that I actually enjoy, like when a villain gets some kind of payback; but frankly, the moments that make me wildly uncomfortable far outnumber the enjoyable moments, and the examples of consensual (not for money) sex between two (un-related) adults can be counted on one hand. I love the strong female characters in the book, but it feels like when GoT takes a step forward with a great female character, it takes two steps back with each incident of gratuitous sexual violence.

  • Seth

    So in a show where knights are brutally decapitated in all sorts of manners. Be it rocks, mauls, or swords. People are burnt alive. All of this is happening in this show. And what is on the “Feminist” mind. The over sexulation of women. It just blows my mind. It’s actually a pretty strange phenomenon in america. Parents let their kids play violent video games like call of duty and god of war. But the minute nudity or sex is on the back of the game they flip out.

    Whatever. I found the sex that the developers added into GOT’s that wasn’t meant to be their originally to be very distasteful. But to think that they’re people who do not mind violent shows like game of thrones until there is nudity.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I know, right? Worrying about violence against women is such a waste of time.

      • Seth

        What do you mean worrying about violence against women in a fictional story? What about violence against men. Men are going out and getting hurts in all sorts of manners? You would have to be sexist to only see this type of entertainment as damaging to women only. And the OP and the rest of the people on this blog have not even discussed misandry in this.

        • Seth

          In fact. In one point in the story a guy has his genitalia chopped off. Had this been a women this would have gone WAY over the line and would have had to been taken off from the show. But because its a man they were allowed to keep this on air.

        • Meghan Murphy

          You could have saved a lot of time and space by just writing: BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MENNNNNN.

          Go troll elsewhere. It’s super boring.

          • Seth

            No I just find it incredible that feminist push for “equality” and do not try to better both men and women. The label “feminism” is appropriate. It looks at womens problems. There is something there for people who actually want to better our world. Egalitarianism.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Oh good. Boring AND stupid. Honestly. Stop posting here. You have no idea what you’re talking about and it’s embarrassing. Stop wasting everyone’s time.

        • we men get hurt by other men, men who most probably loves series like game of thrones and sits and get a boner, more often than not, when they see a female body on display for their male gaze.

    • lstan

      probably because, seth, in the real world, decapitating people is pretty much a big no no and condemned by society. however viewing women as objects is not (in fact there are many big industries who make money off of it) and the consequence of this objectifycation is felt by many women-just go ask a rape victim.

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  • Zoltán

    Sorry in advance for making some unorthodox comments here, but I was a bit surprised by this post and by most of the comments. I can live with the idea that neither the novels nor the series are feminists, but I got the impression that it is an unfair exaggeration to say that Martin’s female characters are no more than sexual objects or that violence is present in the novels due to some sort of voyeurism. You should not forget that the show is completely different from the books in many respects, and the depiction of the female characters is one of the most important differences between them. In the book, the major female characters are very complicated, and they play interesting and important part in the story. Admittedly, they have a very strong sexual characterization and – to say the least – they are in a socially unequal status in their world, but you should not ignore the fact that Martin’s world is a dystopia, not a utopia. The world of the novels is full with injustice, oppression, violence, and it is described with strong criticism. There are no unequivocally positive characters in the novels, and with the exception of some pure evil figures, all of the characters are complicated people who are all subject to their passions, irrational instincts, and – this is important! – make explicitly wrong choices all the time. I was always convinced that the NOVELS have an old-fashioned humanistic moral commitment (you should feel the fragility and vulnerability of the “human condition” when reading properly the novels), and I think that you can even say that Martin’s depiction of females is based on some “liberal feminist” vision of humankind (females being neither better nor worse than males), but this vision is put into a dystopian context. If you ignore this context, you can easily misinterpret the female characters by overlooking the fact that some essential features of the female characters are due to the dystopian nature of their world, not to their femininity. To sum up, I think that Martin’s novels are not feminist perhaps, but you should not make the mistakes of confusing the novels with the series or of ignoring the dystopian context of the female characters of Martin.

  • lastofthegiants

    Pleas describe for me a show that is feminist. Is it something that criticizes patriarchy and shows how it damages both the men and women who live in that system? Does it show women in positions of power doing better than their male counterparts? Does it have female characters with as much ability as their male counterparts, whose success are even more impressive because of the system within which they live? Does it have female charters who embrace gender norms, are disillusioned with them, totally reject them, and stretch their limits? Please see Game of Thrones. Yes, their is gratuitous nudity and sex, its the weakest part of the show, but their is gay male sex, shirtless men, and physically attractive men as much as their are naked women. Yes their is sexual violence, but this is depicted as disgusting and horrible. The sexual violence shows how people can become desensitized to it, shows how messed up the Middle Ages were, and shows that some evil men men are overly aggressive and utterly stupid. The fact that men usually (definitely not always) think of dany in a sexual way is a flag to the modern audience that these men are backward, dumb, and their overconfidence and arrogance will play a role in their inevitable downfall. I also really dont see the difference between the background nudity in GOT and Lena Dunham disrobing for Girls.

    • Meghan Murphy
      • lastofthegiants

        Fair enough, but the fact that the nudity was directly folowing intercourse seems to be still sexualizing and objectifying lena. She is just like the prostitues, someone willing to be naked and have
        Sex. Obviosly most whores probably arent there by choice nessacarily, but ros certainly is potrayed that way.I don’t really see why anyone would have a problem with seeing naked women on screan if they also have kit harington moping around shirtless and blowing ygritte. Its not a feminist thing, its just an anti porn in tv, which agree with. The focus in got should be on the excellent story and character development, not sex.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I don’t have a problem with intercourse or depictions of sexuality and sex — I have a problem with objectification and sexualization. Those are different things.

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  • Bailey

    I consider myself to be a feminist. And there are some issues that the feminist in me has with the show. But all in all, I do think that Game of Thrones is a feminist show.

    I really don’t understand the argument of “there’s rape, therefore it’s not feminist.” Rape is horrible, and people who rape, as well as rape-apologists, truly piss me off. But this takes place in a very sexist world where women are told to sew and men are told to fight, where men inherit all the power and women are married off often against their will. That is the setting. That is not “we think these things are good.” That is where the story takes place, and it isn’t all that unrealistic either. This is a world where rape is extremely common. What matters is not so much the presence of rape in this fictional world as how rape is portrayed. Now, one thing that I do have a problem with in Game of Thrones is Khal Drogo’s rape of Daenerys, especially the one on her wedding night (which was not actually in the books; in the books, Drogo does not rape Daenerys on her wedding night. It was concentual. The subsequent rapes do happen in the books, but not that first one.) I do agree that that whole dynamic is problematic. But overall, rape is portrayed in a very negative light. Sansa is nearly raped, and it is a highly emotional and traumatic scene. Daenerys makes a point to ensure that the Dothraki stop raping women after raiding villages. Yes, Joffrey does force two prostitutes to beat each other in an extremely sexually violent way. Joffrey is also the most hated character in the show. If the show has a villian, it is Joffrey. So he is going to do despicable things, to make you hate him more. And that scene showed Tyrion that Joffrey is, in fact, a complete sadistic psychopath. Theon is threatened with rape and has sexual violence committed against him, as part of his torture. But again, this is TORTURE. Brienne is almost raped, and Jaime proves, perhaps for the first time, that he truly does have some decency when he saves her, losing his hand for it. Those rapists are portrayed as completely despicable. With the exception of Khal Drogo (which I’ve already stated is a problem), ALL rapists are shown as awful, and rape on this show is NOT brushed off as not a big deal, but shown as a highly traumatic and horrible thing. I do not think that it is any more feminist to pretend that rape never happens or to ignore the issue, especially in a setting like this.

    I do know what you are saying about the excessive nakedness in Game of Thrones, and I agree. There is far more female nakedness than male nakedness, and I agree that it is problematic. I do know that they are trying to fix that, and hopefully they will be successful. So yes, that is another point that they do need work on.

    What makes Game of Thrones feminist? There are several things. First off is that, despite the fact that they are in an extremely sexist setting, the women in this show hold their own and are just as powerful as the men, even if they often have to be more sly about it. Do you really think that Joffrey or Robert Baratheon ever ran anything? No, it was Cersei who always had the real power. What about Catelyn, who ventures out on her own to gain allies for her family, to capture Tyrion Lannister, etc.? What about Brienne, who breaks all social norms by becoming a knight despite the fact that her male counterparts all sneer at her? What about Margaery, who, through her own agency, fools (most of) the Lannisters and climbs her way up to gain power? What about Arya, who survives against all odds through her own wit and her own abilities? What about Daenerys, who starts off as a pawn in her brother’s foolish games and, through her own determination, compassion, and power, becomes the head of an army and a serious competitor for the throne? What about Sansa, who manages to stand strong despite being the captive of the Lannister family, who is tormented on a daily basis? Which brings me to another point; the female characters on this show are all multi-dimensional and fleshed out. They are not archetypes. They are not simply “a girl who runs an army,” as you so kindly put it. They are deep and complex, with flaws and skills and strengths and weaknesses and pasts and futures and goals and fears. Not a single one of these women is simply “a girl who runs an army.” They are just as powerful and complex and multi-faceted as the men.

    I’m sorry, but it almost sounds like you are actively LOOKING for reasons that the show isn’t feminist. It sounds like you WANT to be a victim. It sounds like you WANT everything to be anti-feminist so that you can shout and complain. That is NOT what being a feminist is about, and it makes the rest of us look bad. The rest of us WANT there to be progress, not just to be able to complain about how oppressed we are. Do you see how I’ve laid out my argument? I acknowledged that Game of Thrones is not perfect in its feminism, but I have also explained why, all-in-all, it does have a feminist leaning, especially in comparison to most media out there, where all the female fighters wear next to no armor and have next to no personalities other than being hot because she is fighting, or where all women are shallow damsels in distress, or are extremely rare beings.

    I agree that just because you like something doesn’t mean it’s feminist. But at the same time, just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it isn’t feminist.

    • Bailey

      tl;dr: The presence of sexual violence is not as important as the portrayal of it, and for the most part, Game of Thrones portrays rape as a horror. It is also realistic in the setting. I agree there is too much female nudity, and hopefully they will be successful in fixing that. What makes it feminist is the fact that the female characters are realistic, and are just as powerful as men despite an extremely sexist world (and also, an extremely sexist setting does not mean that setting is shown as a good thing).

    • Meghan Murphy

      “I really don’t understand the argument of “there’s rape, therefore it’s not feminist.”

      That’s not the argument. There can certainly be portrayals of rape on film and in television that are feminist, meaning don’t sex up rape or don’t promote rape culture.

      “I do know what you are saying about the excessive nakedness in Game of Thrones, and I agree. There is far more female nakedness than male nakedness, and I agree that it is problematic.”

      It’s not about “nakedness” so much as it is about objectification. And a show that objectifies women isn’t feminist.

      • Elise_86

        “Now, one thing that I do have a problem with in Game of Thrones is Khal Drogo’s rape of Daenerys, especially the one on her wedding night (which was not actually in the books; in the books, Drogo does not rape Daenerys on her wedding night. It was concentual. The subsequent rapes do happen in the books, but not that first one.)”

        I’m sorry, a fully grown adult having sex with a 14-year-old cannot in any way be misconstrued as consentual. That is the molestation of a child. Period. Why does this argument keep coming up about the “consentual” nature of that scene in the book? I found the overall “consentual” tone presented in the book to be the most horrid of all, as Martin was clearly and blatantly romanticizing sex between a grown man and a child. At least in the HBO presentation there was no question that what was happening on the wedding night was in fact very wrong.

        • lastofthegiants

          The later nights were rape, and were clearly portrayed as rape, and as a morally wrong act. The first night was not this. Love, or the enjoyment of sexual pleasure, is not limited by age, gender, or almost anything else. Its fairly simple to understand, childhood is as much a social construction as it is anything else. In a world where childhood does not exist after the age of ten at best, both Dany and Drogo are adults. Drogo treats Dany lovingly and with respect on their first night, in an almost ceremonially and clearly culturally significant way. It is tonally consistent with the whole series, the romance and beauty and honor and splendor of the medieval world sharply contrasted with all the truly awful and horrible and disgusting parts. Please actually read the passage from the book if you have not already done so.

          • Elise_86

            You have got to be joking. A) I’ve read all of the books and know perfectly well what I’m criticizing. B) Are you mad?!

            “Love, or the enjoyment of sexual pleasure, is not limited by age, gender, or almost anything else. Its fairly simple to understand, childhood is as much a social construction as it is anything else.”

            Welcome to every pedophile’s national anthem. In Yemen, girls as young as 8 are married to fully grown men. So are you saying in Yemen childhood ceases to exist after the age of 7 and that the sex on those wedding nights is between two adults? I mean, it’s their culture no? Read:


            No sweetheart, childhood is not a social construction, it is a period of development with many psychological and physiological indicators.

            The fact that you’ve been seduced by the language surrounding this scene in the book merely reinforces my indictment of it. There are some earlier comments on this subject in this thread that I suggest you read if you have not already done so.

          • lastofthegiants

            I mis-wrote my original comment, apparently. I was not suggesting that childhood was purely a social construction, rather that it was a factor of equal importance to those you mentioned, and others. Dany is not a 7 year old girl, she is 14 years old, and is able to bear a child. The scene adds nuance to the relationship between her and Khal Drogo, she not just raped, nor is she treated like a pretty little angel. She does not need any white knight to come rescue her, like you are suggesting these girls in Yemen need. I was not seduced by any language, I interpreted the scene the way it was meant to be, a beautiful and romantic experience that is then undercut by Drogo’s subsequent inattention and marital rape. You are projecting your own modern beliefs as to what you believe childhood and marriage should be on a world that has almost no understanding of said ideas. This is not portrayed as a positive in the books. As a teenager myself, I refuse to believe that I cannot experience love or sex because I have not been magically altered yet on my 18th birthday, so that what would have been legally considered rape a day ago is now consensual sex

          • Elise_86

            Ahhh, now I understand. Dear one, you experiencing or discovering things with another teenager is another matter entirely. You being taken advantage of/molested by someone more than twice your age would be very different. I’m not projecting my beliefs onto a fantasy world, I’m leveling harsh and justified criticism against an author who lives and breathes today in the real world, an author who knew exactly what he was doing when he constructed that scene and the results are catastrophic.

            The fact that you, a teenager, experience that scene in the book as desirable, romantic, tender, is tragic. It’s exactly why I find it so problematic.

            This is what Martin has done, created a context for the permission of sexual relationships between children and adults, and therefore has made children/teenagers who read the books even more mentally vulnerable to sexual exploitation than they already are, and emboldened adult male constituents to further sexualize young people, teenagers who’s youth should be celebrated, not exploited.

            You can and will experience all the joys life has to offer, but it should be with your peers, those in your age group, for yet a while longer.

          • lizor

            “I interpreted the scene the way it was meant to be, a beautiful and romantic experience that is then undercut by Drogo’s subsequent inattention and marital rape.”

            Ummm … this sentence is very revealing. A “beautiful, romantic experience” wherein one of the two people sharing that experience commits “marital rape” and is inattentive IS NOT BEAUTIFUL AND ROMANTIC. Just that. It’s like saying “The doctor provided excellent care except that he drugged and raped the patient while she was unconscious”.

            Marital rape and even benign inattention are incompatible with intimacy, love, respect; they cannot, by definition, be a part of a “beautiful romantic experience”. I hope you can understand this and do not end up learning it the traumatizing way as far too many of us have.

          • lastofthegiants

            There is no marital rape.

            “He stopped then, and drew her down onto his lap. Dany was flushed and breathless, her herat fluttering in her chest. He cupped her face in his huge hands and looked into her eyes. “No?” he said, and she knew it was a question. She took his huge hand and and moved it down to the wetness between her thighs “Yes” she said as she put his finger inside of her”

            Consent has been asked for, consent has been received, and the primary sexual act is specifically for Dany’s pleasure, not the consummation of the marriage. Dany interprets his No as a question, and when faced with this decision, she says yes. It is not portrayed as rape, it is not meant to be rape. Yes, she was essentially sold, but in this instance, she explicitly allows Drogo to have onsensual sex with her.

          • Lo

            How old was Dany ?

          • lastofthegiants

            She was 14 years old, a woman grown and flowered. Game of thrones is based on the War of the Roses, a real life dynastic conflict in England between two branches of the royal family, the Lancasters and the Yorks. Anne Neville, who eventually became the queen of all England, was married to Edward of Westminster at the age of… you guessed it 14. Dany is considered by absolutely no one as a child. The age is historically accurate. In the society in which she lives, she is considered an adult. She has basically the same biological and cognitive capacities of a woman she is considered to be a woman by everyone, she is asked if she wishes to have sex and agrees, initiating the first actual sexual act. I can not stress this enough, your concept if what being an adult is does not matter. The definition of what makes an adult is arbitrary even today. She considers herself an adult, everyone else considers her an adult. NOT RAPE.

          • jo

            Just because men would marry 14 year old girls during the patriarchal Middle Ages doesn’t make it OK. Women were basically considered men’s belongings so of course they often would be married off quickly, as other ways of supporting yourself while being female were more scarce.

            “She has basically the same biological and cognitive capacities of a woman” – real teenagers don’t. Their brains haven’t finished developing yet. A relationship between an adult and a young teenager is in no way equal.

            I agree with others who say that the author has to take responsibility here. It’s a very bad message to send, that 14 yo girls want to be penetrated by adult men. My experience is that they’re usually interested in making out with other teenagers and fantasising about hot idols from a safe distance. Don’t give predators any extra fuel.

          • Elise_86

            Dany was actually 13, it’s written on the first page of the first chapter where she’s introduced in the first book. Not that it makes that much of a difference but we might as well clear it up.

          • Elise_86

            “She considers herself an adult, everyone else considers her an adult. NOT RAPE.” from the comment below.

            Again, nope. Let’s let alone the tenants of reality for a second, which indicate with utter clarity that Dany’s wedding night was a grown man molesting a child.

            Even in the context of GOT the age of 13 is still considered childhood, don’t forget why Tyrion ultimately abstains from consummating his marriage to Sansa, as he says “you’re a child.” So clearly, there is allowance for some kind of rationale toward age in this series. Though that scene is still creepy as we’re all made blatantly aware that the man wants her, but at least he endeavors to do the right thing.

            So no, no, no no a thousand times no, DANY WAS A CHILD, NO MATTER HOW YOU SLICE IT.

            And I also see no evidence anywhere leading up to that scene to suggest that she considers herself an adult.

      • gxm17

        Fully, sometimes partially, clothed men having sex with entirely nude women is a form of objectification. In the real world, I have found that men, for the most part, are the first to doff their clothes, for just about any *good* reason, not just sex. The fact that so many male characters play a scene clothed while the woman (or women) are stark naked proves that these scenes are written and performed for the all-important male gaze. This form of conditioning—in which sexual depictions in fiction are created to titillate and satisfy the male sexual appetite—is effective at keeping men (and women) desensitized to the absurdity and degradation that pervades the oppressive, patriarchal view of human sexuality.

        It’s interesting that the only time (that I know of) where GoT has shown full frontal male nudity was during a homosexual sex scene. Again, maintaining the patriarchal ideal that men are the intended audience when it comes to sex on film.

        When the GoT series writers abide with the patriarchal doctrine that the purpose of women’s bodies is for men’s visual entertainment, these *artistic* liberties reinforce among women viewers that as viewers we are secondary at best, and that our sexuality is so limited as to be pretty much non-existent except to satisfy men. Which, to tie back in to your recent post, is one of the main indoctrination devices that created, and now sustains, “sexist positive feminism.”

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  • It’s sad that for something to become popular nowadays in the media it seems to need to be filled with sexualized violence, objectifying nudity and graphical violence all over the place.

    This says a great a deal about the mental state among us civilized humans, ugh.

  • amongster

    just found something…seems like even fans get more and more outraged – even though i’m not sure if for the right reasons (trigger warning!): “Is “Game of Thrones” Obsessed With Sexual Assault?” http://blogs.indiewire.com/criticwire/game-of-thrones-season-4-episode-2-breaker-of-chains-cersei-jaime-rape

  • Kimberley

    I think it’s a matter of opinion. As a huge game of thrones fan I am not insulted by how they treat their women. Obviously, the series is set at a time where there were clearly defined roles between men and women. Today, all men don’t go out fighting all of the time? It’s not real, and I don’t think it would be released on television if it was believed to be harmful to women.

    • Meghan Murphy

      You don’t think things would be released on television if they were harmful to women?? Mass media objectifies women constantly. “Sex sells,” as they say. The media does not give a shit about women and you better believe that turning women into sexualized objects and sexualizing violence against women harms women. It really isn’t a matter of opinion at all…

      • Leea

        Well said Meghan m/

    • Ramona

      I couldn’t disagree more. This is a fantasy world. I don’t care what Martin says his narrative is based upon. Females who can’t see the problems in this narrative have a long, long way to go before they can consider themselves enlightened as to these issues. I am addicted to it, but I don’t pretend that this isn’t one of the most dangerous narratives I have ever seen/read.

    • Stan

      “Their women?” … I see.

      • Ramona

        Great catch Stan! See how language reveals more than one might think?

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  • III

    Androgynous/ Pansexual perspective here…

    It doesn’t appear that you have read the books. The show is terrible. Period. A lot of people see the show and automatically assume that the books are much the same. They really aren’t.

    Dany isn’t raped in the books, for starters (On her wedding night). Powerful woman archetypes aren’t breaking molds for the sake of inclusion. They are written in a compelling and believable manner. Their struggles feel very real. Martin nods at the femenist cause every so often in particular story arcs, most notably Arya’s.

    Its worth mentioning that the few gay relationships are handled in an extremely poor manner in both the show and the books. We are not shown that Renly and Loras are in love. Never. Just told that they are. The sum of their relationship is reduced to blowjob in the show. Similarly, the viper’s pansexuality is intended to develop his devil may care attitude. Nothing more, nothing less. This was irksome to me at first, but at the end of the day GRRM is cis. The fact that a cis author is including non binary characters is worth applauding. If he had attempted to write more about Renly and Loras, but failed, i might have been sitting here venting about how a cis man has no right to… (you get it)


    This series is a reaction to LOTR’s candyland representation of medieval Europe. A counterpoint. It is to say to Tolkien fans, “good and evil are not black and white. The dark ages were full of tragedy, patriarchy, classism, racism, homophobia, and all manners of here unspoken sufferings.

    All in all, the series is neither sexist nor femenist. Certain story arcs are exceptionally empowering and can benefit our cause. IE, Arya served as a launching point into femenist thought for a close friend. Still. It wasn’t intended to be a pamphlet on feminism. It was intended to bring our ideas of righy and wrong into question, and show us how complicated these ideas truly are.

    In that at least, it is a success.

  • Ramona

    I would love to have a place to talk about this series, both book and tv, that critiques its inherent racism and sexism.

    The books are NOT less sexist/racist than the show. Martin writes from the perspective of a pedophile and a sexist.

    I am addicted to this narrative, but I have no illusions about the damage it does to anti-racist, anti-sexist struggles.

    As long as this narrative is and as popular as it is, we need a place to discuss it carefully.

    • Leea

      Thank you m/

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  • Religion is anti-Feminist.
    Prostitution is anti-Feminist.
    Concepts like modesty, virginity, chastity, and purity are anti-Feminist.
    Pop-culture is anti-Feminist.
    “Sex positivity” is anti-Feminist.

  • Tia

    I strongly disagree. Feminism is not about a set of rules. Yes, there is a lot of objectification, but that does NOT marginalize everything GoT does right. The example you gave wherein Joffrey tortured two prostitutes isn’t there to titillate anyone. On the contrary, it’s there to demonstrate Joffrey’s violent sexual tendencies which are central to his character. I feel as though you’ve made up your mind before truly giving this any kind of thought. And yes, I say this as a feminist.

    • Ramona

      I cannot conceive of what GOT does right. Martin writes compelling characters but that does not make his narrative any less sexist or racist. I have watched the boards pretty closely and legions of fans are misogynistic in the extreme. It is okay to like what you like with a grain of salt, but it isn’t okay to try to force a negative into a positive because you like the narrative. This comes from someone as addicted as she can be.

  • Gina

    I have to say, after seeing so many people in today’s media basically coming in their pants every time they talk about this damn show, it’s so refreshing to see a bunch of people talking about how disgusting, sexist, misogynistic, and objectifying it really is. So thank you all for restoring my faith in humanity a little bit.

    “There are some strong female character!!!!!” absolutely does NOT negate the constant 99% female nudity, the rape scenes (including statutory ones), and the constant “male gaze” bullshit that nobody seems to have an issue with, because, “It’s such a good drama series, omg!~!~!”

    If I’m perfectly honest, everything about this show (including the name and any word that reminds me of it) has become a huge trigger for me, and has proven how unsafe society is for women like myself. Especially since so many people in the real world (not just this imaginary world, which proves how it’s a reflection on how society views women) don’t see anything wrong with it, or at least not wrong enough that they feel it’s necessary to at least mention.

    In this ~fantasy world~, dragons can exist, but women can’t be treated as equals and not be naked all the time? Really? I mean, come on. And if it IS as good of a show as people claim for it to be, then they shouldn’t be relying on treating women (read: actual human beings) as pieces of meat in order to get ratings.

    And if the “male gaze” is an accurate representation of how men (in general) see women, then it’s a good thing that I’ve recently realized that I’m not anywhere close to being “straight”.

    As somewhat of a side note, comedian Dara O’Briain had a great stand up routine about objectification, that really made me laugh, while simultaneously reminding me of how much I hate this show, as well as the majority of society.
    (Here’s the link, if you want to check it out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9_i6tiAzw0)

    Long story short, the day this tv show ends, I’m throwing a huge party. Those of you who feel the same way about it are invited.

    • Leea

      You are brilliant, thank you. I said just yesterday to my friends when in tesco supermarket in the dvd section ‘wtf is GoT in a protective plastic box?’ it was the only one that was?! … I cant wait for this shit to disappear.

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  • Miss Alexandra

    Love this!

  • Sally Hansen

    I found this show to be so alienating on so many levels. I stopped watching it after about 3-4 episodes. My bf (at the time) insisted that the show gets really good, but frankly the story line just isn’t good enough to hold my interest, on top of the fact that my gender/sex is constantly demeaned/dehumanized in the show. There are other better fantasy series, such as the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind (the books anyway), which highlight how imperialism and religion are anti-woman, and any rape/prostitution/BDSM scenes are specifically intended to explain how patriarchy and imperialism go hand-in-hand with the goal of destroying female power/agency. The main character is a woman who is hunted because she has the power to make men tell the truth and she leads an entire army of marginalized pagans to destroy the imperialists. THAT’S a good FEMINIST fantasy series.

    • Émeric Houde

      Game of thrones is set in a world that is profoundly sexist, which resonates with how woman have been treated throughout history. But that’s precisely what makes woman characters shine ever more. They overcome adversity, proves their valor, much more so than if there were no such obstacles. There can be little feminism message passed if there is no struggle.

      • Sally Hansen

        This is an utterly stupid response. Virtually all of the women who struggle in this show (from the episodes I saw) were purely there for the male gaze (eye candy for men watching the show). As a woman who has ACTUALLY struggled in real life, I did not identify with any of these characters on any level, because they weren’t written for me. They were written and shown for male pleasure.

      • m00py

        > They overcome adversity, proves their valor, much more so than if there were no such obstacles. There can be little feminism message passed if there is no struggle.

        It’s problematic to constantly depict women’s value by their ability to withstand sexual violence.  It reinforces the sexist notion that a woman isn’t “strong” unless she’s survived sexual abuse.  Otherwise she’s a weak character.  Think about what that does to people’s value sets of each other and what gender roles people internalize by seeing strength in women depicted this way constantly in media. 

        The “prove their valor” trope needs to die.