Alexander Yarde is frustrated with the media encouraging rape culture with dangerous rape scenes that encourage the “but she really wanted it” way of thinking.
During this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, “Breaker of Chains”, I made a flippant tweet about Jaime Lannister forcing himself on his sister Cersei at Joffrey’s repose being just another Sunday night in Westeros. In hindsight, I regret that statement.
This isn’t the first rape scene in Game of Thrones―frankly Westeros is a hard place for women of all strata, especially at weddings. But what left me gobsmacked was that, according to Laura Hudson’s article That Game Of Thrones Scene Wasn’t a Turn-On, It Was Rape, the director didn’t even realize he was filming a rape scene.:
“Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle. Nobody really wanted to talk about what was going on between the two characters, so we had a rehearsal that was a blocking rehearsal. …Nikolaj (Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime) came in and we just went through one physical progression and digression of what they went through, but also how to do it with only one hand, because it was Nikolaj. By the time you do that and you walk through it, the actors feel comfortable going home to think about it. The only other thing I did was that ordinarily, you rehearse the night before, and I wanted to rehearse that scene four days before, so that we could think about everything. And it worked out really well. That’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever done.”
I’m no prude, I’ve enjoyed GoT from the beginning, and you know what you’re getting into when you watch it. Hell, there was an attempted infanticide during incestous sex in the first episode. I’ve seen women fed to dogs, people tortured with rats tied to their bellies, whole villages slaughtered to the last man, woman and child. A pregnant women was ripped open at a wedding banquet. But the fact that the director said, “that’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever done” makes this very different.
Rape is a very touchy subject and something that is unfortunately far too commonplace in reality to be handled so poorly. That statement to me summarizes why we live in a “rape culture“. Rape culture as defined is a concept which links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society, and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape.
Now, am I saying you can’t portray a rape on screen? No. I’m not for censorship of any kind. Should you know that you’re portraying a rape while you are filming one? Absolutely. This GoT director strikes me as a child playing with a loaded gun or matches. It’s far too dangerous a topic in our confused society and impacts way too many people in real life for filmmakers to use rape carelessly and without forethought, because this “Her mouth says no but her eyes say yes” PePe Le Pew sentiment is used by rapists all the time and, scenes like this in the media muddy the water even further.
We have all read (or should be aware) of the shocking statistics. An estimated one in six women will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. It’s a crime that is rarely reported and has a 3% conviction rate. It’s the only violent crime whose victims, not perpetrators, are routinely the ones on trial. Whether or not the filmmakers intended this to be a rape scene is irrelevant; they made one. As a Father of a boy and girl for me it encourages the worst kind of thinking about rape. Ms. Hudson hits the nail on the head in her thoughtful piece:
“When a woman is held down on the ground, screaming for the man to stop, that deep down inside her she might still really want it. That if a man simply persists, it might “turn” a rape into something consensual, or at least into something less than “legitimate rape” or “rape-rape,” the words we have invented to make certain sexual assaults sound not so bad. (Also, it’s worth pointing out that while this scene happened in the book, Cersei was a willing participant.)”
This reinforces a dangerous idea that dominates societal views about sexual assaults, that consent is not something that women give but something that must taken from them by force or coercion. That if she didn’t try harder or fight back enough she was secretly really into it. She shouldn’t have had so much to drink. Why was she wearing that dress? She was just asking for trouble. It is a dysfunctional, dangerous way of looking at sex and consent, one that is based on the idea of forcing women to give it—the literal opposite of consent.
If someone breaks into your home no one asks, “Why didn’t you fight harder?” Or, “Why did you have such a nice house?” Because that doesn’t absolve the robber from robbery. But those are arguments used by rapists, the incredibly unsympathetic toward survivors and worse, survivors against themselves. Rape is one of the only violent crimes where victims blame themselves more than the perpetrators because of these archaic, misogynistic views.
As the father of both a son and daughter, I don’t appricate continued societal ambiguity about what rape is. I need others to be educated, and educate their children. I need media outlets to be responsible and thoughtful with the subject matter as well as most importantly, educate my own kids about sex and consent. I don’t need to be “Malesplianed” about my “interpretation” of this rape scene. Rape victims face this exact sort of “reinterpretation” when they come forward.
My parents told me very early on, in no uncertain terms and repeatedly that “No means no. Stop means you stop.” It was very cut and dry, and totally unambiguous. Looking back, I appreciate their candor. They answered all my questions and encouraged conversation. One reason I believe that what constitutes a rape is still so difficult for people to understand are hamfisted fictional portrayals like in “Breaker Of Chains” that appear to support the idea that if he wasn’t holding a knife at your throat, or if you decided to have sex and then changed your mind, or that past consensual sexual partners “can’t” rape you.
Rape is often handled poorly or in a sensationalistic manner in all media. That’s why the abysmally poor sex education record we have in this country is so frustrating. We wrongheadedly focus on instructing women and girls “Don’t get raped” and not on instructing boys and young men on “Not to rape”. Is this concept really so hard? (I wrote about men’s ability to control themselves once before, read that here).
The sad truth is, in real life, we put Westeros to shame.
For more on consent education, read The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21