Why Games of Thrones does not perpetuate "rape culture"

The steady stream of commentary that continues to slam popular TV shows like GoT for perpetuating "rape culture" is logically untenable. The crux of the argument is that such TV programs are overly reliant on sexist tropes, which function to reinforce patriarchal authority and female oppression out here in the real world.

A principal presumption bolstering this argument is that the representation of women getting raped by men is a trope; one that furnishes the plot with a female victim, and provides the male protagonist with the motivation he needs to spring into heroic action and save the day.

In GoT, this trope certainly remains prevalent, however we must also acknowledge the prevalence of the trope of the "disposable" male, which sees countless male characters deposed and mutilated. Let's go through some notable examples:

Theon "Wreek" Greyjoy is raped and castrated with the assistance of two sadistic women.

Gendry, the bastard heir to the throne, is seduced by the which Melisandre, who disembarks his engorged penis mid-coitus and places giant monster leeches on said penis to feast.

There are of course the countless women (Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Melisandre, Margaery Tyrell, Shae, etc) who use sex to achieve power, to maintain power, for pleasure and to seek revenge.

It is nameless and faceless men who die by the thousands on successive battle fields while women shelter elsewhere. This is indeed comparable to scenes of mass rape north of the wall, however, you will not hear this characterised as the oppression of men. This, despite the fact that men are forced into battle in the name of honour, to sacrifice their lives for overlords for no personal gain. If the representation of female rape perpetuates a culture of violence against women, then what does the representation of the mass slaughter of men perpetuate?

A second component of the argument is that rape is is never represented in a manner that prompts the audience to reflect on how people use sex to gain, resist or avenge power. 

With regards to GoT, I whole heartedly disagree. Cersei is a case in point. A vicious woman who who advises Sansa Stark on the importance of using sex to ones advantage, highlighting how both men and women use sex (in different ways) for personal gain. Moreover, Cersei plots and schemes to have both men and women brutally tortured and killed throughout the series, not least of whom is her own brother. While a victim of rape, and forced into marriage, she is no less a brutal victimiser.

And what of Catelyn Stark, who takes advantage of Lord Baelish's love for her in a bid to save her daughters, betraying her allies in war, leading to their genocide in the north?

Ultimately, decrying the brutalisation of one gender whilst ignoring the extreme violence, torture and genocide that befalls the other, enacts the kind of gender discrimination that the "rape culture" argument seeks to undermine. The problem of course, is that if you recognise the systematic violence perpetuated against men, your argument unravels. It cannot be oppression of women if men are also oppressed. Moreover, if men also suffer under patriarchy, how can all men benefit from patriarchy?

My other problem is that a lot of these arguments are forwarded by those educated within a university system which endorses such feminist analysis on the one hand, then on the other, teaches students that "media effects theory" has been thoroughly debunked. What is media effects you ask? It is the theory that what the media represents is absorbed, believed and re-enacted by the everyday folk who consume such programs. You know the argument, violent video games produce violent citizens, and Hollywood gangster films make everyone think they will profit from crime.

These kinds of assumptions have been enshrined in regulations for decades despite the fact that they are nonsense, for instance in the censorship system of the classic Hollywood era in which you could not depict homosexuality, or mixed race couples. While such rules seem ridiculous to many of us in the contemporary era, it is important to acknowledge that it is precisely the same logic that upholds that the representation of rape on television perpetuates rape culture.


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