Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence.
Contains Spoilers: Do not read unless you’ve watched S4E3 of Game of Thrones.
BY BRONWYN STANGE
Since Episode 3 Season 4 of Game of Thrones aired the Internet has exploded in response to Jaime Lannister’s rape of his sister Cersei Lannister. Articles have been written questioning the necessity of the scene and even whether the series will survive it. The scene was undoubtedly disturbing as, aside from the obvious element of incest, the rape occurred next to their son King Joffrey’s corpse. Nonetheless, the series has contained other graphic and confronting scenes depicting sexual violence, from King Joffrey’s murder of a prostitute by bow and arrow to Khal Drogo’s violation of Khaleesi. The response to Cersei’s rape vastly outweighed the latter and I believe this is partly because it challenges society’s basic assumptions about sexual violence. While some outrage was directed towards the altering of the book plot, in which the couple had consensual sex, and the use of rape as a plot device, I believe there may be more to the story.
What substantially differed here was that Jaime is the “wrong” type of man to commit sexual violence, leaving viewers incredibly uncomfortable and distressed. While Jaime Lannister is a character with questionable morals, who has committed a vast array of terrible acts, events in season 3 appeared to hint at his redeeming qualities. In particular his decision to turn back and save Brienne of Tarth from sexual and physical violence seemed to suggest that he was perhaps a “good guy” after all. When Joffrey commits sexual violence we are able to stomach it by positioning him as evil, deranged and sadomasochistic (of which he is all). Similarly, Khal Drogo was presented as a “savage” who perhaps “didn’t know better” and had not yet been enlightened by more “civilized men”. Conversely, Jamie’s violation of Cersei left viewers with the uncomfortable thought that a “good” man who saved a woman from sexual violence could go on to commit it himself. What this broadly touches on is something society still finds difficult to acknowledge; everyday, “normal” men commit rape.