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It's been the ruin of many a poor girl

Okay so I am a bit late to the party, but I feel the need to talk about sexual assault in fiction.

So Sansa Stark got raped in the show Game of Thrones by her forced husband. That can happen, it's a brutal bloody world that seems to take great pains to make sure all of the characters suffer emotionally and physically. There have been previous rapes, genital mutilations, incest, and murders that took place. The show is a brutal horror story in a fantasy setting and that is okay. Let me repeat that again: that is okay.

You see a lot of the arguments I see against it are the equivalent of "Well it is disgusting and therefore should not be talked about or ever shown". You are disgusted? Good. You are supposed to be. The only way we make progress is by talking about things that disgust us. Trapping yourself in a bubble where only the things that are safe get shown or talked about is not helping to take away the problem in the first place. In fact that's been the policy about rape for years, it is only very recently that it has been able to be talked about. Sure some stories don't involve rape. That is fine, not all stories need to touch upon it. If you choose to tell a story without rape then your story is still perfectly valid. But if you choose to touch upon it that doesn't make your story LESS valid.

The things people said in the wake of it are what appalled me far more than the act. Many tried to behave like Sansa was weak simply because she "let" herself be raped. This is wrong on several different points. No one just lets themselves be raped, it is something that is taken from you not something that is "given". Rape victims do not get taken because they are "too weak" to fight back. It doesn't matter how physically or mentally strong you are at times, it can still happen to you. Think about it we are dealing with medieval standards where a woman then belongs to her husband and the husband has been shown to be a sadistic person. Where would she go even if she did escape? Out to the halls where the guards could catch her (and knowing her husband, he would then make them join in like he did Theon in the books)? Would being flayed alive for resisting be a better fate for her, like Ramsay did to others that have resisted him? I know that we have been conditioned by society to believe that people like Sansa, the pretty and rich idealistic princesses, are supposed to be saved last minute and that the truly horrific things will happen to the uglier or evil characters but guess what? That just isn't true. Bad things happen to good people. Sometimes the bad guys win, especially when society backs them up. That doesn't make the person it happened to weak.

This act has not robbed Sansa of her power. Yes, power and her virginity were taken from her roughly and brutally. Yes she is trapped in her former home with a monster. But she still has political connections and a brain about her. All they have shown is that she cannot fight her way out of this hell physically. She will need to sacrifice part of her dignity if she is going to get out of this alive and take back the power that was taken from her. Sure it may not have been her raped in the books, but someone was still raped in the same way she was. It just wasn't Sansa, the pretty girl, but instead a character that we never fully get to know. She still has the political backing once she can get word out of the fortress. It is hard to get out of her situation, but not impossible and it doesn't reduce her role to simply "victim".

Why have this scene at all? Well for one it hammers home just how much of a monster Ramsey is. It builds the bond up between Theon and Sansa now that they both have been thoroughly tortured by the same man. It changes completely how Sansa has to approach the overthrowing of Ramsey now that he has crossed this line. It is important on a thematic level. The Song of Fire and Ice series largely contradicts many of the tropes that we have been conditioned to believe in by all the fairy tales and this is just another trope, because even the best of us still secretly "knew" that she would be rescued. This is important because it gets people talking. Because people, even supposedly well educated people, can still say that someone is weak for getting raped and that if she had fought back then it would have been better for her.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
enkanowen
Jul. 8th, 2015 06:17 pm (UTC)
The biggest problematic with Sansa's rape is that it could have been this incredibly powerful moment within the show. Unfortunately, they've been throwing around sexual assault and violence around like it's confetti since season one and it's lost the impact it should have had. Sansa never breaks. Ever. She is probably the strongest character in the series, because that girl goes through every hell imaginable and instead of turning into a ball of despair, she waits for her opportunity. And she takes them, every time she is presented with one, she takes them. He rapes her and it is horrible and awful but she still doesn't break, but the fact that she's just another notch in the sexual assault belt that the writers for the show keep wearing like it's a prize? That's really what makes the whole scene so enraging.

It makes me mad because I want to see the strength Sansa continues to exhibit. I want to see how she makes it in that world, but the writers have trivialized sexual violence to the point that I just can't support them any more. Even GRRM's excuse of "well it isn't a utopia" is wearing really rather thin. You can show dystopia in many other ways. Plus the whole "well it shows how horrible Ramsey is". The guy cut off Theon's penis after torturing him for an entire season. He likes to hunt people and watch his dogs tear them apart. He comes from a family that flays people. I think it's been established that he's neither sane nor good nor redeemable.
savageseraph
Jul. 8th, 2015 11:16 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree with you more. I read a lot of the wailing and woeing after the Sansa rape scene with a raised eyebrow and healthy shot of what-the-fuckery. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone at this point in the series that bad things are going to happen to good characters, characters we love. Westeros is a place full of both beauty and terror, generosity of spirit and pitch-black cruelty.

I remember reading one article that said that the scene was horrible because Sansa's rape is really all about Theon. That seemed terribly short-sighted, since we hadn't seen what was coming after, and it's likely that the effects of that moment were going to impact both Theon and Sansa.

And no, I didn't see that moment as making Sansa a weak character or stopping the growth she's been showing since Littefinger spirited her out of Kings Landing.
ragnarok_08
Jul. 9th, 2015 03:17 am (UTC)
I know that we have been conditioned by society to believe that people like Sansa, the pretty and rich idealistic princesses, are supposed to be saved last minute and that the truly horrific things will happen to the uglier or evil characters but guess what? That just isn't true. Bad things happen to good people. Sometimes the bad guys win, especially when society backs them up. That doesn't make the person it happened to weak.

I agree with you so much there - bad things happen, no matter how much we dislike it.
Hayder Alhanen
Jul. 9th, 2015 12:10 pm (UTC)
Hi
jenlet
Jul. 9th, 2015 02:13 pm (UTC)
Very well said. I agree with you.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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