Contains sexual violence, nudity, explicit language, gore and graphic violence.
Too much for you? Then why are you watching Game of Thrones?
If you’re not a fan of the HBO fantasy series, congratulations. You know your limits and you don’t subject yourself to content you know will upset you.
If you are, then last episode’s closing scene will have come as no surprise to you.
Watching Sansa Stark (played by 19-year-old British actress Sophie Turner) being raped by the tyrannical Ramsay Bolton while her childhood friend Theon Greyjoy looked on was by no means easy viewing.
But this is a series which has consistently served us traumatic, graphic, soul-destroying violence since the moment it beheaded its lead character Ned Stark in front of his own children.
If you’re still here, five seasons later, you should have left your outrage at the door some time ago.
And yet, after ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken’, the sixth episode of season five, many fans are threatening to quit the show.
Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti tweeted that the show was “consistently over-the-top with sexual violence and it’s just gross”.
Feminist website The Mary Sue has sworn to stop covering and recapping the show.
Vanity Fair‘s Joanna Robinson wrote: “Did we really need to see Ramsay Bolton rape Sansa Stark? No, we absolutely did not.”
However, this is a television show – we don’t need to see any of it.
We didn’t need to see Jaime Lannister rape his own sister in season four. We didn’t need to see Oberyn Martell’s head get smashed in by The Mountain. And we certainly didn’t need to see Robb Stark’s pregnant wife get butchered all the way back in the Red Wedding episode.
But we keep coming back, making a conscious decision to consume a show that – amongst a pool of politically correct counterparts – consistently pushes the boundaries.
To then condemn it for doing just that seems counter-productive and hypocritical.
What’s more, this rape scene occurs in the books – albeit with a different character – and it’s far worse.
For the show runners to avoid a graphic representation and instead focus on the reaction of Theon (in a brilliant acting turn from Alfie Allen) was arguably more restrained and far more powerful.
In fact, the show should perhaps be celebrated for refusing to sugarcoat what is a sad reality for many women.
Sexual violence is unfortunately a part of our world and portraying it on television opens up a crucial discussion that may not be had otherwise.
Importantly, the show doesn’t glorify this violence. No one is cheering Ramsay Bolton on. If anything, we’re praying for a white knight to rescue Sansa – a white knight who never comes, for her and many other women.
The show’s producer Bryan Cogman responded to the criticism, arguing: “This is Game of Thrones.
“This isn’t a timid little girl walking into a wedding night with Joffrey. This is a hardened woman making a choice and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland. Sansa has a wedding night in the sense she never thought she would with one of the monsters of the show. It’s pretty intense and awful and the character will have to deal with it.”
If this scene broke you, by all means tune out from now on.
But perhaps focus your outrage on the real-life domestic violence crisis taking place in our country, rather than the fictional exploits of television characters.