After months of discussion on social media and throughout the asoiaf/GoT community, it finally happened. The traumatic scene that Sophie Turner, Iwan Rheon and Alfie Allen had hinted about filming was finally revealed and it has left the fandom more divided than ever before. The rape of Sansa Stark has caused many to swear off the show forever. It has also been somewhat expected so many people enjoyed the scene for the superb acting. And more people still felt something deep and personal after being victims of sexual abuse themselves. Whatever the case may be, this was probably the most traumatic scene to date in the history on Game of Thrones.
Let me be very, very clear about something. Rape is never alright. Rape is the most brutal thing that can happen to a woman and to use rape as a plot builder or a storytelling device is horrific and shameful. For those of you saying “well, Jeyne Poole was raped! Don’t you care about Jeyne Poole?!” The answer is unequivocally and emphatically YES. But the difference between Jeyne and Sansa, in my opinion, is that the trauma of Jeyne Poole was more about Theon than it ever was about Jeyne. Yes, what happened to Jeyne is horrific, but the abuse of Jeyne at the hands of Ramsay is what causes Theon break from the role of Reek and remember that he is Theon Greyjoy. The treatment of Jeyne allows Theon to find his redemption.
“Every time he looked at the girl who had been Jeyne Poole, he felt the presence of that steel at his side. I have no way to save her, he thought, but I could kill her easy enough. No one would expect it. I could beg her for the honor of a dance and cut her throat. That would be a kindness, wouldn’t it? And if the old gods hear my prayer, Ramsay in his wroth might strike me dead as well. Theon was not afraid to die. Underneath the Dreadfort, he had learned there were far worse things than death. Ramsay had taught him that lesson, finger by finger and toe by toe, and it was not one that he was ever like to forget.”
In the overall plot of A Dance with Dragons Jeyne Poole is a secondary character who compliments other characters and in this case, it is both Theon and Ramsay. Through the treatment of Jeyne by Ramsay, the reader can further see how truly terrible Ramsay is while also simultaneously seeing Theon remember who he is as well. Theon is now able to become Theon again and cast aside the identity of Reek.
What has angered many people about the treatment of Sansa is that the rape and brutalization of her character does nothing to enhance her plot. It does nothing to further her arc. In fact, it seems that this even is taking her growth as a character backwards. Last season we saw Sansa learning how to “play the game” and appearing stronger than she had in previous seasons. Many would argue that the rape is going to be the basis for her revenge, but I disagree. Sansa has plenty of motive for revenge and their names are Ned, Cat, Robb, Bran and Rickon. She is fully aware that her brother Robb was murdered at the hands of Roose Bolton. And now the Boltons have taken her home as well. That seems like a fantastic motive if I ever needed one. The rape of Sansa Stark was not the first time that we have seen rape on Game of Thrones and I feel most confident that it shall not be the last and that makes me sad. I know that there is rape and sexual assault in the books, but seldom does George R.R. Martin use it simply for shock value. Seldom does he use it just to get a rise out of people. And if you say that D&D don’t do that, then clearly you have not been paying attention (see Craster’s Keep season 4). When GRRM published his Alayne excerpt from The Winds of Winter it was so pleasing to see that Sansa had developed into a sassy woman that was now playing the game. But the very moment Sansa entered that bedroom with Ramsay, it was all flung out of the window because now she was a victim once again. Sansa Stark, the woman who we have all watched morph from a flighty young girl with dreams of marrying princes and attending court to a survivor of more loss and pain than more people experience in a life time, was bent over in her parents bedroom and raped. And to add further insult, Theon was made to watch.
Sansa Stark was once again made to be the victim. Once again, a female who exhibited strength and resilience and determination had all of that extinguished by the writers of Game of Thrones. But you are not a victim, Sansa.
Remember your name. You’ve got to remember your name.
The gods heard my prayer, she thought. She felt so numb and dreamy. My skin has turned to porcelain, to ivory, to steel.