bus-1319360_1920I remember the first time I realized as a girl I was the object of a man’s sexual interest. I was ten years old, walking to the bus inside the gates of my all girl’s religious school. Yes, there were gates, tall ones that went two stories high. The bus was pulled up just before the gate, ready to take us home. I remember, as I shouldered my backpack, that I hoped we got home before the rain kicked in because there was a terrible storm brewing. As I was stepping up onto the bus, the wind kicked up hard

As I was stepping up onto the bus, the wind kicked up hard and blew my skirt up over my knee. I nearly dropped my backpack trying to cover my legs, but it was too late. I heard a whistling noise from beyond the gate. Two boys stood just beyond the chain link, high school age and no older. One of them leaned in and made a kissing face at me. He said something in another language and both boys laughed. And I knew, for the first time, they were staring at me. At my legs.

I got on the bus so fast I fell on the top step and ripped open my elbow. Only a few weeks later, my mom had ‘the talk’ with me about being a woman, and what would happen to me soon. I put two and two together that night, after Mom had gone to bed, and realized things for me had changed. I wasn’t exactly different, even though I was about to get hit by puberty like a hormonal freight train. No, this time, something had changed outside of me. Before, I was just a little girl. Now, I was seen.

That was just the first time. That wouldn’t be the last.

In high school, I had a kid in a movie theater line push up against me from behind so I felt his erection through his pants. When I spun around, he looked sheepish and said I shouldn’t wear a skirt if I didn’t want attention. My skirt was ankle-length and black.

In college, I had the friend of a friend, a guy who was one of those “tell it like it is” nerd guys who mansplained everything, grabbed my chest in the school cafeteria from behind using the pretext of a hug. When I instinctively elbowed him in the side of the head (oops), for weeks he mewled that I’d hit him and denied the groping.  I heard him say later that he’d never grope “someone like her.” And by that, I knew, he meant fat.

I had a guy in college take advantage of me being drunk in the backseat of his friend’s car. I was on my way home from a party. I was wearing a tank top for the first time in public, my first show of rebellion against religious upbringing. It was black, with a silver Superman S on the front, which I insisted was for Supergirl instead. This guy, who was a friend from school and knew all my friends, stuck his tongue down my throat and his hand down my shirt, and almost forced my hand down his pants. I barely got out of the car without things going further. My two friends, his best friends, sat in the front seat the whole way back to my house to drop me off and did nothing to stop it. The week after this incident, they made a crude joke about how we’d “hooked up” in the backseat, to which the guy in question said, “it’s not like I’d date her.” That party was my twenty-first birthday. To this day, I get nervous wearing tank tops in public.

I was twenty-seven and coming home on a train from work late at night. I was wearing my work clothes: jeans, store t-shirt, big scarf and jacket for the cold. I looked like the Stay-Puff Marshmellow woman. It was late and I fell asleep against the window. When I woke up, a guy had grabbed my hand and pressed it to his crotch. I screamed, pushed him off the seat, and started roaring at him. When the cops on the next stop’s platform came aboard, he started shouting that I came on to him. It took two dudes getting in my way to keep me from murdering the guy, I was so scared. And I’d finally had it.

These aren’t all the instances of sexual harassment, street harassment, and even assault that happened to me. They aren’t even the worst of the lot. Instead, they’re examples to highlight a fallacy in recent arguments in regards to cases of sexual harassment and assault levied against women in Hollywood. Specifically, women in the Harvey Weinstein case. It seems some folks believe that to avoid getting sexually harassed, women in Hollywood should have known that the mousy, ‘less attractive’, less flirty women stay safer and others should learn from that example since we don’t live in a perfect world.

Yeah, I’m looking at you, Mayim Bialik.

 

mayimbialik_prayer
Former Blossom star and Big Bang Theory regular Mayim Bialik.

 

I read Mayim Bialik’s post about how she avoided being harassed in a Hollywood full of predatory men with a sinking in my stomach. Here was an ostensibly brilliant young woman, an accomplished actress with a doctorate in neuroscience, pointing to her background as being a relatively “Plain Jane” in Hollywood as evidence of why she had avoided being sexually harassed and exploited. Moreover, she drew a direct correlation, it seems, between her perception of herself (and perhaps other people’s perceptions of her) as dowdy or less attractive as a reason why she avoided being harassed.

To quote the op-ed:

I still make choices every day as a 41-year-old actress that I think of as self-protecting and wise. I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with. I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy.

I am entirely aware that these types of choices might feel oppressive to many young feminists. Women should be able to wear whatever they want. They should be able to flirt however they want with whomever they want. Why are we the ones who have to police our behavior?

In a perfect world, women should be free to act however they want. But our world isn’t perfect.

No, Mayim, our world is not perfect. But neither, it seems, is your feminism.

This kind of response to reports of sexual misconduct by people like Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood execs and, dare I say it, our own walking disaster in the White House, is the perfect example of how NOT to support victimized women. It’s the same bullshit that told women who were targeted in gaming communities to just “stay off the internet” when facing harassment and doxing and stalking by abusers. It’s the same mentality that has for generations pointed the finger at women who are victims of assault and rape and tells them they were “asking for it.” It’s the same old stories of warning passed down from mother to daughter, telling them to cover up, for god’s sakes, lest the predators of the world find you. It doesn’t tell the world to hold men accountable. It tells women it’s on them to hold themselves accountable for whatever triggers might set a man off and make them the target of his unwanted affections.

So I guess when I read Mayim’s response, my first knee-jerk reaction was: was my ten-year-old little skirt, down to my ankles, too flirtatious for those boys outside the school gate? Was my long-skirt in high school? My tank top? My puffy winter coat? 

Mayim spends a great deal of the article talking about how she was never that attractive in Hollywood, and how that seemingly protected her perhaps. How she spent her time cultivating her talent, her mind and relied less on her looks. In a modern twist on the puritanical mindset, she encourages young women to focus on things other than just their looks (a noble idea on its own) and downplay their sexuality to protect against predation. As if to say “tone it down, ladies, and pick up some books instead, and men won’t come after you as often.” Like being a nerd or being dowdy will keep the molesters away.

Look, Mayim. If we want to talk about women who aren’t a perfect 10, let’s get one thing straight. I’m a 34-year-old woman who has been overweight her whole life. If we were using the Hollywood scale of beauty, I wouldn’t even be up in the running. And that’s not me knocking myself. The impossible standards of Hollywood beauty are stupid and exactly that: impossible to meet. I know what that means in terms of societal standards for overweight women, no matter how pretty we might actually be in the reality that is the rest of the world. I also know the reality of being heavy in how other people look at women who are overweight. Being fat is the last acceptable bigotry, one shared by nearly every group of people, marginalized or otherwise. To most people, being fat is the final frontier of being acceptably called ugly. So if your rubric worked, Mayim, then I’d be safe from harassment, right?

Well, I gotta tell you, either I’m the unlucky outlier, or your op-ed is privileged crap.

Bullshit, Mayim. Your lesson here is bullshit. I’m an educated woman who is fairly serious, who wears covered up clothing, who is considered fat by the world. And who has dodged groping, cat-calling, harassment, and sexual assault since I was in my high school years. What was it that was enticing about me, Mayim, when I was eleven then? I was in a religious school uniform covering everything from my neck to my wrists and down to my ankles and I was eleven. Be careful to answer that one, lest you run into some VERY awful answers.

Now, I’m not surprised by Bialik’s answers entirely. Many of her responses sound eerily like the conservative excuses I heard growing up in the Jewish community, a community Mayim and I share in common. There, modesty and piety were often pointed-to as the ways to protect against the dangers of abusive men. I’m also not surprised considering Mayim stars on Big Bang Theory, which she points out is the #1 Sitcom in America, and is known in many circles to not only be the most nerd-shaming but also FULL of sexist and misogynistic crap. So when I hear her opining this kind of twisted feminism, it doesn’t surprise me in the least.

Mayim Bialik’s answers are the regurgitated messages of generations of women who have seen the imbalance of power in the patriarchal world and instead of facing it head on and demanding change, have turned their powerlessness into a message of shame for women everywhere. Cover up, don’t be too provocative. Don’t be seen, don’t be heard. Stay under the radar and don’t make waves. Beauty is a curse to women, even while it brings privilege. Don’t shine too brightly or make any sudden moves, and maybe they won’t see you.  If they do, you must have done something wrong. 

And if something does happen, the message changes to: If they hurt you, it was your fault for catching their eye. They predators are wrong too, of course, but so are the women involved. Because they weren’t careful enough to avoid the hunter’s trap. By this metaphor, we can start blaming Bambi’s mom for getting shot too. After all, she didn’t run fast enough into that thicket before the bullet came.

What’s truly irksome about this article is that Mayim Bialik’s opinion piece couches itself in the empowering language of some feminist ideology, while turning back the clock to pearl-clutching times when modesty was the watchword of “good girls.” The fact is, Mayim, a woman should be able to walk stark naked through a room and not have to worry about being sexually assaulted. But in your world, a woman with a nice figure is the problem instead. And this is the message you’d put in the New York Times, when brave women like Asia Argento and Rose McGowen, and allies like Terry Crews, are coming forward to talk about the sexual assaults they’ve endured in Hollywood. The article comes off as self-aggrandizing, backward, and frankly cowardly.

love-1508014766-compressedBy comparison, there is a clip going around from a decade back of Courtney Love on the red carpet. The notoriously controversial rocker was asked what advice she could give to young women trying to get into Hollywood. She looked off camera, said “I could get libeled for this, right?” then looks back at the reporter and the camera furtively and says, “If Harvey Weinstein invites you back to his place at the Four Seasons, don’t go.”

Here is a woman who had every reason to be afraid of legal reprisals from a powerful man like Weinstein. Yet instead of giving blanket assertions about modesty protecting women from the predations of molesters, Courtney Love risked legal reprisals to say to the camera what so many had turned a blind eye to for years. She didn’t tell girls to cover up their bodies, don’t flirt, don’t be themselves. She told them to look out for a known bad actor being protected by the powerful.  She stepped up and showed bravery.

Meanwhile you, Mayim, made excuses for the world of patriarchy at large.

These days, more and more women are coming forward to disclose their stories of assault and harassment. Casting couch horror stories, interview horror stories, workplace horror stories, childhood horror stories. They tell us that our world is dotted not just with men who can’t seem to keep their hands to themselves, but that our world is still a place where the victims are blamed while the predators are coddled. It’s not their fault, it’s “just how they were raised” or “just the way things were back then” or a dozen other excuses made to distract from the fact that a woman’s worth is still valued lower than man’s reputation. Where men are labeled good members of the community or boys with their whole futures ahead of them, while women are slut-shamed for being the victims of men’s inability to control themselves.

As Mayim writes, it’s not a perfect world. Not by a long shot. But it won’t get better if we keep framing this as a women’s modesty problem and not a question of recognizing a woman’s worth, a woman’s word, a woman’s life, as valuable equal to a man’s. We don’t need more modest clothing, more skulking below the radar. We need more recognition, more equality, and less hemming and hawing over just who is responsible for the dangerous world women walk every day.

Me, I’m not going to sit and question whether I should have worn something other than a tank top on my twenty-first birthday, or whether I should have covered up my legs faster when I was eleven. But I still have problems wearing anything revealing, and I spend my time ready to bare my teeth at any man who dares overstep on me or any other woman I know.

Because I know what Mayim doesn’t seem to recognize, in her privilege: that perhaps she was just lucky, but not all of us were. And no matter what I wear, I’m still a target, as are other women, when a man doesn’t know how to control himself. And unlike Mayim, I know where to point the finger.

The internet this week saw a tremendous uproar after this past week’s Game of Thrones episode, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” This is a show that prides itself on its last five minutes being intensely shocking and resulting in furious Monday morning blog posts and fights around the water cooler (or the internet equivalent, message boards and Facebook). Only this week’s fighting has been over something pretty heinous. And this is where the spoilers come in folks, so if you haven’t seen it yet, well, the rest of this article is spoilerific. It will also have discussion of Mad Max in it with some spoilers, so be aware. It will also be pretty triggery for discussions of sexual violence and screen caps from shows that might be triggery, so be warned. Whew, lots of warnings. With that out of the way, here we go.

gameofthrones

This week’s episode of GoT ended with the wedding of Sansa Stark, the redheaded young ingenue of Game of Thrones, married to the sadistic Ramsey Bolton. Ramsey, who has been shown to be probably one of the most heinous characters on the show and in the books, takes Sansa to their bed chamber after the wedding and proceeds to strip of her of her wedding gown and rape her. He does this in front of Reek aka Theon Greyjoy, who he has kept as a pet since he tortured and broke him. The last shot of the show is Reek crying his eyes out over the sounds of Sansa’s cries.

This horrifying scene marks yet another deviation the show has taken from the books in terms of plot. In the books, a young servant girl named Jeyne Poole, who was passed off as Arya Stark (Sansa’s sister), was instead married to Ramsey. In the books, Ramsey makes Reek (himself abused into submission by Ramsey) join in as he rapes Jeyne on their wedding night instead of Sansa. The TV show chose to merge Jeyne’s story into Sansa’s to give her the opportunity to reclaim her ancestral home of Winterfell in the north by marrying Ramsey, and therefore giving her a chance to act as a political character on the show alongside her creepy patron Littlefinger. That choice however sent her on a collision course with this wedding night scene and the show’s choice to make it a non-consensual and violent rape.

The response after the show online was immediate and LOUD. Many people have declared that this is the end of their watching Game of Thrones, and websites like The Mary Sue have chosen to discontinue their coverage of the show due to this creative choice by the writers and designers. They make a very good case as to why they’re doing that here. They site the fact that this is a show that has time and again chosen to include more sexual violence against women, has twisted scenes that were different into acts of rape (such as the scenes with incestuous siblings Jaime/Cersei Lannister in Season 4 or Daenerys/Khal Drogo in Season 1). This latest scene has been the straw that broke the camel’s back, it seems, for many viewers who are fed up with the over sexualization of women on the show and the constant return to sexual violence as a plot point for highlighting how evil and bad Westeros and its residents are. I can understand those feelings and concerns one hundred percent, and I am in support of every person who says the show has an issue with overuse of rape and who choose not to watch instead. I am in support of that assessment as well and wish Game of Thrones would stop including countless unnecessary instances of sexual violence against women.

I am, however, surprised at how shocked and shaken so many fans seems to be over this turn of events.

I took to Twitter myself to discuss the situation, but it took a few days for me to unpack my discomfort with some of the reactions that I’ve seen so far. So let’s start with…

Guys: Game of Thrones is full of rape.

Haven't forgotten this so fast yet right?
Haven’t forgotten this so fast yet right?

The world created by George RR Martin, the world of The Song of Ice and Fire series, is a world in which women are considered at best second class citizens and at worst property. They are constantly under threat of having their agency violated and having sexual violence visited upon them. Even characters who are considered the ‘strong’ ones, like Brienne of Tarth, Arya Stark, Daenerys and Cersei face the threat of sexual violence as a matter of course throughout the series. The only women who escape such fates are those who are rescued by men protecting them (Brienne is rescued by Jaime Lannister, who loses his hand in the process) or who rescue themselves (Arya Stark). They often must accept arranged marriages and come to terms with potentially non-consensual sexual situations so that it won’t BE rape (Daenerys deciding to accept the advances of Khal Drogo who she was forced to marry) but overall, the world of Game of Thrones is a hostile place to women in all ways, but especially sexually. There have been more instances of sexual violence against women on the show and in the books than I can even remember, it is so common place. Yet it is this instance of sexual violence, against Sansa Stark, that has everyone angry and shocked.

And I have to ask: why is everyone so surprised?

Cuz this happens. A lot.
Cuz this happens. A lot.

Westeros was written as a world in which rape is a commonplace event, used as a shorthand to represent the barbarism of the people and the evil they perpetrate on one another. In a world where slaughtering one another over a throne is just another day of the week, Martin and later the TV series need a way to punch through the casual violence to make particular instances strike home even further. Therefore, women are sexually violated because rape is still a shorthand for evil. As the Dothraki used to say in the book, “It is known.” It’s as much a part of the world building as the fact that Winter is Coming.

And for those who have only watched the show and not read the books, it’s been a staple of the show since season one. The show has not shied away from continuing that tradition of sexual violence being an explicit part of the Westeros world. I am not making excuses for that creative choice on the part of the show or George RR Martin but simply pointing out this was the choice and it is known to fans. With that in mind, and with the set-up for Ramsey Bolton as a character, it’s no surprise that the creators chose to put this scene into the show. Sansa inherited this awful scene along with Jeyne’s story arc. Fans of the book knew there was a chance this would happen, and it did.

So why is this the scene that has everyone so up in arms? If the act of rape against a young girl by Ramsey Bolton was so repellant, why didn’t these same up-in-arms fans throw the books away when it happened to Jeyne Poole? Or when the rapes occurred to any of the other characters in Game of Thrones in the previous seasons? I know plenty of people who have said, “I had to put the series away after _____ incident because I can’t stand the violence against women in the books/show” and I support that choice 100%. But for the fans who have stuck with the show until now, I don’t see how there are any illusions left about the nature of the world of Westeros. Game of Thrones is full of sexual violence.

What then makes this scene so shocking? I have to come back to one element of this scene, and that is Sansa Stark.

sansa-stark-game-of-thrones

Sansa Stark Is Not Special

One of the worst moments reading Game of Thrones for me came during the bread riots in King’s Landing. While the Hound rides to the rescue of Sansa Stark and keeps her from being assaulted, another woman character was not so lucky. Lollys Stokeworth is later found wandering the streets, traumatized and naked, after the riots. She had been reportedly torn from her horse and raped by 50 men. She later becomes pregnant and is forced to have her child and then married off to Tyrion’s sellsword, Bronn, who is using Lollys as his ticket to a comfortable life among nobility.

Lollys
Lollys on GoT Season 5 – Treated better on the show than in the books by far.

This horrific gang rape is an ‘off-screen’ throw away, barely discussed in the book, yet marks as a singular moment when I nearly put down the book. Lollys had never been treated kindly by the narrative – fat shamed and put down for not being as intelligent, she is largely considered a throw away character who is the butt of cruel jokes. She’s an example in the narrative of how badly women can be treated if they don’t have something to protect them: a strong family name, relatives that care about them, beauty, title, or strength of arms. Lollys is fat and considered stupid and a second daughter, so she’s no one.

Sansa Stark on the other hand is not. Sansa is a main character and a darling of the fandom. She is the beautiful daughter of Ned Stark and the tragic lady who discovers that her tender heart and dreams of a beautiful, romantic future are just illusions when she is introduced to the cruelty of the real Westeros. Sansa has grown from that little girl character into a young woman traumatized by her surroundings but resilient against them, biding her time until she can take back what is hers. She has all the hallmarks of a character growing with every book or season of the show.

Sansa is the beautiful, sweet, thoughtful protagonist character. She is not a prostitute or a side character. She isn’t one of Craster’s Wives, wildling women raped by their own father north of the wall. She isn’t Lollys. And that is why I believe, in part, the outrage has been so tremendous. Sansa gets more empathy because she is the character you are meant to empathize with as part of the overall narrative – you’ve lived through her experiences, you’ve taken her to your heart and read scenes through her eyes in the books. Yet in the grand scheme of things, sexual violence is abhorrent on every level. And the uneven distribution of outrage as we’re seeing it now shows an uncomfortable bit of privilege coming out. The other characters whose suffering was considered less outrageous were often sex workers, lower class characters, or characters from outside groups like the wildlings. They’re women that are window dressing. They’re Lollys.

Fans of Game of Thrones have been watching sexual violence being enacted on women as part of the world setting and plot since the beginning of the series. Yet only when it happens to characters we are meant to empathize with is the outrage so great that we hear it echoing across the internet.

That uncomfortable fact brings me to my largest point, and it’s this:

Sexual Violence Against Women Is In So Many Fandoms And We Don’t Shout About It Nearly Enough

mad-max-trailer-2-inlineThe very same weekend that this episode of Game of Thrones came out, Mad Max: Fury Road was blasting into cinemas across the country. A glorious symphony of explosions and feminism, Fury Road is an old fashioned popcorn movie that is gorgeous in its execution and progressive in its storyline. There are fantastic women characters, an amazing and uplifting story about the fight to rescue trafficked women from their abuser, all while watching effectively a two hour car chase with flame throwers and armored vehicles. It is, in short, a fantastic movie.

And the storyline is predicated on a backstory of sexual violence.

The women in Fury Road are victims of sex trafficking, sold to a warlord as breeders so they could produce for him healthy babies. When we first see them, they are cutting off chastity belts with heinous teeth openings to keep anyone besides their owner from having sex with them. These women have been the victims of rape as they were captives who escape because, as they say in the film, “We are not things.”

"You cannot own another human being."
“You cannot own another human being.”

Fury Road, this movie being lauded as one of the most feminist and progressive films, is built in a world full of sexual violence.

Here’s the hard part to swallow: most of our most progressive fandoms have sexual violence against women in them.

One of the hardest scenes to watch in Buffy.
One of the hardest scenes to watch in Buffy.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer included a scene where Buffy is nearly raped by Spike. Orphan Black featured the unwilling penetration and impregnation of Helena by the Prolethians. Cylons Athena and Six were nearly raped on Battlestar Galactica. Sally Jupiter is raped in Watchmen. Slave Girl is a formerly trafficked underaged sex slave in comic book series Saga. So called ‘historical’ CW shows like Reign included a rape plot for Mary, Queen of Scots. How about we go old school and talk about The Crow? Or Barbara Gordon’s fate in The Killing Joke? Let’s talk about the rape of Mellie Grant on Scandal. Or every forcible impregnation story on shows like Angel or Star Trek ever. American Horror Story. Bates Motel. Downton Abbey. Vikings. Rome. Hellblaizer. The Walking Dead. Heroes. Sons of Anarchy. Mad Men. Oz. Prison Break. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. 24. I really could keep going.

The torture of Gina, the captured Cyclon Six model, aboard the Pegasus on Battlestar Galactica.
The torture of Gina, the captured Cyclon Six model, aboard the Pegasus on Battlestar Galactica.

The fact is, sexual violence is laced into so many fandoms. It’s become so common as a theme that I picked up two book series right in a row (Red Rising by Pierce Brown and new fantasy series An Ember In the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir) and both were fantasy worlds where women were raped or had threatened with sexual violence as a shorthand for how evil a male character was. This is the language that threads through our fandoms because when you have people killing one another left and right, a new awful must be created that is worse than death, dismemberment, explosions and slaughter. So you threaten a woman with rape.

The Sansa Stark scene brought to the forefront a very serious problem in our fandoms, in the fantasy worlds that are created. It highlighted the disturbing trend to use rape as a shorthand for villainy, and it made a huge audience face this horrific trope that we aren’t speaking about enough. It brought to the forefront that this issue has been lacing our fandoms for years, and yet we haven’t spoken about it enough as a whole. Some people have been talking about it, sure, and there are lots of blog posts and sites dedicated to speaking out about it. But now the conversation is bigger because it’s in your face with the case of Sansa Stark. Only it isn’t just about Sansa Stark. It’s about the shorthand that pervades our fandoms and the fact that until it until it happens to a character like Sansa, the mainstream of audiences have been taking it in stride. Because it is expected.

Let me repeat that: it is expected that worlds will have sexual violence in them as a matter of course. Even if those worlds are completely made up. It is expected that sexual violence is a norm of life.

We expect that worlds will have rape in it when they are completely made up. Dragons can fly the skies, slayers can destroy vampires, zombies can walk the earth, but we can’t imagine any of those worlds without sexual violence.

And that’s what rape culture looks like.

Rape In Our Media Is A Choice

The fact is, it is not a foregone conclusion that rape WILL happen in a fictional creation. It is not necessary that it is included. It would have been just as easy, for example, for author Sabaa Tahir to say “In my fictional world, where living masks bond to people’s faces and ghuls taunt people from moving shadows, people don’t think women are objects to be raped or threatened with sexual violence.” Instead, the women characters are considered lesser then men, objects to be abused, even when they are supposedly ‘strong’ and ‘important.’ The same goes in so many other fandoms and in the above mentioned Game of Thrones. It is a choice made by the creators, and a choice that we as consumers can criticize and mark as problematic. And it is a choice that often times is made to represent the fact that sexual violence is a real problem in our world, one that can be explored respectfully and with nuanced detail in a fictional work. It is a choice made by a creator. It should not, however, be a default.

But once that expectation is set, it seems disingenuous to me to be surprised when the expectation is there to begin with. If we look around, we can see that the spectre of this issue has chased us all over fandom, and being all shocked and shaken when it happens to the sweet, innocent princess character feels like it ignores the violence done to all the other women in those works. It’s just the worst now because it happened to a favorite and not a prostitute or a villainess in Game of Thrones.

I for one hope that the creators of the Game of Thrones TV series will take to heart the very violent reaction happening in the fandom right now and take a solid look at why and how they’re including sexual violence in their show. I hope they use this event on the show to explore marital rape as a subject and the shared experience of victimization shared by Reek/Theon and Sansa, now both rape survivors at the hands of the same abuser. I await what comes next.

But I think it also behooves fans to take a good, hard look at the fandoms they support and recognize that these subjects have been around and aren’t new, or shocking. It’s been there all along. Each person just has to decide whether their favorite show handled it in a way that is acceptable or not to them.

In my case, I will be watching to see how the show handles the Sansa Stark rape. I hope it ends with Sansa sticking something sharp into Ramsey Bolton. But honestly, a big ol’ shadow could pop up and swallow him whole. Who knows? This is, after all, Westeros.