Consent is such a simple concept. Mother may I? Yes, you may. But in our culture, both in real-life and mass entertainment, the notion of consent and its importance too often blurs. So now, those blurred lines (thanks, or more like no thanks, Robin Thicke) become the norm.
Spoiler Alert: This is the part where I warn you about my intent to throwdown about the shit that went down Sunday on “Game of Thrones.” This is also your trigger warning. So, now that everyone is properly warned…
Let’s talk about how we have come to a place where we are even having a debate about whether Jaime rapes his sister Cersei in Sunday’s “Game of Thrones.” Let me go on record stating the obvious. YES, THAT WAS RAPE.
Lest you think I’m an idiot for stating said obvious, let me reference “Game of Thrones” director Alex Graves who said this of the scene in question to HitFix:
“Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle. Nobody really wanted to talk about what was going on between the two characters, so we had a rehearsal that was a blocking rehearsal. And it was very much about the earlier part with Charles (Dance) and the gentle verbal kidnapping of Cersei's last living son. Nikolaj came in and we just went through one physical progression and digression of what they went through, but also how to do it with only one hand, because it was Nikolaj. By the time you do that and you walk through it, the actors feel comfortable going home to think about it. The only other thing I did was that ordinarily, you rehearse the night before, and I wanted to rehearse that scene four days before, so that we could think about everything. And it worked out really well. That's one of my favorite scenes I've ever done.”There’s a lot going on in his comments about the scene. But the key part is this:
“Well, it becomes consensual by the end.”If you saw the scene in question, there can be no question that it was unequivocally NOT “consensual by the end.” And, YES, THAT WAS RAPE. But by all means let’s perpetuate the idea that any man can magically turn a “no,” into a “yes.” She may not have wanted it at first, but hubba hubba and all that fucking crap.
And then the director doubled-down on the “consensual by the end” statement by saying to Vulture:
“It’s my cut of the scene. The consensual part of it was that she wraps her legs around him, and she’s holding on to the table, clearly not to escape but to get some grounding in what’s going on. And also, the other thing that I think is clear before they hit the ground is she starts to make out with him. The big things to us that were so important, and that hopefully were not missed, is that before he rips her undergarment, she’s way into kissing him back. She’s kissing him aplenty.”Wow, really? Because I saw a woman saying “no” repeatedly while resisting only to be told “I don’t care” what you want by the man.
Now, admittedly, I have not read the books. But I have read this particular excerpt and in the book it, indeed, is clear that while there are some protestations there is also ultimately consent from Cersei before it happens. To quote Cersei in the book:
“Hurry,” she was whispering now, “quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime.” Her hands helped guide him. “Yes,” Cersei said as he thrust, “my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you’re home now, you’re home now, you’re home.”Yes, the scene is still disturbing, but OK – that sounds like consent.
Compare that to what we saw on TV. This is the exact transcript of the end of their scene on TV:
Cersei: “It’s not right. It’s not right. It’s not right.”Look, my intent here is not to shame this director for blurring the lines of consent. Instead it is to point out how much we have accepted that blur in our lives. Why is it so hard to just say, YES, THAT WAS RAPE?
Jaime: “I don’t care. I don’t care.”
Cersei: [Weeping noises.] Don’t. Don’t. [More weeping noises.]
- A man forced himself on a woman. YES, THAT WAS RAPE.
- The man and woman have had consensual sex in the past. Doesn’t matter, YES, THAT WAS RAPE.
- The woman is a bitch and horrible person anyway. So what, YES, THAT WAS RAPE.
There can be scenes of rape and sexual assault on television that serve a (terrible) purpose. I am not against the depiction of all sexual violence on screen (though, perhaps we could do it a little bit less raping, eh?) But let’s be honest about what we are seeing.
Here’s the thing. When we blur the lines in entertainment, we create a world where it is easier to blur the lines in real life. This is rape culture, and it’s wrong. Am I saying “Game of Thrones” is causing people to get raped? No, don’t be silly. Am I saying continued representation of rape as something other than rape (and therefore debatable or excusable or – worst case scenario – the norm) makes us as a society more likely to allow this sort of behavior from high school football stars or world-famous fashion photographers or directors of critically acclaimed movies.
To tackle a real problem we have to speak the same language. YES, THAT WAS RAPE. It’s really that simple.