storm of swords

The Scene in the Sept, Part 1: Stop Referencing Storm of Swords

Spoiler alert: Jaime raped Cersei in “Breaker of Chains.” If you’re reading my blog and this is the first place you’ve seen that, I’m going to feel really special that you came here before you read all the other internet magazines that have been covering this issue.

I have approximately one thousand thoughts about this and responses to the articles and all that, and I’m going to start distilling them here into coherent posts. Let’s start with something simple – namely, my big problem with what I’ve read on the internet in the past 48 hours.

Ready? I’m ready. Let’s do it.

Today I’m going to talk about the two of the main issues I’m seeing raised with this scene: one, that Alex Graves (director of the episode) and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) don’t see the scene as necessarily being rape; and two, that it is not rape in the books.

There are a lot of articles out there on the internet right now that bring up both of those things (like this Jezebel article) and are angry about both. For those who haven’t read about this yet, Alex Graves said, “Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau reportedly responded to the question of whether the scene was rape: “Yes, and no. There are moments where she gives in, and moments where she pushes him away. But it’s not pretty.”

cersei and corpse

I’m on board with being mad at Alex Graves and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau: that scene is clearly, unequivocally rape. Cersei says no, and Jaime persists, and that’s what rape is. The only reasoning I can come up with for why these men might have said otherwise (other than just blaming rape culture, obviously) is that they both had to focus on a lot of other things besides “and then a rape occurs”: Jaime has to play some motivation in this scene, and the director has to set up a visually striking shot.

One issue with making a big deal of these guys saying these things, and with comparing the scene in the show to the books, is that it shifts focus from considering what the scene actually does. If you’re interested in the impact a show like Game of Thrones has on our society, most people who watch it (I assume – obviously I am not one of these people) will not immediately compare it to the book or see what the people involved in the making of the show had to say. It’s more interesting to me to analyze what the scene itself actually does or doesn’t do. (I know I’m not doing that in this post – I will down the line, I promise.) Besides, determining whether this scene furthers or flies in the face of rape culture will largely depend on what happens next, which we don’t know yet because we lack Bran’s ability to see into the future.

bran falls

 

Anyone feeling like this scene was out of character for Jaime would do well to think a little harder about that. (But more on that in another post.)

The major issue here, though, is that people are mad about the ambiguity that the director and one of the actors sees in this scene (has no one asked Lena Headey for her opinion on this, by the way? For feminism’s sake if nothing else?) and they’re mad because it’s not a rape in the books. This is making me want to throw things just a little bit. Here’s the passage from A Storm of Swords, which is pasted all over the internet right now:

She kissed him. A light kiss, the merest brush of her lips on his, but he could feel her tremble as he slid his arms around her. “I am not whole without you.”

There was no tenderness in the kiss he returned to her, only hunger. Her mouth opened for his tongue. “No,” she said weakly when his lips moved down her neck, “not here. The septons…”

“The Others can take the septons.” He kissed her again, kissed her silent, kissed her until she moaned. Then he knocked the candles aside and lifted her up onto the Mother’s altar, pushing up her skirts and the silken shift beneath. She pounded on his chest with feeble fists, murmuring about the risk, the danger, about their father, about the septons, about the wrath of gods. He never heard her. He undid his breeches and climbed up and pushed her bare white legs apart. One hand slid up her thigh and underneath her smallclothes. When he tore them away, he saw that her moon’s blood was on her, but it made no difference.

“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.” She kissed his ear and stroked his short bristly hair. Jaime lost himself in her flesh. He could feel Cersei’s heart beating in time with his own, and the wetness of blood and seed where they were joined.

Yeah, see, that’s rape, too. You can’t bully people into sex, or keep going for it after they say no. That’s what rape is. You can say that she consents at the end, but that’s only after he persists – doesn’t count. Besides, it’s not like if the camera just kept going for ten more seconds after the scene from “Breaker of Chains” ended and Cersei said “yes,” then the scene wouldn’t be rape – it still would, because of what came before.

Plus, in the books, we have point of view characters. This scene is from Jaime’s point of view; what if it were from Cersei’s? That murmuring about the risk and pounding on his chest with feeble fists business isn’t a big deal from Jaime’s point of view, but if you try to think about it from Cersei’s, it’d probably be a lot more like what we saw in “Breaker of Chains.” Point of view characters can be unreliable – Sansa remembers the Hound kissing her before he left the Battle of the Blackwater, which doesn’t happen in the books or in the show. (Though it does happen in a whole lot of fanfiction – do your best not to type “Sansa and the Hound” into Google images. That’s a good thing to avoid if you can.) Here we have Jaime raping Cersei without really realizing that that’s what he’s doing, and we have to read between the lines of his perspective to see her lack of consent.

sandor blackwater with sansa

See? Not kissing. Don’t believe what Sansa or any of those fanfic writers say.

The whole point is that someone’s consent isn’t a blurred line. That’s why people are all mad at Alex Graves and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, but it’s the same thing that’s going on in the book. People should feel free to be mad at Alex Graves and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau anyways, but they shouldn’t reference the book in the same article and pretend that makes the show’s version worse. Besides, if the rape is handled poorly in the show, it won’t matter if it was based on the books – it’ll be handled poorly either way.

People are making this comparison to drive home the point that it’s the show’s fault, not the book’s fault, but it doesn’t really matter. Comparing the show and the books is super fun if you’re a big nerd like me, but ultimately, they are separate works of art. There are lots of movie versions of classic books out there in the world that did a good job of adapting the book, but are terrible movies. The show is the show, and they change things from the books all the time, though they didn’t really in the case of Jaime raping Cersei.

Want to keep reading? Part 2, “Victims, Monsters, and Other Assumptions,” can be found here; Part 3, “What Makes Rape Different?” can be found here.

 

10 thoughts on “The Scene in the Sept, Part 1: Stop Referencing Storm of Swords

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  6. Andrew

    I clicked and read your blog and I do agree the show depicts a rape, the passage from the book found on your blog shows it was clearly distasteful in the setting, it was by no means a rape–

    “There was no tenderness in the kiss he returned to her, only hunger. Her mouth opened for his tongue. “No,” she said weakly when his lips moved down her neck, “not here. The septons…”

    “The Others can take the septons.” He kissed her again, kissed her silent, kissed her until she moaned. Then he knocked the candles aside and lifted her up onto the Mother’s altar, pushing up her skirts and the silken shift beneath. She pounded on his chest with feeble fists, murmuring about the risk, the danger, about their father, about the septons, about the wrath of gods. He never heard her. He undid his breeches and climbed up and pushed her bare white legs apart. One hand slid up her thigh and underneath her smallclothes. When he tore them away, he saw that her moon’s blood was on her, but it made no difference.

    “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.” She kissed his ear and stroked his short bristly hair. Jaime lost himself in her flesh. He could feel Cersei’s heart beating in time with his own, and the wetness of blood and seed where they were joined.

    –Now the part where she is murmuring about the risk, the danger, about their father, about the septons, about the wrath of gods, those are all things that have been factors that have played against them from the start of their weird ass relationship. Plus if Cersei was truly being raped, would she really only ‘pound on his chest’? Plus the last paragraph spoken by Cersei puts a nail in the coffin of your theory completely. “do it now, do me now” or how about ‘Her hands helped guide him.’ ‘She kissed his ear and stroked his short bristly hair’. Now I do not view this as rape by any means, women don’t enjoy being raped.

    If you do see this as a rape, frankly that’s more disturbing. I don’t know if your familiar with the 1971 film “Straw Dogs” but it contains a very controversial “rape” scene. A quick quote from the films Wikipedia page–

    “Critics accused director Peckinpah of glamorizing and eroticising rape and of engaging in misogynistic sadism, and male chauvinism, especially disturbed by the scene’s intended ambiguity—after initially resisting, Amy appears to enjoy parts of the first rape, kissing and holding her attacker. It is claimed that the enactment purposely catered to entrenched appetites for desired victim behavior and reinforces rape myths.”

    –So a film that came out in 1971 with a depiction of a “rape” scene, was hugely controversial for portraying the women as just, going along with it, and even enjoying it. So are you honestly accusing George R.R. Martin of portraying “desired victim behavior and reinforcing rape myths” in the book? Or, the more likely answer, since I’ve never heard anyone else make the rape case for the book is you are a believer in these exact rape myths. I’m sorry but a women will not succumb to her rapist and eventually enjoy it, that is the same rape myth the film ” Straw Dogs” propagated. I’m not saying that all will trash and fight, people will deal with traumatic experiences differently, I am saying your not likely to see a rape victim embracing and urging on an assailant. Oh and men get raped too, so if I offended anyone for using her, she, or women to often, I apologize, I meant no dis-respect.

    Reply
    1. Alice Post author

      Thanks for your comment. I think you and I are approaching the scene from different angles. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that women will eventually succumb to / enjoy rape if the rapist just keeps trying – I don’t think that at all. The issue I was hoping to point at is that it is true that bullying, coercion, emotional abuse, etc, can turn a no into a yes – and this should “count” as rape anyway. Just because the woman (or man, as you say) “eventually” said yes, after coercion/bullying from their partner, does not mean that he or she truly gave consent. Besides that, people often think that a woman can’t be raped by someone she has already had sex with, or can’t be raped if she desires the sex in any way. Lena Headey came forth as saying she thought Cersei wanted it in the show – but as she still did not give her consent (as another part of her didn’t want it), it’s still rape. These are the rape myths that I was trying to argue against in my post.

      Reply
      1. wraith808

        I’d have to say that I totally agree… and totally disagree with you at the same time. I really applaud this line “it is true that bullying, coercion, emotional abuse, etc, can turn a no into a yes – and this should “count” as rape anyway.” Many people don’t get that. And I don’t see *how* they don’t get it. By the same token, I don’t think that anyone, no matter how well or ill-intentioned, can tell a woman that she was or was not raped. They can help to lead her to that conclusion, but in the end, she has to make that distinction. And only she can do it. (I say she because of the whole Jaime/Cersei thing- but I mean victim).

        So, to continue, especially given the fact that these are characters created by JRRM, and the scene is told from POV, which is unreliable as you rightly say, you have to look at the evidence given after.

        Given that, does the character of Cersei think that she has been raped? It doesn’t appear so upon reading.

        And this whole thing has little to do with reality, IMO. Our culture is based around the least common denominator- the no. A woman does not have to say ‘no’ in order for it to become rape, as you rightly point out. And that so many people don’t get that point is disturbing…

      2. Alice Post author

        Good points all around. This is part of what makes it so confusing – ultimately, calling it consensual or non-consensual is up to the woman as you point out, but different women might use different parameters for that decision, which makes it murky. Plus, I totally agree with you saying that literally saying “no” is not necessary for it to be rape – but then that makes it even murkier, as in scenes like this one where the woman eventually says yes. I think our culture is very eager to come to a black-and-white, good-and-evil, yes-or-no understanding of rape, when in reality it’s so nuanced and complex, and that’s what makes it a real threat. It can be a really difficult concept for me to wrap my head around; perhaps it would have been better for me to say that if I were Cersei in this situation, I would feel raped. Or, that there’s definitely cause for concern here, at the very least, though I do think I would take action against Jaime from this. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Pingback: 'Game Of Thrones': 7 Biggest Plot Changes From Book To Screen! | Leaders are readers

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