In movies and tv shows, audience members are constantly bombarded with graphic images of sexual violence committed against women. While audience members may be troubled by these images, rarely are they questioned. As we all know, art imitates reality, and in reality, women face sexual violence every single day.
However, there has been one genre where these displays of violence have been largely critiqued: Fantasy. Why, many ask, in a genre where authors could conjure up any reality, are women still being raped? This critique has been most notable in the Game of Thrones tv series, where the rape of women occurs disturbingly often.
In response to these criticisms, George R.R. Martin has defended himself, saying, “Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day. To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest; and would have undermined one of the book’s themes: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords but from ourselves. We are the monsters.”
However, writers everywhere on the internet point out the absurdity of portraying the rape of women so flippantly in the name of honoring historical accuracy when the show also contains images of witches, dragons, and zombies. Yet, defenders of the show repeat that every character, regardless of gender, faces historically accurate violence, whether it be graphic beheadings, whippings, or torture. Furthermore, they argue that to say rape scenes promote the rape of women is the equivalent of saying movies about American slavery promote the enslavement of the American people.
The problem they often overlook is the pornification of the assault on women in the show. Unlike the graphic beheadings, whippings, and torture, the images of rape in GoT mimic violence against women and are often fetishized in porn. We have a culture that consumes fantasies of violently subjugated women while recreating them in our daily lives.
The question remains if art imitates reality and if the reality Martin seeks to display is one where “we are the monsters,” why is it that women are so often the targets in our monstrous fantasies and victims in our monstrous reality?
Dr. Justin Lehmiller: “the overwhelming majority of both men and women report having these fantasies about sex being forced on them. Now, women are more likely to have these fantasies than men are, but most men have had that fantasy before too. And so it’s not anything that is unique to one gender, and I think part of it speaks to the fact that submission sexual submission, in general, is a really common sexual fantasy. And coupled with that is this desire to be overwhelmingly desired by someone else. You want a partner or partners who find you so irresistible that they can’t help themselves or control themselves.” “These Fantasies speak to a deeper desire for things like submission and for feeling wanted and for feeling irresistible.” “We need to totally separate and distance this from discussions about rape and sexual assault in the real world because that is a totally different and abhorrent thing.” “These fantasies are things that have roots in things totally unrelated [to rape in the real world].”
“Sometimes fantasy is just a fantasy, a thought that turns you on. But that you have no desire to act on in real life.”He also separates between sexual fantasy and sexual desire. While many people find the idea arousing, they do not desire to act out this fantasy because it would mean a loss of control for them
Despite the fact that the books are fantasy, they are based on History. “Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day.”
“To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest; and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (and the heroes too) Each of us has within himself the capacity for great good and greater evil.” Goerge RR Martin
“No darker or more depraved than our own world. The atrocities in Ice and Fire, sexual or otherwise, pale in comparison to what can be found in any good history book.”
“That requires vivid sensory detail. I don’t want distance, and I want to put you there. When the scene in question is a sex scene, some readers find that intensely uncomfortable… and that’s ten times as true for scenes of sexual violence.”
“But that is as it should be; certain scenes are meant to be uncomfortable, disturbing, hard to read.” American Sadism “Chris Hedges”
The historian Johan Huizinga, writing about the twilight of the Middle Ages, argued that as things fall apart, sadism is embraced as a way to cope with the hostility of an indifferent universe. No longer bound to a common purpose, a ruptured society retreats into the cult of the self. It celebrates, as do corporations on Wall Street or mass culture through reality television shows, the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity, and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation; a penchant for lying, deception, and manipulation; and the incapacity for remorse or guilt. Get what you can, as fast as you can, before someone else gets it. This is the state of nature, the “war of all against all,” Thomas Hobbes saw as the consequence of social collapse, a world in which life becomes “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” And this sadism, as Friedrich Nietzsche understood, fuels a perverted, sadistic pleasure. The cultural and social forces that have given rise to extremism in the United States.
Sadism defines nearly every cultural, social, and political experience in the United States.
The tyranny we once exploited on others, we now exploit on ourselves”
“Sadism dominates the culture. It runs like an electric current through reality television and trash-talk programs, is at the core of pornography, and fuels the compliant, corporate collective. Corporatism is about crushing the capacity for moral choice and diminishing the individual to force him or her into an ostensibly harmonious collective. This hypermasculinity has its logical fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our lack of compassion for our homeless, our poor, the mentally ill, the unemployed, and the sick. … We accept the system handed to us and seek to find a comfortable place within it. We retreat into the narrow, confined ghettos created for us and shut our eyes to the deadly superstructure of the corporate state.”
It is expressed in the pornification of American society, where women are tortured, beaten, degraded, and sexually violated, often by numerous men, in porn films, and then discarded after a few weeks or months with severe trauma, along with sexually transmitted diseases and vaginal and anal tears that must be repaired surgically. It is expressed in the “incel” movement that perpetrates violent assaults against women by men who say they have been spurned or ignored by women.