Game of Thrones and Semen Receptacles

So, the most recent Game of Thrones episode.

WARNING

SPOILERS

TRIGGER WARNING

concerning rape and the victimization of women.

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 6, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

I still haven’t watched the episode.

And it’s likely I’m not gonna.

And it’s possible I won’t be watching the show at all anymore.

The day after the episode aired, Twitter was abuzz with talk about the horror of it. Since I hadn’t watched the episode, I went looking for plot summaries. I found more than I wanted to know. This was worse than the aftermath of “Red Wedding.”

Sansa raped by Ramsay both revolts me and makes me roll my eyes with plain annoyance.

First of all…really? Another instance of a woman victimized by sexual violence on this show? Come on, WRITERS…. You’re already changing tons of stuff that G.R.R. Martin wrote. Why not change the parts where women repeatedly have their agency torn from them? WRITERS, is this the only way you know how to advance a plot or a female character?

COME ON. You can do better than this. Women victimized by sexual violence has been *done*. THINK UP SOMETHING ELSE. For worship’s sake, USE YOUR IMAGINATIONS. I assume you have them — after all, you’re getting paid for this. Sheesh.

Furthermore…Sansa raped by Ramsay. Really? Like I didn’t see that one coming the second she and Petyr Baelish reined up at Winterfell. OF COURSE Ramsay raped her. He’s a lunatic sadist — what else would he do? It’s so utterly PREDICTABLE. And once again, GoT WRITERS, I implore you to use your imaginations. GIVE ME A SCENE I DIDN’T PREDICT TWO EPISODES AGO.

*eye roll*

Having Sansa suffer rape by Ramsay is a stupid (on many levels), predictable, and utterly boring choice. Find a better way to advance Sansa’s character. Since the scene is apparently meant to motivate Theon/Reek to fight back against Ramsay (as if EMASCULATION weren’t enough of a reason already), you can find a better way to advance Theon’s character, too, while you’re at it.

GoT, with all the cramazing writing you’ve delivered in four-and-a-half seasons, I know you can do better than this.

I’ve never been raped. But I imagine that seeing such a traumatic event reduced to a tired plot device OVER AND OVER does something to cheapen the sufferings of those who have experienced this particular brand of horror. Rape shouldn’t be just another set of mechanics for getting a character from here to there. Once again, the GoT writers should be able to do better than this.

Horrify us if you must…but don’t drive away an entire segment of your audience that is so sick of this as the “be all, end all” portrayal of the female experience. I expect better from GoT because, as Chuck Wendig says, “its creepy fascination with hurting and marginalizing women is increasingly gross.”

I AM SO EVERLASTINGLY SICK OF WOMEN’S PAIN HAVING NO SIGNIFICANCE BEYOND SERVING AS MOTIVATION FOR A MAN’S SPRINGING INTO ACTION.

So…do we just not portray rape in fiction, or what?

Since this episode of GoT aired the same weekend as Mad Max: Fury Road, a lot of people have been comparing the treatment of women in GoT to the treatment of women in Mad Max. Well, I haven’t seen Mad Max yet, either (more woe is me), so I had a couple of other stories pop into my head concerning rape and victimization.

YA novel Did You Hear What Happened to Andrea? by Gloria D. Miklowitz has the titular character raped and trying to put her life back together. The book directly addresses rape culture: lack of support from family, friends, and authorities; victims made to feel responsible and guilty; rapists holding power over their victims long after the crime has occurred. It’s a good read for teens (AND ADULTS), considering that rape culture truly doesn’t get discussed openly or enough.

It’s worth noting that this novel was published in 1984. And we in 2015 think we are SO advanced.

I also recently read Stephen King’s short story “Big Driver.” The main character is raped and chooses not to live as a victim. It’s a great story of a woman finding and exercising her agency, refusing to let trauma and/or stigma keep her from making sure the rapist answers for his crimes. King’s story is a thriller — in great part because it’s thrilling to see a woman successfully quest to get her power back from the one who thought he’d taken it away forever.

So…in my rant about Game of Thrones, am I saying we storytellers should never include rape in our stories?

No. I am not saying that at all.

For one thing, to say that would make me a hypocrite — because in my debut novel, Colors of Deception, I included an attempted rape. And because I was a new author (and more naive about life), I’m pretty sure I did it badly. I didn’t write the aftermath as I should have, and the story suffered for it. I just hope my readers haven’t. But the story stands as a testament to one writer’s growth — as a writer and as a human.

Furthermore, I never want to say, “We can’t or shouldn’t write about ________________.” Fill in that blank with your pet uncomfortable topic. In fiction and in real life, we need to be able to talk about what’s dark and gritty. We need to explore what’s uncomfortable. Talking about these awful things lets us be more vulnerable and open with one another and find healing where healing needs to happen. We can’t be fully human with each other until we are vulnerable and transparent.

Sometimes, vulnerability and transparency mean openly acknowledging and working through the dark stuff.

“Monsters aren’t beaten by hiding them in the dark. They’re beaten by exposing them to the light.”
–Paul Anthony Shortt (@PAShortt)

So, storytellers…tell stories about the darkness. Tell stories about rape. But do it in a way that empowers your characters instead of stripping them of their agency and humanity.

“It took Sansa from her growing place of power, cut her off at the knees, and put the focus on Theon’s ordeal.”

“There’s only so many times you can be disgusted with something you love before you can’t bring yourself to look anymore.”

The Mary Sue

In Sansa, Game of Thrones isn’t even telling the story of a woman anymore. It’s telling the story of a gamepiece moved around the board by the whims of others. It’s telling the story of an object that’s handled and used to make other people do things. At this point, Sansa might as well be an ornamental vase. A receptacle for men’s desires, schemes, and semen.

“Stark” is the German word for “strong.” The GoT writers have utterly removed from Sansa Stark the ability to step into and live up to her own name.

On the other hand, we have Gloria D. Miklowitz and Stephen King, who told stories about women who were raped but rose in strength like phoenixes from the ashes.

So, writers, tell the dark tales as you will. But let the women be women. Don’t turn us into vases. Don’t turn us into receptacles.
 

WE ARE NOT THINGS.

 

 

 

Living in the Future, Singing in the Darkness

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about perception, perspective, stagnation of both, and changes in each. One image my thoughts return to is this:

“The Olympus Mons mountain on Mars is so tall and yet so gently sloped that, were you suited and supplied correctly, ascending it would allow you to walk most of the way to space. Mars has a big, puffy atmosphere, taller than ours, but there’s barely anything to it at that level. 30 Pascals of pressure, which is what we get in an industrial vacuum furnace here on Earth. You may as well be in space. Imagine that. Imagine a world where you could quite literally walk to space.”

–Warren Ellis,
How To See the Future

Walk into space. The closest I can get to imagining this is the descriptions of “the Wall” in Robert Silverberg’s Kingdoms of the Wall (a fantasy/sci-fi I highly recommend). And even those wouldn’t come close to what I’m sure must be the awesome reality of Mars’s Olympus Mons.

Unfortunately, as Ellis goes on to say, “manufactured normalcy would suggest that, if we were the Martians, we would find this completely dull within ten years and bitch about not being able to simply fart our way into space.”

There’s a lot of cynicism and snarkiness floating around nowadays. I can’t tell if it’s more intense than it used to be, or if we’re just more aware of it because we can dip into the negativity of a fellow human on the other side of the planet within 5 seconds of their posting their vitriolic rant on their blog. Ah well, at least it’s not a GeoCities page.

But with pessimism and sarcasm just a mouseclick away, I feel as though the negativity is ubiquitous. And it’s addictive. Sunshine unicorns glitter rainbows kittens cotton candy might be just as readily available for consumption as doom and gloom, but we humans tend to down the doom long before we reach for the rainbows.

I’ve written about this before, delving in to the creepy origins of the word “sarcasm.” So I won’t repeat myself here, not about that. But I’m still thinking all of those same thoughts about negativity and cynicism, and I’m thinking specifically of how they affect our perspective on the incredible world we live in today with all its amazing advances and advantages.

Just yesterday, I was reading an article on how women and men all over the world are using the internet and social media to fight back against rape culture. It’s tempting to gnash one’s teeth over the fact that rape culture ever existed and still exists. But instead of gnashing over that, what if we rejoiced at the brilliant and powerful ways in which right-minded people are combating it? If we didn’t live in such fabulous times, all of those beautiful, ringing, truth-filled voices would be silent and silenced.

In his article, Ellis points out a dozen? dozens of? advances in science and technology that most of us tend to take for granted and find boring — even though these things were beyond imagination not many years ago. Not many years ago, these things would’ve been considered “magic.” Not many years ago, the “magic” of uniting voices worldwide for a single would’ve been impossible.

Let’s open our eyes, is what I’m getting at. Let’s open our eyes and our hearts to see all the beauty and the brilliance and the boldness that awaken hope. It’s there for the seeing, and it’s there for the claiming if we want it.

My daughter is almost 9 months old. Sometimes, when we’re out somewhere, I catch her examining her feet. Her eyes are huge, and her mouth is wide open, and she gives me this look as if to say, “Mama! These feet aren’t just at home. These feet are HERE, too! Aren’t they amazing?!”

Yes, my love, they are amazing. And I am amazed to see the world with fresh, unjaded, untainted eyes, through you.

Dream. Think. Do. Marvel like a child at the intricacy and the mind-blowing beauty of this place we live in. And let your heart sing through every darkness. Other hearts will answer.

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BringItClose

Defining Rape

If you know me, you know that I mostly roll my eyes at politicians and at politics in general.

But if you know me, you also know that on occasion, I get very angry with politicians and politics in general.

This is one of those occasions.

If you don’t want to read any more about Rep. Todd Akin or his definition of rape, you should probably stop reading this post and read something happier.

Todd Akin on Rape

A few days ago, in an interview on KTVI-TV, Akin stated:

“From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy caused by rape is] really rare…If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something….”

From there, Akin went on to discuss his views on abortion, which I am not going to get into here.

What I am going to get into is his definition of rape and how it affects women.

And yes, I realize that he later apologized and attempted to clarify by stating that what he really meant was “forcible rape,” not “legitimate rape.”

Excuse me, sir — but what kind of rape is not forcible?

Defining Rape

Yesterday, I posted the following status update on Facebook:

I know I’m inviting a firestorm, but I don’t care. I’m going to say it anyway.

Rep. Todd Akin is an idiot and an enemy of women.

That is all.

As of 11:50am today, the firestorm I expected has not come. But a few responses did prompt me to post further comments on the status, and I thought these worth sharing here:

I do agree that Akin’s comment is being used to distract from other issues. But that’s not what concerns me.

What concerns me is that every day, the burden of defense in rape cases is placed on the shoulders of the woman who was raped instead of being placed on the shoulders of her rapist. In private circles, in public, and in courts of law, a woman who has been raped must prove that she really meant it when she said “no.”

Was she wearing clothing that “invited” the attack? Did she fight back? Did she try to hurt her attacker? Did she scream? If she doesn’t answer these questions to her questioners’ satisfaction, then the assumption is that she didn’t really mean “no”; that she must be lying in some way; that she maybe even enjoyed it; that she wasn’t really raped.

The reality is this: If a woman says “no” and the man continues and succeeds in penetrating her, then it is rape — even if saying “no” is all she does. If she chooses to lie there and take it instead of “fighting back,” it is still rape. If she chooses to lie there and take it and not subject her body to further stress beyond what she is already enduring, it is still rape.

What Akin has done is take away a woman’s right to defend herself in whatever way she sees fit — even if the single way she chooses is to say “no.”

A political figure has uttered a stupid, ignorant statement in an admittedly uncomfortable situation — and it’s a statement that, once again, places the burden of proof on the woman who was raped. Yes, we all make mistakes, and we all say stupid things sometimes when we’re under stress. But if Akin doesn’t know the basics of human biology and can’t keep his tongue under control when in public and under stress, he needs a different job. Most of us don’t utter our stupidities in an arena that affects the lives of billions worldwide.

As for the question of stress and ovulation, I can speak only from personal experience. No, I haven’t suffered the kind of stress brought on by rape. But still, my body has been subjected to fairly heavy amounts of stress since I had my first period. Not once in the 21 years since I had my first period have I missed a cycle due to stress. Not once has stress had any effect on my ovulation.

The times I have attempted to get pregnant, I got pregnant on the first try — no doubts that it was the first try, and no paying attention to where I was in my cycle, either.

But according to Akin, if I get “raped” and get pregnant as a result, then my knowledge of my own fertility means nothing. According to Akin, if I get “raped” and get pregnant as a result, it means (1) that I wasn’t “fighting back” hard enough to cause my body enough stress OR (2) I’m lying.

Again, the burden of defense rests on the shoulders of the woman. Again, she must prove that she was “legitimately” raped — and her single, possibly quiet “no” is not enough defense. Not against her attacker, not against Akin, and not against accusations.

Minutes after I hit “enter,” an acquaintance replied with a link to this excellent letter to Todd Akin from Eve Ensler, a rape survivor in the Congo.

Since I have never been raped, her words present the realities of all of this far better than my words ever could.