Sansa of the North

I’m going to write about Game of Thrones here because it’s my blog and you can’t stop me.

And yeah, FUCKING SPOILERS. Ye have been warned.

Ramsay Bolton raped Sansa Stark. By now, the entire world knows this whether or not they watch the show. It was horrible and awful. But it was not lazy storytelling on the part of the producers and it was nothing like last season’s creepy twincest scene that seemed to suggest nonconsensual sex could be a byproduct of intense desire and emotion. In this case, the rape of Sansa was totally relevant to the story being told. Awful and sad and terrible, but relevant.

Note, I have not read the books to this part. I know Sansa wasn’t raped in the books, but another woman was. I also know her rape was far worse than Sansa’s (and, of course, they’re all bad). I’m talking about the HBO GoT here, not the one in the books. I honestly don’t think how the books differ from the series is relevant to this conversation. If you want to gripe about how the show is varying from the books, I have no time for you.

The scenario in which Littlefinger has placed Sansa is purely political and reeking of symbolism already. Sansa is, as far as anyone knows, the last living Stark. Her family is synonymous with the North and her marriage into the Bolton family is one way they can legitimize their control over the territory and perhaps align the people to their side prior to Stanis’ coming ass-kicking (I hope, anyway — again, I have not read the books). Seen in that light, Sansa is both an individual and an embodiment of the North. She represents a legitimate claim to rule it. Her children will be half Stark even if they carry the name Bolton. This marriage is not about love. It’s politics. It’s supposed to be what marriages amongst royal and highborn people have always been about: power consolidation, alliances, expediency, etc.

When Ramsay rapes Sansa he is raping the North. He is committing violence against the foundation of its traditions. Yes, he’s a sadistic little worm of a thing who, I can only hope, will die a slow and terrible death, but he’s also a Bolton trying to strengthen his illegitimate grip on a land he hopes to rule one day. Were he not the vile beast he is, perhaps that scene would have gone down differently, but he is truly horrible (worse even than Joffrey). Did we expect rose petals on the bed?

The state we seem to be in at this point in our cultural dialog is that rape on screen is never OK. Whenever it happens now (as it did two seasons ago on Downton Abbey) the writers are accused of using a tired old trope and being lazy. As far as I can tell, the furor over this is focused on the act, not the way in which it’s been employed in the story. The act itself has become taboo.

On a program that routinely shows its characters being casually and chillingly violent to one another in ways far more disturbing than the scene in question, it’s puzzling to me that this is the line some cannot cross. Ramsay literally threw one of his girlfriends to the dogs and I can’t recall reading one article or angry tweet about it. Yes, rape is horrible. Yes, it has been employed in stories far too casually and without reason before now. But that’s not what happened here. Not by a long shot.