Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why I Can't Jam to CeeLo Anymore OR: Your Game of Thrones fanship is wrecking my PTSD.

Facebook asked me to comment on the return of Game of Thrones.  Shortly after posting this status update, I received the following question in my inbox.

  • The short answer is: Yes.

    Now I'll define support.

    Do I mean these people themselves go to the bar with rohypnol in their pockets? Probably the majority do not.

    Do I mean these people themselves, when they hear of an MRA rally, get out their posterboard and their markers and go join with misogynistic signs held high? Probably the majority do not.

    But let's look at the study conducted at the University of North Dakota, by two PhDs and one MA, published in 2014 in the journal Violence and Gender and first reported by Newsweek. ONE IN THREE of the men surveyed said they would "use force to obtain intercourse" from a woman if there were no consequences. Now, when the actual word "rape" was used in the question, those numbers dropped to much lower. But is that not the definition of rape?

    And that's where things get tricky. My rapist fucked me without my consent. I woke up, and he was inside me, and I did not want him to be. But he does not believe that what he did was rape. So few rapists do. In fact, marital rape in the USA only began to be outlawed in the 1970s, and was only finally illegal in all 50 states by as recently as 1993/  The definition is still tricky in at least 13 states. Marital rape is still legal in around fifty countries. My rapist, like so many others, believed he had a right to take what he wanted, and saw nothing wrong with that.

    I bring all this up to say, it's highly likely that a good percentage of viewers either do not regard the three horrible scenes that are most often discussed as rape at all - and if they do, it's easy enough for them to brush them away. Drogo's rape of Danerys? Well they were married, it was their wedding night, what did she expect? Ramsey's rape of Sansa? Again, she was his wife. Jamie's rape of Cersei? Well, while not legally married, they'd been in a decades-long committed relationship, right? Even the actor who plays Jamie has defended that scene vocally. I'll never watch another project he's in.

    But Drogo never gets Dany's consent.  He flips her over, goes to town, and the camera zooms in on her teary eyes.
    The actual dialogue between Cersei and Jamie in the “controversial scene” is as follows:
    Jaime: "You're a hateful woman. Why have the gods made me love a hateful woman?"
    Cersei "Jaime, not here, please. Please."
    Cersei: "Stop it. Stop it. Stop. No. Stop it. Stop. Stop. Stop. It's not right. It's not right. It's not right."
    Jaime: "I don't care."
    Cersei: "Don't. Jaime, don't.”
    Jaime: "I don't care. I don't care." 
    Cersei tells Jamie not here, please, don't, stop, no, it's not right, and he says "I don't care" and helps himself to her. I stopped watching when I heard about that episode, so I can't comment on the later scene of Ramsey and Sansa, but I hear it focused entirely on THEON'S REACTION TO THE RAPE and not the rape at all. And in none of these cases do we deal with the aftermath of rape. It happens as a plot device and the story moves on, leaving these victims and their healing unaddressed.

    Importantly to me though, NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THESE RAPES OCCURS IN THE ORIGINAL TEXT. In fact, the scene between Drogo and Dany becomes a celebration of gaining her trust and her consent. Cersei literally begs Jamie to fuck her, and Sansa isn't even in Winterfell, she's far away to the East.

    Perhaps most importantly, this is being intentionally done and therefore condoned by the writers, directors, actors, and countless others involved in this show, in the face of public outcry against it. After the first violation in the Dany/Drogo story, there was outcry. They heard it. They answered it with more non-canon rape in the Jamie/Cersei story. The outcry was even louder. They heard it. They answered it with more non-canon rape in the altogether invented Ramsey/Sansa story. This time the outcry has been to the extent that some publications, including The Mary Sue, have said they will no longer cover Game of Thrones with any stories on their website. There was further outcry from Salon, Wired, Vanity Fair, Vulture, Hypable, Bustle, Vox, the NY Daily News, and a US Senator.  This is being intentionally and repeatedly done. These people are choosing to continue to depict this abhorrent act.

    So when I say I believe these people are supporting rape, what I mean to say is that they weekly celebrate a show which needlessly and grotesquely depicts the sexual abuse of women by men, disrespecting and retraumatizing me personally along with an untold and uncountable number of other victims of rape. I'm not making a mountain out of a molehill here.  My PTSD symptoms have been through the roof simply because I see people celebrating the show's return.  I've forgotten my phone at home, shown up late for work, and yelled at students who didn't deserve it.  I find myself absent-mindedly planning self-harm, and have to fight myself not to commit it.

    I believe that these depictions lead us to become desensitized to sexual violence and that it is this sort of attitude toward rape and depiction of it that leads to instances of, for example, this woman livestreaming her 17-year-old friend's rape but doing nothing to stop it. I'll be the first to argue that music and video games do not a school shooter make, but frankly I feel we're dealing with apples and oranges when it comes to that.

    I do not deny that the books depict rape, but I feel personally that the books do a better job of dealing with the aftermath - repeatedly discussing how rapers are sent to the wall, Eddard Stark's declaration of Clegane as an outlaw and demanding he be brought to justice (mentioned only in passing in the show), and plenty of other instances.  While the books include rape, they do not graphically depict the details that the show visually places in front of us.

    People who watch this show are supporting the show. This show is indefensible with regards to how it repeatedly and unnecessarily depicts rape. Even before I myself became a rape victim (I do not yet identify with the label "survivor," though I hope I can one day) I would boycott problematic art and artists. I do not get to watch Woody Allen or Roman Polanski films. I don't listen to Cee Lo, or any artist who collaborates with Chris Brown. Cosby, Lennon, Sean Penn... the list goes on.

    Explain it away and enjoy the show if you want to. You have that right. I am incapable of doing so.

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