Editor’s Letter: When sexual assault meets fiction

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*THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT THE LAST SEASON OF GAME OF THRONES*

There are many things that define a person. Here at Fangirl, we attempt to bring light to one main definition of many people: their womanhood.

Recently I came across a discussion in one of my fan fiction Facebook groups about how certain actions in fan fiction writing can define a character, and whether or not it is appropriate to use rape as a way to define a character.

It started from a tweet from Gaby Dunn after the writers of the HBO show Game of Thrones deviated from the book and added a scene that was not a part of the original novel where Sansa Stark was raped by Ramsay.

This upset many of the show’s viewers and feminists who argued Sansa was already an interesting character before the show, and that it was unnecessary and degrading to add that scene into the show version of the story.

The author of the series, George R.R. Martin, did not remain silent on the matter. He explained himself in an interview to Entertainment Weekly: “If you’re going to write about war, and you just want to include all the cool battles and heroes killing a lot of orcs and things like that, and you don’t portray [sexual violence], then there’s something fundamentally dishonest about that. Rape, unfortunately, is still a part of war today.”

However, many critics and fan fiction writers still believe that if a writer is going to include rape in your book, she must significantly affect the plot instead of just being crutch to cause drama in the story or make a character seem more damaged and interesting.

I do think that exposure to certain things can make them normal. And if it’s normal, it can become more accepted. And rape is not acceptable.

Some devil’s advocates to the criticism of Game of Thrones have also pointed out that Reek (Theon Grayjoy) is the character that received the most sexual abuse, being taunted, tortured, castrated and brainwashed.

But art is art, and writing is writing. Writing fan fiction is not just about the story being read; it’s also about the story being told and the person telling it. Many people use fan fiction as a way to overcome things that happened in their past or something that they are currently dealing with, so it is hard to say or limit what people can put in their stories. However, I do think that exposure to certain things can make them normal. And if it’s normal, it can become more accepted. And rape is not acceptable.

It is important for us to have these discussions, and I think it is important for people, and writers, to consider the implications of the actions they write for their characters.

The rape of Sansa is not going to stop me from watching Game of Thrones, but I do think that the writers of the show should understand that they are influencing people. Millions of people watch their show, and I can only hope that before these scenes are being written the writers and producers are weighing the benefits to the plot with the negative implications of scenes like that.

Ramsay Bolton, played by Iwan Rheon, strokes Sophie Turner's (Sansa Stark) face on a controversial episode of Game of Thrones. Photo Courtesy of HBO.

Ramsay Bolton, played by Iwan Rheon, strokes Sophie Turner’s (Sansa Stark) face on a controversial episode of Game of Thrones. Photo Courtesy of HBO.

I think Martin spoke for writers and artists everywhere on creating an interesting yet realistic plot.

“I want to portray struggle,” he says in the Entertainment Weekly interview. “Drama comes out of conflict. If you portray a utopia, then you probably wrote a pretty boring book.”

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