Someone Tallied Up All The Rapes On Game Of Thrones

Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO.
For many Game of Thrones viewers, Sansa Stark's rape was the final straw. In response to her wedding-night assault at the hands of her new husband, the sadistic Ramsay Bolton, The Mary Sue announced it would no longer be promoting the show. Many fans questioned the showrunners' decision to use rape as a plotline yet again. Others pushed further to the source material, George R.R. Martin's fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

The books and the television series have deviated from one another at this point, but both rely heavily on sexual assault as a way to reveal a character's true nature as well as to move the storyline forward. One Tumblr user decided to investigate whether there were more instances of rape in the books or on the show, and her statistical analysis will definitely shock you.

Tumblr user Tafkar carefully documented her study of incidences of sexual assault in A Song of Ice and Fire and the Game of Thrones' television adaptation. Here's what she found:

"Rape acts in Game of Thrones the TV series (to date): 50
Rape victims in Game of Thrones (to date): 29

Rape acts in ASOIAF the book series (to date): 214
Rape victims in ASOIAF (to date): 117

The books contain over 4 times as much rape as the show."

Tafkar also notes, "Before the barrage of anon hate mail floods in: that’s not to say the show’s not problematic. It’s to say that the books are problematic." In an extremely detailed post titled "A Song of Ice and Fire has a rape problem," Tafkar details how Martin uses the brutalization of countless female bodies as a way to demonstrate that male characters are evil.

Since the books rely on point-of-view narration, sexual assault is always described from the perpetrator's perspective. "They usually don’t consider themselves rapists, and the scenes are written so that there’s an element of plausible deniability to the rape," Tafkar adds. She also notes that any time a female character seeks revenge on her rapist, she is also a villain.

Last May, George R.R. Martin responded to criticism of the books' depiction of and reliance on rape in an interview with The New York Times. "An artist has an obligation to tell the truth. My novels are epic fantasy, but they are inspired by and grounded in 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 great evil."

Martin's response does not speak to the lack of voice and agency given to the survivors of these assaults. His use of the pronoun "himself" is also very telling: These are the stories about men and their conquests. 

Perhaps that's why we had hoped things would play out differently on the TV series. The female characters have been given more agency and main story lines. After the devastating demise of most of the other Stark family members, many viewers were holding out hope that Sansa and Arya's journeys would lead to more satisfying (and, well, living) conclusions. Instead, Sansa is brutally raped, and the assault isn't even shown from her perspective; the cameras cut to Theon/Reek, who Ramsay forces to watch. "She is robbed of her own point of view," as Everdeen Mason writes for R29.  

Rape was, and continues to be, a problem in both A Song of Ice and Fire and on Game of Thrones. The TV series may have statistically fewer rapes than the books, but wait a second — is that really a sentence anyone should have to write — that an onscreen adaptation has mathematically fewer sexual assaults than its source material? That's not really any kind of commendation, is it?

George R.R. Martin may claim that his books are inspired by history, but they're not based on actual events. Furthermore, if we take him at his word, this is literally a chance to rewrite history, for Martin as well as for GoT showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — and they're consciously choosing not to. (Tumblr)
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