He tells her to undress. Reminds her that she’s his. Rips the clothes from her body and pushes her face forward onto the bed. He then proceeds to violate her, over and over and over again.
The scene was hard to watch. Triggering for many. Uncomfortable and uneasy. Every ounce of hope that she would scoff at his request and tell him to get the hell out of her house vanished. That’s not how that world works.
Not in the world of coverture. In that world, a marriage isn’t consummated until sex. Consent was given the minute she said she’d take that man. Anytime, anyway he wanted, she couldn’t refuse regardless. We knew that.
But it didn’t make it any easier to watch.
Some have said that GoT went too far with the rape of Sansa. And I read the commentaries and the online chatter and shake my fucking head. Too far?
How? How can a fictional television show go too far when it comes to this subject? How is that even possible? Maybe — they didn’t go far enough.
You are offended because in a fantasy world they showed the story of a woman being raped by her husband. Why? Did you think that never happens?
You want to know what’s fucking offensive? That you didn’t know that in June of 2009, these words were said:
“This court does not feel that, under the circumstances, that this defendant had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault or to sexually contact the plaintiff when he did. The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited.”
Which court was that? One in New Jersey. You read that right. A United States trial court judge found no malice intended when a man raped his wife.
The judge went on to suggest the plaintiff’s request for a restraining order against her husband was frivolous. After all, the marriage was brief, abuse was minimal and the future posed no foreseeable future attacks:
“[T]his was a situation of a short-term marriage, a very brief period of physical assault by the defendant against the plaintiff and it’s now a situation where the parties don’t live together, won’t be living together and won’t have a need to be in contact with one another.
Under those circumstances, the court finds that a final restraining order is not necessary to prevent another act of domestic violence. The Court will not enter a final restraining order.
The ruling was subsequently overturned by the appellate court and a restraining order was granted.
You know what’s offensive? That’s just one case we have a record of. That when marriage is concerned, victims are forced a harder burden of proof. That when a spouse rapes, it’s viewed as a lesser crime.
What’s offensive is that it’s happening in countries around the world. What’s offensive is that marital rape was justified by a United States trial judge as recently as 6 years ago.
So, here’s a quick history lesson and call to account if you think a fictional television show is offensive for raping a character:
It wasn’t until 1993 that marital rape was even considered a crime in all fifty of the United States.
That’s the year the Brady Bill was signed, federal agents were taking heat for WACO and Ruth Bader Gingsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court.
You probably didn’t know marital rape was legal then. But I bet you knew Dallas beat Buffalo in the Super Bowl. You likely went to the movies to see Schindler’s List or The Piano. And you were glued to the media coverage of the King of Pop getting accused of crimes he was later acquitted of.
Clapton’s Tears in Heaven made you weep a little. But a woman being brutally attacked by her spouse didn’t even register.
Sansa’s brutal wedding night should have bothered you. It should have quieted the room. After feeling her suffering, knowing what was happening, it should have offended you.
But not because your heroine lost her virginity with a rape by the sadistic son of the man who killed her mother. That wasn’t real. It was fantasy. Fiction. Television. A plot in a story that you can surmise will have some sort of closure and happy ending.
It should have offended you because the reality is women are still being raped regularly by their husbands, boyfriends and friends. Women are still being blamed for the offense. Women are denied protection and judges are ruling spouses aren’t to blame — as long as they truly believe sex is just part of the price paid.
But it’s easier to write up a commentary, vent in 140 characters and get involved in an internet flame war over a fictional character than have to actually deal with the fact that coverture, all around the world and here at home, isn’t over.
But I doubt that’s the conversation you’ll be having at the water cooler tomorrow.
And that’s far more offensive than a disappointing plot twist in a television show.
To find a rape crisis center near you, call 800.656.HOPE (4673) or click here.