What is it about female Democratic senators and fictional rape victims?
First–back in January–we had New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand taking Columbia mattress-toter Emma Sulkowicz under her wing.
Indeed, Gillibrand had Sulkowicz, who graduated from Columbia today, accompany her to President Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 20. This even though Paul Nungesser, the fellow student whom Sulkowicz accused of raping her when both were sophomores, was found not responsible by a Columbia tribunal and has since released numerous e-mails indicated that Sulkowicz and he maintained a friendly relationship well after the alleged sexual assault, which Nungesser said never occurred. Nungesser is currently suing Columbia for allegedly allowing Sulkowicz to bully him and stain his reputation by carrying the matress around campus as part of a supposed art project.
Now, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill is outraged over another fictional rape: that of Sansa Stark, one of the heroines of HBO's long-running fantasy series Game of Thrones.
At least there really is an Emma Sulkowicz.
After watching the May 17 episode, in which the virginal Sansa, who is only 14, is brutally ravished on her wedding night by her monstrous young husband, Ramsay Bolton, McCaskill took to Twitter:
Ok, I'm done Game of Thrones.Water Garden, stupid.Gratuitous rape scene disgusting and unacceptable.It was a rocky ride that just ended.
McCaskill wasn't the only feminist to wag her finger at producer Bryan Cogman for adding the rape scene (which is in one of J.R.R. Martin's Thrones novels, but with a different victim), to the story. At Vox, Jen Trolio tut-tutted:
Now with Sansa and Ramsay, Game of Thrones is seemingly confirming that it has no idea how to use rape as a storytelling device — crass as it may sound, fictional sexual violence can be extremely powerful if managed carefully (see: The Americans) — and rape is just about the worst storytelling device to deploy clumsily.
And Salon's Libby Hill huffed:
To exist as a woman on a cable drama is to understand that at some point you’re probably going to be raped by someone you know or in the presence of someone you know or as a punishment to someone you know, but it’s okay because in the end, it just gives you something to overcome and everyone knows that having something to overcome is the only way to prove that you are a strong woman.
But as Sonny Bunch of the Washington Free Beacon pointed out, both the Martin novels and the television versions of Game of Thrones, feature an act of unspeakable brutality and cruelty in nearly every chapter (in the novels) or episode (in the series). Game of Thrones is essentially the Middle Ages without any of the nice people like St. Francis or Queen Guinevere. Bunch lists some of the incidents that have occurred in and near Westeros, the fictional setting:
- A woman was sold into sexual slavery by her deadbeat brother so he could raise an army to take back Westeros; she was raped in literally the first episodes of the show.
- A small child was thrown out of a tower and crippled by an incestuous pair of twins.
- Those twins would later have awkward, kinda-rapey sex on top of their dead son’s grave.
- A pregnant woman was stabbed in the womb about 57 times as a way to punish a man who broke his vow to marry a psychopath’s daughter. That man was stabbed in the heart moments later.
- A man seeking vengeance for the rape and murder of his sister had his head crushed like a melon.
- The only good person in the entire seven kingdoms was beheaded while his daughters watched.
- A man was murdered on a toilet. (He probably had it coming, though.)
- A man was tortured for literally an entire season, eventually having his penis and testicles cut off.
- A prostitute who we came to know and love was killed just for funsies at the close of an episode.
- A man had sex with a witch in order to give birth to a demon who then murdered that man’s brother.
- A whole bunch of awesome dogs (well, Dire Wolves) have been killed, in at least one case just for spite.
So you have to ask: Why have feminists homed on this particular act of sexual assault? My own theory is that unlike, say, the Sulkowicz mattress story, or the hoax at UVA, which turned quickly and recently into public-relations disasters for rape-culture talking heads, the rape of Sansa on Game of Thrones can't be debunked–because it really, really never did happen.