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Enter Ye Myne Mystic World of Gayng-Raype: What the “R” Stands for in “George R.R. Martin”

George R.R. Martin is creepy.

There! I said it! In days of yore, before the Striding Elves sailed West to Sygmagfhdflkglll, and giants did waylay travelers throwing stones carved from the mighty Tghfarghfr Mountains, and yon Good Queen Sady had not yet been assailed in that great war known as the Rage of Nerds, led by those black-hearted, dishonorable brigands known as the Knights of Rowling, joined later by those who would overthrow the land of Tiger Beatdown itself in the name of the Nameless King called Who — I will NEVER! READ! TIGER BEATDOWN! AGAINNN!!!! rang their rallying cry, feared of all who stood at the Gate of Twitter @ Replies — I maybe would have tried to downplay this conclusion a little.

But, nope! Today is a different day, my friends. Because here’s how it goes, when you criticize beloved nerd entertainments: You can try to be nuanced. You can try to be thoughtful. You can lay out your arguments in careful, extravagant, obsessive detail. And at the end of the day, here is what the people in the “fandom” are going to take away: You don’t like my toys? I hate you!

So, get it out of your system now, because, guess what, George R.R. Martin fans? I don’t like your toys. Deal with that. Meditate for a while. Envision a blazing bonfire in a temple, and breathe in its warmth and serenity. Then, imagine me dumping all your comic books and action figures and first-edition hardback Song of Ice and Fire novels INTO the bonfire, and cackling wildly. Because the fact of the matter is, in my ever-masochistic quest to be hip with what is happening in pop culture these days, I read the first four novels in the series. And my conclusions were: Dear God, George R.R. Martin is creepy. Quite possibly the creepiest author I’ve read in QUITE SOME TIME.

I could get into the reasons why, here. I could try to construct some kind of nuanced argument for you. I could talk about how the impulse to revisit an airbrushed, dragon-infested Medieval Europe strikes me as fundamentally conservative — a yearning for a time when (white) men brandished swords for their King, (white) women stayed in the castle and made babies, marriage was a beautiful sacrament between a consenting adult and whichever fourteen-year-old girl he could manage to buy off her Dad, and poor people and people of color were mostly invisible — or how racism and sexism have been built into the genre ever since Tolkien. I could acknowledge the plotty, cliffhangery aspects of Martin’s writing as a selling point: So-and-so was dead! But now he’s alive! But now he’s dying! But now he’s a zombie! But now he’s the Prince of Sblarghlhaar, because he was IN DISGUISE! I could try to look at the positives, before I get to the criticism. But you know what? I’m still going to criticize the books. And if these are your toys, you’re going to be mad no matter what, because criticism of your favorite things exists. On the INTERNET, no less! SCANDAL!

So why don’t we just cut to the chase, here? George R. R. Martin is creepy. He is creepy because he writes racist shit. He is creepy because he writes sexist shit. He is creepy, primarily, because of his TWENTY THOUSAND MILLION GRATUITOUS RAPE AND/OR MOLESTATION AND/OR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SCENES. And I could write a post about those, to be sure. But you know what would be easier? I could just count them. One by one by one.

And, if you’ve gotten this far? Spoilers.

1. A Game of Thrones, or, The One That Got Turned Into A TV Show

Major Female Characters: CATELYN STARK, The Hero’s Wife; SANSA STARK, The Hero’s Prissy Daughter; ARYA STARK, The Hero’s Tomboy Daughter; CERSEI LANNISTER, The Evil Queen Who’s Fucking Her Brother; DAENERYS TARGARYEN, The Blondest Girl In The World

PLOT SUMMARY: Everything was going fine for Ned Stark, until he got promoted to be Vice President of Westeros, and his son Bran got pushed out a window. Turns out, Bran was peeping on the Queen’s royal fuck times. They were with her brother, gross! Bran is now in a Soap Opera Coma. Regardless, Ned and his daughters have to move to the capital of Westeros, where there is a dark fuck-times-related mystery which he must investigate. Intrigue ensues. Meanwhile, Bran awakes from his Soap Opera Coma. He has Soap Opera Amnesia! And is paralyzed! How will he ever tell anyone about the queen’s fuck times now? Ned is still with the intrigue. After approximately 700 pages of intriguing, Ned solves the mystery. Turns out, the queen was having royal fuck-times with her brother. Which we found out 700 pages ago. But still! Ned is shocked at this illicit use of royal fuck times! He is going to expose this corruption! Ned promptly gets his head chopped off. Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated plotline, The Blondest Girl In The World hatches some dragons.


Meet Catelyn! She’s a dutiful, obedient wife and mother. Also, her husband is the hero. She will, therefore, be a sympathetic figure. Catelyn’s an all-around swell gal, and seems pretty sharp and competent, too, except when she is (a) getting all hysterical and non-functional because HER CHILDREN, (b) stupidly kidnapping members of the royal family on a whim because HER CHILDREN, and (c) being a total bitchface to Ned’s illegitimate son because he is not HER CHILDREN. Remember, kids: Women are meant to be wives and mothers. Also, they are meant to be kept away from sharp objects and heavy machinery at all times. Because they are always thinking with their baby-makers! Oy!

Meet Sansa! She’s 13. She likes gossip and parties and pretty dresses and handsome boys. We are meant to believe that, for these reasons, Sansa completely sucks and deserves everything that’s coming to her. Which is unfortunate, because what’s coming to her is inadvertently betraying her entire family for her crush Prince Joffrey and/or learning in the final pages of the book that Joffrey enjoys beating girls up and threatening them with rape. Sansa’s entire plot, from this point forward, will consist of an ongoing competition to molest Sansa, in which every male character in her immediate vicinity will participate. Ha ha, serves you right for being such a girl, Sansa!

Meet Arya! She’s 9. Arya is not girly. She likes her Dad and swords and wolves and rough-housing. For these reasons, she does not suck as much as Sansa, because girly things suck and we hate them, right? Nothing sexist there, for sure! Arya trains to be a sword-fighting ninja. She’s going to be fine.

Meet Cersei! Cersei is fucking her brother. She also hates her husband, King Robert, and won’t ever give him the good sex. Sooner or later, she schemes to kill him and/or Ned. Oh, coincidentally? King Robert beats Cersei up. One slap that we see, a long history of beatings disclosed by Cersei. Never mind, though. She won’t give him the good sex. Also, she talks sometimes. Totally worth a slapping.

Meet Daenerys! Oh, brother. Here is my problem: I really want to like Daenerys. She’s molested by her brother; she’s sold, at 13, into “marriage” with a grown man; she emerges from all this as a hardcore warlord, and one of her first actions is to ban rape, and I really want to like that particular story. And yet, there are these two leeeetle problems. Problem One: CREEPY PEDO SHIT. Despite being effing terrified of her grown-assed adult husband, we’re led to believe that Daenerys really gets off on being fucked by the guy. At least, at first. Subsequently, he maybe rapes her a little. But then they fall in love, so that’s fine. Again: DAENERYS IS 13 YEARS OLD. We are treated to several graphic, eroticized scenes of a 13-year-old child “having sex” with and “falling in love” with a grown man. In other words: Creepy pedo shit. But even if you got rid of that, you would still have to deal with Problem Two: BLATANT MOTHERFUCKING RACISM. Daenerys, you see, has been exiled to “the East,” where everyone has “bronze skin” and “almond eyes” and is “savage.” Her husband, Drogo, is pretty much modeled on Genghis Khan. The Easterners’ religion is mystical and magical and barbaric, the way religions from “the East” tend to be when white people make them up, and at their weddings, they engage in “savage dances” and public gang rapes. When they win a battle? ALSO public gang rapes, surprisingly. The savage mystical barbarous brown Eastern people: Always gang-raping! And Dany, as The White Lady In These Scenes, has to educate them that rape is wrong. So when your Daenerys scenes are NOT composed of Creepy Pedo Shit, they are comprised of Enlightened White Savior Shit and/or How Will I Ever Communicate With These Superstitious Natives Shit and/or After Our White Women Shit. What I’m saying is, I want to like Daenerys. But her scenes? They are shit. They are shit. They are shit some more. And then there are dragons.

2. A Clash of Kings, or, The One That Was Really Boring

MAJOR FEMALE CHARACTERS: CATELYN STARK, The Hero’s Mother; SANSA STARK, The About-To-Be-Molested; ARYA STARK, Sword-Fighting Ninja Runaway; CERSEI LANNISTER, The Evil Queen Who Fucked Her Brother; BRIENNE, Ser Restrictive-Beauty-Standards; DAENERYS TARGARYEN, The Chosen Blonde.

PLOT SUMMARY: What’s more interesting than medieval battle tactics? If you answered “LITERALLY EVERYTHING,” you’re going to hate A Clash of Kings. So, anyway, it turns out that Recently Headless Ned had a variety of sons who did not get pushed out of windows. One of them is Robb, and he wants to be King of Mystical Dragon Land! But Cersei has a son, Joffrey. He is the current King of Mystical Dragon Land! So Robb has to overthrow Joffrey, but also, Dead King Robert had brothers, who have figured out that Cersei’s babies were caused by illicit, brother-in-law fuck-times. And you’re not going to believe this, but Brother One (Renly) and Brother Two (Stannis) BOTH want to be King of Mystical Dragon Land! Then there’s Daenerys. She, too, wants to be Queen of Mystical Dragon Land, but is currently side-tracked, what with her being worshiped by various non-white populations. And yet! Robb had a foster-brother, Theon, who comes from a disgraced house of Viking equivalents. Theon is convinced that Viking equivalents should be the Kings of Mystical Dragon Land! Who will emerge victorious as the One True King of Mystical Dragon Land? I sure hope you didn’t want an answer to that, because it turns out there are like five more books in this series. Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated plotline, Headless Ned’s other son Jon is fighting zombies.


Catelyn is a dutiful mother to Robb. Since she mostly focuses on attaining a man’s goals for him, rather than assuming leadership or decision-making power for herself, she remains competent and non-hysterical.

Arya is being taken away to safety by the Night’s Watch. It doesn’t work out. She gets kidnapped! She escapes! She runs away! She gets kidnapped! She escapes! She runs away! There’s an interlude of particularly gratuitous rape-threatening. Then she gets kidnapped! WILL SHE ESCAPE? Yes! Other likely events include: Running away! You guys, Arya will be fine.

Cersei: Still evil, not currently being beaten by her husband.

Daenerys is still in “the East.” Refreshingly, we learn that there is more than one skin tone in “the East,” and in Mystical Dragon Land; somewhat less refreshingly, we learn that everyone in the East is still very mystical and decadent and barbaric and Orientalist-stereotypey, and they are still cultural Others, and they all have racialized/Other-ized names like “Pyat,” “Xaro Xhoan,” and “Jhogo,” as opposed to Dragon Land names like “Ned,” “Catelyn,” and “Jon.” Also, the Other-ized Easterners seem kind of unsettlingly eager to worship the little blonde foreigner. So, there’s that.

Meet Brienne! She’s ugly. So, so ugly. If you saw her, what you would think would be: “She’s ugly.” Catelyn feels super-sorry for her, because of how ugly she is. Very, is how ugly she is. Also? She’s the only female knight that we’ve met thus far. Because female competence can only evolve in the absence of sexiness, or if you are a nine-year-old girl. Did you know that most of the women in the Fortune 500 are in fifth grade? Well, that is because I just made that up! Go with it. Anyway, Brienne is a knight because she has a crush on Renly, and this was the only way to get close to him, because he’s hot, and she is, as previously stated, an uggo. Also, Renly’s gay. And recently dead. Really, this relationship is doomed on any number of fronts. Meanwhile,

Who’s Molesting Sansa Stark? Thus far, the leading contender would appear to be Prince Joffrey, who has his men beat her up, strip her naked in front of him, and then beat her up some more for his amusement. Strong showing from bodyguard Sandor Clegane, however, who climbs into her room and plans to rape her! He changes his mind, however, thus yielding the field to Joffrey once more.

3. A Storm of Swords, or, The One Where Everyone Is Dead

Major Female Characters: CATELYN STARK, The Hero’s Mother; SANSA STARK, The Perpetually-About-To-Be-Molested; ARYA STARK, The Frequently Kidnapped; CERSEI LANNISTER, The Queen Who Used To Fuck Her Brother; BRIENNE, Ser Self-Destructive-Dating-Patterns; DAENERYS TARGARYEN, Hail The Conquering Whitey.

PLOT SUMMARY: Oh, man. This thing is 1,500 pages long, so take a deep breath. When last we visited Mystical Dragon Land, there were approximately 900 candidates for King. You know what that means? Yup. Time to die, everyone! Renly? Dead. Theon? Apparently dead. Robb? He’s doing fine, except for the fact that he pissed off that old dude whose daughter he was  supposed to marry, but that’s a fairly minor slip-up and I’m sure it won’t… oh, shit, that old dude killed him! Robb is dead!!! Catelyn is dead! SO MANY PEOPLE ARE DEAD! Anyway, that leaves Daenerys, Stannis and Joffrey, and since Stannis’s forces are decimated and Daenerys is currently busy conquering every single Eastern civilization she can get her hands on, I guess Joffrey is the undisputed King of Mystical Dragon La… oh, shit! Joffrey’s been poisoned! Joffrey is dead! But we all know that the power behind the throne is Cersei’s dad Tywin, so this shouldn’t disrupt… OH MY GOD CERSEI’S DAD IS DEAD??? I guess that means… whoa, that means Cersei is in charge of everything! Woo-hoo! I’m sure we won’t be given any unfortunate, sexist lessons on the evils of irrational/slutty/catty/bitchy female leadership. Especially now that Catelyn has emerged… as a vengeful zombie!!! Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated plotline: The 9,000 other characters in this book.


Catelyn, unfortunately, attempts to do something in this book: Setting the Queen’s captive brother/boyfriend Jaime free, under Brienne’s guard, in exchange for HER CHILDREN (subset: Sansa and Arya). Like all independent Catelyn operations, it immediately backfires. Later, she gets hysterical and rips her own face off because of HER CHILDREN (subset: Robb), tries to avenge HER CHILDREN (subset: Robb), and dies. Sorry, Catelyn! You know bad things happen when you try to do stuff! Try to be more careful next time. Because there will be a next time. Because you are now a zombie.

Arya is still getting kidnapped. And escaping. And running away. And getting kidnapped. And escaping. And… you know what? Arya’s going to be fine. Let’s not check in with her again unless something changes.

Brienne gets her own plot line. Or, rather, JAIME, the queen’s brother-boyfriend, gets a plot line with Brienne in it. In this plot line, we learn that Jaime — recently seen pushing a seven-year-old child out of a window — is really a good guy, at heart! He’s just in really, really into having consensual royal fuck-times with his sister! That’s not so creepy, right? Yeah, no, it’s creepy. Anyway, we learn that Brienne is valorous, honorable, and pure of heart. We also learn that George R. R. Martin’s favorite thing to do with Brienne is to surround her with guys who attempt to gang rape her, at which point, she requires rescue. By Jaime. The guy who pushes kids out windows. On whom she now has a crush. Yeah, I KNOW.

Cersei is evil, eeeeeevil. How do we know she’s evil? She’s consensually fucking more than one dude, OBVS. Also, she’s saying things like “that time you betrothed me to a guy when I was a kid, and then I had to sleep with him even though I didn’t want to? That was basically rape” and “there’s no reason I shouldn’t be allowed to exercise power just because I’m a woman” and “nobody has any problems if a DUDE sleeps around, but when I do it it’s somehow the most damning evidence against my character” and “given the patriarchal slant of our society, sometimes I wish I was a guy!” So, just to be clear: The only female character who consistently levies an institutional critique of sexism in these books? Evil. Eeeeeevilllllllll! You surprised?

Daenerys: Oh, here we fucking go. Daenerys, you see, has discovered that the mystical, barbaric cities of the Orient have one particularly barbaric custom of which she disapproves heartily. That custom? Is slavery. And so, Daenerys must save these other cultures from themselves, by going city to city and systematically destroying them, imposing her own standards upon them all. Here’s a problem, though: We, the European and/or American readers, also know slavery to be a bad thing. And here is how we know this: White people enslaved people of color. For generations. We brutalized people of color, we institutionalized the rape of people of color, we committed genocide against people of color, we devastated the cultures of people of color. And here is how we white people rationalized that: We told ourselves that these people of color were barbaric, that they were savages, that European standards should be universal, and that we were saving these people from themselves. So, for those keeping track: The rationale behind Daenerys’s campaign to abolish slavery? IS THE RATIONALE THAT CREATED SLAVERY. Daenerys: Mystic Dragon Land’s leading producer of UGH.

Who’s Molesting Sansa Stark? A very competitive round, here! Joffrey, the returning champion, is still in the lead here, until a stunning second-quarter turnaround, in which Sansa is force-married to Tyrion “Raging Dinklage” Lannister himself! Tyrion gets total boners thinking of Sansa, who is STILL 13 YEARS OLD, but refuses to actually rape her (what a guy), and Joffrey is cleared from the field with poison! My god! It’s anyone’s game now! Sansa escapes the castle, and… could it be that NO-ONE is going to molest Sansa this season? What an upset! Wait, no, who’s that I see… why, it’s Littlefinger, that wormy guy from the first book! After a brief fumble in which one of Littlefinger’s servants attempts to rape Sansa and nearly takes the goal, Littlefinger emerges as a clear winner, as he instructs Sansa that he intends to care for her as a father, and then totally Frenches her! Wow! A thrilling conclusion to a great game of Who’s Molesting Sansa Stark! Be sure to tune in next installment, for more long-running plots constructed entirely around child molestation.

4. A Feast for Crows, or, I’m Sorry I Forgot To Write The Next Installment Of My Book

MAJOR FEMALE CHARACTERS: BRIENNE, Ser Author’s-Excuse-For-Feminism; ARYA STARK, She’s Going To Be Fine; CERSEI LANNISTER, The Evil Queen Who Broke Up With Her Brother; SANSA STARK, The Still-Being-Molested-After-Four-Solid-Books; ARIANNE MARTELL, The Filler Content. Special Guest Appearance by ZOMBIE CATELYN.

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the book that got them mad. The one that dropped all the central plot threads, resolved none of the cliffhangers, and cut out all of the “important” characters and “fan favorites,” instead focusing on some side characters no-one really cares about. And here’s a startling revelation: The side characters no-one cares about? Were the women. Daenerys is gone, but otherwise, it’s the girls who got left over. And yes, they are boring as hell. Brienne is trying to find Sansa, which consists of wandering around asking people if they’ve seen Sansa. Arya has finally found refuge, and is training to be an assassin, which consists of wandering around in spooky caves. Sansa’s with Littlefinger. You know what’s going on with Littlefinger. The only real semblance of a plot consists of what’s going on with Cersei, who has claimed the throne for herself. Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated plotline: The plotline. But no worries! The afterword says that the sequel will be out in a year! Wait! What’s that you say? This afterword was published… in 2004?


Brienne is wandering around all “have you seen Sansa?” No-one has. You know what they HAVE seen, though: An exciting opportunity to threaten Brienne with gang rape some more! So, that happens. As usual. Brienne fights them off and/or is rescued by the nearest male, until she is eventually captured and possibly killed by Zombie Catelyn. Catelyn is mad at Brienne for setting Jaime free and going off to look for Sansa and Arya. Which is… what Catelyn told her to do? Turns out, Zombie Catelyn is an even less effective strategist than Regular Catelyn. And you thought it couldn’t happen!

Arya is training to be an assassin. She’s going to be fine. She’s always fine. She’s…. oh, shit, they blinded her? Darn.

Who’s Molesting Sansa Stark? Littlefinger. Still. It’s gross, and Stockholm-Syndrome-y, and he keeps calling himself her father, and… oh, my God, can we please move on?

Arianne Martell is a princess of Dorne, where they believe in equal inheritance. Girls inheriting shit! Boys inheriting shit! Everybody’s inheriting, in the wacky land of Dorne! Arianne is sassy and strategic and sexy and other s-words, and she has a plan to place Cersei’s daughter on the throne and thereby run shit, which seems alarmingly non-sexist. Fortunately, this is A Song Of Ice and Fire, so she promptly fucks up, gets everybody on her side killed, and is imprisoned, at which point her father shows up to tell her he has a much smarter plan which she must now go along with. Women: Don’t come up with your own plans! Ever! Remember the sad example of Zombie Catelyn! Or, for that matter,

Cersei Lannister. Cersei is Queen. Cersei, as Queen, wants to run shit. But, guess what? It turns out that she’s just too slutty and irrational and bitchy and catty to do it right. Surprise! Cersei’s always fucking dudes, and being mean to dudes, and making decisions out of personal preference and emotion rather than logic, and refusing to bone her brother (which is now… bad? Look, it’s a complicated story), and it turns out she’s just really insecure because her seven-year-old son’s thirteen-year-old wife might be prettier than she is, and basically, what you need to know is, the woman who’s spent the past three books scheming her way into dominating an entire continent becomes an incompetent, screeching harpy the moment she actually exercises power. Women bosses. Am I right?



FEMALE CHARACTERS: As of Book 4, eight women have had chapters written from their point of view. Six of those women have had long-running, major plotlines. Those six female characters are Cersei Lannister, Catelyn Stark, Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, Brienne, and Daenerys Targaryen.

PERCENTAGE OF MAJOR FEMALE CHARACTERS ABUSED, RAPED, or THREATENED WITH SAME: “Abuse,” in this scenario, means “physical partner violence,” because if we had to count everyone with a dysfunctional family, the list would never end. So, as of Book 4, the major female characters who have been abused, raped, molested, or threatened with same are: Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Brienne, Arya Stark, and Sansa Stark. That is five out of six, or about 83%. The only major female character to go without a single rape, attempted rape, sexual assault or incident of partner violence? Catelyn Stark. Who, as you may recall, is dead. And a zombie.

BONUS POINTS — SYMPATHETIC RAPISTS AND WIFE-BEATERS: Sure, fine, this is a little startling. But those rapists and abusers are all villains, right? Joffrey, Littlefinger, Daenerys’s child-molester brother, etc; these are bad guys. Ah, but not so fast! King Robert, lovable but ineffectual ruler whose death kicks off the series, beats his wife. The Night’s Watch, an honorable band of brothers devoted to defending the world against zombies, is largely comprised of convicted rapists. The Dothraki are portrayed as an entire civilization of dedicated, enthusiastic rapists, because racism; Khal Drogo, Daenerys’ beloved husband, gives a speech about it. The Ironmen, Viking equivalents, are another entire civilization of gang-rapists. Victarion Greyjoy, a heroic old Ironman, beat his ex-wife to death for cheating. Sandor Clegane, who planned to rape Sansa, gets a late-stage character redemption. And then, we have Tyrion Lannister. Hero Tyrion Lannister. Fan favorite Tyrion Lannister. Author favorite Tyrion Lannister. Who has, to date, participated in the gang-rape of his first wife, gotten boners for his 13-year-old second wife, and strangled his favorite prostitute for bad behavior.


PERCENTAGE OF FEMALE CHILDREN SEXUALLY ASSAULTED or THREATENED WITH SAME: Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Daenerys Targaryen; 100%. Arya is threatened with rape only once; Daenerys and Sansa are successfully molested by multiple characters. Daenerys falls in love with one of her molesters (Drogo) and Sansa gets a crush on one of hers (Sandor Clegane).

A NOTE ON ARRANGED MARRIAGE and CHILDREN: Yes, it’s true; in Ye Olde Medieval Europe, female tweens were oft wed to the grown-ups. A Song of Ice and Fire is known for being “gritty” and “authentic,” so really, aren’t I just objecting to the realism? Reader, here are the things that George R. R. Martin changed about Ye Olde Medieval Europe, when he set out to write A Song of Ice and Fire: Religion. Geography. History. Politics. Zombies. Werewolves. Dragons. At one point, when asked why his characters were taller, healthier, and longer-lived than actual Medieval people, George R. R. Martin explained that human genetics and biology do not work the same way in Westeros as they do in the real world. So George R. R. Martin considered that he could change all of that while maintaining “authenticity.” Here’s what he left in, however: Institutionalized pedophilia. So:

WHERE WILL YOU END UP IN MYSTICAL DRAGON LAND? If you are an unmarried woman, it is 100% certain that you will be raped or experience attempted rape (4/6: Arya, Sansa, Daenerys, Brienne). If you are married or engaged, there is a 75% chance that your husband or fiancee will beat or sexually assault you (3/4: Sansa, Cersei, Daenerys). If you are an adult woman who exercises authority, you will be killed (Catelyn) or imprisoned (Cersei), because your attempts to exercise said power will backfire (Catelyn, Cersei). If you are a child who exercises authority, you will not be killed or imprisoned, and will be seen as competent (Daenerys). It helps if your subjects are cultural Others, in which case your superiority is assumed (Daenerys). As with all female children, however, you will be sexually assaulted (Arya, Sansa, Daenerys). If you have a traditionally male role, with traditionally male skills, you will merely be threatened with rape (Brienne, Arya); if you are traditionally feminine, or occupy a traditionally feminine role, attempts to sexually assault or beat you will be successful (Sansa, Cersei, Daenerys). If you are the rare character who is an adult, occupies a position of authority, exercises power, and has not been sexually assaulted or beaten by her partner (Catelyn), don’t worry: You’re not getting out of this story alive.

VERDICT: George R.R. Martin is creepy.

YOU: Can be as mad about that as you want. It will still be true.


  1. ShortWoman wrote:

    Gee, um, thanks for reading that so I didn’t have to. Some of us put down Lord Foul’s Bane after chapter 4.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink
  2. Sarah wrote:

    But I LIKE my toys! Jk jk. I think you have a ton of very valid points that you should DEFINITELY blog about because no one else is really doing so. I also want to point out that in a world like ours where sexism and racism and every other ism are every freaking where that we take our enjoyment and escapism where we can – and that it is ok for feminists to like things like GRRM’s books or football, or action movies, or other problematic whatever so long as we don’t pretend that it is uncomplicated and that there are no problems. I can enjoy something (GRRMs books) WHILE criticizing them! Crazy, right? Thanks for your work and for this post.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink
  3. Hobbes wrote:

    I don’t know, I enjoyed these books (though I’m enjoying the miniseries a lot more, among other reasons because they’re not making Sansa a bad person for liking girly things). But I also grew up reading Very Sexist Fantasy, so I’m kind of numbed to that and don’t actually notice unless someone points it out – or unless I really relate to a character and she starts “shrieking” all the time or saying things “shrilly” when the main character doesn’t want to listen (see Hermione).

    That being said, I have nothing to contest with this review. It’s pretty much 100% accurate.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink
  4. Kathleen wrote:

    Sady Doyle, you are awesome. And hilarious. And correct. I am a full on fan of this series and found all of the books (except for book 4) really awesome to read. However, recently when a bunch of us were attempting to explain the series to the an uninitiated person, I found us discussing child molestation, incest, and gang rape as if it were everyday…which, in this series, as you so astutely and scathingly pointed out, it is. I can’t help continuing to be addicted to the series, but you’ve convinced me that if I ever see GRRM on the street, I’ll shudder and walk the other way.

    Also, re: the women — you forgot Asha Greyjoy! Theon’s sister who’s captain of her boar. What is your review on her?

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink
  5. Meg wrote:

    There is also the creepy lessons about masculinity and How To Do It. Which seems mostly about “don’t talk to women, trust anyone or have emotions, for emotions cause you to fail at Medieval Battle Tactics. Also, be ready for sex at any point, lest you die! For being a pussy! So don’t do that!”

    Basically, I am convinced the reason these books are so popular is because male nerds identify with the characters who get killed off, thus affirming their martyrdom complex. And female nerds identify with the one character who is going to be fine, while getting to watch women who are all the things they’ve been criticized for not being get punished.

    It’s an appealing emotional experience, even if it is an appalling series.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink
  6. Alex Cranz wrote:

    Man you boiled these books down to their most unappealing parts.

    Quick question. Where to Jon and Robb (both underage boys and the same age as Daenerys) stand? They both have active sex lives. Some of it is even featured in creepy sex scenes! And they’re 13-15 over the course of the books!

    And Catelyn is amazing. Her death isn’t her fault, but directly related to her son thinking with his penis. She’s also the last Stark down at the Red Wedding, takes a guy with her, and then becomes ZOMBIE ROBIN HOOD.

    I’m also of the opinion that Martin’s books are a fascinating criticism of assigning women to strict gender roles. Women in traditional roles are punished for it. Women who think outside the box are rewarded for it.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  7. joffe wrote:

    I’ve only seen the first episode of the HBO series so I’m not really invested in this franchise. That said, I love watching you rip into nerd stuff and this was quite entertaining. As a nerd, I’m looking forward to the day you tell me you hate MY toys because I know it’ll be well-written and interesting and because damn if nerd toys don’t need more people calling them on their bullshit.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink
  8. FashionablyEvil wrote:

    This is amazing.

    Two other thoughts:
    If GRRM never uses the word “nipple” again, I will be happy.

    No mention of the gratuitous lesbian sex scenes with women (Dany and Cersei) and their servants?

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink
  9. ordinarygoddess wrote:

    I work in a public library. I am known for being an outspoken, enthusiastic SFF fan and advocate. At least once a week, I have a patron come up to me and gush, “You have to read these books!!!” (Usually as they’re returning them.) And because I have read one unrelated GRRM book (Fevre Dream, which was reasonably enjoyable except for the fundamental dudebro underpinning and the whole metaphorical women-as-property for men to get alternately swap around and engage in bitter feuds over that is inherent in the gendered river culture language – again, “authenticity!”) I occasionally sigh and think, “Well, maybe I should.”

    And then I remember that I loathe most* Traditional Epic Fantasy for exactly these reasons. And also? Fevre Dream: 350 pages and about 5 hours of my life. SOIAF: 4300 pages. FORTY THREE HUNNNNDRED pages.

    Thank you for this post. I rarely say this about any book, but: I am never, ever, ever reading these books.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink
  10. nin wrote:

    You forget Robert had an habit of raping Cersei when drunk. I think it was discussed in either book 3 or 4.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  11. Caitiecat wrote:

    Oh, thank fuck for Sady, as usual. I thought, or was beginning to think, I was the only feminist in the world who could see the emperor’s goolies hanging out.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  12. FashionablyEvil wrote:

    And I totally forgot about how Victarion BEAT HIS WIFE TO DEATH because HIS BROTHER RAPED HER and she got pregnant.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  13. Emily Manuel wrote:


    I think there’s a difference between *staging* an oppressive logic (that is, restating it) and critique.

    How do we define a text as a critique? Do we need a moral? Must there be a distance between authorial perspective and action?

    Or is the distance between action and us (Darko Suvin’s “estranged cognition?”) that allows us to critically reflect on the oppressive logics? Or is it not a critique in itself, but that the value in the clarity of the oppression, in blatantly unapologetic nastiness – which we can then use as a pedagogic tool to educate about sexist/racist/etc logics?

    I’ve only read the first book, so I’m curious about how you’d (or others taking the same position, which I’ve seen before) see the critique occurring in GRRM…

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink
  14. BMICHAEL wrote:


    “First” was too laconic for you?

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink
  15. Kybard wrote:

    besides my general unlove for all things high fantasy, what sold me on never reading these books (or watching the show) was when I heard that HBO, which does so love heaping piles of gratuitous sex in its shows, demanded changes to the ages of the children so that their network would not be repeatedly, constantly, portraying violent child-related sexual activities. also the insistence from fans on its “grittiness” where grittiness appeared to just mean “rape.” ugh.

    in any case, this piece is hilarious and amazing, which was obvious from the moment you wrote “Sygmagfhdflkglll.” good times.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink
  16. Torpedo wrote:

    After having a load of people recommend them to me, I mentioned the series to my parents and ended up with all of the ones that had been published so far. So I’ve sort of felt like I have to read them (despite the fact they are really triggering) so I stopped reading the post after the summary of the second book, but I’ll probably come back and read the rest of the post in 30min because really even aside from the horrible misogyny and everything else they are just too long and too (otherwise) unremarkable to be worth reading.

    Sady you are awesome though. I’ve been so unhappy about a lot of commentary on this. A lot of it seems to fall into the trap of thinking that the fact that there are ‘Strong Women’ makes it totes feminist and cool.

    Also, on one blog (don’t remember where, on a post about how gross the tv show was, where a lot of people were saying that the books aren’t so bad,) I saw a comment that the ‘wedding’ night scene in the book is the thing that finally showed someone that consent is sexy. Which is so so wrong on so many levels.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  17. Spoiler alerts for the half of the next book I’ve already read:
    The guy in the prologue likes raping women.
    The men from the Night Watch want to rape the wildling women.
    Stannis thinks Ginny is an abomination they need to get rid of, because she was raped by her father and gave birth to a child.
    Tyrion threatens to rape and murder a servant, just for the fun of seeing fear in her face, and then rapes a sobbing prostitute, then vows to join Daenerys war against Westeros if she allows him to rape and kill Cersei.
    Asha Greyjoy, supposedly great warrior, says no, fights off a guy with a knife, loses the fight cos she’s drunk, gets raped anyway, but turns out it’s not rape cos he’s her boyfriend and makes her orgasm.
    Daenerys has not-really-slaves-anymore perform public sex-dance to entertain the not-white guests who came to beg her to allow them to enslave people again.
    Sansa’s friend Jeyne Poole gets raped by Ramsay Bolton, and Theon is forced to participate.
    An impossible to count number of peasant women is raped and killed by torture-happy Ramsay.
    I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink
  18. alula_auburn wrote:

    Oh Lord, I watched the first two HBO episodes and I was just done.

    But the thing that drove me CRAZY was fanboys insisting that it just wasn’t FAIR not to commit another 6? 8? hours of my life and read 500 hundred pages of crap I found both trite and offensive. I’ve taken a ton of writing courses, through an MFA, and I was always reminded that it’s MY job as the author to engage and entice the reader to keep going–no one owes me their attention, and if I bore them or offend them off the bat, they have every right not to keep reading, and it’s certainly not my job, or my reader’s job, to go outside the text to beat them about the head with it. And no, it wouldn’t matter if I was being (hipster) “ironic” or I introduced a different, less stereotypical character in the next book,* or I was dealing with a triggering issue in good faith, or whatever. Authorial entitlement grosses me out. I hope if I ever get fans, I have enough sense not to do this shit, or at least good enough friends to drag me away from the internet.

    *not that I aim for ANY stereotyped characters, obviously, but I find this is a common defense, especially in genre series–you have one “Other” character (female, POC, etc) who is awesome (often in a way which is problematic on its own terms, e.g. Action Girl (she’s not like other women!) or Wise Native Spirit Guide or whatever), so that excuses having no other POC or having every other female character be nothing more than a sex object. I can’t tell if people who make these arguments really think literary criticism is like a math proof, where one counter-example discounts a trend. But it’s fucking annoying.

    OTOH, the recent Jim Butcher brouhaha was even more remarkable for author fail and fannish ugliness. IIRC, GRRM is a little scared of the internets, so he doesn’t get into that quite as much.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  19. shallowwater wrote:

    @Alex Cranz

    I’m also of the opinion that Martin’s books are a fascinating criticism of assigning women to strict gender roles. Women in traditional roles are punished for it. Women who think outside the box are rewarded for it.

    The problem with these strict gender roles is that it isn’t something the women came up with on their own. It is something imposed on them by the men, so punishing those women who comply as commentary makes these books doubly gross if that is what it is supposed to be.

    “I will beat/kill/rape you if you don’t act this way”
    “I will beat/kill/rape you for acting in the way I want you to”

    W.T.F. GROSS

    There is no escaping the beatings, killings, and rapes, no matter what role you play.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  20. Protagoras wrote:

    I suppose it automatically looks bad for me to try to defend GRRM at all, what with my being a white guy, and most of your points are well made (though I still like the series). Not sure about your emphasis on the characters’ ages, though; I’m not sure about our society’s tendency to treat teenagers as children, and particularly the tendency to treat teenage girls as children and deny them sexual agency seems to be to have mutually reinforcing connections with th tendency to treat women generally as children and deny them sexual agency in general. So I liked Dany’s story better than you, though your points about racism are well taken.

    Also, I don’t think King Robert was supposed to be ultimately sympathetic (nor any Greyjoys). But certainly Tyrion is supposed to be, and he really lost me when he killed Shae (and from the comments, apparently he’s getting worse in the new book).

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  21. H wrote:

    So, yes, I read all of these and I did enjoy them…when I wasn’t screeching furiously about how rape-y they were and getting into arguments with Dudes who love the series and try to say that there are “one or two” rapes per book and that’s just “realism.” No, really, I spent three hours on the terrace of the main dyke bar in the city, ironically RIGHT AFTER SLUTWALK, arguing with a Dude about these books.

    So when I got the fifth book, I decided to actually keep a rape count, counting only “new” and “actual” rapes, i.e. not threats and not references to previous rapes. The count was 23, in case anyone wants that stat for their own bashing-head-against-brick-wall arguments with Dudes.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  22. Heather wrote:

    Everything you say is true! I think there are two levels of ick-factor in these books (which I devoured one after another this summer, like giant bags of salt & vinegar potato chips). There’s the ick that I can account for politically, racism/sexism/misogyny/orientalism, and then the deeper and more personal ick level of body grotesquerie and sadism. Martin has a Marquis de Sade-level of fascination with really up-close-and-personal violence, maiming, humiliation. There’s at least one Horrifying Ogre sadist per book, and author seems to really get off on non-sterile amputation of feet, hands, fingers, toes, etc. It makes me queasy.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  23. alula_auburn wrote:

    Not sure about your emphasis on the characters’ ages, though; I’m not sure about our society’s tendency to treat teenagers as children, and particularly the tendency to treat teenage girls as children and deny them sexual agency seems to be to have mutually reinforcing connections with th tendency to treat women generally as children and deny them sexual agency in general.

    It seems very disingenous to me to bring up “sexual agency” in this kind of setting, where the vast majority of the time, sexual acts by women is not motivated by their own interests. I’m not sure what that arguments is based on, except a very problematic conflation, IMO, with the contemporary meaning of sexual agency (and adolescence, for that matter), not to mention the significant average difference between a thirteen-year-old girl and say, a seventeen-year-old young woman in virtually every developmental aspect. If the suggestion is that the character attains some degree agency by actually coming to love her abuser/molester/rape-y husband, that’s a (unfortunately all too common real world) issue that has a lot more to do with manipulation and coping mechanisms than agency. Perhaps if the world wasn’t filled with real live men (and far too many police officers, judges, etc) making claims about girls as young as twelve dressing “provacatively” and “asking for it” and so on that idea would be more–well, it wouldn’t personally be less troubling to ME, but it would perhaps slot better into “gritty” fantasy landscapes.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  24. Alex Cranz wrote:

    I’d argue that the critique isn’t finished yet. We’re five books into a 7 book series. And while Sady isn’t fond of Daenerys because she’s white and governs an army of brown people and slaves (who are for the most part white)I think she’s the crux of Martin’s criticism. The incidents of rape and injury to women throughout the book don’t strike me as a byproduct of Martin’s perversions but as a purposeful and over the top representation of gender inequality in Westeros.

    This is all for the purpose of Daenerys’s eventual arrival. Despite some problems with early portions of Daenerys’s story (that whole incestuous molestation thing and the forced marriage) she is very much an intelligent and powerful woman. Yes she has been made a victim, SO HAS EVERY HEROINE AND HERO IN THE BOOK.

    She finds rape reprehensible and unlike EVERY OTHER CHARACTER in the series she actually stops rapes. Repeatedly. She also puts and end to slavery, turns down offers for sex from older guys, discovers she’s barren and goes ahead anyways and repeatedly plays on peoples’ negative assumptions regarding her gender to success.

    The books are littered with women who seek power and ultimately fail. Only two characters in ALL of the books, have had repeated successes. The creepy Littlefinger who is molesting and training Sansa, and Daenerys.

    I don’t think that’s an accident.

    There’s a scene late in the second book where Cersei talks about the first moment she realized she was “inferior” due to her sex. That scene, like the scene in the third book where Jon argues with Ygritte about feudalism versus anarchy, hints that Martin’s books are more than just a nasty romp through a dragon infused Middle Ages.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink
  25. Sady wrote:

    NOTE: We don’t typically publish read-my-blog spam here in the comment section. That includes “read my response to your blog, on my blog!” spam. Yes, I hear you like George R.R. Martin and think I am THE REAL SEXIST for having opinions about these novels. Good for you! If your blog post about that is good, people will read it. You don’t need to hijack the comment section here to promote it.

    ADDITIONAL NOTE: This is particularly obnoxious when you monitor the comment section, post the linkspam, then post a comment about how it should be fine for “your readers” to post the linkspam when we tell you we don’t publish linkspam. Generic Person: If your blog is good, people will read your blog! Trust me! You do not need to besiege myne humble bloghold with thine catapult o’links! Dragons! Or whatever.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink
  26. Paul Crider wrote:

    Whoops, I tried to post a link in a comment but I think that was disallowed. The link was to a response to this post on the League of Ordinary Gentlemen blog, by E.D. Kain.

    The gist of it is that Sady seems to expect fantasy to remove the struggles and prejudices that women actually face, and that such a vision of fantasy is itself troubling.

    And the characterization of Tyrion is rather unfair. Yes, he participated in the gang rape of his first wife … because his father forced him. And he is haunted by that and by what his life with her could have been throughout the series.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink
  27. Kiri wrote:

    I must second CaitieCat’s “thank fuck, I thought it was just me” sentiment. At first I thought I was being unfair because I’d only seen part of the TV series, and hence thought maybe there was context I was missing. From what you’ve said, I wasn’t missing anything. Thanks for the warning.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  28. John D wrote:

    How is it sexist to portray a world where sympathetic women have to be constantly on guard against the possibility that scummy men will rape them?

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink
  29. shinobi42 wrote:

    These books are just not that good. There, I said it. They are just another Robert Jordan Endless Wankfest.

    I like my stories to have a beginning and a middle and an end, and it is clear to me from reading the first of these books that this story is never going to end in any way that I find even remotely satisfactory. Sure “Winter is Coming” sounds cool and Direwolves, and yeah there are a lot of cool ideas in these books. I WANT to like them, but they are boring, and the women in them are treated horribly.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink
  30. alula_auburn wrote:

    The gist of it is that Sady seems to expect fantasy to remove the struggles and prejudices that women actually face, and that such a vision of fantasy is itself troubling.

    Firstly, a great many readers will defend any kind of criticism on feminist (or anti-racist, or anti-homophobic) grounds as “taking things too seriously” and defend their right to enjoy “escapist” texts. Which is indeed their right, but it baffles me that they might fail to understand that women who live in real world rape cultures might also occasionally enjoy some “escapism” from that as well. It is also possible to depict the “struggles and prejudices” women face in ways that do not constantly rely on lengthy and graphic depictions of rape, molestation, sexual harrassment, and domestic violence. Relying on those to the extent GRRM does shows a poor grasp of women’s experiences, a lack of imagination as a writer, or something more creepy (or a combination thereof.)

    How is it sexist to portray a world where sympathetic women have to be constantly on guard against the possibility that scummy men will rape them?

    Being constantly portrayed in a victim mode is a form of sexism. It also makes it that much harder to engage with female characters as real people with faults and virtues, when the text constantly punishes or promotes those qualities via rapes or beatings. “Resolving” a rape storyline by allowing the (child) character to fall in love with her abuser is not only offensive, it’s painfully bad writing demonstrating real ignorance about the psychological dynamics of sexual abuse. When, as the previous poster suggests, we should be more concerned about the feelings of someone forced into gang-raping someone and read him as a broken Woobie from the experience, it is deeply offensive, and sexist, to privilege the angst of the rapist–and demand that female readers, who may well have experienced rape, do the same, and that they are reading incorrectly if they do not. Whilst implying GRRM has a better grasp of the struggles women face than Sady Doyle does, to boot!

    And again, women who feel they have to be on guard all the time against “scummy” men (who often do not appear dangerous until it is too late) may not enjoy seeing that experience rehashed in clumsy, eroticized tones, and also may not enjoy having their opinions dismissed as being uniformed about issues that almost certainly affect us far mor directly than they do GRRM or his male readers, who are so eager to explain how we are interrogating the text from the wrong perspective.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Permalink
  31. Sady wrote:

    @alula_auburn: +100

    @Trolls, people explaining why George R.R. Martin isn’t sexist. Your names, thus far, have been:

    John G. [deleted for rudeness]
    John D.
    E.D., who runs a blog on “Gentlemen” [deleted for blog spam]
    Jake [deleted for starting off with “Sady=cunt”]

    I’m noticing a theme here, but what can I say? I am but a young girl who knows little of blog war. And tends to think women are in a better position to explain What Is Sexist than men are. [ED: Whoooops, Alex, you run a site called “FemPop.” Sorry for the apparent mis-gendering! Also, you have not yet overtaken the comment section with link spam or been deleted for calling me a “cunt,” so there is that difference, as well.”]

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Permalink
  32. Roving Thundercloud wrote:

    Sady, thanks for doing the shitwork of reading and reporting. Your synopsis made me smile, the opposite effect those stinky books would have had on me.

    P.S. Alula_Auburn, I love you!

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  33. fannie wrote:

    I’m currently reading the second book and am debating whether it’s worth finishing.

    Direwolves are neat, I guess, but I find it boring and uninspired when purportedly-imaginative “high fantasy” authors replicate problematic gender relations in their works. Like, if I want to read about rape, watch men have leadership pissing contests, watch men bluster about their alleged supremacy over women, and listen to men denigrating women, I can just, you know, take a look around the real world.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink
  34. John D wrote:

    @ Sady — I posted no earlier rude comment before my one sentence comment above, that must have been someone else.

    Your objections mainly relate to the existence of these two recurring plot elements: (1) Risk of rape while held hostage or traveling through a warzone (Arya, Brienne, Sansa), (2) Arranged marriages where the woman has no choice in the matter (Dany, Sansa). You object to the mere existence of these situations and you ignore how these characters generally demonstrate intelligence, tenacity, and courage when placed in them.

    Your last paragraph lists the many terrible things that happen to the female POV characters, and it certainly does sound bad. But I’ll point out that of the 6 male narrators with the most substantial arcs, 5.5 have been maimed or killed by the end of book 5. The female characters placed in the terrible situations described above have actually come out far better than the men.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink
  35. Sady wrote:

    @John: You could say I focus “primarily” on that. Or you could acknowledge that I also addressed the following:

    1) The female characters’ lack of agency

    2) The essentially gratuitous and over-the-top nature of the persistent rape and abuse, and the fact that some of it is eroticized and used to titillate the reader

    3) The normalization and eroticization of adult male sexual desire for (female) children

    4) Women shown as being in love with, or sexually attracted to, men who have raped or attempted to rape them

    5) The fact that adult women who attempt to exercise power are, to a one, shown as incompetent and punished with imprisonment or death after their plans backfire — as seen in the cases of Arianne, Cersei, and Catelyn — and the fact that women’s plans only succeed when they are done in support of a man (Catelyn to Robb) or at the behest of a man (Cersei to Tywin; her “incompetence” develops overnight, as soon as she is not shown to be primarily under his thumb).

    6) Women only being allowed to be competent in traditionally male pursuits if they are completely desexualized through ugliness and unfulfilled crushes (Brienne) or androgyny and childhood (Arya)

    7) Cersei’s being shown as evil for wanting and having frequent, casual sex. (Compare the lack of judgment for Robert, Ned, and Tyrion; Robert is a serial cheater, Ned “fell in love” with another woman as a newlywed, Tyrion has sex with prostitutes frequently and with gusto; at no point are these shown as definitive black marks upon their characters.) (Compare also to Jaime, who is allowed a character redemption; what does it tell you that the male character in an incest-pairing can be “redeemed,” seen as essentially “good” and motivated by “love,” whereas the female character is unredeemed, shown as essentially “bad,” “slutty,” and motivated by “lust?”)

    8) Cersei’s being shown as evil for wanting to exercise traditionally male prerogatives, generally

    9) The fact that 100% of the major female characters have been either sexually brutalized or threatened with sexualized violence, subjected to intimate partner violence, or killed by the end of Book 4.

    10) The fact that the author characterizes intimate partner violence and sexualized violence as understandable and acceptable in some circumstances, toward some people, and from some men — Tyrion, Robert, Drogo, etc.

    11) The fact that a woman is only seen as a powerful, independent, competent ruler in her own right when her subjects are Other-ized, stereotyped people of color — because racism trumps sexism, apparently

    12) The fact that this post (by a woman, read I would say mostly by women) is currently being subject to a fairly obvious amount of trolling and hostility from people who want to tell her that she doesn’t UNDERSTAND sexism, she doesn’t GET it, she shouldn’t SAY things are sexist, and that praise a male writer’s understanding of sexism over a female writer’s understanding of same — and the fact that, like yourself, the vast majority of these commenters are men themselves, who thereby assume authority over a matter of which a woman would have first-hand experience that they simply do not possess.

    Or, we could just accept that you like these books, don’t want to see what’s painfully obvious within them, and refer back to the first point. The part about how I don’t like your toys. Breathe.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Permalink
  36. Siobhan wrote:

    I read the first two books before finding feminism, and like someone else said above, grew up on sexism-saturated F&SF. That being said:

    “Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated plotline: The 9,000 other characters in this book.”

    THIS is why I stopped reading. Because they are bad. The same reason I stopped reading Jordan. I love long books. I can read a 300-page novel in a day EASILY, and a long book — if well done — just means I don’t have to find a new book as quickly.

    These are BADLY WRITTEN. Incoherent plot, shallow characters, but it’s all ok because reading a book SHOULD feel like a weekend of playing Axis and Allies, AMIRITE? No.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Permalink
  37. tenya wrote:

    I only finished the first two books, deeply disappointing the nerdling who loaned them to me, who pitifully asked what I didn’t like about them. “Because there is a description of rape, or an attempted rape, or molestation, or something horrible every damn chapter, and I don’t think I want to read the rest.”
    “But,” he protested, “you’ll miss this great scene -goes on to describe horrendous rape and murder scene-.”
    The attitude has lived on in infamy, a great example of gents of nerdly persuasions not getting why sexual violence is not, in fact, a lure for audiences. It can actually turn them off from a work! Imagine!

    But mostly, I can happily now reference this page when people tell me “oh no, there’s not THAT much sexual violence” or “What? Sexual violence? I didn’t really notice?” in SOIAF. Other people noticed! Other people kept counts! If you like them anyway, fine, I’ll even give George R. R. Martin world-building and engaging enough plot to get me through the first two books (1800-some pages?) – but to me it hits as a particularly virulent obnoxiousness to say “oh, it wasn’t THAT much” and “it is just being a realistic medieval Europe equivalent!” and “but you CAN’T not read them because of that.”

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Permalink
  38. April wrote:

    I went over an read the post at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen. And one point I keep seeing is that we’re supposed to think that the rapists are bad guys and so it’s ok to show graphic rape scenes. How many times can rape be shown before we need to accept that either the author is lazy or he’s doing it for appeal? Very seldom do we get inside how rape and threats of rape actually affect the women at whom they are directed. It just feels cheap and shows a very serious lack of ability by the author to get into women’s actual thoughts and experiences.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  39. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Gilly and the way she cries throughout the entire book because HER BABY! Then she has sex with Sam because . . .he had a penis, and all that crying of the past weeks (months?) has left her outrageously horny, and Sam has been there for her protecting her by staying away from her. Then Sam drinks her breast milk and Martin says the stuff is great. There’s also Osha who just lets some guy (the cook maybe?) rape her because whatever? I guess when there’s so many rapes it’s hard to keep track of them.
    I just want to say that as a dude, a great majority of the content of these books offend me. I read the fifth book and the scene with Asha Greyjoy almost made me put it down. I kept going because I thought I read it wrong, and when I thought about it I was afraid to go back to read that section again.
    My girlfriend and I make jokes about Martin’s dialogue during consensual sex and the way he describes what the female characters are thinking, which includes great lines like “I didn’t know whether he was in me or I was in him.” Also, women just walk around sopping wet. Sopping.
    I love how Martin attempts to make Dorne this super awesome place where people just bone whenever they feel like and women can sort of be in charge, but then not really. All the powerful women in the Kingdom are immediately locked up because powerful women are dangerous. Also Arianne totally uses sex to get what she wants, just like women do. Y’know? Cause men are helpless when faced with sex with a lady. In the fifth book Doran’s plan comprises of releasing all of his nieces into Mythical Dragon Land and wreaking havoc.
    In Martin’s favor, I don’t think Myrcella was ever threatened with rape?? But the character is only ever used as a pawn and has absolutely no development as a person so I have forgotten just about everything she’s done except have half her face sliced off. Or maybe just an ear. it’s hard to tell with these books because he makes the slightest physical “imperfection” seem like you were put through a meat grater. Everyone walks around being like “Sooooo Ugly!”

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Permalink
  40. Alla wrote:

    As a rape survivor, I actually appreciate that sexual violence is acknowledged as a constant threat, because it’s true for women still in real life.

    I don’t know, as a women and as a feminist, I think you are right to find the books sexist, but your reasons are shallow and don’t make that much sense.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink
  41. Taylor wrote:

    As a dude who likes bands like The Sword, I got into the Song of Fire & Ice series because of the HBO show and the series elements like wolves and barbarians and mother/maiden/crone mystical stuff and its overall epicness.

    But as I started to watch the show, and as I’m now almost done with Storm of Swords, I’m both surprised and floored at how clearly anti-feminist it is and how *unimaginatively* anti-feminist it is.

    If proponents want to call the tropes in SoFI “adhering to the genre”, so be it, it’s still quite unoriginal and in a lot of ways a worse work for being cliche when it comes to women’s roles and relations. It’s like taking vilified women of the 50s or Disney princesses and villains and just adding a little bit of grit to them.

    Also, Martin’s sexism/racism is amplified because he’s just not a very good writer. Everyone’s dialogue except Tyrion’s (and I guess Hodor’s) is interchangeable, personality is limited to physical appearance, and the narrator’s voice is the majority of the books because Martin spends thousands of pages on telling and very little on showing.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink
  42. John D wrote:

    @ Sady — I am breathing perfectly fine, thank you, and you certainly have no obligation to like the books! But I wish you wouldn’t lump me in with the idiots who personally insulted you.

    Your strongest points are about Dany in Book 1 and about Sansa. If your post was only about those plotlines, I would applaud it. But you paint the whole series with this broad brush.

    The biggest hole in your argument is that you insist on ignoring all of Dany’s material after Book 1 because you think it’s racist. I think this is quite a dodge considering she’s the heart of the series, and considering it directly refutes so many of your claims. If Martin had written the same series with the one change that Dany conquers a continent filled with boring un-exotic white people, would you still consider the series so sexist?

    The next biggest hole is how you interpret Arya and Brienne. You lump them in as victims — yet when I think of the most prominent things that they’ve done in the series, I think of their amazing accomplishments and courage, not their victimhood. To avoid confronting that, you resort to saying that Martin will let only “desexualized” women do such things — but that again ignores Dany, and Ygritte, Asha, and Margaery as well.

    Your criticism of Catelyn’s arc doesn’t work either, because her husband made similarly bad decisions and lost his head after making a desperate deal to save his child’s life.

    Cersei is certainly not shown as evil because of casual sex or because a woman shouldn’t rule. She’s evil for the same reasons Tywin is — because she has a lot of people killed, particularly innocent people, and never shows any remorse for it. The appropriate comparison in personality is to Viserys, not Jaime.

    Finally, when you focus on the point that horrible things happen to female characters, you ignore that comparably horrible things happen to the male characters — as I said, 5.5 of the 6 most prominent male POV characters are maimed or dead by the end of Book 5. If a series portrays equally horrible things happening to men and women, is it sexist?

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink
  43. Pat Cahalan wrote:

    @ April

    > And one point I keep
    > seeing is that we’re
    > supposed to think
    > that the rapists are
    > bad guys and so it’s
    > ok to show graphic
    > rape scenes. How
    > many times can rape
    > be shown before we
    > need to accept that
    > either the author
    > is lazy or he’s
    > doing it for appeal?

    The author is lazy on this point, I’ll agree. Rape is a shorthand for certain type of brutality, and when you use it too much it is cheap.

    Can you answer your own rhetorical question, though?

    How many times *can* rape be shown before you (in particular) come to the conclusion that the author is lazy?

    > Very seldom do we get
    > inside how rape and
    > threats of rape
    > actually affect the
    > women at whom they
    > are directed.

    That’s another fair point, although you can look at that from different angles and come to a different conclusion.

    Sansa, for example, is a character traveling a particular growth path. For the purposes of her character, exploration of her exploitation is kind of important – but that happens, for her.

    Cersei’s relationship with her husband and his brutalization of her sets the table for her as-yet-future character development (yes, Martin hasn’t done a great job with her to this point).

    Most of the rest of them, “rape” is shorthand for “something terrible happens to this character”.

    But, to be somewhat charitable to Martin’s laziness, “something terrible happens to this character” is something that happens to *every* character. The men are maimed, or killed, or tortured… almost without exclusion. This is a period of war in a fairly primitive society.

    And Martin doesn’t exactly spend chapters exploring Bran/Jon/Jamie’s PTSD, does he?

    The context of “violence happens to these people, and they are shaped because of it” is subsumed; Martin’s not writing a great character study.

    But not all novels (or series) need to be character studies, either.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Permalink
  44. Alex Cranz wrote:


    I’ll admit that I kind of despised the books when I read the first three more than ten years ago. I thought they were misogynistic drivel and I stayed far away for quite some time.

    I revisited the series only this year and only after watching the series, which for me radically changed my perception of some of the books’ most troublesome characters. Specifically Cersei and Daenerys.

    In light of my rereading (I’m nearly done with the fourth book) I’m working on the assumption that Martin is crafting a criticism of feudalism and patriarchal society and that the excessive use of sexual violence in the books is a means to an end. I’ll gladly eat my hat if by the seventh book that doesn’t happen. I’ll also be majorly pissed.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink
  45. John D wrote:

    PS- There’s a heck of a lot, though, to be said about sexism in the FANDOM of these books. I’d love to read your thoughts on these two polls of ASOIAF fans that reveal their 30 favorite characters and 15 most hated characters.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Permalink
  46. KerouacZac wrote:

    I hate myself a little for saying this, but…Thank you for saving me from reading those books.

    Speaking as someone who doesn’t mind his toys getting beat-up a bit, I’d love to hear your take on Dune.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Permalink
  47. Alex Cranz wrote:

    @John D

    Of man the sexism of the fandom. I checked out the main ASOIAF forum recently and was sceeved all kinds of way by the passionate group of people who desperately want Sansa to end up with Sandor Clegane. And then they patiently and patronizingly explain why it should be that way.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Permalink
  48. Taylor wrote:

    @John D

    Daenerys is actually a perfect example of how sexist Martin’s writing is: after she’s no longer a wife, she becomes the people’s champion/mother and is almost entirely desexualized like Melisandre and could be swapped out with any of the dudes vying to rule the realm.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Permalink
  49. April wrote:


    I don’t think the criticism of “well, bad things happen to men, too!” plays very well. All the men you list there are given some kind of injury that takes something from them or requires them to grow in a different way. The loss of ability for both Jaime and Bran and the way in which that affects them, I think are well-covered in their POV chapters. Not so for the sexual violence or threats of sexual violence to women.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Permalink
  50. John D wrote:

    @Taylor — I guess you haven’t read the most recent book. Many “nerdling” ASOIAF fans are very unhappy with Dany’s sexual choices about in that book.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Permalink
  51. tree wrote:

    Thank you, Sady, for another instance of Saving Me From Horrors In Books I Had Almost Giving In To Reading.

    Also, I’m a little appalled at those who are suggesting Martin has some sort of Grand Plan re: the use of sexism and rapeytiems. Maybe it’s just my tiny ladybrain, but I tend to think that if you’ve already written over 4,000 pages of sexism and rapeytiems without having gotten to the part where you make it totes obvs that the aforementioned sexism and rapeytimes are bad, then perhaps you might just be DOIN IT WRONG.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink
  52. Sophie wrote:

    That is magnificent. Thank you for the brilliant review.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Permalink
  53. MMR wrote:

    I’m a feminist lady and I agree with John D, though I’m a huge fan of you, Sady, and think a lot of what you point out in the series is important to note, and important to debate and discuss…I just come to very different conclusions. I really powerfully feel these books as a heartfelt critique of patriarchy that works precisely because it IS so disturbing in its depictions of rape and punishment of women. GRRM makes his position (patriarchy is bad) so clear so many times that I personally am starting to find it tedious, even.

    As a woman who has experienced violence and terror due to my sex, I would be pretty bummed if “feminism” came to mean we can never show violence against women in any way. Violence against women is real and happens every day–writing fantasy novels in which it doesn’t exist doesn’t help us get to the bottom of any of it, necessarily. How can a critique of feudalism and patriarchy be made in fictionalized form without showing the horrible effects of both of those systems?? The way he shows both male and female characters being utterly brutalized and destroyed by feudalism and patriarchy has been super haunting to me, and as a cautionary tale, a political statement, like fucking pictures of displaced Rwandan refugees or Holocaust victims. Should we just not look at the things that bum us out about the world? Maybe he FAILS, but I really think GRRM is very explicitly ATTEMPTING a critique. not just, like, oh, GRRM doesn’t realize this shit he’s depicting is problematic and gross.

    I also strongly disagree with @Taylor. Daenerys has been doing it like crazy with Daario since becoming a widow/barren/Mother figure. Those are some of the most explicit non-rape sex scenes in the whole book, and they happen entirely at her behest, and she doesn’t feel bad about any of it. I think Dany is an awesome character, and I also think the point made above about how she is the central figure of this whole series is REALLY IMPORTANT. The Returning Hero, the Savior-King familiar to us from, like, every story we’ve ever heard, is going to be this young girl. I think that’s so cool, and really diminishes a critique of GRRM as just some dumb old pervert.

    Any fiction is open to interpretation, and I think feminist voices like this blog are powerful and real and I ALWAYS rethink something if I read an opposing view here on TBD, so I really thank you for all that you do, Sady. I just wanted to throw in my thoughts as a lady since John D is getting kind of harshed on.

    I agree GRRM uses “nipple” way too much

    I’m sorry for writing so much. I appreciate this blog so much and I hope you do not hate my guts now.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Permalink
  54. Sady wrote:

    @MMR: I don’t hate you! There is no reason on Earth why I would hate you for the terrible crime of Not Liking The Entertainments I Like, or Liking The Entertainments I Don’t Like.

    Actually, since this post is getting a lot of linkage and responses — some of them fairly hostile and pissy — here’s a good opportunity to lay out our Guidelines For Getting Your Comment Published, and/or Guidelines For Productive Comment Discussion. I’ll include positive and negative examples, in some cases, so that you know what I’m talking about:

    1) You are free to disagree with the post. However, I ask that you read the post first and respond to points that are actually within the post when you disagree. Saying things like, “I just skimmed this post, but” or “I didn’t finish the whole post, but” will get you deleted. If you can’t pay attention to anyone else, why should we pay attention to you?

    GOOFUS writes, “why are you saying that George R.R. Martin shouldn’t ever depict rape? And why are you saying that the society of Westeros should be totally gender-egalitarian?” Since the original post said neither of these things, GOOFUS gets deleted.

    GALLANT writes, “I see what you’re saying about certain female characters like Brienne and Arya being desexualized, but I think that Asha Greyjoy is allowed to exercise the sort of martial competence you’re talking about while retaining sexual agency, for the following reasons.” Then GALLANT lists some reasons. GALLANT has added something new to the discussion, and gets published. This follows from

    2) Good commenters add substance to the discussion. Because good commenters are interested in having a discussion. Bad commenters take substance away from the discussion. Bad commenters shut down the discussion, because they only want to hear their own voices.

    GOOFUS writes, “this is so stupid. You’re wrong.” GOOFUS has only acted to shut down someone else’s voice, and no real conversation can be built upon the basis of his comment. GOOFUS gets deleted.

    GALLANT writes, “Commenter #3, I’m interested in what you said about the male characters also being wounded in some ways. In my opinion, the male characters’ wounds tend to be less generic than the rape/beating motif with the women, and those wounds are allowed to play a crucial role in shaping their character. How do you see the rapes and attempted rapes as shaping the womens’ characters?” GALLANT has both addressed another person conversationally, and opened up a road for specific, productive discussion. GALLANT gets published. From which follows Rule #3,

    3) Don’t be a dick.

    GOOFUS writes, “you suck, you stupid cunt.” GOOFUS gets banned.

    GALLANT writes something that does not amount to, “you suck, you stupid cunt.” GALLANT has now achieved the bare minimum that is required to be a functional, non-douchey human being in a conversation. GALLANT may or may not get published, depending on the substance of GALLANT’s comment, but at least he’s not auto-banned.

    4) Try not to dominate the discussion. This may be particularly hard for men or other privileged readers; men are enculturated to believe that they can assume a position of authority over nearly any subject, including other people’s personal experiences (thus leading to the “that woman doesn’t know what’s sexist/feminist; I, a man, will tell her what sexism/feminism REALLY is” phenomenon), and that they always deserve to be heard, which can lead to their seeking to dominate conversations, de-legitimize other people’s first-hand experiences, and drown out or talk over other people. But lots of people inadvertently dominate discussions, for all kinds of reasons, and it’s always obnoxious and bad. If you notice that you are commenting a lot more than other people, try not commenting for a while, so other people can have some room to speak. If your comment is as long as some blog posts, recognize that you’re leaving a big wall o’text that discourages other commenters from reading/commenting further, and post that wall of text on your personal blog instead. Read the definition of mansplaining, and refrain from doing that. Also refrain from whitesplaining, cissplaining, straightsplaining, or anything else along those lines.

    5) Don’t post sexist/racist/homophobic shit. Don’t post rape-apologist shit. Don’t post anti-feminist shit. This blog is a place for feminists and pro-woman readers to talk and read, without having to be assailed by any of the previously mentioned varieties of shit. If you don’t have some experience with feminist theory, feminist practice, or basic etiquette within feminist discussion, you may inadvertently post some sexist or offensive shit that we have to delete. That’s fine. You’re not a bad person. We hope you come back. It’s just that now is the time for you to listen, not to talk.

    6) Above all: Don’t take it personally.

    GOOFUS writes, “Why are you telling me I’m a bad person for liking these books??!!!? Why did you tell me — ME, PERSONALLY — that I was going to overreact and over-personalize this, and only hear that you didn’t like my toys, and complain about that, in a really petulant manner, instead of addressing your actual points?” GOOFUS is proving me correct, about how GOOFUS would react, and about the Nerd Rage generally. Much as I appreciate his demonstration of exactly what I was talking about in the intro to this post, he still gets deleted, because his comments are irrelevant.

    GALLANT writes, “well, I do like the books a lot, and here’s why.” GALLANT is not throwing a temper tantrum, and is meeting all of our previously-stated rules for discussion. He gets published.

    Okay! That seems to cover most of the bases. Whether or not you get deleted, enjoy your visit to the ever-tumultuous Comment Section of Tiger Beatdown.

    Friday, August 26, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Permalink