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Prostitution in Game of Thrones – Who’s Fucking Who?

Prostitution in Game of Thrones – Who’s Fucking Who?
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While it’s true that prostitution is seen as a vice in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s a legal and even acceptable one, with brothels spread throughout the kingdom of Westeros — from Mole’s Town near the Wall in the north, all the way down south to King’s Landing. What’s most interesting about the sex trade in Game of Thrones, however, is who it ultimately exploits and weakens.

 

Though there will certainly be more, we have seen one additional Game of Thrones character indulge in the services of a prostitute: the rightful king of Westeros, Viserys Targaryen. The “Last Dragon” is more openly cruel than any of the other men mentioned above — in fact, he’s one of the most despicable characters in the series — but he has one important thing in common with the rest: He is weak and powerless.

A dwarf, a drunken lush, a hostage and an exiled king. These are the men in Game of Thrones that visit the brothels of the Seven Kingdoms. In a very real way, their dependency upon prostitutes is both a weakness in-and-of-itself as well as a way of coping with some other more central failure. Tyrion is seen as a deformed freak, Robert is an addictive cuckold, Theon is a captive and Viserys is a refugee, but all four of them take solace in the purchased caresses of Westeros’ working women.

By way of contrast, Jon Snow, in conversation with Samwell Tarly, explains why he remains a virgin, even though he was once about to enjoy the services of the same Roz frequented by Theon Greyjoy. Snow is a bastard, born out of wedlock to Ned Stark and a mother he has never known. As a result, there has been no place for him in Winterfell, where he suffered under the constant scorn of Ned’s wife Catelyn, who saw his mere existence as both a threat and an insult.

Snow knows that if he were to impregnate a prostitute, the resulting child would be a bastard, just like him, and even worse, a second-generation bastard, even further removed from a legitimate noble birth. He refuses to engage in sexual activity with prostitutes because of the failing his father once had, and the pain and suffering that came about as a result. While Tyrion, Robert, Theon and Viserys are shown to be weak, even craven characters, Snow’s defining characteristic is his honor, the thing that compels him to stay celibate as well as respect his commitment and promise to the Night’s Watch.

What first looks like a negative, even disdainful portrayal of women in Game of Thrones is more an examination of the weaknesses and failures of men. Importantly, the series always casts these downfalls as the men’s fault: There’s no Eve giving Adam the apple here, and nowhere have we seen blame for fornication or adultery placed at anyone’s feet but the man walking into a brothel.

In Game of Thrones sex outside the proper societal boundaries is often seen as a sin for the man indulging in it, which might lead some to see the work as essentially sex-negative. However, doing so grafts 21st century situational morality upon a very different world. Without effective, reliable birth control, prostitutes run a constant, very real risk of having an illegitimate child. Such an occurrence would render the prostitute unable to work while costing her money in the process, and perhaps most devastatingly, it would result in the birth of a child that would have no choice but to become a perpetual outsider.

While not the most sex-positive piece of fiction, Game of Thrones does a tremendous job of engaging both the ramifications and implications of sex outside of marriage in its fictional world. What is most bracing, however, is the impressively progressive ground the work stakes out by holding the men of the series accountable for their sex acts as opposed to casting the female characters as seductresses.

Do you have something from the show that you’d like to see discussed? Then let us know in the comments below. Then, make sure to check back in the coming weeks as we continue to look at sex and gender in Game of Thrones, airing Sunday nights at 9pm on HBO.

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Comments

DailyO  

Really interesting! Great work! I do have to disagree on some things. You wrote "Tyrion has but little choice to resort to prostitutes for his sexual desires..." From everything I've gathered in the television show so far, Tyrion isn't upset that he visits brothels. Your sentence makes it seem that he's only settling for prostitutes when he's actively searching for something more which I strongly disagree with. He isn't married and as an adult has sexual desires, it seems that in this realm visiting hookers is more of an appealing option that diddling his trouser snake by himself.

I think an interesting way to look at this dynamic is how the women feel about the male sexuality. Obviously Cat Stark is incredibly bothered by Jon Snow's presence where as Cersei isn't so much bothered by Robert's infidelity but by the fact that he's so obvious about it and it's embarrassing. I would have loved to see you discuss Cersei's speech to prince Joffrey from episode 3. When she discusses the fact that he has to marry a girl (Sansa) that he doesn't like Cersei states that as king you can fuck whores or virgins and pretty much do what ever you want.

I also disagree with the idea that sex in GoT outside of proper societal boundaries is a sin. I've never gotten that impression. Sex, bastards and pleasure seem to be openly discussed and while some might not prefer it to be flaunted, in the books and TV shows I've never seen it portrayed as a sin.

Can't wait for your next post!

05/11/2011
Dary Patten  

Tyrion put's an upbeat sarcastic face on a lot of things. I think Ms. Sitterson's analysis is influenced by the books in which Tyrion is revealed to be dependent on these prostitutes in a negative sense. It is not written in stone that they'll go the same way with the tv character, but I think I think the character's outward confidence and Peter Dinklage's good looks (according to many female bloggers), might give an early false impression that the character Tyrion is confident about his sexuality. In the book he is described by more than one female character as being ugly (although obviously it's subjective).

05/11/2011
Oscar Serna  

Definitely looking forward to your discussion about Tyrion's relationship with certain kept woman later on! Plus, there is this cruel story about him and his father!
Then there is the story about strong-willed Dany...
Yea, looking forward to your writings!

05/12/2011
Jennifer McGlashan Larson  

Longtime fan of the books here.

One thing about Tyrion's character that really hasn't translated well onto the screen is that he ultimately wants to be loved. Love is something rather lacking in Casterly Rock and he willingly lets himself be fooled by the prostitutes he employs in order to get some semblence of that feeling.

In a brief interlude between Tyrion and the Hound in Episode 1, Tyrion remarks that his 'spear never misses" when discussing boar hunting, but of course, is referring to sexual conquests. The Hound points out that it doesn't count if you pay for it. Tyrion would like to believe that his positive traits outweigh the fact that he's a dwarf, but he's fooling himself. And he knows this, which makes him all the more bitter and sarcastic in his outlook on life.

05/12/2011

is this show still on

06/22/2011

is this show still on

06/22/2011

cool

07/25/2011
Ida88  

Interesting articles with some good points.

But the sexist problem is not (as you also point out in your articles) in the story line. The problem is that the tv-show only contains sex-scenes and porn that are of an extreem abusive nature. Even rape. Making ''tastefull'' (as HBO calls it) porn out of abusing women is very wrong. Because porn is meant to excite the weivers. So the weivers are ment to be excited by the abuse, rape and trafficing of women. Story-line or not, that is sexist! And disgusting!

One example is the scene with the last dragon, who has sex with a prostitute in a bathtub. When she gets excited he tells her off, because she is only there for his sake. Then there is a short porn scene in the tub where the unhappy unecxited woman/girl is forced to make love to the man. He did not want to have sex with her when she was excited herself, only when she was unhappy. No matter how cruel we know he is, this scene is still abuse-porn ment to excite the wiever! And underneath that also lies an accept of the fact that the wievers get off on abuse. Thus, an accept of abuse.

An other porn scene is when the two female prostitutes have to be taught by ''littlefinger'' how to act like they want to have sex with the men who buy the, when the men who come to them know that they don't. It is a porn scene of maybe 5 minutes time and it is all about how women have to satisfy men even when they don't like it. That men can take women even whem the women don't want to and they even have to pretend to like it. That is incredibly offensive! And as mentioned abbove, an accept of these circumstances in the weivers private and very real lives.

Now I'm all about sex-scenes, they don't generally bother me in tv-shows, books or movies. But this is a hit show, with the one sex message that woman have to please men. Is is grafic porn of abusing women and even rape. It is glorifying exploits. And accepting it. Even promoting it.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this topic and anwer me this: Do you really think that these abuse-porn scenes are not meant to excite weivers? Why is there not a single porn scene where the woman is enyoing herself? Why is HBO approving of this? What kind of message is that sending? Is this not sexist? How would it be different if it were girl-prostitutes and child pornography (since there are already child-wives Taliban-style in the show)?

Regards, Ida

08/19/2011

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