Is George R.R. Martin Telling a Rape Joke, Because Come On

Hey, the new season of Game of Thrones is coming out! I like the Game of Thrones tv show, it’s like the books but some of the stupid taken out! And with pretty things to look at instead of endless poorly done descriptive prose! All hail the televisual format!

So let’s celebrate with a new chapter from the inferior source material! Guess what, Arya is almost all grown up and that means lots and lots of rape! Seriously, from stage rape to kid rape to prostitute rape, this one has all the rape scenarios. If you like your sex without consent or adults, this is one for you.

It’s not as shocking as it sounds, of course. Martin loves rape as background color, but he doesn’t like it for his main characters—viewpoint characters tend to get threatened by rapists and saved at the last minute by some seedy-yet-redeemable character. Arya’s a viewpoint character, she’s superpowered, and she’s still not actually through puberty—yes, Martin makes this part explicit, in case you weren’t grossed out enough by an eleven-year-old tricking—so she’s not in any real danger of intense physical harm, at least by the rules of the Martinverse. However, every damn thing Arya does in her “incarnation” involves weird, coercive sex. She’s playing at being part of a company of actors, so of course when she thinks of her fellow actresses, she thinks of them as stupid girls who will end up in the worst, rapiest whorehouse in the world. She’s playing at being a stagehand, so of course the prop she’s handling is a giant dick. And she’s playing at being an actress, so of course the entirety of her part is getting raped onstage with said giant dick.

Guess they don’t do a lot of speech work in Faceless Man school.

At this point, I’m wondering if Martin is parodying himself. Maybe he has a deeper awareness of his own ridiculous emphasis on grimdark fucking than I thought? And maybe the stabbing of a potential rapist is Arya’s (and the author’s) way of turning the tables on all the jerks and douchebags of Arya’s world. I’m going to give Martin the tiniest, most theoretical benefit of the doubt ever here. Who doesn’t want to read about some grimdark revenge?

But wait a second. Arya’s story isn’t a revenge tale. Some of the characters on Arya’s famous kill list are already dead (Joffrey, a bunch of minor characters that I can’t be bothered to care about at this point), and most of the others are lined up to meet non-Arya related demises. (Jaime’s going to kill Cersei, Ser Gregor is already technically dead but he’s going to be killed the second time round by Sandor.) Assuming that Martin can maneuver Arya back into interacting with the other main characters, Arya’s character arc will probably lead to her confronting a main character—perhaps a member of her family, like Jon Snow or Sansa—that she’s required to kill. Either she gives up completely on her humanity and kills that person, or the “Stark” in her wins out and she doesn’t straight-up murder a loving relative.

Nothing happens in this chapter to get us closer to that point in the story We already know that Arya is in Braavos. We already know that Arya is a stone-cold killer. We already know that there are certain people she wants to kill, and that some of them are already dead.

We’re how many pages into this epic and all we’re getting out of this chapter is some rather repetitive worldbuilding, some Character GPS (“Ser Blabla of the lands of Idunt Giffafuc is in the kingdom, my lord!”), the death of a very minor character, and a whole lotta potential child sex and rape threat. The story is standing still because Martin wants to linger on nonconsensual, offputting sexual encounters.

Oh, and dwarf rape. I forgot the dwarf rape. Jesus.

Where is all this going?

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