Like, Spoilers and stuff
" You're really sensitive to rape aren't you?"
"It's not rape, they're married, she knew what she was getting into!"
These have been some of the more ridiculous comments I've gotten from men (natch) when debating the controversial closing scene of Game of Thrones involving Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). By now, discussion of the scene has been well worn here, here and here, so I'm not going to bore you. Instead, it's the reaction to the scene that's of interest which has been rather divided. Those opposed to the scene say it was the last straw; another brutal attack with zero sensitivity to women. Men (at least the ones I've spoken to) have a different take. They ask "What was supposed to happen?" To be fair, they too were disturbed by that scene but their reasoning and concern is for Theon (Alfie Allen). For them, this will be an empowering moment for the man who is Reek. When asked why something so horrible should happen to a girl just to empower a, let's face it, ancillary character, they say "why not?" There seems to be little empathy (even though they agree it was uncomfortable to watch) for Sansa or how horrific the act of rape truly is.
That, however, is not what this article is about, because after a lot of screaming and accusing one side doesn't understand the other, the same question remains: what could the writers have done differently? The creators of the show have been blamed for the depiction of violence on the show and the over sexualization of women in particular. In this instance, the consensus is they're retreading the same narrative waters in relation to Sansa. The biggest criticism of the scene is it does nothing to progress the story. Yes, Sansa is in danger, yes Theon is a shell of a man, yes Ramsey is a monster, and yes it sucks to be a woman in Westeros. So what purpose did the scene serve? What makes the scene so difficult to stomach is we've seen both Sansa and Turner grow up. Watching her "become a woman" as Ramsey so disgustingly puts it, (off screen because we only see Theon's quivering face while hearing her cries) is unsettling. The question remains, what could the writers have done to make the situation for lack of a better word better? As the scene has already aired, there's nothing we can do about what has happened. The sole purpose of this article is to answer that question. Here are three possible scenarios that would have made Sansa's ultimate outcome better:
1. Light that f*cking candle!:
The Old lady in episode 5, Kill the Boy, tells Sansa if she ever needs help, all she needed to do was light a candle in the window of the broken tower. Imagine, as Ramsey tells her "I'm not going to ask you again" Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) comes in and guts the bastard! This would give Theon some empowerment (hey, she saved the day and doesn't have a penis either!) while keeping Sansa's virtue intact. Why all this would make for an awesome scene, the repercussions would be many. Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) would most likely not care to see his psychopath son murdered (though that is debatable) but the bigger consequence would be making it less likely for Sansa to take back Winterfell. That is unless all those who remember the North engage in an uprising, taking down those loyal to the Boltons and elevating Sansa to her rightful place with Brienne as her trusted general. A coworker of mine suggested that drama could be injected when Littlefinger convinces Cersie (Lena Headey) to attack Winterfell, creating another great battle for the show runners to stage, all the while allowing them to claim "see, we love women!" having three as heads of their respective houses.
2. Just don't rape her:
All of these presented scenarios obviously aren't going to jive with the source material (Full disclosure: I have not read any of A Song of Ice and Fire) but seeing as Sansa's story is already off book I don't see how their repercussions matter. Because the Sansa rape was really a side story of her friend Jeyne Poole (thanks Wikipedia!), to just omit it entirely (by say, not having them marry before Stannis gets there) wouldn't be so unbelievable. More character development could have happened to Sansa making her stronger without the use of the rape trope.
3. WARNING: Feminists, take a deep breath, Let Sansa own that sh*t!:
Bare with me: it's the wedding night. Sansa knows she's had two near misses and can't be that lucky. She knows she's home and its rightfully hers. She even tells Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) "I'll be a married woman when you return." So she knew after the wedding there was no turning back. So when Ramsey goes on about her virginity and demands she take off her clothes why can't she just say "come and find out" with a sultry look in her eye. Now, while I just threw up in my mouth a little writing that you have to understand, Baelish told her she would have to do this. So, instead of another rape scene or seeing Sansa cry again, give her the agency she's been missing the last four and a half seasons. Let her enter the game. She can and should still be horrified of what she has to go through but at least give her control of it.
And with all that said, let's set how Sunday's episode can piss us off again.