GoT – Why so young?

It’s taken me a while to get on the whole Game of Thrones (GoT) bandwagon and it wasn’t until people started talking about the HBO series on social media that I actually heard about it and decided to read the books before the DVD was released in Australia. Normally fantasy is something that I really enjoy so I was a bit confused about why it is taking me so long to read these books. I started reading the first one last year, struggled through the second – although when someone called it the ‘boring one’ on Twitter I was able to get through it knowing there was better to come, and they have gotten better – in some ways. I am still only up to the fourth book. However, some things are already becoming clear.

******here be spoilers for the first three and a bit books **********************************

I think what is really bothering me in these books is the sexual relationships. There are only two loving sexual relationships described [of consenting adults], so far. One is between the Lannister twins Cersei and Jaime (brother/sister incest) and the other is between Tyrion and his former sex worker mistress. In fact, the latter relationship is the most normal and natural of all the relationships in the books so far. I don’t think it is meant to be, because Tyrion was born with dwarfism and is seen as lesser by his family, although his membership of a privileged family allows him to live reasonably well, but always in the shadow of his brother Jaime (the golden child of the family) and he has to keep his mistress hidden because she would be murdered by his father otherwise. I think we are supposed to feel sorry that Tyrion’s only hope of love is with someone he pays. Although she seems to be paid in promises at the moment, and genuinely seems attached to him. So one of the only two loving sexual relationships in the books has to be kept hidden and the other is between a brother and sister.

I don’t count Danerys as a consenting adult because she is 13 in the books. Sure it’s fiction and supposedly harking back to medieval times where girls were married young yadda yadda, but FFS it is fiction and would it really have mattered if she was 16 or 17? Does she have to be almost pre-pubescent when she is married off? Even after her husband dies, she is still fending off attention from men more than old enough to be her father.

This ‘coming of age’ of young girls is another persistent, and disturbing, theme so far. The two Stark girls Arya and Sansa are both prepubescent, with Sansa just coming into her menses at the start of the fourth book (or very end of the third can’t remember) and immediately being married off to Tyrion in a dynastic marriage although he declines to consummate the marriage because Sansa doesn’t want to and already the almost 11 year old Arya is fending off unwelcome male attention. I just wonder if having girl characters this young going through this shit is necessary? Really?

Jon Snow the ‘half-Stark’ does meet a woman in the third book and has a sexual relationship, despite being a ‘Black Brother’ – as in he has donned the black cloak of the Brotherhood and supposedly embraced celibacy. I don’t describe his relationship with his partner as loving because although he seems to enjoy the sex he is constantly thinking about how he shouldn’t be doing this which kind of puts a damper on things. Plus he has just buggered off and left her. Also, the culture that she comes from is itself problematic – if you want a wife you steal her from someone else (despite them all being ‘free people’) and effectively rape her then she is your wife. Lovely that.

Which brings us to another lovely character by the name of Craster who is not only a polygamist but also an incestuous rapist. He murders his baby sons keeping only the daughters who he rapes when they come of age so they become his ‘wives’. I’m starting to see now why I’m having so much trouble getting through these books. It’s not that this crap is the entirety of the books, far from it. It is just that as you are settling in to enjoy them, this shit hits you in the face and you have to go away and read something else for a while to get the nasty taste out of your brain.

The problem is that the story really is interesting. I do want to know what happens to Robb Stark, and Arya and Sansa and the rest. I want to see Jaime and Cersei get their comeuppance and Joffrey too. I just wish I didn’t have to wade through the dodgy sexual politics to get there.

*Spoiler request*
If you have read more of the books (like just about everyone else) and wish to discuss other incidents in comments would you please just put a spoiler alert on your comment? Thx.

Categories: arts & entertainment, Culture, gender & feminism, relationships


9 replies

  1. I have read interviews with the author where he has said he regrets making some of the characters, like the Starks, so young in the first book (don’t have time to track it down now -sorry!). They definitely age them up in the TV show to avoid some of the ick factor.

  2. I read the series over Xmas. At the time I really enjoyed them, it felt like I had an intense escape into another world. However, some aspects of the books bugged me and I’m not in a hurry to read them again. (I recently had some time to kill at the airport and on the flight, and nothing to read but what was on my iPad and I thought, no I really don’t want to go there again). In addition to the problematic elements you identify Mindy some of the things that happen to some of the characters that you’ve stuck with over several books are a little disheartening.
    However I’ll definitely read the rest of the series as it comes out as I wish see how everything comes together.

  3. I’m stuck half-way through book 5. I raced through them on my kindle up to this point, powered by wanting to find out what happens next, but the nasty taste in the brain caught up with me and I keep opening the file, staring at the page and then finding something else to read instead.

  4. Mindy, I’m like that with Book 7 – I was keen for each new chapter for about the first third, pushed grimly on for the next third, and now it’s several times that I’ve opened up the page and decided to read something else instead.
    On the benefit side, it got me to catch up with the last few years of Raymond E. Feist, whom it appears I may have prematurely given up on a while back.

  5. I had the exact same experience reading Game of Thrones, I’d be getting really into the story, and then something would happen that would just make me put down the book and ask myself, what is wrong with the guy that wrote this?

  6. I haven’t read GoT, but I read some interview which was like the fantasy author version of evolpsych, i.e. justifying his personal views and preferences as “but that’s how it was”.

  7. As a massive fangirl it behooves me to point out that Catelyn and Ned’s first scene together is post-coital, and their relationship is presented as very loving and consensual. They aren’t together after that for mumblemumble plot reasons mumble.
    I do get a lot of the squick factor from the books, but I’m personally okay with the argument that it presents a fairly brutish world, it’s a hyper-stereotyped medieval setting in some ways (though absolutely I’d like more fantasy settings that said “hey, if dragons are real, maybe our gender politics could be shaken up). And I’d get a little picky and note that it’s a world where, as Jaime argues at one point, brother/sister incest *isn’t* unprecedented and not even unusual if you’re from certain families.
    Besides, [no spoiler ahead, just random speculation] I’m hoping Arya and Jon end up taking out the villains and running away to live free lives somewhere.

  8. Darnit, another comment:
    Does she have to be almost pre-pubescent when she is married off? Even after her husband dies, she is still fending off attention from men more than old enough to be her father.
    To the first question, yes, I think so. The whole point of Daenerys’ marriage is that she’s being used as a pawn and a tool and that’s probably a lot easier when she’s younger. The fact is that her marriage becomes loving (sure, inasmuch as a fourteen-year-old can under the circumstances of the setting be considered able to consent) and is the vehicle for her becoming an autonomous human being.
    As to the second … she’s the sole “rightful” heir to the Iron Kingdoms and only known possessor of live dragons. Of course men swarm around her, and would do so if she were 70.

  9. Thanks QoT, I’m now a bit embarassed that I fell into the ‘she’s so young the men should be looking after her’ trap when she is quite capable of looking after herself and as you say, is the owner of the most coveted resource in her world.

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