Warning, this article contains Game of Thrones spoilers up to episode 7 of season 4, Mockingbird.
It’s hard for me to explain how the scene in which Daenerys and Daario finally get some action sat with me. I mean, initially, I was applauding for that precious Michiel Huisman booty, but in less than a second I was looking at Carice van Houten naked in a bathtub.
What felt like just a disappointment at the lack of ass was followed with a (somewhat unnecessary) long sequence of Melisandre naked. As a heterosexual female viewer, I felt a little cheated. I’ve always known Game of Thrones inevitably fell into the rut of nudity for the sake of nudity, you can see that in almost every episode. The sex scenes do not all have purpose, and they are often gratuitous. And those that do serve a purpose aren’t exactly the most enjoyable, e.g. Cersei’s rape, Daenerys’ rape.
HBO frequently toes the line between television and soft-core porn (I mean not as bad as Starz can, but we can’t all be Starz), but the disparity between the amount of nude female shots with the amount of nude male shots is glaringly obvious at this point. I won’t put all of the blame the show creators for this, though they are not guilt free. They are playing into what society deems is the gender norm.
A television show, a movie, a book, a game, the majority of entertainment is written for the heterosexual male. In the genre of high fantasy or science fiction, the target audience is almost always male. Television and movies, especially, follow the heteronormative male gaze, which draws attention more to the female body versus the male. We all know Game of Thrones is based off of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by G.R.R. Martin, and the sexual content in the book is about as explicit as in the show. Yet the fact that the book is written from different points of view, both male and female, gives us at least two different gender perspectives. The television show restricts this.
Some might point out that the audience might not be ready to see a male penis on screen. That the male genitalia can be seen as exploitative or perhaps just plain crude and alarming. This might be true for a network channel, but for a cable channel like HBO? The show has never shied away from extremes, we’ve seen pregnant women stabbed repeatedly, hands cut off right in front of us, violent slaughter, violent sexual abuse, pedophilia, murdering children, torture, incest, and yet somehow male genitalia is what toes the line of inpropriety?
No. The blame remains in the hands of those who believe that their audience is seated in the past, and while titillation with some breasts and vagina is all fun and games, a penis could send their audiences out the door. Producers, creators, and writers, take note: we are not afraid of some twigs and berries.
You might say, well the show has had full frontal male nudity. Yes. It has. About two come to memory: Theon Greyjoy’s in Season 1 and Hodor. I can’t even fit the number of times I’ve seen a naked or partially naked woman on Game of Thrones on two hands. Game of Thrones is rife with sex, the distribution has been woefully off balance.
I’m not asking for the show to turn into soft-core porn, but some equality should be had. Hell, even the actors are calling out for it.
Another more intrinsic problem with that specific scene before Daenerys and Daario have sex is the fact that every other scene in which there is power play, e.g. Joffrey and Ros, Daenerys and Drogo, Jaime and Cersei, has been a long scene. In each of these scenes, the power is in the hands of the man. Joffrey, Drogo, Jaime are all in positions of power and the scene is meant to reiterate the point to us with deafening sound. In this scene, Daenerys is the one in control. Daario offers himself to her, and he asks her to make use of him, and she orders him to take off his clothes.
This scene is important for two reasons. One, we see Daenerys relationship with Daario change drastically from one of verbal to physical. This change not only sets Daenerys’ story arc into a completely different direction but also becomes a catalyst for other characters. Two, we see Daenerys, herself, change once more. Whether you like her decisions or not, you can’t deny she’s no longer the simpering princess from season 1. From being stripped by her brother to stripping Daario, she’s the one in charge now.
Daenerys has slowly grown into a leader of epic proportions. This is just a part of her metamorphosis. This isn’t just sex, this is the step she takes forward on her own. We haven’t seen her in any sexual aspect since Drogo, and this is someone who has matured not only mentally but sexually. She’s not being rutted from the back, she’s casually lounging, observing what’s being offered. For such an important scene to a central character, could we not have lingered a bit more with some more introspective?
Instead we cut to a sexualized scene with Melisandre and Selyse, as if apologetically placing Carice van Houten’s naked body at the feet of the viewer for the momentary display of female dominance.
I say, if the actors are fine with it, bring on the full frontals. Don’t tell me it’ll make people uncomfortable, if you’re watching a show where someone is violently stabbing a pregnant woman and you’re discomforted by some dick you might want to check yourself. And besides, the point isn’t to bring more sex into a show that is already brimming with it, it’s to even the scales. With only a handful of episodes a season, every scene must count and should serve to propel the mammoth plot forward.