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?

It's like they're saying, sorry for the partial male nudity, take this pretty full frontal woman as an apology.
It’s like they’re saying, sorry for the partial male nudity, take this pretty full frontal woman as an apology.

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.

8 thoughts on “Game of Thrones: Nudity, It’s a Man’s Game”

  1. There was a rumor that Emilia Clarke now had it in her contract that she wouldn’t have to do nude scenes anymore, which could be one explanation for the cut away from bare-ass Daario to super-nude-all-nude-nearly-all-the-time Melisandre.

    I’m not going to step up and complain about seeing Carice Van Houten naked, but I agree with everything in this post. HBO isn’t afraid of showing skin, and we get a lot of uncomfortable scenes. If some dudes watching HBO get uncomfortable with male nudity, welcome to the world and adjust, guys. Some parity of skin exposure would balance things out.

    We have seen more full frontal male nudity than just Hodor and Theon Greyjoy, but either it’s super quick (Olyvar letting it hang out in Littlefinger’s brothel) or not sexy for anyone (the poison wine seller being marched naked to his death with the Dothraki) but even doubling the number of examples, we’re still on one hand.

    Anyway, I won’t necessarily be signing a petition, but I’m not going to be stressed with more male skin, and if it plays well with the viewership that’s feeling the show is one-sided in this regard, that’s a great thing.

    Game of Thrones is an amazing show, and I support anything that will help elevate its status.

    Great article.

  2. I think it’s also interesting that we end up spending more time with Daenerys and Jorah after the fact than we do with Daenerys and Daario. I think her relationship with Daario, at this point at least, is not as important for her story – in direct contrast to people like Jaime and Cersei. The way she acted (ordering Daario rather than seducing, or something like that) was important because it’s how she’s acting in her rule of Meereen and her recapture of Yunkai. GoT frequently uses sex scenes to bring out power dynamics and make them visually obvious.

    That said, the scene was a little…awkward? I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. But I do agree that it’s weird that Daario, who had an actual sex scene, spent about ten seconds naked, while Melisandre, who was talking to someone she doesn’t have a sexual relationship about entirely non-sexual things, spent an entire scene naked.

  3. Thank you for voicing what I felt but didn’t fully realize I’d felt. I knew there was something disappointing when the scene flashed away after he dropped his pants and we got a nice view of his rump. I just couldn’t put words to it.

  4. I enjoy the show Vikings much more because it’s quality and doesn’t need to use soft core porn as a crutch for lack of content. I like porn but on my own time and porn of my own choice. I don’t like having to deal with a degree of arousal either, when I’m not in the mood. I just want to watch a TV show, ffs. If I want to watch porn, I’ll watch it, on my own time.

    I don’t have a problem with nudity, in general, but I do have a problem with soft core porn interjected into the show. Some of us don’t want to be exposed to that while watching the show with our families? Plus, the sexual over-focus on women, while keeping men unreasonably and unexplainably clothed, breaks immersion. I’m a heterosexual female viewer and I feel like the show is constantly reminding me that it’s a show made for heterosexual men. It’s very off-putting.

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