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 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 those that do 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 all too noticeable at this point. I can’t blame the show creators for this 100%, though I do blame them partly for it, because they are playing to 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. 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 book is written from different points of view, both male and female, and gives us at least two different gender perspectives. The male gaze related to television gives us one gender perspective.
Some might point out that the audience might not be ready to see a male penis on screen. 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, rape on multiple accounts, violent slaughter, violent sexual abuse, pedophilia, murdering children, torture, incest, and yet somehow male genitalia is what is over the line for them?
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 fit the number of times I’ve seen a naked woman on Game of Thrones on two hands, but I can count the number of times I’ve been a fully naked man on one. Game of Thrones is rife with sex, do not tell me this inequality is just because of the source material.
I’m not asking for the show to turn into soft-core porn, but some equality should be made. Hell, even the actors are calling out for it.
Another more deeply set 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. 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 it is also a catalyst for other characters. Two, we see Daenerys, herself, change once more. Whether you like her actions 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.
We’ve seen her change in season four into taking a more active role, this is just part of her metamorphosis. We haven’t seen her in any sexual aspect since Drogo, and this is a different woman. She’s not being rutted from the back, she’s sitting back. For such an important scene, could we not have lingered a bit more? A few more lines?
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 male genitalia you might want to check yourself.