After three seasons of smoldering glances and astounding self-control, Game of Thrones’ Missandei — personal attendant of Daenerys Targaryen and a freed slave — and Grey Worm — foremost warrior with the Unsullied, a band of eunuch soldiers — got it on. “Stormborn,” the second episode of season seven, was the culmination of years of flirting that we’ve all been waiting for.
After hand-of-the-Queen Tyrion Lannister announces (in a room full of the show’s strongest female protagonists) that Grey Worm will be shipping off for what promises to be a gruesome battle, Missandei visits him in his room, wondering if the obvious object of her affection had planned to say goodbye before he left. He eventually admits that it’s hard for him to say goodbye to her, because Missandei is his “weakness.” Cue a passionate make-out moment, which Grey Worm cuts short out of apparent shame regarding his castration (intended to keep him and every Unsullied from the distraction of lust, and focused instead on killing).
Missandei takes the reins from there, maneuvering out of a complex lace-up bodice with confounding ease before pulling off Grey Worm’s shirt, quickly coaxing him out of his pants and onto the bed.
What follows is, arguably, the first truly feminist sex scene on Game of Thrones, one that is about — in addition to two characters’ legitimate and emotionally fueled affection for one another — a woman’s pleasure. On a show that took a matter of minutes to display the female body in its first episode and six dang seasons to free the penis, this is progress.
When we talk about sex on Game of Thrones, we are often talking about non-consensual sex: Jaime Lannister’s incestuous rape of Cersei Lannister, literally over their son’s dead body; Daenerys’ rape by Khal Drogo on their wedding night; Ramsay’s Bolton’s repeated rape of Sansa Stark, the first installment of which was so graphic it prompted a mini-exodus of women away from the show.
Game of Thrones is notorious for conflating sex with sexual violence; for normalizing rape and suggesting that women may even come to like it. That relationship is written into a number of the show’s romantic relationships: Daenerys comes to love Drogo and love sex with him; Cersei and Jaime have apparently always enjoyed sex with one another.
Certainly, the show is not without its consensual sex scenes — between Daenerys and beardy fighting man Daario Naharis, whom the Mother of Dragons rebuffed last season in favor of pursuing the Iron Throne; between wildling Ygritte and Jon Snow, whose v-card she swipes — but even within those pairings, sex tends to unfold along fairly predictable narrative lines. Intercourse is nearly always penetrative, usually between a man and a woman, the former fucking the latter into blissful and loud oblivion before getting up to pour them both some wine or something.
This one was different.
How so? For starters, it was focused solely on Missandei’s pleasure, perhaps because the prospect of penetrative sex — not always the best for women, in terms of orgasm odds — was taken off the table. Game of Thrones has not confronted the question of Grey Worm’s genital situation, although the internet has speculated: While the book’s author, George R.R. Martin, was clear that the Unsullied had undergone a “root and stem” castration, the show’s writers have suggested that Grey Worm may simply be without balls.
If that’s the case, initiating penetrative sex would not be impossible, but it would be difficult: When Missandei and Grey Worm first began twinkling for one another, way back in season four, MTV asked some urologists whether or not the pair could ever consummate their mounting flirtation. Acknowledging that, with concerted stimulation and a strong emotional connection, penetrative sex would indeed be possible, the doctors emphasized that there were other ways to have sex.
“Thank goodness for hands and mouths!” as Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, the founder of Men’s Health Boston and associate professor of Urology at Harvard Medical School, told MTV.
And in “Stormborn,” that’s precisely the course Grey Worm took — entirely unprompted by Missandei. She pulled him down on the bed, and he immediately went down on her. There was no hesitation; none of this reported male squeamishness about cunnilingus; no demand that Missandei first put in whatever extended effort might be required for Grey Worm to get it up. Missandei came first, and statistically speaking, that’s typically the case when heterosexual women have partners who willingly participate in oral sex.
Centering female pleasure is a large and welcome step for Game of Thrones, a show that has always prioritized men’s sexual satisfaction (both when it comes to male characters on-screen and the fantasies of men watching at home). It’s a crucial one for season seven, in which one woman already sits on the Iron Throne and will soon face off with a number of other women who would like to take it from her.
Suppressing women’s sexuality has historically been an effective method of keeping women subservient to men. Women’s bodies are not for pleasure (unless that pleasure is a man’s), but rather, for reproduction; when pleasure, not fulfilling the patriarchally imposed obligation to bear children, is the goal of sex, women take back some agency over their bodies. That agency bleeds into other areas of their lives, freeing them up to pursue higher education, join the workforce — hell, maybe even take over a kingdom or seven.
A feminist, female pleasure-centric sex scene on Game of Thrones may well be another signal that women are gearing up to reclaim Westeros. For that reason — and because fans have been awaiting this beautiful union for three goddamn seasons — we can also say: More of this, please.
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