George RR Martin has directly addressed the issue of sexual violence in the Game of Thrones books and TV series, arguing he's trying to "portray struggle" and that "if you portray a utopia, then you probably wrote a pretty boring book."
A debate about the violence against women in the Game of Thrones universe spilled over when Sansa Stark was raped by Ramsay Bolton in an episode of the TV show earlier this year.
Her TV storyline had diverged so far from the books, fans were pretty unimpressed.
Critics pointed out that it was the third time a major character had sexual violence committed to them in the TV show, when it had not happened in the book.
Those two other instances being in Season 1, when Khal Drogo raped Daenerys, as well as Jaime Lannister's rape of his sister Cersei last season.
Martin emphasised on his personal blog the difference between the TV show and novels, saying, "HBO are trying to make the best television series that they can. And over here I am trying to write the best novels I can."
But now Martin has directly addressed the sexual violence in both his books and the show in an interview with EW.
And then there's the whole issue of sexual violence, which I've been criticized for as well. I'm writing about war, which what almost all epic fantasy is about. But if you're going to write about war, and you just want to include all the cool battles and heroes killing a lot of orcs and things like that and you don't portray [sexual violence], then there's something fundamentally dishonest about that. Rape, unfortunately, is still a part of war today. It's not a strong testament to the human race, but I don't think we should pretend it doesn't exist. I want to portray struggle. Drama comes out of conflict. If you portray a utopia, then you probably wrote a pretty boring book.
He argued that the books, despite the fantasy elements, "reflect a patriarchal society based on the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages were not a time of sexual egalitarianism."
I have millions of women readers who love the books, who come up to me and tell me they love the female characters. Some love Arya, some love Dany, some love Sansa, some love Brienne, some love Cersei — there's thousands of women who love Cersei despite her obvious flaws. It's a complicated argument. To be nonsexist, does that mean you need to portray an egalitarian society? That's not in our history; it's something for science fiction. And 21st-century America isn't egalitarian, either. There are still barriers against women. It's better than what it was. It's not Mad Men any more, which was in my lifetime.