Two Swords

Are you a knight? No.
But you know how to use that sword?
I do.

Maybe some real wolves will find you, Arya thought. Maybe they’ll smell you when the sun goes down. Then he would learn what wolves did to dogs.


The reason I’m so sensitive to hate against Sansa Stark and Cersei Lannister in particular is that the attacks aren’t solely about Sansa’s femininity and naiveté or Cersei’s sexuality. Honestly if you blame Sansa for the death of her father or the war or Lady’s death, there’s evidence directly in the text that disprove those opinions. And, Cersei does enough truly awful things that if you think the worst thing she did is sleep with people she wasn’t married to, that’s a whole another issue. But to me, the most disgusting aspect of a lot of the hate against these two characters in particular is that it concerns the different ways they respond to abuse, sexual and otherwise.

Whenever I talk to show watchers or casual book readers, they often ask “why Sansa couldn’t have just fought back or run away or done something?” The issue with “fight back” rape prevention techniques is that it stigmatizes being physically unable to fight back and the fact is that a barely teenage girl is helpless against a group of the most well trained fighters in the kingdom. Even if she was trained in martial arts or something and wasn’t a sheltered medieval girl only taught to sew and curtsy, she’s so ridiculously outnumbered and fighting back or talking back would only get her assaulted even more. And if she somehow managed to escape the Gold Cloaks and Kingsguard, she’d be at the mercy of rapists and thieves and vagabonds like Arya faces on the streets of Kings Landing, and that’s not in a better position to be in.

Cersei on the other hand, gets almost the opposite reaction. A lot of people somehow seem to forget that Cersei was physically abused and underwent marital rape at the hands of Robert. I’ve read about people cheering when he slapped her in AGOT and multiple justifications that “it was a different time and she should have just tried harder to make Robert like her and she really shouldn’t have been so angry at him.” Bullshit. Robert Baratheon is a coward who used his alcoholism to justify raping and assaulting his wife, and she dealt with it for a decade and a half since even the most powerful woman in the country is nothing more than chattel to be sold before she snapped when she realized he would kill her children if he knew the truth of their parentage (I side eye any list that ranks him among favorite characters so hard).

Cersei Lannister is a major control freak and she was never remotely a nice little girl after her mother’s death, but I definitely think some of her rage against the world is justified and being an abuse victim for a long time excarberates those feelings to an extreme degree. The actions she takes aren’t remotely excusable, her murdering Robert’s bastards, her abuse of Tyrion, her sending women to Qyburn, but neither is the abuse she goes through and to ignore its effect on her character does her and abuse victims like her a major disservice. She’s not pitiable enough for you? She’s not meek and submissive and tractable enough for a proper abuse victim? Cersei’s a queen and a woman may weep but not a queen.

The point is: stigmatization of abuse victims is a major issue in the modern world and just because a story takes place in a medieval world doesn’t mean the abuse should be acceptable from a modern POV. The sheer fact that marital rape is excused in Westeros and it’s deemed acceptable to strip and beat 12 year old girls should be abhorrent and it’s not being excused by the narrative, and I find it disturbing that there are people who gloss over its impact.

Arya went to Polliver and knelt in his blood long enough to undo his swordbelt. Hanging beside his dagger was a slimmer blade, too long to be a dirk, too short to be a man’s sword…but it felt just right in her hand.