In Game of Thrones most recent episode (S8 E2), teenage heroin Arya Stark (played by Maisie Williams) was portrayed having her first sexual experience, a highly anticipated moment for fans. Aside from the artistic and dramatic effects of a sexually enticing moment, I'd like to highlight the potentially devastating effects of portraying sexuality in young characters in films.
How old is Arya Stark?
According to the books, she'd be 18 by Season 8. Source.
How old is Maisie Williams?
22. (Her birthday is April 15, if you want to send flowers.)
An 18 year old consented to have sex, why the conflagration?
My issue is that in all likeliness, most of GOT's 17.4 million viewers don't know Arya's or Masie's age off-hand. For the time between their viewing the content and the viewer researching these ages, there is an image of an underage person choosing to have sex with someone well above their age. This can be devastating to adults who are coping with non-offending pedophelia, a condition which affects 1-3% of U.S. men (approximately 1.18 million to 3.54 million men). Visual and audio stimulation of minors – especially those not explicitly pornographic – can be toxically triggering for these people, who unsurprisingly, feel discouraged from seeking professional help.
The relationship between sexual interests and portrayals in film and TV is extremely related. To demonstrate, the worldwide Google Trends results for queries relating to Arya Stark, her age, and her sexuality in the hours following the release of S8 E2 are shown below. The scores for Arya Stark Nude [4-21] has spiked since the release of the episode.
What if Arya Stark would have said "I'm 18 years old, I'm adult enough to do as I please."
Without doubt, it would have likely strengthened the passion of Arya's moment and empowered her in the moments following. But more importantly, it would help the show's millions of viewers by providing clarity to consent – and show how verbal language surrounding consent can be empowering, sincere, and sexy.
The makers of Game of Thrones missed a valuable opportunity in this past episode. I challenge you to find solutions in content you're creating that are aimed at similar objectives of portraying verbalized consent, thus sincerity.
1. Seto, M.C. (2013). Internet sex offenders. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
2. Howitt, D. (1995). Pornography and the paedophile: Is it criminogenic?. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 68(1), 15-27.