We’ve watched Arya Stark grow from a tomboy into a, still underage, cold-blooded assassin for The God of Many Faces.
Arya is a fan favorite on Game of Thrones. We’re emotionally invested in her story. And during season one of GoT, we even ‘shipped her with Gendry, the late King Robert Baratheon’s eldest bastard son. Their back and forth banter was just so adorable.
So, during the second episode of season 8, when Arya propositioned Gendry to show her what sex is like before they die, many fans were uncomfortable. And admittedly, I was one of those viewers covering my eyes, yelling, “NOT MY BABY” at the television screen. But I thought about it. Our discomfort is there for a lot of reasons and all of them having to do with hetero-normative expectations of what sexual intimacy are supposed to look like.
Throughout the show, Arya has been portrayed as a scrappy little girl. She enjoys fighting and, I’d go as far as to say she gets pleasure from killing. Why, then were so many people uncomfortable with an adult Arya being in a sex scene? The short answer: because she still looks like a child.
The long answer is a bit more complicated. Actress Maisie Williams has been playing Arya Stark from the first season, at age 11. She’s been the one constant we’ve all been rooting for. We cheered as she rebelled against being a proper lady, squeed when Jon Snow gave her Needle, clapped the first time she used Needle on a foe, and every single time she kills someone, we had her back. The difference between this support and our inability to accept an 18 year old Arya being sexually commanding is our definition of innocence.
Throughout the show, Arya Stark has never been sexualized or objectified. So the problem people are having is that we don’t think of non-objectified people as being able to be sexual beings. If a woman doesn’t openly exude a need for sex, then they must not want sex. Ever. A woman has have been portrayed as sexual prior to her wanting to have sex.
And by this standard, people are confused, embarrassed and disgusted by the scene. Some fans have even gone as far as to say that the GoT writers know nothing about female sexuality. People haven’t taken into account that, though the show is a fantasy series, the time period were it historical would be around 300 AD. They were on the eve of war and sexual tensions were high.
So let’s this sex scene into context. Arya and Gendry are about to go to war with the the white walkers. Arya, a tomboy, trained to not show emotion, to study and stalk her prey. She’s trained to tell if someone is lying. Now, the war is upon them. Gendry is a boy she knew and trusted when she was a little girl escaping Kings Landing. She wants to experience sex for the first time with someone she trusts before her possible death. She’s not romantic, never has been. She doesn’t believe in fairy tales. She’s experienced in combat, not in sex. She knows how to ask for what she wants. This sex scene wasn’t supposed to be an ode to The Notebook. This scene was to show Arya, though inexperienced sexually, as a sexually dominant young woman. And Gendry did not try to take that dominance from her.
Naturally, fans wanted something better for Arya’s first time—something more romantic, more intimate. But that simply isn’t Arya’s style. As much as it pains us, this sex scene was perfectly Arya Stark. What do you think? How do you think the scene should have played out?