Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey on Game of Thrones
Neil Davidson—HBO
By Eliana Dockterman
April 7, 2015

Obviously, spoilers for last season ahead.

Lena Heady and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who play Cersei and Jaime Lanniser on Game of Thrones, told Entertainment Weekly that they did not intend for that controversial sex scene to look like rape last season. “It’s that terrible thing as a woman—talking about something as horrendous as rape and dismissing it, which I’m not. But we never discussed it as that,” said Headey.

“All these emotions going through them, it was never intended to be something where he forced—it wasn’t a rape, and it was never intended to be. But it’s one of those things where you can’t [publicly] say ‘it wasn’t rape,’ because then everybody goes, ‘How can you say it wasn’t rape?!’ But that was definitely not the intention,” Coster-Waldau added.

Critics disagree.

MORE: The Game of Thrones Sex Scene Can’t Be Both Rape and Not Rape

Game of Thrones fans will recall the scene and the many weeks of controversy following it last year. The problem for many viewers wasn’t that Cersei and Jaime are siblings—that’s par for the course on Thrones—nor did audiences object to the incest occurring next to their dead son’s body. Rather, critics objected to the fact that Cersei told Jaime to “stop” and “no” when he tried to have sex with her and he replied “I don’t care,” and did it anyway.

Many writers (including this one), pointed out that when someone says “no,” the act becomes rape. The director of the episode Alex Graves and actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who plays Jaime) seemed to make matters worse by trying to explain that the sex was not consensual in the beginning but became consensual by the end. Again, many writers pointed out that rape cannot become consensual. Even George R.R. Martin, the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series upon which the HBO show is based, apologized to his fans for the portrayal. (In Martin’s book, the sex is clearly agreed upon by both parties.)

The critical disapproval came at a cultural moment when consent has become a rallying cry from college campuses to the White House.

Game of Thrones is a brutal world where a lot of terrible things happen—including rape. But in other instances of assault on the show, it’s clear that the sex is a violent act. For many, the problem with saying this scene did not depict rape is it somehow tells viewers that sex which doesn’t begin consensual can somehow become consensual.

Read the full interview at Entertainment Weekly.

MORE: There’s a Reason There’s So Much Rape on Your Favorite TV Shows

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