There's a lot of rape in pop culture. I'm not sure if people who haven't been through a sexual trauma notice it as much. I imagine it's a lot like how you get pregnant and start noticing pregnant women everywhere.
"Games of Thrones" has to be one of the most violent shows on television, and sexual violence or the threat of it is a given in pretty much every episode. I hear this is even more true in the books -- As Emily Gordon wrote previously on xoJane, "The books mention the rape of women on ... a constant basis -- as a horror of war, as a normal part of a woman's life, as a punishment, or just for when the men are bored."
In the past, this hasn't really bothered me. Like Gordon, I see the the inclusion of rape as "shorthand" used to illustrate the brutality of the world the characters live in. Rape is a base human reality, especially in warrior societies like the one depicted in "Thrones." (Mild spoilers to follow.)
I've been watching the show since its premiere and can't recall being particularly disturbed (in a visceral, emotional sense) by the sexual violence on the show before. But last night's episode had me watching through my fingers, feeling shaky and panicky, mostly at the exploits of King Joffrey, who first stripped and beat fiance Sansa Stark in front of the entire court while creepily hissing, "Leave her face, I like her pretty," then forced a prostitute to viciously beat and torture another woman for his amusement. (It was all kindly topped off with a "rat torture bucket" chaser, which didn't help.)
Sometimes seeing this kind of stuff on TV is no bigs -- my brain just somehow processes it correctly as fictional and posing no active threat to me. Other times, my poor boyfriend ends up scrambling to turn the television off while I sob on the couch.
Joffrey's particular flavor of sadistic sexual violence (I feel sorry for that actor, because women are going to hate him forever) is pretty extreme for television, and apparently a huge trigger for me. I feel scared even thinking about it now. If it continues to escalate at this rate, it might become difficult for me to watch the show moving forward. The good news is that characters are killed off frequently and gleefully on "Thrones," so chances are good he'll eventually get his comeuppance.
Until then, I'll use this video of my boyfriend Tyrion slapping Joffrey for 10 straight minutes to take the edge off.