‘House of the Dragon’ Writer Speaks Out: ‘We Don’t Depict Sexual Violence,’ Only ‘One Instance Off-Screen’

Game of Thrones” ignited outrage during its eight-season run for frequently depicting sexual violence against women, most notoriously in a fifth season episode in which Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is raped on her wedding night. While confusion has surrounded whether HBO’s prequel series, “House of the Dragon,” will feature the same graphic violence, writer and executive producer Sara Hess told Vanity Fair point blank that “Dragon” will “not depict sexual violence” whatsoever onscreen.

“House of the Dragon” director and co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik confused fans last month after telling The Hollywood Reporter that the series “pulls back” on depictions of sexual violence when compared to “Game of Thrones” but “violence against women is still very much part of the world.”

“[We] don’t shy away from it,” Sapochnik said. “If anything, we’re going to shine a light on that aspect. You can’t ignore the violence that was perpetrated on women by men in that time. It shouldn’t be downplayed and it shouldn’t be glorified.”

Sapochnik’s comments left the prequel series’ relationship to sexual violence against women somewhat ambiguous. And yet Hess made things clear: “I’d like to clarify that we do not depict sexual violence in the show,” she told Vanity Fair. “We handle one instance off-screen, and instead show the aftermath and impact on the victim and the mother of the perpetrator.”

“I think what our show does, and what I’m proud of, is that we choose to focus on the violence against women that is inherent in a patriarchal system,” Hess added, noting that “House of the Dragon” will showcase violence against women that isn’t strictly sexual.

“There are many ‘historical’ or history-based shows that romanticize powerful men in sexual/marriage relationships with women who were actually not of an age to consent, even if they were ‘willing,’” Hess continued. “We put that onscreen, and we don’t shy away from the fact that our female leads in the first half of the show are coerced and manipulated into doing the will of adult men. This is done not necessarily by those we would define as rapists or abusers, but often by generally well-meaning men who are unable to see that what they are doing is traumatic and oppressive, because the system that they all live in normalizes it. It’s less obvious than rape but just as insidious, though in a different way.”

“House of the Dragon” debuts on Aug. 21 on HBO.