I don’t watch Game of Thrones, the most popular series on HBO since The Sopranos. However, the rape scene in a recent episode made headlines that are hard to ignore. Tyler Huckabee, managing editor at Relevant magazine, had an especially thoughtful response.
He cites a TV critic who called the scene “grotesque and dangerous.” The Atlantic labeled it “an appalling mistake.” Wired said the show is “doing something very, very wrong.” HBO’s True Detective also displays female nudity frequently—The New Yorker calls these scenes “absurd” and other critics agree. Last June, TIME noted the “epidemic of nudity on prime-time TV,” but the public’s acceptance of such nudity is apparently declining.
Consider what’s happening with movies. Marvel’s blockbuster series of comic book heroes features no sexual content; the Harry Potter franchise has been the same. In 2013, not a single Oscar Best Picture nominee displayed a sex scene. This trend is partly the result of economics: R-rated movies don’t make as much money as PG-13 films. But something more may be at work.
Huckabee cites a New York Film Academy study which found that, from 2007-2012, 26.2 percent of women in the top 500 films were at least partially naked on screen, compared to only 9.4 percent of men. Critics have noted that nudity on HBO and other television channels is almost entirely confined to women, most of whom do not have significant roles. The objectification and exploitation of women is a very real issue, and not just with television and movies.
According to the FBI, 293,000 American youths are at risk of becoming victims of sexual exploitation; women and girls make up 98 percent of such trafficking. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women. More than two million women are assaulted by men each year in America. One in five female high school students reports being abused by a dating partner.
Using and abusing women has long been a tragic part of the human story. From Hagar, who was exiled by Abraham at Sarah’s insistence (Genesis 21:8-21), to the sinful woman whose tearful worship was rejected by a Pharisee but welcomed by Jesus (Luke 7:36-50), women have been second-class citizens for most of our history. Jesus’ inclusion of women among his disciples (Luke 8:1-3) and his decision to appear first to women after his resurrection (Matthew 28:9-10) were radical departures from the norm. His actions show that God affirms women as equal to men in significance and service.
Lydia was the first convert in Europe and host of the first European church (Acts 16:14-15, 40). Philip had “four unmarried daughters who prophesied” (Acts 21:9). Paul could proclaim that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female” (Galatians 3:28).
The exploitation of women has to stop, while the calling of women to Kingdom service must be encouraged. As the grandfather of a precious little girl, I wonder about her future in our culture. And I pray that the Lord will make her a mighty woman of God.