Warning: spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 9, “Battle of the Bastards,” follow…
Let's be honest, much of the pleasure of being a part of the Game of Thrones fan community is the opportunity to theorize en masse. Someone will start a thread and others pick it up and, in a way, it's like creating an enormous lore-centric Mad Lib together.
Sansa Stark has had one of the most significant character arcs of this season, so it's natural for fans to focus on what's next for her. Some feel that she may be primed to take the place of a certain character from the books, becoming the show's version of Lady Stoneheart. Others, our own Donna Dickens included, are now seeing a path that leads to a marriage between Sansa and Jon Snow in order for them to fully hold the North. And there are those who believe that Sansa is now primed to join with the devil she knows, Littlefinger, to aim for the Iron Throne itself.
I find one current piece of speculation troubling, though. It's the idea that Sansa is pregnant. Now, it's certainly possible that she is. The bastard-monster-demon Ramsay Bolton raped her, repeatedly. However, this particular notion unsettles me because the “evidence” that some are citing entirely misses the point of her character's development this season.
Last year, executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss received a fair bit of criticism for the way the series choose to portray Sansa's rape, as well as the depiction of sexual assault throughout the series' run.
The central issue with Sansa's storyline is that is was told, in cinematic language, from Theon's perspective. In fact, the going argument among some of the viewership for why it worked is that it was about Theon's development. Well, that's just the issue. The sexual assault of a major character on a series like this should not focus on the person who witnessed it and what it means for them. It is about the victim and how it alters their life.
The show, by removing Sansa's point of view, essentially robbed her of agency as a character. It took away her voice. It treated her as if she were a nothing more than a device to highlight what was happening for the males around her.
Game of Thrones has spent much of season 6 course-correcting and answering some of the creative criticisms levied against them. And it's been a joy to watch.
So, when the audience takes the following statement to mean that Sansa is pregnant, it feels like we're egregiously failing.
“I can still feel what he did, in my body, standing here, right now.”
That is what Sansa told Littlefinger about Ramsay when she — very rightly — annihilated her former mentor's attempts to align with her. It does not mean that we should interpret that to mean that she has Ramsay's baby inside her, though. Which some seem to feel is the only way to what — prove? — that she has experienced a trauma that will haunt her for the rest of her days?
No, it means that the horror she experienced now lives within her. It's like a phantom that is always with her. That rears up more violently at times, but is always like a hum in the background. She has freaking PTSD, for the love of Mike.
To dismiss that as somehow not explanation enough is, frankly, appalling. Her life, her soul, her sense of self have been brutalized and irrevocably changed. That's it. THAT'S the point. That's what happened. If she were pregnant, she'd likely find some moon tea. But she's not.
Nor does Ramsay saying, “you can't kill me, I'm a part of you now” indicate that he somehow got a psychic email that he's successfully impregnated her. It means that what he did to her changed her. And of course it did. Among other things, what she has gone through during course of this series is what shaped her into the kind of woman who can order a man to be devoured by his own dogs. So yes, he's a part of her now.
But not literally.
Taking it as such undervalues the metaphor and what the series' creators are communicating about the consequences of the kind of assault/s Sansa has suffered. So let's not do that. I certainly hope the show has not.
Edit: As Alex Zalben points out on Twitter, she also informed Ramsay that his line would now disappear. So no, she's not carrying it forward.
– Alex Zalben (@azalben) June 21, 2016