Menstruation in Game of Thrones

Arya Stark Game of ThronesThe Game of Thrones is a very popular fantasy TV series that has lots of drama, intensity, politics, violence & blood. There are many fascinating, diverse & complex female characters in the show and I love following each of their plot-lines.


The Game of Thrones has received a lot of criticism about the amount of female nudity, violence and torture shown (in particular sexual violence against women) and about how it depicts these themes. Nevertheless the female characters are wonderfully fun to watch – each of them are complex characters – clever, witty, flawed, strong, brave, ambitious, noble, angry, isolated, honorable, cold hearted, bitter etc.

Game of Thrones seems to be the perfect vehicle for depicting menstruation because of how many interesting and complex female characters it focuses on, and because it is happy to display other types of blood (and lots of it!) However, disappointingly, Game of Thrones has only had one menstruation scene so far.

In Season 2, episode 7, sixteen year old Sansa Stark was shown getting her first period. In that scene menstruation served a very significant purpose (because as soon as Sansa began menstruating she knew she would be married off to the horrible psychopathic boy-King Joffrey).

Why I think there should be more menstruation scenes in Game of Thrones:

1. There are a lot of well-developed female characters that get a lot of dialogue and screen-time. We know each of the female characters intimately and we’ve seen them at their most vulnerable. There is plenty of room within the structure of the show to focus on how some of these female characters deal with menstruation.

2. The show frequently addresses gender issues – Game of Thrones is set in a patriarchal world and the show frequently addresses the restrictions and dangers many of the female characters on the show face simply because of their gender. Menstruation could be addressed on the show as one of the many gendered issues that the female characters have to deal with.

3. There are many young adolescent girls on the show - each of whom, at some point,  would have had to deal with their first period (for example: Sansa, Arya, Meera, Myrcella and Dany). In particular, Arya Stark (Sansa’s little sister) would have been a fascinating character to see dealing with menstruation.  Arya has been without parents or a family for several years (and has been in the exclusive company of men) therefore I wonder if she even knows what menstruation is? It would be really interesting to see her get her first period. It would also have been interesting to see how Arya dealt with and hid her period last season when she was trying to pass for a boy (as she was travelling with a group of boys/men and had little privacy). In this season Arya is no longer disguised as a boy, however she still living a nomadic life with only a man (“the Hound”) as a travelling companion, therefore dealing with her menstruation would still be very difficult.

4. It seems very selective for Game of Thrones to show so much female nudity (and scenes set within a brothel), yet to rarely depict menstruation - How do prostitutes deal with their periods in the Game of Thrones world? (For that matter, how do they avoid conception & how do they deal with pregnancy/babies? There are very few signs of pregnant women or babies in the brothel scenes).

5. Game of Thrones enjoys using venous blood on the show for dramatic and symbolic effect. Menstrual blood could serve a similar symbolic/gritty purpose on the show. Game of Thrones does not usually shy away from the icky and gritty, and there is a lot of blood depicted in the show – generally from human wounds and slaughtered animals. Like venous blood, menstrual blood is also very meaningful, gritty, and symbolic.

6. It would be interesting to see the tomboyish female characters deal with menstruation: Arya and Brienne are two very tomboyish characters that enjoy sword-fighting, and that largely live in a ‘male’ world surrounded by men. Both Arya and Brienne live in a world with strong gender roles, however they have both actively resisted the typical roles set aside for females in that society. Both Arya and Brienne love to sword-fight, have short hair, wear male clothes, and are sometimes mistaken for boys/men. I imagine that for them getting their periods would be quite jarring and annoying (because it would be in such contrast to the rest of their day-to-day lives, and a reminder that they are female). Arya and Brienne both live in largely male environments but they are still subject to gendered restrictions and they’ll never truly be ‘one of the guys’. Menstruation is a reminder to them of this, and possibly helps them to feel more kinship/solidarity with other women. When Brienne swore a pledge to serve Arya’s mother (Catelyn) she told her, “I could serve you if you would have me. You have courage. Not battle courage, perhaps, but – I don’t know – a woman’s kind of courage.”

7. It would be fascinating to see how the female characters in Game of Thrones manage their menstruation in that historical (albeit fantasy) setting. How would Arya, Brienne, Meera and Osha deal with their menstruation given that they are travelling all the time and living an extremely basic day-to-day existence, never knowing where their next meal will come from? In fact, it would be really interesting to see any of the Games of Throne women deal with menstruation in the absence of our convenient modern sanitary products, clothing, and water systems. I presume the Game of Thrones characters (a) don’t have underwear; (b) don’t have access to flowing water; (c) view water as a limited resource (especially in the case of the nomadic wanderers Arya, Brienne & Meera) and therefore as something they cannot afford to waste too much of when washing themselves or their menstrual cloths/pads; and   (d) would find it difficult to make effective sanitary pads (and suspenders/belt to hold the pads in place in the absence of underwear). How do those Games of Thrones female characters manage to hide their menstruation and continue living their normal day-to-day lives? I imagine that they would want to sit down most of the time (to prevent their menstrual pads/cloths getting misplaced or falling out) and basically seclude themselves away from society for 5 days.

I think the Game of Thrones production team have basically forgotten that their female characters have menstrual cycles.  Menstruation would be a huge issue and very difficult to deal with (and hide) within the Game of Thrones setting. However – for some reason – all of the female characters (with the exception of Sansa when she got her first period) just seem to get on with their day-to-day lives and never seem to be interrupted or affected by menstruation.

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