Game of Thrones rape scene prompts outraged fans to quit the series

Some loyal fans of Game of Thrones are turning away from the popular HBO series after one of the main characters was raped in season 5's sixth episode aired on Sunday night.

This story contains spoilers

Sophie Turner, left, plays Sansa Stark, and Iwan Rheon is Ramsay Bolton, in a scene from an episode of the fifth season of Game of Thrones. A brutal rape scene in the sixth episode that aired Sunday has prompted some fans to quit watching the HBO TV series. (Helen Sloan/HBO via AP)

A U.S. senator is among those condemning a rape scene on HBO's Game of Thrones.

In a comment tweeted Tuesday, Senator Claire McCaskill described the sexual assault as "gratuitous" and "disgusting." The Democratic lawmaker from Missouri said she was done with the show.

Other critics included the website The Mary Sue, which offers a feminist view of pop culture. The website posted that it would no longer promote Game of Thrones and said that rape is not a device to drive a story.

"After the episode ended, I was gutted. I felt sick to my stomach. And then I was angry," wrote Jill Pantozzi, the online publication's editor in chief. "Not only will there be those who hand-wave the scene simply on the basis of artistic integrity, there will be those who still don't consider it rape."  

The attack involved newly married characters Sansa, played by Sophie Turner, and Ramsay, portrayed by Iwan Rheon. Ramsay's rape of Sansa was off-camera, suggested in her cries and the distress on a bystander's face.

The fantasy saga, which follows the rise and fall of families in the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, is one of the most-watched shows on television. But some viewers are so upset with Sunday's episode they say they'll never watch again.

HBO declined comment Tuesday on the reaction to the episode. An after-hours call to McCaskill's office seeking further comment was not immediately returned.

Attack not in the books

The scene differed from the work of George R.R. Martin, whose novels are the basis of Game of Thrones. In Martin's work, a different character marries Ramsay and is sexually assaulted by another man at Ramsay's direction.

George R.R. Martin, whose novels are the basis of Game of Thrones, appeared to defend the choices of the show's producers after the controversial rape episode aired. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)
The author appeared to defend the choices of the show's producers.

"David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] and Bryan [Cogman] and HBO are trying to make the best television series that they can," Martin wrote on his website Monday. "And over here, I am trying to write the best novels that I can.

"And yes, more and more, they differ ... but all of us are still intending that at the end we will arrive at the same place."

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, producer and writer Bryan Cogman explained to fans how the scene was significant to the plot.

"It's pretty intense and awful, and the character will have to deal with it," said Cogman, "[But] it is an important turning point [for Sansa]."

Sansa actress 'loved' the script

The actress who plays Sansa, 19-year-old Sophie Turner, told the same publication that she "loved" playing the brutal scene.

British actress Sophie Turner, 19, who plays Sansa in Game of Thrones, said she 'loved' playing the brutal scene, adding: 'It was all so messed up. It's also so daunting for me to do it.' (Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)
"I love the way Ramsay had Theon watching," said Turner. "It was all so messed up. It's also so daunting for me to do it. I've been making [Cogman] feel so bad for writing that scene: 'I can't believe you're doing this to me!' But I secretly loved it."

It's not the first time Game of Thrones has shocked fans with its savage storylines. 

Last season, HBO was slammed over another rape scene involving incestuous lovers. The show's ongoing graphic violence also has drawn criticism.

It's too early to tell what impact the latest controversial episode may have. Before Sunday's show, Game of Thrones had remained a steady hit in its fifth season.

With files from CBC news