Dorne and the sexualised other

[Note: this was originally published on November 16th 2019 on my tumblr)

TW: Racism, sexism

In George RR Martin’s world of A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) the reader can find many aspects that rings true even in our (unfortunately?) dragon free world. Some of those are the sexism and racism that characters face. In this text I want to focus on one such, namely the way characters from the ASOIAF kingdom of Dorne are described. By analysing the sexualised racism levelled at Dornish characters I don’t mean to say that George RR Martin is racist, if that is the case is a whole other discussion, but I want to show how he has incorporated that aspect from our world into ASOIAF. Some day I might write a similar text on how the culture of the Dothraki is described, or that of the Summer Isles. Here I’ll just quickly touch on the Summer Isles, but the main focus will be on Dorne and how characters from Dorne is described in relation to gender, sexuality and race.

Many researchers have studied how colonialist discourse have influenced how the sexuality and gender of people from different parts of the world are viewed (Loomba 2005, 152). Indigenous women from the Americas and Africa were often portrayed during colonial times in art etc as naked and close to nature, while women from the “Orient” were often described as clothed in riches. At the same time “Orient” men were often described as feminine and prone to sexual “perversions (ibid, 156). Loomba writes that one reason for this focus on gender and sexuality was the perceived danger of cultural and racial mixing. By demeaning other races/cultures’ sexuality, the race boundaries and power structures could be maintained. This view on the racial other’s sexuality as both exotic and dangerous was hardly contained to Europe during the 19th century, however. As bell hooks writes about contemporary society:

 Certainty from the standpoint of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, the hope is that desires for the ‘primitive’ or fantasises about the other can be continually exploited, and that such exploitation will occur in a manner that reinscribes and maintains the status quo. (hooks 2015, 22)

That is to say, in our contemporary society there is still a white longing for the racial other, a longing to experience that which is considered primitive and exotic (ibid, 27). This sexualisation does not, however, eradicate the very real politics of racial dominance (ibid, 28). Rather, as hooks writes, by fucking the other one asserts one’s power and privilege (ibid 36). So, while black men can be fetichised, described as wild, erotic and strong, their bodies are also subjected to daily violence. Black women have also, both historically and today, been the subject of racial fetishization (Hobson 2003). The black female body has been described as wild, savage, and closer to nature than that of the white western woman. So, on the whole, there have throughout our world’s history (and still today) existed several different ways to describe the racial other’s sexuality that in different ways serve to maintain the power differences of white supremacy.

Now, how is Dorne and its inhabitants described in ASOIAF in relation to this? While we are introduced to some of the Dornish characters in the third novel (namely Oberyn and his paramour Ellaria), the fourth novel A Feast with Crows, brings a whole new focus to the kingdom. This begins in the prologue when Leo Tyrell talks to Alleras about his parentage and says: “Your mother is a monkey from the Summer Isles. The Dornish will fuck everything with a hole between its legs.” (Martin 2011, 10). Leo then goes on to call Alleras a “mongrel” (ibid, 11). In both these comments we can see a quite typical of the sexualised view of the racial other that I described above. Alleras’ black mother from the Summer Isles is likened to a monkey, and his Dornish father is described as promiscuous and willing to have sex with anything. The black woman is described as sexual and animalistic, and the Dornish man is described in the way that “Orient” men were often described; as sexually perverted. By doing this Leo Tyrell obviously means to put himself above Alleras and establish his superiority. This is particularly interesting since Leo Tyrell is from a house and region (The Reach) that has been at war with Dorne for centuries (ibid, 267). By creating a racial division between themselves and the Dornish they are perhaps able to legitimise their hatred of them. The next quote I want to look at is also from the point of view of a Reachman, Arys Oakheart: “In the Reach men said that it was the food that made Dornishmen so hot-tempered and their women so wild and wanton”. (ibid, 271) This is of course also in line with how men of colour are described as wild as strong, and women of colour as exotic and sexual. It’s also interesting in light of how Arys in this very same chapter longs after the Dornish princess Arianne, who is described both as very sexual, exotic and richly clad, thus embodying several stereotypes of racial other women. Arys being attracted to this “exotic” woman can be seen as a case of him wanting this fetichised racial other, someone who is part of a group that has been sexualised by his countrymen in order to claim superiority over them. As bell hooks says, by sexualising the other one establishes dominance and power of them. I’m not saying that is what Arys is consciously trying to do in this instance, but that he has internalised the views of Dornish people that he has been brought up with.I have here tried to show how views of the racial other from our own world seems to be in use in the world of ASOIAF as well. Dornish characters are sexualised and described as wild, almost animalistic. In general characters of colour seems to be described as more sexual, closer to nature, less civilised. This is very similar to how colonial discourses have been used to legitimise racial oppression in our own world. Much more could obviously be written on this topic, but for now this is how I will end this text.


Hobson, Janell. 2003. ‘The “Batty” Politic: Toward an Asthetic of the Black Female Body’ Hypatia. 18(4):87-104

hooks, bell. 2015. ”Eating the other: Desire and Resistance.” In Black Looks: Race and Representation, ed. by bell hooks. Routledge: New York. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Loomba, Ania. 2008. Kolonialism/Postkolonialism: En introduktion till ett forskningsfält. Translation Oskar Söderlind. 2 ed. Stockholm: Tankekraft. [This is the Swedish translation of the book Colonialism/Postcolonialism]

Martin, George RR. 2011. A Feast for Crows. Random House: New York.

4 reaktioner på ”Dorne and the sexualised other

  1. Pingback: Alleras/Sarella, The Sphinx traversing boundaries of sex and gender – Lo the Lynx

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  3. Cassie

    I shouldn’t be amused but I have very recently read where that Bell Hooks quote came from and I may have fluffed a little.

    I mean how much of a call back to our own history can there be than to call people of color monkeys? Dorne is also has the broadest ‘native’ skin tones within a region. Obviously this is a sign of intermingling and, you know, not adaptation to environment.

    While as you said this isn’t arguing for GRRM being racist, it is interesting that the more liberal on the subject of sex cultures are all POC. Chataya even equates sex as a tribute to the gods, a ‘savage’ type of tribute if you will.

    This also touches on the matter of sex/sexual dominance/acts a mark of masculinity.


    1. Very good point about Chataya! I have been thinking about writing something more about the Summer Isles at some point… I do think the way GRRM portrays their culture plays into harmful stereotypes.



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