After giving the world an incredible eight years of fantasy television, some amazing characters and a story we will remember for years to come, 'Game of Thrones' seems to have also unknowingly impacted an industry that plays a pivotal role in the tale of Westeros.
The brothels in 'Game of Thrones' have always been a powerful place and their portrayal is making sex workers feel included in popular culture, according to Dena, Madam of Sheri's Ranch, a legal brothel in Nevada.
"Game of Thrones is arguably the most popular show in television history, and it’s one of the sexiest. With brothels among of the primary settings in the fictional realm of Westeros and prostitutes featured prominently as pivotal supporting characters, 'Game of Thrones' introduced millions of fans to a world where sex work is an accepted part of the culture," she says.
Characters like Shae and Ros, who were sex workers in Westeros, were important pieces of the puzzle that is 'Game of Thrones', but, more importantly, they were professionals who were making a living just as the blacksmiths, the King's Hand, or the spies of the land.
"Unlike in our world, where sex work is stigmatized and often not discussed or acknowledged, 'Game of Thrones' shows audiences an alternative where sex-for-money is available to anyone, with virtually no judgment or condemnation directed at sex buyers," she adds.
In fact, it's like a free ad, she says. "The brothels in 'Game of Thrones', in many ways, reflect the real-life legal brothels in Nevada – places where people from all walks of life gather and explore their innermost erotic fantasies in a nonjudgmental environment. In many ways, 'Game of Thrones' is essentially an advertisement for brothels. I would definitely say that 'Game of Thrones' has had a considerable and positive impact on Nevada’s legal sex work industry through the shows enticing and salacious showcasing of prostitution."
The show also gets another aspect of the real-life legal brothels right, Madame points out. the ladies always know much more than you do. "Oh, I know a lot! But I will never tell," she says, "It is definitely true that people open up in brothels and reveal their true desires, anxieties, and erotic proclivities to the courtesans. The ladies would never break the trust they form with their clients. What happens here, stays here. Your secrets are safe with us."
While 'Game of Thrones' does have its share of violence and rape, the brothels have almost always been a place for business and nothing else. However, most of television doesn't see the profession that way. Take another HBO production, 'The Deuce' for example. Sex work on the show is riddled with hapless women, drugs and pimps that exploit women till they have nothing left to give. In fact, even 'GoT' has room for improvement, she says.
"Overall, the portrayal of sex work in popular culture is overwhelmingly negative. Sex workers are nearly always portrayed as people, usually women, that are forced into sex work as a last resort, usually because they are drug addicts or victims of broken homes. Even Game of Thrones is guilty of sometimes portraying its fantasy prostitutes as slave-like workers, devoid of agency," she says.
"The truth, certainly the truth in legal Nevada brothels, is that sex workers come from a variety of backgrounds, and all of them willingly choose sex work as their profession. Some women that work for me are mothers searching for a job with a flexible schedule so that they have ample time and money to raise their children as they see fit. Others are paying their way through school, as they pursue advanced degrees," she explains.