House of the Dragon's Sex Scenes Aren't Just About Sex

The “historical accuracy” of the jester’s rumors affirms Martin’s comment that “sex is an important part of who we are,” even if – in public – we often pretend that it’s not. As showrunner Ryan Condal has said in interviews, the history of Targaryen civil war does not – as the maester and priest suggest – result from gender-biased quarreling between Rhaenyra and Alicent, but from two capable and powerful women running up against the constraints of the patriarchal society they live in. The story of House of the Dragon is, ultimately, also a story about sex – and one cannot be told without the other.

Where most Game of Thrones sex scenes unfold in much the same way – kissing, thrusting, climaxing – causing them to all blend into one another, the prequel depicts each character getting intimate in their own, unique way. Rather than providing the cast with a temporary escape from the tensions of Westerosi politics, the sex scenes of House of the Dragon help us better understand the psychological traumas and insecurities driving the battle for the Iron Throne.

Larys Strong, the House of the Dragon-equivalent of Varys, is revealed to have a foot fetish. In the first season, the Red Keep’s resident spymaster offers his services to Queen Regent Alicent in exchange for letting him – a cane-wielding disabled person nicknamed the “Clubfoot” – masturbate to her royal feet. The significance of his sexual fantasy is clear as day: raised in the shadow of his older brother, Ser Harwin “Breakbones,” one of the fiercest knights in the Realm, Larys’ deformity and accompanying sense of inadequacy made him what he is today: a man who will stop at nothing to attain the power and prestige his sibling managed to acquire through combat.

Alicent also has an ongoing relationship with Criston Cole, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, her son Aegon’s sworn swords. Kingsguard swear an oath of chastity when donning their white cloaks – an oath Cole broke when he fell in love with (and was later dumped by) Rhaenyra in the previous season. Hoping to take revenge on the woman that rejected him, he swears fealty to Alicent, demonstrating his allegiance by performing cunnilingus in the season 2 premiere.

If Cole feels guilt over breaking his vows, so does Alicent. A devout follower of the Faith of the Seven, she struggles reconciling her religious beliefs with the demands of her position as Queen Regent; her relationship with Cole is sinful, but also necessary for ensuring his continued loyalty to the Crown. After intercourse, she often sinks into her bathtub. But no matter how hard she scrubs, she can’t get clean again.

Where Alicent is ashamed of her social transgressions, Rhaenyra relishes in them. A confident, headstrong girl with little regard for convention and custom, she turns Westerosi society on its head when her father Viserys declares her heir to the Iron Throne – a throne which, previous successions established, could only be passed down through the male line. Eager to rebel against the system, Rhaenyra starts an affair with her uncle Daemon that, if uncovered, could cause scandal. (While the Targaryens frequently marry brothers and sisters in the Valeryan tradition, the practice – clashing with Westerosi ethics – has not yet become as normalized as it is during the time of Game of Thrones). Years after encouraging Cole to break his vow of chastity, Rhaenyra starts a relationship with Harwin Breakbones while her secretly homosexual husband Laenor continues seeing his own lovers.

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