It's no shock that some people—including at least one of the fine folks at Vanity Fair—have a problem with the sex in Game of Thrones. Anytime a bare tit falls (or is forced) from a lass' blouse or a rhythmic thwack thwack thwack is heard, a thousand proper ladies will spit out their tea and cover their children's eyes. Some viewers are down with the freaky-deaky, some aren't.
But I've said it before and I'll say it again: The sex is absolutely necessary to the story so far, and the people who are complaining about it are focusing solely on the act and missing its importance to the characters and the setting of the series.
In Sunday's episode, we saw young princess Daenerys being taken by her barbarian husband Khal Drogo, and heard the clapping sound of flesh on flesh. Daenerys was similarly handled in the series premiere, on her wedding night (though we didn't actually see as much)—which of course happened after she was treated like a hunk of meat by her own brother, who fondled her and instructed her to show of her newly developed woman's body.
I'm hesitant to use the words "gratuitous" or "explicit" when describing Game of Thrones' sex acts because I hardly think they qualify as such (if you want to see something truly explicit, you're only one "Safe Search Off" Google query and a few clicks away). In Sunday's second-episode scene between Dany and Khal, the focus was not on the couple, but on Dany. And on a specific part of Dany: her eyes. As things progressed, the camera didn't pull out (ahem) to emphasize the sex; it zoomed in to highlight the terror on Dany's face.
If you got off on that scene, you have your own issues. The intent was to make you feel uncomfortable, because Dany was uncomfortable. It gave viewers an opportunity to connect with her character, to feel her pain. Great character arcs often involve someone overcoming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle and transforming a horrible situation into a happy one. And that's where Dany is headed. Indeed, we've already got some payoff to prove it: Later in Sunday's episode, Dany took control of her situation, so to speak, and the result was both romantic and empowering for her.
In Episode 1, we first met the dwarf Tyrion—one of the series' richest characters—while he was being fellated. Again, necessary. Tyrion, because of his small stature, has a long way to go to prove he's a force to be reckoned with. And what better way to show that he's every bit as manly as anyone else than to show he has a "normal" man's sexual appetite and knows how to satisfy it?
Let's keep going: Had Bran overheard Jaime and Cersei talking about what a grand ol' animalistic time they'd just had, the story would have suffered. But a 10-year-old boy stumbling upon them while they were in the middle of doing the deed? There's no way to misconstrue what was happening, so the series didn't have to pussyfoot around the matter. Again, essential.
From the show's first two episodes, the only scene I can think of that could be considered gratuitous is the one in which Dany's handmaiden taught her how to please a man. Though it didn't involve nudity, there was some female-on-female straddling. But I've never been to a pajama-party sleepover; maybe this kind of stuff really happens.
And if you go a step further and compare Game of Thrones' sex scenes to those in True Blood, GOT's look positively tame. Was there a takeaway from seeing Sookie and Bill rubbing blood all over their naked bodies in the shower? No. It was awesome, but no. There's nothing wrong with True Blood's approach—we're all adults here—but it's not fair to call out Game of Thrones' sex scenes as gratuitous when True Blood's are far more over-the-top.
Perhaps True Blood gets away with more because vampires are hyper-sexualized. I suspect a lot of the shock over the sex in Game of Thrones has to do with the show being labeled a fantasy series. Mainstream society's idea of fantasy likely involves a bunch of asexual hobbits jabbering on about The Shire, with no concern for the tools in their pants. But Game of Thrones is, first and foremost, about the lengths to which humans will go for power; fantasy comes in a distant second.
The sex in Game of Thrones is absolutely necessary. No, Vanity Fair, the show is not "veering into porn-parody territory." The sex helps establish the series' universe, its characters, and especially its power dynamics. While men carry big blades and slit each other's throats on their way to the throne, the women stake their claims to power between their legs. And the latter may prove mightier than the sword.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom