This post was originally published on May 14, 2015.
Grey Worm and Missandei took their relationship to the next level on Game of Thrones Sunday night, and for that we cheer, given that there are so few love-based matches in this universe. But their union leaves open a lot of questions, especially since Grey Worm, from a very young age, has been conditioned — as are all Unsullied — not to have empathy, fear, or feelings (especially sexual feelings, which his castration was supposed to extinguish). “When the slavers castrate the boys, do they take all of it?” Dany wondered. The show tells us that at the very least, the boys are shorn of their testicles, and in A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s confirmed that the boys are fully castrated. Can Grey Worm transcend his limitations, both emotional and physical? What’s a eunuch in love to do? To help out the would-be couple, we called upon a number of experts in various fields, as well as Missandei herself (Nathalie Emmanuel), to figure out some next steps.
Deanna Richards, licensed mental-health counselor:
“Because he’s been castrated and the expectation about him being able to perform physically has been removed, it actually opens up a lot of different ways that he and Missandei can express themselves, alternative approaches. Communication is key in any couple, but for them, it’s going to be more important. He’s still living in a culture where the primary way men show their desire is through physical intimacy, and so some frustrations might arise, and he’ll need to be able to communicate about what’s going on, and they’ll need to be creative to overcome this barrier. He has lower levels of testosterone and his sexual desire might be limited, but the pleasure hormones, dopamine, are not generated just from sex. People get them from drugs, from experiences, and those are the things that bond us. But he can certainly experience the same level of intimacy without sexual desire. He would need to learn how to pleasure her in other ways to satisfy her sexual desire.”
Dr. Thomas W. Johnson, retired professor of cultural anthropology and an expert on eunuchs:
“With 4,000 years of history of eunuchs and hundreds of thousands of them throughout history, we know very little about eunuch sexuality. We know some. In various literature, eunuchs have been considered asexual, hypersexual, strictly homosexual, strictly heterosexual, ambisexual … Any kind of sexuality you want to consider has been attributed to eunuchs somewhere. And the answer is, we don’t know. We can only talk about some individuals. Chinese and Korean eunuchs often married and then, because they were infertile, they would adopt young eunuchs, so we have generations of eunuch family history, each of them marrying and then adopting, and having relatively successful marriages. Sir Richard Burton, in his travels, wrote about the eunuchs of Mecca and talked about them being sexually active with their wives. When we had the rise of the Italian castrati, who were castrated usually between the ages of 10 and 12, we have a number of them attempting to marry, and a legal brief from the Church in 1718 said that they shouldn’t be allowed to because eunuchs are too tempting to women. ‘They are more esteemed by lewd women because they can give them all the satisfaction without any risk or danger of pregnancy.’ Sexuality doesn’t require an erect penis. Tongue, lips, fingers — there are all kinds of ways for a male to be sexual with a woman. They become far less sexual, but they do not become asexual. There’s no reason why Grey Worm couldn’t be as loving as any lesbian, similar techniques if necessary!”
Vanessa Marin, sex therapist:
“I think Grey Worm and Missandei are super cute! This is advice that I give to couples who have their genitals intact — spend more time on other areas of the body. The Unsullied have been really disconnected from their bodies. I’m not sure what his exact medical situation would be, but there should still be nerve endings in that general area. I think he would still be capable of feeling some pleasure, and he wouldn’t have a sense of what he’s missing. But I think the thing with orgasm is that it’s not necessarily tied to your genitals. Women can have orgasms exercising, thinking, or when we sleep. It is a rare thing, but even if he couldn’t still feel orgasm, he could still feel pleasure. And women experience greater pleasure during manual stimulation or oral sex … so Jon Snow might have something to teach Grey Worm! But Grey Worm might be pretty adept at that himself. Men who feel like they have to compensate for a small penis, or a lack of penis, tend to be pretty good at oral sex. And they could explore anal play! He’d still have his anus fully intact, and there are plenty of nerve endings around and inside his anus and prostate, and that could be a fun area to explore. I’m just thinking of Jamie’s golden hand — maybe they could fashion some sort of gold pegging device for her!”
Dr. Richard Wassersug, retired professor of anatomy and neurobiology and an expert on the psychology of castration:
“So much of this is not consistent with biology. Grey Worm would not have gone through puberty. He’d be taller than any of the men around. He would have a larger chest, knock-kneed deformities, no facial hair, no body hair, although plenty of hair on his head, and a loud, high-pitched voice. Historically, eunuchs were warriors — but they were strategists. They planned the war. They were generals. The problem of making the Unsullied into automaton child warriors is that they would not make good soldiers. The lack of testosterone would slow them down. If you castrated them as kids, they would have less muscle mass to use swords and spears, and by denying them an identity and denying them maternal care, they would have been so damaged. All of that aside, there’s no question that sex drive does go down with castration, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one is asexual. He wouldn’t have a lot of testosterone, he’d have a little from his adrenal glands. But you don’t need testosterone to be a lesbian. He could have sex with a woman the same way a woman could have sex with a woman — and they could use a dildo. Missandei should be aware that she’s going to have to take the lead. How interested he would be would depend on the age Grey Worm was castrated, and Missandei’s attentions. Being desired is a turn-on. Grey Worm could appreciate that. And I would advise them to hold hands in public — show that it’s normal. Don’t you occasionally see an 80-year-old couple holding hands, and don’t you think, Isn’t that lovely?”
Dr. Michael McNulty, master certified Gottman couples therapist:
“I teach attachment theory, which is that if babies don’t have human contact, they will basically die. Even if the Unsullied were taken at an early age, they would still need an emotional connection, even on an unconscious or subconscious level. Going to the brothel, those Unsullied are reenacting their early development, to bond with women. I wonder if the selflessness of the Unsullied is an attractive quality to her, because he would have to be more attuned to her. If this is going to work, she is going to have to help him identify his needs. The two of them will need to discover what is physically pleasurable about being with each other, and there will need to be a real openness around it. I’m not convinced that they can’t find a way to have erotic love. We do an exercise with salsa cards — and they go through the deck and find suggestions of things they’re comfortable with, on a scale of mild, medium, and hot. For instance, for mild, thoroughly explore the art of kissing. That might be a good one for this couple! For medium, read erotica to your partner in bed, and that could be a good thing for him, to become acquainted with erotica, or he could try oral sex for her. It’s tricky. You might assume that this couple would do the mild deck, but depending on how much he can get aroused, they might be able to do medium and hot.”
Maureen O’Connor, sex columnist, New York Magazine:
“Everyone talks about sex, and everyone talks about castration on the show all the time, and yet the sexuality of castrated people is still unclear to me. I don’t think we know whether the Unsullied are castrated the same way as the other castrati, but they’re all really ripped and hot, which suggests that there’s testosterone going on to some degree in their bodies, right? I would say to the extent that there is an advantage here for Grey Worm, most of the rest of the Game of Thrones world is misogynist and really cruel to women, but he’s used to a place where women are respected, even worshipped. And every time on Game of Thrones where they have a creative form of sex that becomes a plot point, it’s usually good for the lady. Daenerys had her great turning point when she figured out how to have sex with her on top. Jon Snow discovers his humanity and the love of a Wildling when he discovers what it’s like to go down on a woman. So if Grey Worm were to be creative about finding a way to have sex with Missandei that wasn’t penis-centric, it could go really well for him! So far, getting freaky in a way that’s good for a woman works out for dudes, too. And just discovering love, that’s a novel concept that he probably never thought was going to be part of his life.”
Nathalie Emmanuel, actress:
“You don’t have to be an expert to know that they could have a future together! But it was a surprise to me, too. I absolutely loved doing it. It’s a lovely beacon of sweetness and purity, in a way, in such a corrupt, violent world. I loved getting to portray that. But there’s also a tragedy to their story, being that Grey Worm was mutilated in the way that he was, and it wasn’t something they thought was in their reach. Despite all of that, they’ve managed to find companionship. You can see how they adore each other. They’re both very stoic and reserved and at attention all the time. I’d love to hear Grey Worm laugh! I’d love it if Missandei could make Grey Worm laugh. That would be the cutest thing ever. To be honest with you, I just love the fact that these two characters clearly love each other. It’s two souls connecting, and it’s about that more than the physical.”