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Binders Full of Women: Collecting All the Ladycards in The Witcher – part 4

August 27, 2014

My continuing unerotic odyssey through The Witcher: part 1, part 2, part 3.

Triss Again, But We Don’t Get a Card Because it’s Mandatory Plotsex

Leigh Alexander recently observed that while female protagonists seem almost required to suffer emotional repercussions from trauma, this is not something generally allowed to male heroes, who must remain stoic at all times. Here is a classic example. Remember Triss, who seduced a confused head-injury victim with claims of a prior relationship? Maybe you didn’t think it was as bad as all that. I mean, Gareth was into it, right? Well, she’s at it again, only worse.

At the end of Chapter 2, you get incapacitated by a rogue mage, and are knocked unconscious, apparently for some time. You wake up in Triss’ bed, and it quickly become apparent that Triss is The Creepiest. Things Triss has been doing since Chapter 2 ended:

– Rescuing your unconscious body (yay! thanks!)

– Trying to heal you (cool!)

– …by putting you in her bed instead of taking you to the hospital (good, that place is a shithole!)

– …and playing nursemaid to you while wearing lacy underwear (uh… maybe it helps the magic?)


Things Triss does in the first few minutes of Chapter 3:

– Tells someone, when she thinks you can’t hear her, that she’s been lying to you and withholding information (hmmm!)

– Jumps on you and pushes you into sex as soon as you wake up (yay! sex! but… is she just trying to distract me? And I didn’t even get the option to say no!)

– Says she’s been READING YOUR MIND without your knowledge or permission (That sounds bad, but she claims she just wanted to know how I got hurt)

– Straight-up admits she browsed your brain far beyond what she needed to cure you, just flickin’ through whatever (OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE)

If you don’t think all this is an abuse of power at best, and outright rapey at worst, imagine all this being done to a female character by a male character, and consider the ways in which we are encouraged to view women as victims and men as unrapeable. If all this had just happened to me, I’d be feeling incredibly violated and furious with Triss, but Garforth, as usual, seems totally unperturbed. He later says to Triss “can’t we just go back home to bed?”, so I guess, canonically, Gerrard enjoys screwing Triss, but… even so… isn’t he mad about the other stuff? Is he really fine with the mind-reading and the lies just because he’s getting his dick wet? Personally, I think he has to be fine with being mentally and physically fucked by Triss, purely because the alternative is unthinkable for a male hero. To suffer would be to be seen as weak, and the writers aren’t going to go there. This has been today’s instalment of Patriarchy Hurts Men Too.

Triss isn’t done, either. She then:

– Tells you to stop trying to learn about your past (Why, what else are you hiding from me?)

– Tells you you it’ll help your amnesia to take up a new cause (Oh, like yours, I suppose? You are not a psychiatrist, you are a manipulative bad human being!)

– Ignores or brushes aside your questions and suspicions in a condescending manner (omfg i haet u so much ur not even my real mum)

Sorceresses don’t need no Hippocratic oath or patient confidentiality. Or dress code.

At this point, I stole her booze, threw her books on the floor and left. And then Shani found me, and yelled at me in the street for cheating on her with Triss! I felt aggrieved by this, but if it’s been established that sex with Triss was consensual, then maybe Shani has a point. She’s mad at Gefallt, not the player, who are, as we have seen, not one and the same.

The extent we decide what Gavotte wants is variable. He is an existing character, imported to gameland from a series of Polish novels, coming, presumably, complete with his own personality, aims and codes of conduct. To stray too far from this template would remove the point of using the character at all – he needs to be recognisable. However, he is now in a game where the developers want the player to be able to make choices. Big choices about politics, but also little choices about who we would like to schtoink. Now, we all know my answer to that question, but other players may feel differently. They may, for example, having rekindled their relationship with Shani at the end of Chapter 2, value fidelity (or appreciate that Shani values fidelity) and therefore decide to be faithful to her from now on. Except they can’t, because Triss and Geoffrey sleep together no matter what. Do they get angry with Triss? With Gamzee? With Shani? With the game?

Anyway, let’s go and find some more people to upset Shani with of our own free will!


10. Princess Adda

I’m sulking because stupid Triss made me go to her stupid party and it isn’t as good as Shani’s. Luckily, there is a feisty rebellious princess trope I can fuck!

Sorry, again with the alcohol-blur. Pretend it’s sexy soft-focus.

When I was checking the wiki for this chapter to ensure I didn’t accidentally miss any cardable women (the horror!) I read the instructions for sleeping with Princess Adda, which are that you have to give her the correct gift, and compliment her according to certain dialogue options. And I tried it in game, and naturally, it worked.

How boring, I thought. Obviously, goinking Princess Adda needs to present an appropriate challenge, because she’s royalty, and therefore a high-value vending machine. So you need to first find out what she likes to eat (SPOILER: IT’S NOT WATERMELONS. ;_; ) then obtain it for her. To be honest, I feel like a princess would probably not be that impressed by people bringing her whatever she wants, seeing as that’s presumably what she gets from everyone she interacts with, every single day of her life. I would have preferred some sort of Han/Leia you-don’t-have-enough-scoundrels-in-your-life byplay here. You just give her what she wants, and tell her what she wants to hear.

Except it’s not quite so simple. When I was writing this, I replayed this section to check my memory of what happened, and I tried picking different dialogue options to what the walkthrough said would work. I didn’t compliment her, I avoided flirting, I told her I wasn’t interested in politics. All that happened was that she still kept making everything about sex and telling filthy jokes, while Gimlet stared at her blankly. Then she made me get her the meat she wanted anyway, except this time it was in exchange for political information… and when she took me aside privately to provide it, she told me to take my clothes off, and I had to turn her down about three times before I could escape without getting her card!

I was never seducing her. All along, she was seducing me! Do gamers who write walkthroughs view everything as a challenge to be overcome, therefore they assume that it must be difficult to seduce Adda? This is the trouble with the Witcher – by presenting women as collectable cards, it encourages gamers to view every encounter as a Sexual Conquest Chastity-Challenge, where only Giblet has any sexual agency, even when that’s not what’s going on at all. Do you think Princess Adda was trying to collect his collectable card? What do you think his picture on it would be like – nude and posing coquettishly, like the rest? If you’re one of the people hate-reading this because you believe The Witcher isn’t sexist, but you find the idea of your hero being viewed in this way bizarre and disturbing, I suggest you have a good hard think about why.


Next time: Monstrous women, and gold-rolling courtesans!


11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2014 17:51

    Still enjoying this series. I’m realizing (as these recaps dust off some very cobwebbed memories of this game) that I probably appreciated the idea of Triss more than the execution. Everything pointed out here is unquestionably icky if you give it any thought; I apparently didn’t when I played this 5 years ago. It certainly highlights the double standards we hold in our culture.

    I started into a longer “In Defense of Triss” writeup here but it became tedious pretty fast, so the short version is that in the world of the Witcher (which, as has been discussed here and elsewhere, has a pretty unkind view of women both within the setting and as an authorial perspective) Triss is a character who is written as having agency, talent, ambition, cunning, influence, intelligence and an agenda that does not necessarily align with the player’s all the time, and yet is not vilified for it. (I mention that she is “written as” having those qualities because I acknowledge that the execution is shaky, but you can see the authorial intent pretty clearly.) I would not hold Triss (or any character from the Witcher games for that matter) as an example of objectively good characterization, but if we are grading on the curve that the Witcher games set, I think she compares very favorably.

    But I reiterate, none of this negates the creepy points raised by this post. They were invisible to me playing the game years ago when I formed these impressions.

    • Kateri permalink*
      August 27, 2014 17:57

      I agree that there are lots of cool things about Triss as a character. To be honest, I’m glad that she seems to be the canon-romance interest in later games, rather than Shani. I think if she stops pulling creepy sorceress shit, and once Garrus get his brain together better, he and Triss would be pretty well matched, and in a good place to understand each other, and the challenges of their respective existences. It’s just not there yet in this game!!

      • August 27, 2014 18:13

        The Witcher 2 does a much better job of selling these two as a couple, even though part of their relationship is a certain level of inequality — Triss always keeps secrets from Goofus and manipulates him with lies, because quite frankly he’s not at home with subtlety and has a habit of obliterating best-laid plans. It’s never a healthy relationship exactly, but it does have some rather sweet moments.

        Then after the first third of the game, she gets damselled and disapears for most of the remainder. One step forward, two steps back.

        On the subject of “canon-romance” though, I kind of feel like it was shitty of the developers to do that to players. I was just lucky enough to have made the same selection they did, and so didn’t have to suffer the cognitive dissonance of playing a sequel that disregarded my decisions from the first game. So much of Gambit’s characterization is defined by the developers rather than the player — you get to nudge him a little in one direction or the other but he remains intrinsically himself. I see no reason they should have allowed the player to choose between significant romances in the first game if they were going to disregard that in the second, where Shani isn’t even mentioned.

        One of the arguments to make in support of the many “romance” (ironic quotes) options in the Witcher games is that apart from supplying the option to sleep with many people, it gives even the player who is more selective a broad range of (admittedly very shallow) choices. Maybe there is somebody out there who is super into Abigail the witch and nobody else. The existence of a canonical romance sort of obliterates that merit, accidental though it might have been.

  2. Faxmachinen permalink
    August 28, 2014 19:45

    Somebody should indeed make a Gimbal card.

    I had royally pissed off Triss before the banquet, but at the banquet she was not all closed to Gamut’s upstanding suggestion. Then she was all pissed off again afterwards. Maybe she’s really good at acting? Perhaps she was making Adda jealoux on purpose so she would try to seduce Grout?
    I dunno. This whole plot feels too big and hard to wrap my head around.

    • Kateri permalink*
      August 28, 2014 19:47


      • Faxmachinen permalink
        August 30, 2014 10:50

        I’m sure she had a hand in it too.

  3. September 15, 2014 17:52

    Also, the Witcher 2 provides an explanation for why Geralt has amnesia and why Triss didn’t really want him digging around in his past.

    • September 15, 2014 18:06

      Yes, it’s that Gorbachev’s hazy recollection that he once loved a sorceress deeply is not actually about Triss at all. Triss was happy to use it to her advantage anyway. Not a nice thing to do!

      • Kateri permalink*
        September 15, 2014 18:08

        haha oh god TRISS. I do enjoy that she exists as a character, but wow she is an awful person.

      • September 15, 2014 18:17

        If nothing else this series has really given me cause to question why I like her despite all the underhanded shit she gets up to. My Dragon Age character fell hard for Morrigan. Do I have a TYPE in these games?

  4. Kateri permalink*
    September 15, 2014 18:21

    Morrigan 4 life tho.

    (PS I apologise for this sucky reply-nesting-fail comment system)

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