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