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Binders Full of Women: Collecting All the Ladycards in The Witcher – part 5

August 30, 2014

Part 5 of my terrifying trip through The Witcher’s sexual shenanigans. See also: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

11. Rozalind Pankiera

All my notes say is: “She had a FISH in her wardrobe!!!” If I remember correctly, this one took me by surprise with the sex, as she didn’t ask for gifts, or need to be rescued. No, she’s a bored noble girl with an overprotective father, and she wants a quick thrill from some random dude who beat up her dad and broke into her bedroom. Oh, what the hell, I’m okay with that. I don’t even care that she’s meant to be my best friend’s girlfriend, if she doesn’t.

12. Blue Eyes (& courtesanal clones)

New explorable area means new brothel! (Every fantasy city must have one at minimum every 500 yards, it’s the Law.) And a new friendly sex worker known only as Blue Eyes, who also seems to have some identical clones working elsewhere in the district, but they give the same card, so I won’t count them separately.

Oh look, I caught her blinking so we can’t even see her namesakes. Sorry!

Speaking of her card, it shows her rolling around in a giant pile of gold coins, like a sexy Scrooge McDuck. Just in case we’d forgotten that these ladies are cash-obsessed gold-diggers out to drain you of every last penny, and not, y’know, people getting paid for performing a service like anyone else. Does popular media portray chiropractors in this way? No, it does not.

13. Town Clerk

One of the identical clerks in the Town Hall will sleep with you, if you figure out that she doesn’t want compliments or polite come-ons, she wants to be called a naughty girl, and (judging by her card image!) spanked. This is fine so far as it goes: respecting your sexual partners can still include engaging in consensual (super-softcore in this case) BDSM roleplay. What got me was that she still demanded a diamond. There is this constant theme that women do not engage in sex for their own pleasure alone, they have to get something ELSE out of it. It’s one thing if the lady is, like Blue Eyes, doing this for a living, but we see it even in cases that are presented as casual, desire-based sexual encounters.

Haha, just kidding that I was actually legitimately attracted to you! CASH NOW PLZ.

14. Noblewoman

Under the commodity model, female sexuality exists for men, not for the women themselves. Men must purchase sex because women are presumed to gain little pleasure from sex, and, in many societies, lose perceived “purity”, thus they require recompense of some kind. Meet Noblewoman!

There’s another one with the same card who puts out if you give her a scarf, but it’s not very interesting.

Everything about the way she approaches you for sex screams that SHE is attracted to Gaspard, and he would be doing her a favour if he relieved her sexual frustration. In case you can’t read what she’s saying in the screenshots, it’s: “I know witchers are inhumanly effective, and for coin, they’ll undertake any task.” and “So physical and rough, unlike my husband. I enjoy men like that.” Gulliver responds with: “You have an assignment for me, m’lady?”

Look at the apprehension in his eyes. Also: M’LADY! Was this close to photoshopping a fedora.

Surely, surely, you might think, it’s clear in this case that female desire is a real thing, and she needs no additional bribery. By framing it as a “task”, she actually implies that she might reward him financially, which would make… it would… (you can just feel the developers recoiling screaming at this implication as they see it coming) …it would make Garfield himself a sex worker! PEARL CLUTCH: ENGAGE. Yeah, obviously that’s not going to happen (PROBABLY GAY OR SOMETHING), so the game backpedals rapidly and inserts the “Give Gift” option into the dialogue. For you to give her something, naturally.

She wanted a body part from a slain beast to prove my manliness so I gave a ham sandwich. She wasn’t having it, though. I think I gave her a claw, in the end. You can insert your own joke about that, I’m out.

OK, not quite out: one more thing. When gamers are being taught that women usually only want sex when they can make a profit from it, is it so surprising that they start seeing real women this way, too? And start believing that sexually active women must have a self-serving secret agenda? I’m not blaming The Witcher specifically (at least it also contains counterexamples!), but don’t tell me that this stuff exists in a vacuum and has no effect on how people think.

15. The Queen of the Night and her Daughters

You meet a man who says that his sister has been kidnapped by vampires, but when you find her, it’s Blue Eyes from earlier, and she says she’s very happy with the vampires and doesn’t want to go home. It turns out that the entire brothel is full of ’em, and their leader, the Queen of the Night offers you a choice that was already pretty gross when Abigail tried it: let us live, and you can totally bone us! All at once!

Sigh. This is still a horrible rescue-reward trope, and you literally have to kill them or screw them, you can’t just let them live out of the goodness of your heart. “Sorry I cheated, babe, but I had to fuck them to save their lives!” Ugh, Shani’s never going to buy that, I’m doomed. Oh, and if you are that special kind of gamer who likes to fuck women and then kill them anyway, as with Abigail, fear not, you can do that too!

Now, ladies, there’s enough Guybrush for everyone.

I’ve been thinking, though.

Okay. What if, right, what if… bear with me… what if Gesserit’s interactions with women represented an interrogation of the Woman as Monstrous Other concept. Powerful women in charge of their own sexuality are often considered monstrous and unnatural. Consider Abigail, the reviled witch. Morenn. The Queen of the Night and her daughters, who as vampires are the classic examples of hypersexualised, hypersexual women, deviant because of their ravenous sexuality, monstrous due to their insatiable (blood)lust. These women that Grover encounters are monstrous in some way, or seen as such, and he has the choice to extend his cock sympathy towards them, or reject/kill them.

Alps and Bruxae: two of the totally naked vampire ladymonsters you fight. Note the description: “unrestrained thirst”.

It is a key feature of The Witcher that you are constantly being asked to decide if people are Human or Monster. Every time you enter combat, you must analyse your opponent and choose a sword: the steel cock sword for fucking killing humans, or the silver cock sword for fucking killing monsters. Greenhilt himself is cast as between two worlds, both human and monstrous. One of the frequent choices you are making in the game is: who do you identify with, humans or non-humans?

In the case of the vampiric brothel, we are explicitly asked two things. Firstly, do we trust the word of a woman, or do we assume that her male relative knows what’s best for her? Secondly, do we trust a female monster who claims that she is rational and benevolent, or do we kill her to be sure? To support and trust the woman, you must also support and trust the monster. The feminist choice is the pro-monster choice. Male is to female, as human is to monster. In sleeping with all the many women that he does, is Gunther expressing his… heh… solidarity with the feminine? Is all the sexing, in fact, A FEMINIST ACT?

No. Because lots of the sexings invoke really misogynistic tropes. And there is a nasty undertone at times that Garfield is “taming” the monstrous feminine with his masculine rod of reason – for instance, the sex-card for the vampires shows one of them naked and chained around the neck. But I do like this idea, and wish it was less in my head, and more in the actual game!

Next Time: Literally Actually Giving a Child to a Woman as a Love Token, Oh God.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Faxmachinen permalink
    August 31, 2014 00:27

    “She wanted a body part from a slain beast to prove my manliness so I gave a ham sandwich.”

    This is the best sentence I have read all year.

    As for having to sleep with all the vampires, that seems typical where making a choice (having an affair with Blue Eyes) and having the game extrapolate it for you everywhere forever (having an affair with everybody all the time).

  2. August 31, 2014 16:29

    Given the attitudes toward women shown throughout the rest of the game, I’d say a more textually consistent reading would be that the designers are equating the feminine with the monstrous, but that the sex you receive as reward for siding with the monsters is your reward for being a “white knight”. You get laid but you have sold out, man.

    Personally I don’t think the developers gave any of it nearly that much thought.

    • Kateri permalink*
      August 31, 2014 17:31

      Yeah, you might be right. Geroff is first and foremost a monster-hunter, so any sympathy he may have for the monsters is the exception rather than the rule. And all the stuff about taming Princess Adda and casting out the monstrous curse so that she can go back to being a good girl.

      • Faxmachinen permalink
        September 1, 2014 17:10

        Well, except Princess Adda was never a good girl in the first place.

        Ganbatte learns Adda conspires with Salamandra before the second time she turns into a Striga. Entertaining Salamandra is an automatic death sentence for everyone but her and Berengar, as far as I can tell.

  3. September 4, 2014 16:58

    Recent events have me thinking about this game and how it fits into the larger gamer subculture. When I played this years ago I was inclined to think of the “naughty” elements as immature but harmless; if i could play the game and ignore most of that in favor of a personal interpretation of Godot as being in a committed relationship to Triss, surely so could anybody else curate this game’s content to come up with a story they liked. Nobody who would be offended by that content need be harmed by it, in essence.

    But reading what I have of the toxic output this subculture seems to produce, I’m much less sure now. Maybe those most harmed by this kind of bone-deep misogyny are not those who would seek to avoid it but those who wouldn’t. The kind of impressionable young men who (reasonably) want to see naked women but are forced to engage with this sexual barter economy in pursuit of that goal.

    When you get right down to it the game is basically teaching you through repetition that women are bought, either with money, gifts or favors. And this game is certainly not alone in that. There are of course many larger societal problems in western culture at large and internet subculture as well, but games are taking all of that larger cultural wrongheadedness and systemizing it and making it into something you repeat again and again.

    I certainly don’t want to scapegoat the monsters who are spewing vitriol at women online. But I don’t think they were born that way. And while games aren’t the only contributor to this mindset, I’m starting to feel like they might be responsible in large part for this very specific strain making noise right now.

    • Kateri permalink*
      September 4, 2014 19:21

      After I finished the post and engaged in the Life of the Internet for five minutes, the exact same thought occurred to me. Don’t know if it was there when you first read through, but I added this paragraph:

      “OK, not quite out: one more thing. When gamers are being taught that women usually only want sex when they can make a profit from it, is it so surprising that they start seeing real women this way, too? And start believing that sexually active women must have a self-serving secret agenda? I’m not blaming The Witcher specifically (at least it also contains counterexamples!), but don’t tell me that this stuff exists in a vacuum and has no effect on how people think.”

      When I started this series, I figured I was so used to this stuff it wouldn’t bother me, it’d just be funny; now I’m not so sure. It’s too close to the bone now, and it is fucking terrifying. In fact, I dunno when I’m writing the next installment because it’s too depressing to play this game right now when real life is like this.

      • September 5, 2014 01:26

        Disappointing but understandable. I hope you’ll finish the piece eventually. The witcher games are groundbreaking in many ways and do some things very well, but that’s all the more reason to call out the ugly sentiments under the surface. Particularly with a sequel on the way, we can all use a reminder to think critically about our escapist entertainment.

    • Faxmachinen permalink
      September 5, 2014 07:19

      This is hardly unique to western games. The whole “dating sim” genre is largely a Japanese thing.

      I don’t think games will turn you into sexist pigs any more than they will turn you into murderers though.

      • September 5, 2014 14:40

        I find it much more plausible that entertainment media (and games in particular) can influence a person’s attitudes, outlook and worldview than it can make them a murderer. This influence is much more subtle than that.

        To put that another way, I do not believe that a steady diet of military shooter games will make an otherwise healthy person want to pick up a machine gun and now people down, nor would it provide much practical training for that purpose. But it very well might make a person more accepting of the necessity and righteousness of military force, more distrustful of people from certain regions of the world or more certain that violence is a useful tool for conflict resolution in general.

        Art (even bad art) communicates ideas, and ideas change us. I think it would behoove us to pay close attention to what ideas our art is communicating.

      • Faxmachinen permalink
        September 5, 2014 15:00

        Much more important influences are your peers. A sexist game can make you less sexist if your peers use it as an example of sexism. This is precisely why it is important for games journalists to write about these things.

        Kateri, thank you for writing these articles.

      • September 5, 2014 20:45

        On this we agree. But if your peers are all video game players who are receiving the same subtle misogyny as you…

  4. August 16, 2015 10:23

    I’ve never played Witcher and I don’t plan on playing it any time soon but this series is one of the most entertaining things I’ve EVER read. Bless cracked for bringing me here.

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