Binders Full of Women: Collecting All the Ladycards in The Witcher – part 6
I was hoping I’d seen the last of that horrendous moppet Little Alvin, but no. Turns out he’s important. Plot-wise, in that he’s a magical vortex or something, but also sex-wise, in that you can use him as a bribe so that women will sleep with you!
16. Shani or Triss Again (mutually exclusive)
You know women. Always competing with each other. Always fighting over men. Always taking each other’s babies. Always refusing to have sex with you unless you steal them an orphan for their magical experiments. Wait, sorry, I’ve lost track of when I stopped being sarcastic, since the last thing is literally what Triss does.
Shani, of course, insists you give the orphan to her instead. Shani has somehow got it into her head that if she can just get Geranium to look deeply into Alvin’s tiny-old-man eyes, he will be overwhelmed by fatherly devotion, and the three of you will join hands and stroll off down a sunlit beach into domestic bliss. This is somehow even more horrifying than whatever Triss wants the damn kid for. It’s like watching someone putting tiny hats on a scorpion and a bear and insisting they’re getting married. Disturbing, uncomfortable and likely to end in tears.
OK, hard gritty RPG, hard gritty choices. Creepy child-selling Triss-sex or creepier Happy Families Shani-sex? What? Oh fine, I guess you can choose “no sex please, I want no part of this horror-show” but where’s the fun in that? You do understand what game you’re playing, yes? Whoever you take Alvin to will be ready to thank you with sex, and the other will hate your guts forever. (Or until the end of the game, anyway, since I hear you end up with Triss in that one no matter what.)
Oh, sorry, did I say whoever you (gah!) give a child to wanted sex? What I meant was, she wanted expensive jewellery. Ladies gotta get their Give Gift boxes filled first! With rings, this time. Don’t worry, they both tell you exactly what kind they want, to spare you having to consider their tastes or anything. No need to search, just go to the expensive merchant that’s right by Shani’s house and get your damn wallet out. The ring is supposed to demonstrate your commitment to the woman in question, which makes sense for the socially-conservative Shani, but seems out of character for the independent Triss, who previously claimed to not be jealous, or to care who you slept with.
Sex now? Not quite. First, you have to (ugh) talk to Alvin and pick a “fatherly” response the woman approves of. Even Triss, who has demonstrated absolutely no maternal instinct before this point, starts cooing about how good you are with children. As with the gift, it’s as if the writers are so determined to shoehorn her into their “all women want commitment and kids” narrative that they’re happy to disregard everything else they’ve told us about her so far. Rings! Children! This is how women get turned on, dontchaknow! Anyway, you finally get your sexcard, heralded by a deeply unsexy exchange with either woman that amounts to: “OK, the kid’s asleep, let’s fuck.” Ahh, the joys of parenthood!
There is obviously a thematic thing going on here that ties into the whole contrived Triss/Shani choice: does Galaga want a normal life, and if he does, is it even possible for him? Taking the mystical runt to Triss is presented as the harsh-but-pragmatic option, seeing as she claims to be the only one who can control the danger he poses. It’s the witchery choice, allying you with Triss, who, for all her (really, really numerous) faults, is a good match for Genome on many levels – powerful, competent, unsentimental and capable of understanding and sharing his dangerous, outsider’s life.
Shani, by contrast, is presented as the girl-next-door, the “normal” one, who wants things “normal” girls want, like romance and red roses and fidelity and small blonde Children of the Corn they can nurture. And we are supposed to realise that this life is impossible for Gustave, because he is a witcher, and foreveralone.jpg and so on and so forth. I think this is an interesting theme, and am OK with the idea of exploring it! The trouble is, by this point I was so royally fucked off with both Triss and Shani, I just wanted to tell them both to get stuffed, and drop Alvin into the deepest hole I could find. And then call Abigail and see if she maybe wanted to go get watermelon.
Oh! Oh! How could I forgot the part where your horrible friends take you out drinking for PUA-esque macho male bonding bullshit? Whichever woman you’ve picked, they regale you with the same terrible misogynistic advice (these are actual direct quotes, by the way):
“Just because a woman doesn’t say it, doesn’t mean she doesn’t want it. In fact, they often say they want something, when they really want the opposite…”
“I’ll tell you what’s up with dames. You can theorize all you want but you’ll never figure out what’s going on inside their heads. There’s just no understanding women!”
I think this puts a final nail in the already-wildly-tenuous “Is Golfclap a secret feminist?” theory, because instead of responding with something like “fuck your fucking rape culture, women are people” he bleats “I’ll drink to that!”, ups the level of his gormless stare and lets them debate taking him to the brothel.
Look, it’s possible to have a game that includes sexist characters professing sexist beliefs, without the game itself being sexist. The Gabriel Knight series even has a sympathetic, charismatic sexist hero, but by consistently challenging his views about women, and including female characters who challenge them, it avoids being a sexist series, and becomes one about how people can change and mature.
Here, we just get a load of dangerous stereotypes about women presented as “Real Talk from Manly Men Who Know the Score”.
Anyway, that’s it for ladycards in chapter 3. I did meet that adorable novice at the hospital again (at least, I think it was her, it’s so hard to tell who has the same character model) and got all excited when she gave me a quest to exorcise her grandmother or something, but she didn’t reward me with sex. Then five minutes later, I had another quest in which I had to obtain some virgin’s tears for a potion, and…oh! Look who’s a helpful virgin! Did… did the game ensure there were ladies around we couldn’t fuck, just to make sure we had virgins available for alchemy? Is Gulpin decimating a valuable natural resource with his antics? More importantly, when can we get through a fantasy story without slut-shaming rubbish about how sex taints people, rendering virgins purer than others? Are Gaslamp’s tears actual liquid sewage, by this logic? Haha, just kidding. He doesn’t have tears.
I would like to end with the following notes I made while interacting with Yaevinn: “jesus, yaevinn is hot, y kant i fuck yaevinn, i don’t understand monosexuals”. That is all.
Up Next on Ladycards: Sexy Cows and Watery Tarts!