December 9, 2008

Subtle sexism: analyzing The Witcher

Posted in entertainment, entitlement, gaming, gender, heteronormative, objectification, phallocentrism, representation, sexism, sexual politics at 8:00 pm by LB

This post is about the PC game The Witcher, which someone I know has just started playing. But this post is less about the game and more about cultural representations and assumptions about gender and sexuality. He and I had a conversation around it today, which got me thinking a lot about female sexuality, male entitlement, and homophobia in our culture. So please bear through my discussion of the game to get the “big picture” analysis.

In browsing around the internets and reading people’s discussions around gender and sexuality in the game, I very often read these reasons for why the game isn’t “that bad” vis-a-vis women and (women’s) sexuality: the sex scenes are well done (they are in fact pretty tasteful) and the women aren’t represented as all dumb bimbos (as if commodifying women’s sexuality is only sexist if the women are represented as idiots.) My friend mentioned that in reading reviews, many women said the sex in the game wasn’t “that bad.” But in the game, it’s not really the sex that’s the problem.

At first, I thought that gender and sexuality in the game wasn’t so bad, but the more I was told the more troubled I became. Originally, I thought the sex in the game was just optional, with no reward attached, and the sex scenes aren’t gratuitous or very objectifying. Point one for the game?

Well, that’s not exactly it. You do get something for your various sexual encounters: sex trading cards. After a sexual encounter, you obtain pin-up trading cards to represent that sexual conquest–players, collect them all! (mass-printed cards, authentically medieval, right?) The idea of “collecting” women you have sex with (proof of your masculinity?) is really troubling to me. And by having sex with all the women available, you have a complete collection of woman-objects. Having sex with all the women you are able to, thus, becomes a goal for the character, even if the “reward” for doing so is negligible (bragging rights?). As one gamer suggested, “Women are COLLECTIBLE.” Commodification at its finest.

Not only do you acquire cards representing each woman you bed in the game, but the sex is at times a reward for your in-game accomplishments. One example I was given is that in a quest to save several prostitutes, after you have rescued them sex is your “reward” from them. I wonder, is their sex a reward because they are prostitutes, and therefore their sex is seen to be “worth” something, because it is seen to have a dollar value? Or is it just that women become sexually available to men with good behavior? Or that sex is the most important reward a woman can give? Any of these options are problematic.

In fact, gamers refer to this part of the game as a mini-game; collecting the sex cards is a game within the game. It is an optional feature, and it doesn’t hurt your character if you don’t do it, but for gamers, for whom it is important to play all aspects of the game, many will want to do it, regardless of what they think of it, or maybe without really thinking about it.

But what is the function of its inclusion of the option of sex into the storyline if not for the purpose of pursuing the mini-game? It is easy to say, You lose nothing by not doing it so just don’t do it; it is just as easy, however, to say If absolutely nothing would be lost on the game without it, why have it at all? The “optional” defense seems to me to be a farce. If nothing else, it excludes anti-sexists and non-juveniles from participating in all aspects of the game.

The women who offer you sex are limited to the young, shapely, and beautiful, natch; at the same time, you are also limited to having sex with women. This makes me pause–for a feature that is considered “optional,” thereby theoretically inconsequential, how come sex with men is not an option? I can hear the objections from the homophobes now. But for those men out there in game chat board world who say it shouldn’t be big deal for a woman to play a male character, and to have to have sex with various women to complete the full game, then what would be the “big deal” for the het men playing that character to have sex with men to complete the card set? Take this forum response from a guy: “Besides do you imagine cards for that sex minigame with guys? Ughh…I dont even want to think about it … ” Homophobic much? Male-centered much?

And another thing: in the game, you as the male protagonist can choose whether or not to have sex with the women, but they cannot choose not to have sex with you–you will never hear a “no.” They may not suggest sex unless you do/say/buy/pay “the right thing”, but you won’t hear a rejection.  So women’s sexuality becomes a matter of figuring out the right tactics, the right series of responses or actions to get her to open her legs up to whomever gets the combination right.  It reminds me of that horrible Vagina Hero game.  It would be cool if the women in the game randomly said no to the encounter, or did not respond in a predictable way (there’s a site that tells you exactly what you have to do for them to sleep with you).  That would be far more interesting, a lot more realistic, and would not treat women like mechanisms.  And this problem is not just in this game but in any games with sex. It’s further a problem that in the gaming industry, protagonists continue to be male and sexual conquests continue to be female; it is a reiteration of porn logic. In this logic, men get to choose their sex object from a virtual infiniti of sexually desirable, always available women who don’t get to choose back.

I don’t care about the sex itself.  I would care less about the sex if it wasn’t turned into a game, the pursuit of a collection of cards featuring nude women you’ve slept with (conquered?). I would also care less if the women didn’t seem to throw themselves at the protagonist, fulfilling a playboy-type fantasy of continually available women. I would care less if you could have sex with women of a variety of body types, especially body types that are more historically accurate (i.e. plump). I would care less if sex didn’t come as the result of doing something good that deserves a reward or giving the potential conquest a gift; what horrible stereotypes about how to “get” sex with women! I would further care less if this optional sex was open to male or female partners. Even still, I would care less if if the choice to have sex went both ways.

Interestingly, these are the things that female gamers dislike about the game. I haven’t seen anyone complain about the sex at all. Like my friend said, most women say the sex is totally tasteful–a nice change from such a sexist industry. But tasteful sex doesn’t mean an absence of sexism.

The comments from this Withcher thread are particularly telling (each is a different person’s comment):

The inclusion of a mini game that lets you collect cards after sleeping with women has turned me off this game completely. I can’t think of anything more immature then that in all honesty.

I would tend to agree; it would be nice if adult oriented adventures could avoid teenage male fantasies.

I’m not advocating the removal of such scenes from games, although I am pleased that they’re optional. I just don’t understand why people claim that it makes something more gritty and realistic – it doesn’t, it makes it more like stereotypical male wish fulfilment fantasy, one step removed from chainmail bikins[…]For me, that sense of grittiness and realism is eroded by a mini-game that encourages sleeping with as many women as possible and getting to look at vaguely naughty playing cards as a result.

It’s not the sex, it’s not the totally appropriate use of the position of women in medieval times, it’s the trading cards guys.

Yet the reasonable critiques of these women gamers get mocked and criticized as putting feminism where it doesn’t belong (say what?), since games are for males and if women want to play them, they have to deal with it. Interesting, since even this Gamespot review critiques the sex mini-game in an unsaid feminist fashion:

Interactions between the sexes are also risqué in a corny way that would rev up only Beavis and Butthead. It’s ridiculous enough that the side quests in every act let Geralt get horizontal with virtually every woman he meets, but it’s just pathetic that each conquest is rewarded with a playing card that depicts the lovely lass in a come-hither pose […] At any rate, the sex is ludicrous and out of place, and is apparently there only to give game geeks hope that a fellow guy with lanky, unwashed hair and corpse-pale skin can score with hot babes

One gamer expressed her frustration this way:

But when the protagonist sleeps with the sorceress (whom he clearly has a history with), the player is presented with a pin-up card as if she were some sort of trophy. Furthermore, the player is offered clumsy and juvenile “come on” dialog for each of the women he meets subsequently[…]

[…]…and with each conquest, the player is treated to a diffuse sex scene and a pin-up card of the women he has sex with.

Admittedly, the player is given the option to not sleep with these women, but the constant presence of sexually predatory dialog from the character I was controlling was a bit much to deal with. There was no option to forge strong non-sexual relationships with these women. There was no option to be supportive of them in a platonic fashion. Only sex or disregard for our hero. What sort of message about women is that?

And I’m not saying that everyone who plays it and collects the cards is doing so intentionally thinking about collecting trophies of sexual conquest, or to target women in the game to conquer (the way some gamers I’ve read on chat boards do). I know my friend is doing it just to play the entire game. I don’t understand this drive, since I’m not myself a gamer, but I have read others comment that that is important in completing a game:

I’m a big fan of collecting minigames; if you give me a magical McGuffin to go, after I’m going to track down every last one. Remember the packs of cigarettes in Chronicles of Riddick? I was all over those.

But just because not everyone plays it with that intent, doesn’t mean that that’s not the perspective on women’s sexuality that the game is taking. Not everyone playing the game may be sexist in doing it, but the game itself is still sexist and reflects a sexist ideology that pervades society.

I’m writing all this less to draw attention to the game (although I am getting some game frustration off my chest) and more to draw attention that even in the absence of capital-O Obvious Objectification, there remain ways that in our everyday representations of women’s sexuality in entertainment and even in speech, sexist attitudes continue to be normalized.

I understand the value of saying that the game isn’t so bad; indeed, in an industry replete with sexism, this game as a whole isn’t “that bad.” But to gloss over it because it’s not “as bad” as other games are, or that it’s “only” as sexist as the whole of society is, is in some way to act as if the themes of sexuality in the game aren’t all that problematic. The features themselves might be avoidable, however, the attitudes behind those game features, as I’ve explained above, are nowhere near unproblematic. The game is a product of a sexist society. It’s sexism does not exceed societal sexism; it merely reflects and reproduces it– unproblematically. This isn’t just a function of its medieval setting, either. And the worst defense of sexism and racism in games is the historical defense–“that’s the way it was.” This may be important for movies, but I don’t see 100% historical authenticity as necessary for games. Isn’t gaming for entertainment and fantasy? Wouldn’t it be cool to play games from historical periods without reproducing historical injustices? It’s not like all people from earlier historical periods were sexist or racist, anyway, just as post-civil rights and feminist movements, we sure aren’t all anti-sexist and anti-racist!

Further, I think that sometimes the most troublesome sexism in society comes not from the obvious displays, but the subtle ones. It’s easy to recognize Obvious Objectification in games or films that as a society we have come to recognize but feel powerless to demand anything different, with sex (read: the female sex) “selling” and the all-pervasive media and what-not. On the one hand, I am pleased that the game resist the easy porn-like objectification of women in terms of the sexual acts, and certainly this game is less sexist than most; but on the other hand, presenting sex with women in terms of conquest, collection, trophyism, as something that should be earned or bought, as something that is consistently offered and never turned down, as something that is sickeningly always heterosexual–all things that tend to escape our Obvious (hetero)sexism radar–is something still to be troubled by.

And we reduce feminist critique to opposing mere bodily objectification if we do not address other ways that female sexuality is owned and owed.

(I cross-posted this on the Feministing community page and they put the post on the main Feministing page too!  Cool!  Check out the discussion there, too)



  1. […] Subtle sexism: analyzing The Witcher « don’t ya wish your girlfriend was smart like me? "But just because not everyone plays it with that intent, doesn’t mean that that’s not the perspective on women’s sexuality that the game is taking. Not everyone playing the game may be sexist in doing it, but the game itself is still sexist and reflects a sexist ideology that pervades society. […]

  2. Nanella said,

    Beautifully said! This subject really gets to me and dredges up so many unpleasant thoughts… There’s certainly nothing wrong with treating sex like a recreational activity, no strings, no emotional attachment, just two warm bodies, two people who view each other as equals, giving and receiving pleasure. There is a problem with treating sex like a recreational sport, however, where the goal is conquer an opponent and then celebrate your, *ahem*, victory. The porny playing cards are absolutely a kind of trophy for the victor. What makes it even sadder is that the women have no agency whatsoever, they offer no challenge, and so the victory is ultimately hollow. But do the guys even care? I’m reminded of the weekend warrior-type hunters who arm themselves to the teeth with enough firepower to bring down an army of wild rhinos, then drop a bundle of cash at a private game preserve to bring down a defenseless animal in a safety-controlled environment. The head is mounted – the trophy – and hung on Mr. Macho Hunter’s wall. He gets to indulge his fantasies of being a powerful he-man conquerer, completely denying the lack of real challenge in the hunt, the staged circumstances, the pathetic egocentricity of it all. Same difference. Only this game combines the same pathetic macho ego-stroking crap with sexual gratification.

    The “historical context” excuse is just that, an (bullshit) excuse. And anyone who says they consistently play through video games and, therefore, can’t possibly make an exception for one game, regardless of how anti-woman that game may be, is also churning out bullshit excuses. If something is ideologically reprehensible to you, you avoid it….you don’t rationalize it, you don’t justify it, you simply don’t do it.

    “Not everyone playing the game may be sexist in doing it, but the game itself is still sexist and reflects a sexist ideology that pervades society.”

    The thing is, if the pick-up artist womanzing/sexual exploitation angle isn’t enough to dissuade a person from playing the game, than they either don’t have a problem with it and are passively condoning this particular depiction of women and sexuality, or they’re secretly enjoying the opportunity to pander to their misogynistic side. Everything a person does, every activity a person enjoys, either cultivates character or says something about a person’s character (or both). We all have a “shadow side” that we entertain vicariously through the shows and movies we watch, books we read, stories we write, games we play, and that’s all good and psychologically healthy and normal. Not all shadows are created equal, however, and some are just downright morally despicable. A man who, to all intents and purposes, appears to be a genuinely nice person, labels himself a feminist ally, and yet engages in recreational activities with a misogynistic bent (even if no real people are harmed), is not a true feminist ally.

    There are no good excuses for the existence of this game (except that it appeals to those who are either misogynistic or want to explore that side of themselves in a no-harm-no-foul environment), there are no excuses for playing it, there are no excuses, period. You either believe in equality and treating women respectfully and your every decision and action reflects that, or you are, to some extent, devoted to keeping The Patriarchy alive and well. The problem isn’t that patriarchal ideology is very deeply entrenched in our culture, it’s that, frankly, most men, even when it’s pointed out to them how harmful these ideals are, are actually kinda happy with the status quo and don’t really want to see it overturned. Some are outspoken about it (the classic MRA), but most feel a little ashamed that they like it, they pay lip service to equality, then they turn around and close their eyes and get back to the business of enjoying the privileges that come with being a first-class citizen in the patriarchy. If I didn’t have a conscience, I don’t think I’d blame them one bit. You have to be a very highly evolved (morally, spiritually, intellectually) human being of the male persuasion to get on board with feminism. That’s rare. It’s an exceedingly rare breed of man. Of the thousands of men I’ve met in my lifetime to date, I’ve only met two that meet that criteria.

    Ah, I’ve rambled on enough. Good post, worthy material for tackling, it was a pleasure, albeit infuriating, to read.

  3. lindabeth said,

    I do think that feminists have educated society to recognize what I call Obvious Objectification, and some of the nuances of sexism have often gone unanalyzed, and when they are, they are met with the angry, whiny, bitchy, feminist meme.

    Unfortunately, there are few games that are completely non-sexist for grown-ups, and I can’t be so prescriptive as to say that anyone who plays games (or watches films or TV) with sexism or racism in them is absolutely not an ally. I wrote previously in Entertainment and Choice how being social beings does not always agree with our ethics, and how participation cannot be rendered full acceptance. It’s kind of complex in my mind. I know my friend is not a sexist and would never think that women’s sexuality is something to be collected. It’s part of the game and he wants to play it all, and to him it might not be desirable but it’s also not so objectionable he cannot participate. I’m not sure I’d call him a feminist ally yet, maybe feminist leaning. Baby steps, as I see it. But he’d never play a game that required rape or GTA-type behavior.

    This really shows me that on a mass basis, we still have a way to go for society to “get” what sexism is and why it’s damaging, and not just see sexism in terms of rape, overt discrimination, and sexualization/objectification. there’s more to sexism than that, and I think that has to be feminism’s goal.

  4. Paul said,

    First off, it’s a game, get over it. The reason there is no option for gay sex is that it would mess with the story, Geralt is a straight male, they aren’t being homophobes that’s just how the story is. Certain players refer to this as a “mini-game” but its really not, you don’t “trade” cards, its an optional mechanic of the game. And some of the npc’s do say no to your advances so its not as if you ask them for sex and they always oblige. The cards you speak of are just character cards, every character you meet has one (even males), the women you sleep with have a separate one of them in a provocative pose. If you don’t like the game then don’t play it, Atari and cdprokekt aren’t making the game for your specific needs so they don’t offend you. For the record I’m not against this part of the game but I’m not really for it either, I think Geralt is a big man-whore if he sleeps with all the women(but it is just a game). This is just an aspect of the story, Geralt is considered to be a “hunk” in The Witcher universe so they made the game to be a reflection of the books.

  5. Paul said,

    And just so you all know, this is the best game I’ve played in a very long time :)

    • lindabeth said,

      First, no I won’t get over “it” as there is nothing for me to get over. Games, like any cultural production, are a big part of disseminating and reinforcing dominant cultural values that advantage some and disadvantage others, typically those who are already without much social power. It is your own privilege that allows you to think that games, film, commercials, products are “just” entertainment. Nothing is ever “just” anything, so I think that’s something maybe you need to get over.

      I am asking questions and making analyses and discussing tendencies and assumptions in the gaming world generally. There is much in the game that is not consistent with the novels, so there is no reason why sexual experiences can’t deviate–especially when they are so irrelevant to the story and gameplay. Also, I said nothing about making him “gay.” We’re talking abou bisexuality and/or sexual experimentation. Further, the novels state nowhere that Geralt is heterosexual–that is your assumption based only on who you have seen him have sex with, and according to who has been available for him to have sex with. Is a person only bisexual and guess what–heterosexual people can have same-sex experiences! What I’m actually suggesting is not to make him anything, but to let his sexuality (which, again, is irrelevant to actual gameplay) be up to the player her/himself. If both genders were available for him to have sex with, then his sexuality would be your choice, as a player, wouldn’t it? And isn’t that more in the spirit of RPG?

      And for the record, sex is not gay or straight, people are.

      I am also interested in “the big question” of why sexuality seems to be “so” important and “so” big an aspect of the main character that it couldn’t be done differently than in the books when in fact, several things in the books are different so why must sexuality be kept so pure? And about the cards, well Paul, I don’t know what to say, because gaming and non-gaming women everywhere are very put off and pissed off about them, and read them the same way I do, so I respectfully say your interpretation is off. Check your privilege and try to see through another’s eyes. I am not going to elaborate here about the cards or sexuality, because there was already a very long and involved discussion on the Feministing community cross-post, so I will direct you there as a response to your overall comment since I don’t feel like repeating myself.

      Finally, I never said it wasn’t a good game. I never said that several aspects of it aren’t better than many out there. I never condemned the game, nor the people who play it. I don’t doubt it’s one of the best games that you’ve played. My friend loves the gameplay itself, and thinks the sexism and heterosexism sucks. Equality comes when we realize that “not as bad” isn’t good enough, and we can’t make excuses for things we like. I love the show Scrubs, but I can analyze the heel out of it. The first step to addressing sexism in society is to understand that it’s not about you, it’s not a personal attack and you are not personally to blame for our social structure of racism, sexism, and heterosexism. Otherwise, you are missing the forest for the trees. (and I highly recommend that book)

  6. […] Lindabeth at “don’t you wish your girlfriend was smart like me” hits the nail on the head […]

  7. prometheustherebel said,

    One word…BRILLIANT! Thank you.

  8. Titanis walleri said,

    How would you even simulate consent, anyway (especially in a way that doesn’t become frustrating)?

    Isn’t the “do X (date her, give her gifts, talk to her, do sidequests, etc) to make a girl want to sleep with you” thing already an attempt to do this? That’s how it’s always seemed…

  9. onely said,

    Regarding “even in the absence of capital-O Obvious Objectification, there remain ways that in our everyday representations of women’s sexuality”

    I think this Objectification in this game *is* O-Obvious, without a doubt. The card collecting and the fact that the women will not turn a player down with a solid “no”—inexcuseable on the part of the designers.

    Thank you also for pointing out in your response to Paul that being able to say “it’s just a game” is indeed a privilege of the segments of society that the game does not disparage. I would love to be able to say “it’s just a game.” Based on your description and those of commenters above (I have not played it myself), this is not “just a game”.

    –CC at Onely

  10. Eric said,

    I am extraordinarily late in my response to this. But it came up in my google search. I read the entire post, and every comment afterwards.

    I laughed.

    This is pathetic. A feminist point of view is no better than a sexist.

    Let’s set a few things straight. Geralt, is in fact, straight. Not because I read it in the books, or in the game. But because of this little thing known as “reading between the lines.” In the books, he was only with women. In the game, he is only with women. In the television show [which you all had left out], he was only with women. I heard somewhere there was a movie but I have never seen it and can’t verify it’s existence. Therefore, without ever needing to be TOLD like some child, we can all pretty much tell he’s a straight male.

    As for the choices. Women can choose to say no. There are certain women in the game whom you can make a sexual approach to that may or may not flirt back, but will eventually tell you no. [Example: In chapter 2, the waitress]. There is no way for them to say yes, and 99% of the females in the game you cannot sleep with. Therefore, he has a limited selection.

    As for the shape/size/etc. of these women he sleeps with. Okay, his character was not designed to be attracted to fat ugly old ladys. Is that really uncommon? Do you usually find strong, heroic, not hideously ugly men with the visually unfortunate? Didn’t think so.

    In regards to buying/smooth talking/etc. in order to get these women to sleep with you. That my friends, is called real life. Everyone has buttons to be pressed. I’m a psychology major and I will tell you through study as well as first hand EXPERIMENTS, that you can sleep with nearly any female, no matter who you are, if you press the right buttons so to speak.

    Now about the cards. This is the only thing that has been brought up that I can see having merit for a real argument. Yes, the idea of the cards is a bit distasteful. But maybe that’s what they’re aiming for? Not all hero’s have to be by the book. Maybe the trophy girl thing is his “bad side”. We all have one, somewhere. You notice though, in quite a lot of games, men are depicted as losers, dogs, etc. There are also a lot more stereotypes out there. It keeps things interesting. Sexists get mad when they play a female character or watch a movie where a female saves a man, or whatever. Feminists get mad when a man wants to get some. To both, GET OVER IT.

    3 facts.

    1] Women are no better nor worse than Men.
    2] Women get just as horny as men, and only don’t act on it due to the way society looks down on it.
    3] There will always be sexism on both sides.

    This is a generalization by the way for those that need to be bottle fed.

    Now, if you are stupid enough to let a game decide if you should start collecting cards of your “conquests” or not, then by all means, go for it. About the fact that why didn’t they just not include this in the game. Simple, they felt like it. You don’t have to play a game that involves sex, or cards, or sex depicted on cards. Just as someone who is against violence but loves the sex card idea would not play due to the violence.

    Certain games, draw certain crowds, no one was forced to buy this game.

    On a final note. My fiancee [I love you <3 lol].. is a 20 year old religious virgin from Brazil. She is about as innocent as they come [God only knows why she wants to marry me]. She did not get angry at this game when I showed her the different aspects of it. She was shocked that there was nudity, but that's because she thought all games were like Mario. =P

    The ONLY people who would get mad at this game or others like it, would be people not mature enough to look past the surface. I for one, played through it on medium, noticed the sex cards, and when I played it over on hard afterward, I made sure I collected them all. Not because I'm a whore, but because I wanted to see how many different people they actually programmed in.

    Did you take in consideration what life in medieval times was really like? This game is much more accurate in its depictions of the past than most others. So is it more sexism, or realism? If i make a game, with a bunch of gay people with aids, or a bunch of government officials that are white, or a sex game where the largest member belonged to a black guy, or a ninja game where the guy was asian, etc. Would I be wrong in doing so? No, it's realistic. San Andreas, how come I couldn't be white? Bloodrayne, why couldn't I be a man? Revenge of Shinobi on Sega, how come I couldn't be black? Yoshi, why couldn't I be a Squirrel? World of Warcraft, why can't I be friends with an orc?

    All.. very.. very.. stupid questions.

    Sex is put too much on a pedestal. It shouldn't be. People should not care one way or another what someone else thinks or does regarding sex. Dolphins have sex for their own pleasure just as we do, they can also be gay or lesbian. How come they don't have all these issues? Where's the feminist and sexist dolphins?

    Sure, we have higher brain power, but damn.. Sometimes we just appear so so so damn stupid.

    I'm done, don't even know why I wrote anything. Take care y'all.

  11. John said,

    Great post.

    This game is a quagmire of macho bullshit coupled with rotten East European morals on the stature of women. It claims to be a role-playing game, but you really have no choice in who you play. It’s set up as a cheap Polish hentai game where you double-click your way to bad sex scenes, over and over again.

    Is it any wonder these people are at the rear of civilization when they treat half of their population like cattle?

  12. Nick said,

    This may be old(er) news, but I was looking into an RPG to get to pass the time. Witcher was on my list of games that seemed interesting, as I wanted a game that is more geared towards an adult audience and not a teenage audience.

    This article alone dissuaded me from wanting to purchase Witcher, and I’m male. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Some of us *adults* do take these types of issues seriously and I refuse to lend financial support to a company that creates this type of content in this way.

  13. Matt said,

    This is pretty old news, but as Nick said, this game is pretty agitating in its depiction of women, and I noticed it immediately while playing. I’m a Phd student in sociology with a background in gender, so its not like feminism is odd to me.

    To Eric- I wanted to point out that, as you said, “People should not care one way or another what someone else thinks or does regarding sex.” In essence, sex doesn’t matter. I don’t see why your so concerned with maintaining sexual categories as you are when discussing Geralt’s sexuality. If sex doesn’t matter, why does he HAVE to be a straight male? I don’t even mean “why can’t he be gay?” Just, why does the heteronormativity have to be shoved down our throats? Yes, your right, the game is programmed and developed by people, and it would take resources to make such changes. I disagree with this point however- given that most of the “romances” involved only a few lines of dialogue before you manage to leap in bed with her, it wouldn’t have taken that much effort to swap a male character model and voice actor into the role instead. Being able to role play different sexualities should be part of the RPG experience in a non linear, choice based game. Jade Empire, for example, provided same sex romance options.

    What you refer to as a reality- that it is easy to buy women with gifts, or playing certain ticks, is pretty objectifying in my mind. What your saying is that if you just push a few buttons, any REAL woman will drop her loot for you in seconds. To an extent, this may be true. Lots of women do have sex for fun, though I wouldn’t argue it would be the truly liberating or equal kind. What the author was arguing was that your perception of reality, as a part of the gender hegemony, is sexist. Your statement here verifies her entire argument- the assumption that women can be so easily manipulated by a man is cultural, and it doesn’t have to be that way. It may be that way- I don’t really think it is, but it doesn’t have to. The goal of feminism is ultimately gender equality, and looking at a game like the Witcher, it is clear that though we might be vaguely equitable in the political sphere, when men go out with their friends, they still do the same exertions of gender dominance that they have always done.

    I suggest you read Peggy Sanday’s “Fraternity Gang Rape” for a more detailed look at this. Equality is the goal, and men need to be just as much a part of it as women.

  14. LB said,

    Matt and Nick, thanks for your comments and feedback. It’s nice to hear men who want to choose entertainment that doesn’t reinforce sexism and heterosexism.

    Matt, just wanted to say good luck in your PhD. I have a Master’s myself and taught college-level Sociology for a couple years. I have been away from blogging for a while, but I’m starting to pick it up again. I hope you stick around and contribute to the blog!

  15. Lai-Lai said,

    I’m still torn on this. One half of my brain says “you’re bisexual, the game itself was praised by professional reviewers who barely mentioned the loose women,, & you love fantasy RPGs”

    The other half of my brain says “It’s sexist, the protagonist has a face only a mother could love, & you can’t make him bisexual or gay like you can with the protagonist in Dragon Age.”

  16. Sam said,

    I came upon your article after getting into an argument with my boyfriend over this game. Thank you for writing it. Also, I am so glad there are men out there (Matt, Nick) that can understand that objectifying women in this way is harmful and that actually it’s not like that in real life. Sorry Eric, your BS degree won’t help you shack up with intelligent women.
    This game wouldn’t be so bad if you could play as a strong female character or like you mention make him gay or bisexual. The targeting of women as conquests is what sickens me the most about this game and other games like it. I definitely get the Eastern Euro trash feeling from this game. No wonder so many women end up in the sex trade industry from that region. It’s a sad state of affairs.

  17. Sam said,

    until women learn how to develop and make their own games you should learn to appreciate what us(MEN) do. so stop complaining and be grateful.

  18. B said,

    … Wow, Sam no.2! You are a gigantic douchenozzle. Congrats!

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