She highlights several issues about the sexual nature of the game, including:
"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 women-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."
This would be troublesome in any context, but it becomes more troublesome given the fact that this is very much an idea present in society; men aren't exactly discouraged from having sex with a lot of women; he may be labelled a "man-whore" (the modification of which just goes to show exactly how sexuality and "bad" sexuality is gendered), but that isn't exactly something that society is shaming men about - unlike women, who if they're "whores" may be good enough to sleep with but not marry in the common meme. It also plays into the "women are objects" idea, something that is furthered farther down in the article:
"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."
Again, this would still be problematic, but much less problematic if there weren't a crazy line of thought that this is true, that women owe men who do nice things for them sex, and that women should "give" themselves to men who do all those right things. That thought is at the very heart of the Nice Guy™ syndrome:
Which is also nicely demonstrated here:
It is the thought that somehow men are deserving of sex with whatever women they wish to have sex with, and that all women a particular man wants are attainable; it makes men and their sexual wants more important that women and their sexual autonomy. Women's sexuality then always belongs to men; they just have to figure out how to get it. It makes women "collectibles". That the game reflects this is no surprise; that the game reflects any of what lindabeth describes is no real surprise. The surprise are the things that don't passively fall into the same harmful patterns of the culture, the games and books and songs and movies and television shows that - either through design or accident - go the opposite way.
The final point I'm going to lift from lindabeth (and really, you should read the whole article because it is awesomely well-written) before then traversing the comments left both on her own blog and on her Feministing Community post is one relating to two separate issues, those being heterosexism (but only really it seems when dealing with male homosexuality), and a dismissal of women gamers and their concerns:
"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 a big deal for a woman to play a male character, and 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?"
This is where being wholly in reference to The Witcher becomes a bit tricky for the women gamer who wants to play something other than a male character, because the protagonist of the game is an already-existing character. And this is where it is important to look at The Witcher within the larger gaming context - where what is acceptable in this particular game given the surrounding circumstances becomes part of a larger pattern when viewed in context with other games that arbitrarily do not offer a female protagonist who can sleep with the boys. The response to this line of thought is telling, in both places it is protested. On "Don't ya", Paul says, "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." Ausir on the Feministing post asserts that "the game does not follow the plot of the books, but is set after the last book in the series". Which leads me to this: gay sex - especially if it were an optional feature of the game and not part of the linear plot - would not mess with the story. The story as Paul knows it is over; the game is a continuation. And Buffy Summers had a lesbian encounter in her story's continuation after the final episode of the television series, even though she had been up until that point a straight female. And while I may have some issues with that lesbian encounter, my issue doesn't stem from the fact that Buffy is a straight female and that sleeping with a girl messes with the story. Because stories can grow and change in any of their mediums.
Another critique of lindabeth's article, by azazeloo5, saying "The assertion that sex is never "refused" is because of the tale, not the gender's [sic] involved". Except that isn't exactly true; when the tale plays to cultural norms of gender, then it isn't strictly about the tale. The tale isn't a biographical narrative telling of a life that actually occurred; therefore, the tale and everything in it is contrived, and that contrivance follows the norms of the culture it stems from. And while this is hardly the most provocative, it still is representative of a sexist culture - and a subtle sexism because unlike rape or job discrimination or outright objectification, people like Paul or azazeloo5 can dismiss this as not being part of a grander narrative, and of merely representing this one particular tale that is by some stroke of luck or genius divorced from the world in which it was created.
And then there is from zarr, arguing, "Homosexual relationships are not included in the witcher for the same reason that the protagonist of Mass Effect is always portrayed as a male (even though you are given the option in the game to play as a female), audience. How much of the witchers [sic] audience would have cared for a homosexual relationships [sic] (cared enough to warrant them taking the time to put in such a feature)? I would argue a rather insignificant amount as the vast majority of people are heterosexual". And yes, the vast majority of people may be heterosexual. But at least 50% of the people are female; for girls playing the game who may not want to always sex up girls, it could be a nice addition - to not consistently and constantly fed objectified and commodified images of women while you're trying to play the game in its entirety. Not to mention, a good 10% of the population is homosexual - and that is leaving out the bisexuals, and the transexuals and everyone who does or possibly could fall under the "queer" category in the vast experience of humanity.
The last problem I'll mention is this, from Rhett Butler, saying, "The Witcher is puerile escapism and wish fullfillment [sic]. Geralt is the kind of character every guy wishes he was - famous, tough, cool, desired by lots of beautiful women. That's why he never gets turned down, becuase [sic] being turned down for sex is not on any guy's wish list". This actually leads into a problem I have with comic books, a problem I've been meaning to blog about for forever with nice visual representations but haven't yet because I'm just lazy (editor's note: Sorry, John! It will be coming soon, I promise!). And that is this: I have no interest in video games, and not for this issue. But I do have an interest in comic books, and I am frequently turned off from them for exactly this issue. The way most games and comic books are set up make it clear that not only is this a man's world but that it is intending on staying a man's world. This obviously isn't true for every comic book and every video game. But enough comic books have disembodied female parts (boobs, butts, etc.) on numerous pages - and gratuitously - for me to be massively put off. And enough video games objectify women characters and make men the only option - or the default option - that I can imagine it turning a lot of women off as well. I still read comic books - sometimes enthusiastically. And I know plenty of women who not only play video games but revel in them as well; that doesn't change the fact that it truly does suck to have that sinking "not again" feeling, to know that the male gaze is more important than the women readers/gamers, and that the guy wish fulfillment is more important than making games that respect women who want to play them. I'm not up for male objectification; I don't really think that equality should be attained by diminishing the other gender. But I am getting awfully sick of the idea that gaming and comic books have male target audiences just because, without recognizing or analyzing or acknowledging that one of the reasons why some of these things have a disproportionate male audience is the way women are portrayed (or, in some cases, not).