Posted by: Ophelia | December 31, 2008

Subtle Sexism

Lindabeth at “don’t you wish your girlfriend was smart like me” hits the nail on the head with her analysis of subtle sexism in The Witcher and games in general.

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 could never put my finger on what it was about the manner that sex is traditionally portrayed in games, but that’s it on the nose. This isn’t limited to games that have sex as a mini game, but also games such as sim dating games where  achieving sex is the ultimate goal.  There are never girls who simply say no, just ones that are more difficult to get–you have to buy them more gifts or remember more birthdays, phonenumbers, or favorite colors, but you will ultimately win whomever you choose just the same. It always irked me but now I know why.

As with all video game analyses there’s the tried and true “don’t like it, don’t play it” comment in the original post, but we’ve all come to expect that.



  1. I play a different kind of sex game–homosexual ones, with an all-male cast and all-male main character (who is sometimes the protagonist, but sometimes the antagonist).

    Rape, or forced sex, or “earned” sex feature in every sex game I have ever played. Now, I mainly play Visual Novel type games (think Choose Your Adventure books) so spontaneity can’t be scripted.

    I don’t think this is about women, per se. I think it is about power. I don’t play sex games to re-live my real sexual experiences. I play them to control all the situations and get what I want. This is an intersection of sex, power, pornography, and a stimulating guessing game that you can’t lose.

    And, if it matters, I’m a heterosexual ciswoman.

  2. Wouldn’t courting a woman only to be turned down really suck from a gaming perspective?

  3. Likewise, wouldn’t it be boring from a gaming perspective to have nothing left to chance? In rpgs I’m used to the fact that there are random number generations that decide whether or not my attacks or spells work, and I don’t expect everything to work the way I want all the time–much like real life.

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