In an age where common sense is becoming less and less common, it still comes as a shock to me that people don’t understand the basic concept of respect. Especially when it comes to respecting another human being and their personal space.
But I am starting to see that there is a recurring issue that needs to be addressed in the current demographic that attends various cons and expos – and that is ‘COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT!‘.
Con season is in full swing and while most people are there to have a good time and show their love for their fandom, it seems that some people are there for darker and more pervy reasons. I understand that some cosplayers fall in love with characters that dress a little bit risque and wish to cosplay as their favorite characters. I understand that a lot of the cosplayers look amazingly attractive in general and look amazingly attractive in their cosplays. I’m sorry ladies but as a man I can definitely appreciate a bombshell when I see one. BUT BUT BUT BUT – I know where to draw the line. Unfortunately, it seems that the modern crowd attending the crowd doesn’t even know what a line is.
There is nothing wrong with seeing an attractive woman and thinking “Wow, she’s really attractive, hot, gorgeous, etc. etc.” and then moving on with your life. But there are too few who actually do that. Just because a woman looks attractive, it doesn’t mean that she wants to hear you make cat calls at her, even if she is dressed up as Cat Woman. It doesn’t mean that she wants you to try to grope her or even put your hands on her in anyway or form. IT DEFINITELY DOESN’T MEAN THAT IT’S OKAY TO TRY TO TAKE UPSHIRT PHOTOS OR PHOTOS OF THEIR CLEAVAGE! It also doesn’t mean that she’s asking for it..
I’m reminded of a time at the Anaheim MTG Grand Prix where I was standing in line and I saw this attractive woman next to me with a low cut dress. Well, after a minute or two of standing next to her, I notice this one guy standing in a line a few feet to the side of us with a camera trying to be slick while, I assume, trying to take picture of her cleavage. I automatically got out of the line and decide to stand between her and the pervert in order to block his shot. After shooting me a few nasty looks, he got frustrated and finally left. What makes anyone think that type of behavior is acceptable. Whether you are at a con or not.
She wasn’t even aware of the fact that the guy was creeping on her and I don’t even want to think what he was going to do later with those photos *shudders*. On top of the fact that it’s completely wrong to do stuff like that, it gives the rest of us a bad name. People see one person like that and assume that the rest of us are perverts too! While I do have my pervy moments, there is a line that is never to be crossed. Especially with strangers or friends I know who couldn’t handle it as a joke. Also it’s a line that cosplayers should never have to deal with!
I decided to get some input for a few individuals I look up to in the cosplay community. So I reached out to MapleCakes and DreamKitty and got their opinions on sexual harassment and assault, and additionally some friendly advice for fellow cosplayers.
MapleCakes is truly a visionary when it comes to some of her costumes, and additionally she’s the amazing prop master that made my axe for Anime Expo.
“Cosplay is not consent, no matter how revealing a costume may be. A lot of characters are designed with ridiculous body proportions and crazy outfits, and conventions are a place for cosplayers to showcase their work and show their love for a character, not be harassed by creepy perverts. I have experienced sexual harassment first hand while in cosplay and it is very uncomfortable and completely unacceptable. At my very first convention I had a photographer take upshots of one of my costumes without my permission, and at Anime Expo this year I had a guy smack my ass while wearing my Poison Ivy cosplay. This kind of behavior should not be taking place at conventions or anywhere for that matter. Conventions are a safe haven for artists and geeks to gather and have fun, not get sexually harassed because their costume is “too revealing.” A lot of cosplayers opt for the sexy route when it comes to cosplays, which is all fine and well, but by no means is it consent. It’s really sad that some people think this kind of behavior is acceptable, and that it has become such a big issue in the Cosplay community. Anyone that condones these actions definitely does not have the right mindset about going to conventions and should just stay home. To any other cosplayers that have experienced sexual harassment at a convention or even online, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourselves. You are entitled to wear whatever you like, and should not have to deal with immature people objectifying you. No one should be afraid to speak up when they are being sexually harassed. A lot of sexual harassment goes unnoticed because cosplayers are afraid to speak out against their aggressors. This goes for men and women alike. Sexual harassment is a two way street and men have it just as bad as women do in our community. Just remember it’s ok to speak out because sexual harassment is unacceptable no matter what the circumstances are.”
“What do you think of the sexual harassment/assault cosplayers deal with? It’s disgusting. Period. Seriously, no one deserves to be treated like that and I can’t fathom what is going through people’s minds when they do these things. For some reason people assume that a cosplay changes the rules, but it doesn’t. I’ve known many cosplayers both male and female that have been harassed, myself included, and its not right. I used to look forward to getting dressed on con days or for photoshoots, but now when I’m suiting up I tend to have little nagging doubts in the back of my head because I know someone will do or say something inappropriate over the course of the day. This shouldn’t be normal. It’s sickening that we now have to take precautions for ourselves when we wear cosplay.
What can the community do to help stop this or do to defend themselves against it? Honestly, we need to get more awareness of this issue. People tend to shrug it off because we’re just “nerds in costume” and they doubt the severity of the problem. There will be one or two stories that pop up of a MAJOR case from a convention, but there’s thousands of occurrences happening at every con that don’t get mentioned and don’t get prevented. Harassment doesn’t just mean physical contact, it can be something that’s said to you or that someone does without touching you. I’ve personally had someone ask to take my picture, and when I was posing they basically shoved their camera into my cleavage (not touching, but it was obvious what they were taking a picture of). Did it get news coverage? No. Did anyone do anything about it? No. These are things that need to be addressed as well. As sad as it is, we as cosplayers need to defend ourselves and others from this happening. So, as I said, awareness is one thing we need to achieve. To defend ourselves we need to start by defending others. There’s strength in numbers and if we can show these people that their actions are NOT ok, we might start to make some progress with this problem. It will never go away, but we can try to reduce the damage this issue is causing to the community. If you see someone at a con being harassed or assaulted, even if you don’t know them, step up! We need to watch each others backs to ensure a safe time for all of us. There’s also no shame in going to security or the authorities if someone is harassing you. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable you have EVERY RIGHT to ensure your own safety by contacting someone in charge and getting them to address the situation. As for defending yourself, just use a little common sense. Try to walk around with a buddy or stay in well populated areas, keep your phone with you, if someone is making you uncomfortable tell them straight up to leave you alone and if they don’t, get help. Seriously, cause a scene if you have to.
Message to all the perverts that think this kind of behavior is okay- So you’re the type to grope bystanders in the mall too right? Or the kind to make lewd comments at the cashier in the grocery store? The kind that pinches the butt cheek of your grade 9 history teacher or takes an inappropriate picture of the barista handing you your coffee? No? You’re not? Then why is it ok in your mind to do that to someone in costume? The people behind the costume are all these things and more. They’re librarians, students, business owners, paramedics, teachers, veterans and dozens of other things. And they deserve to be treated with the same respect IN costume that they receive OUT of costume. No one deserves to be harassed or assaulted for anything, cosplay included. And if you think a cosplay is a symbol that someone is “easy” or “deserves it” then I sincerely pity you.”
While we are most certain that there are other cosplayers who feel this way on the topic, getting it out in the open is the first step to make a difference. People go to cons to have a good time, not to be fearful that someone is going to try something indecent. Seriously perverts, I don’t care what you do on your own time but don’t go ruining our good times. As fellow con goers, if we see something like this happening, let’s not be afraid to step in and give each other a helping hand and if you’re the one being harassed, don’t be afraid to make a spectacle out of the person harassing you. Make him feel shame for his behavior and bring attention to him so that others can see what he is doing and be less tempted to do it again.