Monday, June 01, 2015

Cosplay Is Not Consent

Convention season is in full swing, and the big cons are just around the corner. And apparently, for some geeks and convention goers, the lesson that you can look at but not touch the people in the costumes is still not being understood. A person dressing up in a costume, no matter how revealing or covering it might be, is not an invitation to touch them.

This past weekend at Atlanta's MomoCon, an anime and gaming convention, a cosplayer not only was repeatedly touched without permission, but the convention organizers and their security staff further harassed the woman and blamed her and her costume for what happened.

What we have here is compounded harassment. This is a major bad on the part of the convention staff. While I wouldn't call them a safe space, a convention should be protecting the safety and well-being of their attendees. Sexual harassment is in any form or shape is not good. I'm not sure who taught these people that it was okay, but it isn't.

How many times are we going to have to say this before it sinks in to the heads of these people? It is never right to touch people in any manner without their consent or approval. Wearing a costume is not consent.

This should also never lead to body shaming or so-called "slut shaming." It doesn't really matter how much skin you think is appropriate, if a person is covered to extent required by local law the rest is moot.  Community standards will also cause this to vary dramatic. I live in Florida, in a beach community, where it isn't unusual to see women in bikinis (or men in swimwear) at grocery stores or gas stations.  I hate the term "slut shaming" because it adds a moral element of "well, your clothing was inappropriate, but we are going to defend it anyway." No, you just defend it.

This is an angry post, because this is something that shouldn't still be going on in an enlightened society. It shouldn't be happening on the streets of our cities, and it shouldn't be happening at conventions. We need to treat each other with the respect that we want to be treated with ourselves.

So, what should you do, when dealing with cosplayers at a convention?

  1. Always ask for permission to take someone's picture. Also make sure that you know a convention's rules for picture taking. Many conventions will have rules that you cannot take a person's picture without asking permission.
  2. If having your picture taken with a cosplayer first ask if you can touch them, and ask them what sort of touch they are comfortable with. Come on, guys, don't just grab their asses or breasts because you think you can. Be as respectful of them at a convention as you would if you were in a restaurant or any other semi-public space. 
  3. Once you know their limits/guidelines, respect them. Don't smile and nod your head in agreement, and then grab them anyway while your friend snaps a picture. This isn't respectful.
If you see harassment of any sort occurring, quickly contact security. If you can't find security, ask the cosplayer if they need help and then help them find security. If see you harassment occurring at a convention you need to make sure that you report it, and don't underestimate the effectiveness of social media.

I know, some will take offense at this post and claim that I am making it just to score points, or (even worse from my view) to get sex. If your world view is so cynical that you see basic human decency as nothing more than currency used to attain sexual favors, I'm not sure that we have anything to talk about. I know that I don't want you reading my blog, if that is how you feel about women and sex.

We need to stop defending this behavior, and we need to call it out when we see it. We need to tell our friends that this is not okay, and harassment is not cool. Hopefully soon enough we won't have the need to keep reminding people of all of this. I'm not going to hold my breath on that.