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Comic Con, Cosplay, Cosplay, Culture, Opinion, Pics

Cosplay Is Not Consent

Not too long ago Megan Marie wrote an article on her blog titled: What you do if you weren’t afraid?

Her answer was to return attention to cosplayer’s and sexual harassment. There is no other way to describe it.

Yesterday a lot of the fears that kept me from speaking out for so long were realized. Although the general response to my words was overwhelmingly positive, I was and still am being called a stupid bitch, a cunt, and “all that is wrong with womankind.” I’ve been insulted, misrepresented, and threatened.

I’m not going to lie. It hurts. But I stand by the content of my blog, and the primary message of empowerment behind it. The private messages from both men and women relaying that my words have helped them gather courage to stand up for themselves makes it absolutely worthwhile. The best part is that I’ll be going on the journey with them. Standing up (for myself) is new to me, too.

She’s talking about being a woman and pointing out the problems when men do bad things. This is specific to the cosplay community and was identified (by her) within a group of Lara Croft cosplayers.

Something transpired at PAX this weekend that was a true eye opener. While hosting a Tomb Raider cosplay gathering, comprised of eight or so incredibly nice and talented young women, a member of the press asked if he could grab a quick interview. I said he’d need to ask them, not me, and they agreed. He squeezed into the group and posed a question. I couldn’t hear what he said over the hubbub of the show floor, but the confused and uncomfortable looks from the ladies indicated that it wasn’t what they expected, to say the least.

I moved in closer and inquired “Excuse me, what did you ask?” with a forced smile on my face, so to give him the benefit of the doubt. He laughed and didn’t respond, moving a few steps away as I repeated the question to the group of women. Turns out he’d probed what it felt like “knowing that none of the men in this room could please them in bed.” Yes, I’m aware it’s a poor adaptation of a gag told by a certain puppet dog with an affinity for insults. Lack of originally doesn’t excuse this behavior, however.

In reading this I, like many others, became offended at the assumption that anyone in costume, in cosplay, was inherently asking to have inappropriate or sexual questions asked of them. This isn’t the case. It’s akin to this Scottish TV advertisement:

While well meaning, it misses the point while hitting it squarely on the head. Women should be allowed to dress as they wish without fear of being abused for it. No one, and I repeat NO ONE, dresses thinking, “This will get me gang banged!”

More recently, Spricket24, a Youtube personality, had something to say about Halloween and girls dressing like sluts. While the individual message is about the one-time a year it absolutely becomes socially acceptable to do this, her pieces of advice for girls doing it is a bit disturbing.

But the applicability is neither in the video nor in her approach to costumes, but the techniques she shares to help keep girls safe when dressing as a slut for Halloween.

  • Wear layers
  • Wear a wig
  • Don’t get drunk
  • Expect bad things to happen
cosplay is not consent

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

That Spricket24 or anyone would need to create a video on safety for girls fulfilling fantasy is a bit abhorrent. However, this perpetuates the need we, as a society, have to victimize people who shouldn’t be victimized. Neither girls wearing costumes nor cosplay is an invitation for abuse in any form.

I do not think Spricket24 is condoning violence and is addressing ways to remain safe. At the same time, I think this form of needed self-awareness lends itself to other forms of harassment: specifically that women cannot have fun and be safe at the same time.

For those that don’t know, Cosplay or Costume Play, is the activity of dressing up as one of your favorite characters from cartoons, movies, TV, anime, manga, and comic books. It’s become increasingly popular. I’ve written in the past that I think the extreme female cosplayer is akin to the extreme comic book guy with the primary difference being gender.

One of my favorite TV personalities (and co-owner of one of my favorite websites, Tested.com) Adam Savage has spoken about this and his love of dressing up and going out among fellow fans. You can go to Tested.com and search the videos for Adam Savage’s comments. Norman Chan also writes and photographs cosplayers.

The point of Cosplay is to roleplay for a finite period of time.

cosplay is not consent

photo credit: Anna Fischer via photopin cc

I truly believe that women as geeks and fans want to dress up as the characters they enjoy reading about or watching. This is an honest and natural outlet for fandom. It does not denigrate nor degrade someone else’s nor is it an open invitation for abuse. These fans go to great lengths to ensure accuracy in costume and appearance. The problem for men is  that these women are attractive and men are stupid.

Cosplay is not to be confused with booth babes or models who are paid to stand near a boot and attract visitors.

Instead, it is a legitimate form of fandom and a legitimate art form. You can read some of Megan’s posts on her cosplay website to see how much effort goes into being a cosplayer. This ain’t for the weak at heart, yo. It takes skill and patience to create costumes and ensure accuracy. It takes a great deal of knowledge about characters, history, and style. All that’s before you get into the making of costumes and props, the skills of a true Maker. Cosplayers dedicate a great deal of time and energy to their craft. Both women and men who participate in Cosplay do so because they want to, not because there’s money involved – though there may, occasionally, be money involved.

One of the problems we are encountering today is that if a woman dresses provocatively, she is asking for the unwanted attention. Like Spricket24’s premise prior to her advice, this is role-playing and fantasy fulfillment and not an invitation for unwanted attention. Women don’t deserve to be treated as anything less than equals regardless of your personal mores.

As Publisher and Editor of Geek Eccentric I am here to state we are not going to put up with harassment  We are currently looking for ways to bring this issue to light and to help ensure that no one within our community is harassed, is made to feel embarrassed, or abused in any way for individual choices in authenticity or in being a fan. We hope everyone will join with us and will help us explore the world of cosplay the way it is meant to be: as fans and friends.

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3 Comments


  1. […] Cosplay is not consent, and yet many in the male dominated geek community think that this expression of fandom is enough license to harass and abuse women.  […]

  2. Just A Guy

    July 30, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    A group of young women walk out in public dressed like “Sexy Space Whores from Planet X” and are then shocked and disturbed to find that they attract people who stare and take pictures, and creepy men looking for sex.

    And in other news, scientists have now determined with reasonable certainty that the Earth is, in fact, round.

    • smokingpen

      July 31, 2014 at 7:05 am

      Yes. We’ve all heard the snark that women are just asking for it. Not all that valid. Especially in an environment where being a fan and expressing fandom (including something hypothetically called Sexy Space Whores from Planet X) are not entitled to enjoy the experience without being harassed or groped or belittled. I mean, come on, this isn’t actually about human dignity or allowing people to have fun. It’s not about personal responsibility and control over ones urges. It’s about how the girl dresses. Smart. Real smart.

      Also in other news, water is wet, the sky is blue, and water transitions into steam at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

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