Let’s talk about Cosplay and Consent

5 min read
102

Cosplay is a hobby that takes a huge investment of time, money and skill. Cosplayers spend days or sometimes even months to put together a perfectly crafted and accurately detailed costume. So when you venture out onto a con floor to show off your talent and bring some entertainment to fans, it tends to ruin everything when other people harass you.

With the prevalence of the hashtag #MeToo on social media, I think it’s time to talk about Cosplay and Consent. If you weren’t aware, #MeToo is a campaign to let any survivors of sexual harassment or assault (no matter their gender) to speak up about their experiences, or to just add their voice to the hundreds of thousands of people who have gone through it. The number of people who have responded to this campaign is staggering, so before it becomes just a blur of overwhelming tweets in numbers impossible to count, I’ll give you my own experience.

Over rAge weekend, there were a few reports of some seriously gross behaviour by expo attendees. Though the cosplay organisers, GES SA, had the safe space for the cosplayers with a separate chill area, going out onto the floor was a minefield. Multiple cosplayers were inappropriately harassed and/or touched by attendees. They were cat-called, man-handled, had photographs taken of them without permission and in compromising uncomfortable situations. I was on the receiving end of some of this behaviour and honestly, it was pretty shocking. It sucks that one of my #MeToo experiences had to happen over my favourite expo.

Read  The brilliant cosplay of rAge Expo 2017

I’ve attended FanCon, ICON and multiple other events, both in costume and out, and I’ve never experienced this kind of behaviour before. So what made rAge different?

The main issue I can point out is that the “Cosplay is not Consent” signage wasn’t very visible, or prolific. There were some small posters around the Blue Wing, but no large or noticeable banners to educate attendees on how to approach cosplayers or behave around them. If you hadn’t gone into the Blue Wing or walked up to the poster to read it, you probably wouldn’t know that it was there at all. I didn’t notice it the first time until it was pointed out to me.

Some of the photographers that were at the event could have also done with some better education. Taking photos of cosplayers while they’re getting in and out of costume is reprehensible, and taking photos without permission is even worse. This is not a new issue either, and I really thought that our community was better than this.

Cosplay is not Consent signage at New York Comic-Con. Image via Mashable.

I know that policing people’s behaviour is basically impossible, but better education goes a long way. I don’t want to have to start walking around rAge with a freaking bodyguard! I’m honestly sad that I have to tell people “don’t sexually harass other individuals” but it remains an issue.

Read  The brilliant cosplay of rAge Expo 2017

So, to all the attendees of these cons and expos, please remember: Cosplay Is Not Consent. Always ask before taking a photograph or posing with a cosplayer and do not touch them unless they give the OK. If they say no to any of your requests, move on. If they look uncomfortable, stop. These are really simple rules to remember.

To rAge Expo and GES SA, please take a long, hard look at what can be done to protect your cosplayers for future events. I don’t want anyone to go through this again next year, we’re counting on you.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: October 17, 2017

Tracy Benson

All about movies, board games, cider, sci-fi, fantasy and geek culture.

  • Taking photo’s while people are changing is pretty obvious.

    But is it really that bad that people whip out their phone and take pictures of people who are dressed up in a public place? Not sure I agree there.

    The rest is obvious and it’s pretty depressing that it needs to be said

    • Alessandro Barbosa

      I’ve generally seen it as a common courtesy to at least ask permission before taking photos, especially of cosplay. Think it’s kinda creepy and shit if you don’t

    • Gareth Lagesse (eXCheez)

      Taking a photo of *anyone* without their consent at any time or place is wrong unless it is a performance. Being dressed a particular way is not an excuse.

      • Tell that to the government and literally every housing complex and office block in the country

        • Gareth Lagesse (eXCheez)

          Non-consential photography is the reason drones are not allowed in residential areas. It’s actually not allowed.

      • Sageville

        So when the cosplayers go on stage for the previews, no photos?

        • Gareth Lagesse (eXCheez)

          I’m no lawyer, so I can’t break down the semantics. I’m just stating what I do know.

        • Thewindrunnercosplayer

          As a Cosplayer I would say in stage is OK. The issue is when people try to take pictures when we are busy or resting or just don’t want pictures. Many people photograph us on stage.

      • but I’m legally allowed to video a cop who is issuing me a ticket… so not sure how that works

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          https://www.michalsons.com/blog/photography-law-photo-rights/14557
          https://digitalphotographycourses.co.za/the-law-as-it-pertains-to-photographers-in-south-africa/

          You basically waive rights to privacy in public areas. Somewhere like rAge might be a private venue, but it allows photography.

          • The legality of it isnt in question. In SA, you don’t need consent to take pictures of somebody in a public space. That aside, it’s just the good and decent thing to do.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            I was just specifying the difference between what’s legal and what’s polite.

          • MonsterCheddar

            Coming from an impolite old bastard. 😛

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            I’m only rude & impolite to people I know. 😀

          • Original Heretic

            Or when people deserve it.

        • Gareth Lagesse (eXCheez)

          Good point. But, yeah, I’d have to get a lawyer to break the rules down properly here.

      • Conan the Barbarian

        Is cosplay not a performance?

    • Skittle

      I agree with your disagreement.

    • Yes, yes it is. It’s just good form and good manners to ask first. Obviously, people get snapped up when you take general photos of an event (and asking everybody would be silly), but if you’re taking a proper shot of a cosplayer, it’s just good manners to ask first.

      • MonsterCheddar

        “Obviously, peopel”

        Did you mean Poepol?

      • MonsterCheddar

        Indeed.

      • Nick de Bruyne

        I do find it interesting because it feels understandable to see where the problem is from photographers point of view, it’s very very easy to assume that because someone has gone through the whole effort of dressing up in a cool costume and walking around, that they are a sort of “display piece” (don’t read into the too much) and are cool with having pics taken of them, as opposed to you know, just walking around a con and randomly taking photos of visitors, because that would be seen as SUPER creepy

      • Nick de Bruyne

        Most of the time, asking comes with the territory of the motions just because thats how you get a proper shot, its like that whole “hey do you mind”, *smile* *click*, “thanks” and move on. Otherwise you are just sort of taking blurry pics of people walking around

    • Yeah 100%.

      There is a fine line, sure, but you can’t expect to go out in any form of cosplay and NOT be photographed extensively. ESPECIALLY if there is any degree of skin on show. And not everyone is going to walk up and ask you. Especially if it’s a dude to a girl/lady/etc. Most nerds have enough social anxiety speaking to a woman in a normal situation, now they have to walk up to not just a girl, but possibly a life-like version of a character they really like and try ask to take a picture of them, without sounding like a creep? It’s easier and less socially awkward, to themselves at least, to nab a quick snap and move on.

      Don’t get me wrong, I heard a few stories from people who went, and some were in cosplay too, about how bad a fair few people were WRT cosplayers, and those sick f###s should be brought to book/banned from the event for life. But you also need to understand that you are going into an environment where not everyone is on the same page as you, and unless you have a massive sign around you neck saying “Ask my permission for photos first/No touching/etc”, that isn’t going to happen. In saying that, the event organizers themselves need to also put weight behind policing Cosplayer abusers. If there is no consequences, those sick asshats will continue to do as they please and ruin it for the rest of us.

    • Conan the Barbarian

      I agree. Frankly, to appear in a public space such as rage and dressed in such a way that you look interesting and grab people’s attention, and expect not to be photographed (or your permission asked every time you are) is ridiculous.

      It gets down to a reasonable expectation of privacy. On the main floor at rage it is an unreasonable expectation.

    • Gerard Matthews

      “The rest is obvious and it’s pretty depressing that it needs to be said”. This

  • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

    Humans. Sigh

    • MonsterCheddar

      Indeed.

    • Sgt. M

      *Degenerates

  • Frik van der Hewerskink

    haha why the hell would you just walk up to a cosplayer and touch them ? people are stupid wow

  • Sageville

    Personally I didn’t notice any signage at rage with Cosplay is not Consent, I think the organizers need to do bigger / better there.

    • Agree here. I saw some pics of the signs *after* something untowards happened, but saw *nothing* of them while I was actually there.

      • Magoo

        In all fairness I couldn’t even see a meter in front of me most of the time. rAge is becoming way overcrowded.

    • VampyreSquirrel

      I didn’t see that signage anywhere and I went through the Blue Wing (in particular) 3 times.

  • MonsterCheddar

    If you can’t behave, you shouldn’t attend things like Rage. No one wants to be touched by strange weirdo’s *shudders*

    Cosplayers are there to be admired from a distance and don’t fucking touch with your grimy little paws.

    This is all common sense, and I agree fully with the Author. Photographs on the other hand is a difficult subject. I mean, you are there to be admired in your costume.

    But, yes. Don’t be a fucking pig and keep your paws to yourself. Touching someone inappropriately is actually assault, so if you get locked up or bliksemed, its your own fault

  • Sgt. M

    Sometimes I really have to wonder where we went wrong as a race; things that I would consider common decency and basic human etiquette are constantly just ignored.
    Why can’t we all just get along?

    • MonsterCheddar

      Because humans are disgusting things. That is why I avoid people.

      • Hammersteyn

        Would you grope a girl in public? No, none of us in this comment section would. Because we were taught at a young age to be gentleman. Open door for a lady, give a seat up in the bus, ask if you can help her load her car.

        • MonsterCheddar

          Values that are not being taught anymore. The generation these days have no respect.

    • Skittle

      People can’t get along because we all have different opinions on whats right and wrong. Take a look at the problems in the middle east (which have been going on for hundreds if not thousands of years) as a prime example.

    • Magoo

      SPECIES* CHANGE TO SPECIES QUICK

      • Sgt. M

        Human race

  • Hammersteyn

    Another case of parents failing to teach kids decent values. I dressed as Trump, wig and all, for a Mexican dress to kill party at a pub filled with drunk people but wouldn’t you know it. Every single time someone wanted a picture they’d ask. Some even bought me a beer.

    Toxic gaming culture is spilling out into the public. If I ever brought my GF to rage and she had to suffer groping I’d get tossed out for handing out poesklappe to laaitjies left and right but they’ll learn some hard life lessons there and then. To hear this is disgusting and I hope the self obsessed wankers take a hard look at themselves but I doubt it. They’ll be to busy talking kak on Twitter or attending bootcamps.

    • MonsterCheddar

      Hemmir, mah boy. Telling it like it is.

      EK bliksem gewoonlik eers en vra dan vrae. Got me in shit a few times.

      • Hammersteyn

        This shit just angers me. Same as the rape threat story a month or so ago.

        • MonsterCheddar

          You don’t know the half of it. I go apeshit with shit like that. I will literally kill someone.

          I was taught that you treat girls with respect.

    • Magoo

      You tell ’em H!

      • Hammersteyn

        They surely think for themselves FFS? That’s a human you’re laying your hands on. If you really want to do it that bad ask your dad to hire a prosi.

    • Admiral Chief

      Heh, PKs, have upvote

    • BakedBagel

      Toxic gaming culture is spilling out into the public.

      Okay so everyone who goes to rage is now a gamer?
      Gamers are some of the most socially awkward people ive ever met. Its the reason for the very big mouths online.

      How does random’s groping people in public fall down to “toxic gaming culture”?
      Lmfao

      • Hammersteyn

        No, not everyone is a gamer. Obviously. But I’m pretty sure that 3/4 that go to rage are because it’s about gaming to begin with. What I’m saying is that these gropers are probably the same guys that screams online about f****g someone’s mom or dropping N bombs are calling someone gay.

        • BakedBagel

          You expect socially awkward people to grope people? I would bet those groping others were not weird gamers who sit at home and start a sweat because they are speaking to a girl.

          Isint rAge a tech conference as much as it is a gaming conference?

          • Hammersteyn

            Wait what? No! I don’t expect anyone to grope people. I expect everyone to respect cosplayers and admire them. Ask if you may take a picture. Ask if you can pose with them. Compliment them on all the effort they put into their costume and that’s it. Doesn’t matter if you’re socially awkward or a walking slab of self confidence. I’m merely saying that these people that act like aholes clearly weren’t taught any manners or decency.

          • BakedBagel

            My point being that socially awkward people who struggle to even talk to the opposite sex are now being accused of groping people. Gamers more specifically.

            Im all for treating a human as a human expects to be treated.

            Its a very small minority of people who do this shit at cons yet its preached that its a cultural problem, like these actions are accepted among gaming circles. It isint. “Toxic gaming culture” as you said got lumped into people being groped wtf?

          • Hammersteyn

            My point is that this is how it starts. I draw a correlation between toxic gamers and this shit. Of course it’s not all of them.

          • BakedBagel

            correlation =/= causation

            This sort of behavior has happened for millennia. In almost every industry. You have predators in almost every single walk of life. Gamers and their toxicity are not the problem in this situation.

            btw. What is security like at rAge generally? Why arnt the accused being pointed out and made an example of right then? Are there simply too many people? How do you avoid this in the future… (signage helps but authority helps more)

          • Hammersteyn

            Well I’d put money on it being gamers and not the casual type.

          • BakedBagel

            You know this groping thing happens at almost every con right, cons that are unrelated to gaming.

            Yeah its so much easier to blame the socially awkward huh.

          • Hammersteyn

            No, socially awkward are exactly that and that’s fine. But if they or anyone lays a hand on women it’s not fine. That’s basically what I wanted to say.

  • Original Heretic

    Really disgusts me when people behave in such a reprehensible manner.

    I think that for the next rAge, CH should get all willing participants together and form a “Critical Hit Squad” that goes around administering justice to all the cretins who do this.
    And to provide protection to all the cosplayers.

    “What form of justice?” I hear you ask. Well, the floor is open. Let’s hear some suggestions.

    • Tracy Benson

      I’m not even kidding when I say this is something we discussed after rAge

      • Original Heretic

        I could see it being very effective, (and this part now is VERY important) if it’s not abused.

      • MonsterCheddar

        Its sad when it comes down to that.

    • Hammersteyn

      “Ain’t nothing like a little fear to make a paper man crumble.” It (2017) – My quote of the year.

      • Original Heretic

        Very fitting, in this case, methinks.

        • MonsterCheddar

          Indeed

        • Hammersteyn

          The thing is, they’re not hiding in anonymity anymore at a place like rage. Now they’re out in the open. Watch what happens when you grab him by his neck and confront him.

          • MonsterCheddar

            Probably piss themselves.

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      While I grew up in the “talk shit, get hit” era times have changed. They should definitely have clear & visible anti-harassment policies, plus people to handle stuff like that, and if someone violates that, they get booted out in full public view. End of story. You only need a few examples before it sinks in.

      • Original Heretic

        Yeah, shame the bastards. Not only do you kick them out, you proclaim very loudly WHY they were kicked out.
        I’d offer my services since I have a voice that tends to carry over crowds with ease, but I’m nowhere near rAge.

        • Hammersteyn

          Plaster their faces all over Twitter with a lekker vet hashtag.

          • Original Heretic

            On Twitter because they’re twits?

          • Frik van der Hewerskink

            I thought taking foto’s of people that didn’t consent is illegal ?

          • Hammersteyn

            Well…..um……they did something without consent first?

    • MonsterCheddar

      I will gladly offer my services.

      Form of justice? I only know one way…

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a477fe46eee1292314f971d6fcdbfff770ed4d5bd39e1bf50f7d22b87bb3eaac.png

    • Phaezen

      All it really takes is for the organisers to take a zero tolerance attitude. You cross the line you get ejected.

  • Nikola

    Honestly I am shocked that you need banners to remind people of this I thought everyone understand that touching another person without permission is WRONG! It’s like walking in the street seeing a girl and just slapping her butt cant do that, same goes for cosplay I don’t understand if a person is wearing a costume those same rules don’t apply?

    Nothing wrong going up to a cosplayer and saying they look good be it a girl or a guy but be polite not a creep/pervert….

    As I told you Tracy next Rage I’ll cosplay as your guys bodyguard hahah;)

    • Nick de Bruyne

      Very transparent attempt at trying to creep on you guys, don’t believe Nikola for a second

      • Nikola

        hahahahaa:)

  • HairyEwok

    Just curious, and please don’t shit on me for asking this but, what about cosplays that’s obviously being oversexualized, I mean like a storm trooper cosplay that is being made into a bikini……..

    • Nikola

      Might be sexual but still does not give you right to touch another person inappropriately its like seeing a girl in a bikini on the beach would you go up to her and grope her? At least that’s my opinion on it I don’t know:)

      • HairyEwok

        Agree it does not allow for one to touch, but taking a cosplay and oversexualizing it to get all the attention is asking for trouble.
        Its basically like going to a bull ring and wearing all red, you’re bound to get into some sort of hassle.

        • Phaezen

          If what people are wearing causes someone to act inappropriately, then I submit the problem is with them and not with what the cosplayers are wearing and they have no business being a the con.

        • Nikola

          I understand what you are saying unfortunately it should not be this way if someone feels like showing off their body they should without being harassed unfortunately in this day and age sadly you can’t do that because of idiots…

          • HairyEwok

            Exactly, unfortunately plenty of people do not share this mindset and end up believing that cosplayer A has dressed up like that because they seek the extra attention therefore i can touchy touchy, so i would say the root to all this is poor parenting.

            I shit you not, last night when I was at KFC getting a meal a kid aged about 17 literally went and said, ag &*$*&# ma, don’t start with your *&#&@ now for &*$# sakes…. I was in actual shock.

          • Tracy Benson

            unfortunately plenty of people do not share this mindset and end up believing that cosplayer A has dressed up like that because they seek the extra attention therefore i can touchy touchy, so i would say the root to all this is poor parenting.

            How does your earlier comment of

            taking a cosplay and oversexualizing it to get all the attention is asking for trouble.

            fit into your belief here? Because that sounds pretty hypocritical to me

        • Tracy Benson

          Nooooo. No no no. Take that victim blaming “they were asking for trouble” attitude and get the F out. IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT THEY WERE WEARING. I was in a blood-covered Lara Croft outfit with freaking WEAPONS attached all over my body and I was STILL harassed. The problem is with the person who thinks it’s OKAY to sexually harass other people because they’re dressed up, no matter what they’re dressed in.

        • Gareth Lagesse (eXCheez)

          Firstly, are you really going the “they asked for it” route?

          Secondly, bulls are colour-blind. The red is to hide the bull’s blood.

          0/2

        • Sageville

          Nah guy, the cosplay could be only two nipple rings and vajazzling and there is still zero “Asking for trouble”, the onus is only on the dickhead to not be a dick, not the victim to avoid the dickhead.

          I’m kinda dismayed your opinion still exists in 2017 actually…

          Also that bull and wearing red was also debunked as bullshit *(The bulls go for movement, not a color).

    • Phaezen

      Repeat after me: Cosplay is not consent.

    • BakedBagel

      Nope, you will get shat on for asking questions.

  • Braiden Becker

    I think maybe with the stage mini-skits we had on Friday/Saturday, we could utilise some time to also educate the masses on cosplay is not consent. At the same time. Common decency.

  • Gerard Matthews

    The fact that there even needs to be a sign is indicative of something seriously wrong with society. I would never grope someone. I don’t need a sign to tell me it’s wrong. Sure I will look at a beautiful lady and think. “Holy damn she is hot”, but the thought does not enter my head that I can then go and touch her. This happens to women all the time, my wife told me in clubs it’s commonplace.

    This is not isolated to gaming culture it’s much bigger than that; it’s an indictment on society in general. We don’t need a fancy sign or slogan we need better morals in our homes. I blame the parents, TV shows, books, websites but mostly I blame the weak willed idiots who are so easily swayed by what is drilled into their tiny little brains.

    Question what you see, don’t just take it in and let it change your thinking. Evaluate whether you agree with something, turn it over, look at it from multiple angles and make up your own damn mind.

    Analyse your actions and how they affect others, there is too little introspection in the modern world where we are so easily distracted by the myriad entertainment that gets pumped into engorged eyes.

    Women who want to sell music must become sex symbols, actors must go nude in shows to excite us. And yes I watch them too; but dam it; I have my own mind. We need to hold ourselves responsible not event organizers.

  • cloudzn

    I appreciate cosplay, wether its Jessica Nigri style or fully covered, some of the cosplayers spend hours working on it and one can only imagine the cost so asking permission first should be a must. As for inappropriate touching and cat calling, the 50s is over grow up men, as a guy I am throughly disgusted by this behaviour. I believe a stricter banning policy needs to be implemented wether the offender is male or female with charges being layed immediately. This is the only way to stop this behaviour.

Check Also

The brilliant cosplay of rAge Expo 2017

Another year of rAge, another year of absolutely brilliant cosplay. Have a look at some of…