Home Opinion Let’s talk about Cosplay and Consent

Let’s talk about Cosplay and Consent

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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.

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.

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

72 Comments

  1. Gavin Mannion

    October 17, 2017 at 12:37

    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

    Reply

    • Alessandro Barbosa

      October 17, 2017 at 12:39

      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

      Reply

    • Gareth Lagesse (eXCheez)

      October 17, 2017 at 12:43

      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.

      Reply

      • Gavin Mannion

        October 17, 2017 at 12:49

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

        Reply

        • Gareth Lagesse (eXCheez)

          October 17, 2017 at 12:51

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

          Reply

      • Sageville

        October 17, 2017 at 12:51

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

        Reply

        • Gareth Lagesse (eXCheez)

          October 17, 2017 at 12:53

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

          Reply

        • Thewindrunnercosplayer

          October 17, 2017 at 16:10

          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.

          Reply

      • Gavin Mannion

        October 17, 2017 at 12:55

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

        Reply

      • Conan the Barbarian

        October 17, 2017 at 15:13

        Is cosplay not a performance?

        Reply

    • Skittle

      October 17, 2017 at 12:54

      I agree with your disagreement.

      Reply

    • Geoffrey Tim

      October 17, 2017 at 12:55

      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.

      Reply

      • Nick de Bruyne

        October 17, 2017 at 14:25

        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

        Reply

      • Nick de Bruyne

        October 17, 2017 at 14:29

        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

        Reply

    • Allykhat

      October 17, 2017 at 14:05

      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.

      Reply

    • Conan the Barbarian

      October 17, 2017 at 15:10

      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.

      Reply

    • Gerard Matthews

      October 17, 2017 at 19:01

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

      Reply

  2. Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

    October 17, 2017 at 12:46

    Humans. Sigh

    Reply

    • Sgt. M

      October 17, 2017 at 12:58

      *Degenerates

      Reply

  3. Frik van der Hewerskink

    October 17, 2017 at 12:52

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

    Reply

  4. Sageville

    October 17, 2017 at 12:52

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

    Reply

    • Geoffrey Tim

      October 17, 2017 at 12:57

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

      Reply

      • Magoo

        October 17, 2017 at 13:01

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

        Reply

    • VampyreSquirrel

      October 17, 2017 at 16:31

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

      Reply

  5. Sgt. M

    October 17, 2017 at 13:01

    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?

    Reply

    • Skittle

      October 17, 2017 at 13:04

      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.

      Reply

    • Magoo

      October 17, 2017 at 13:05

      SPECIES* CHANGE TO SPECIES QUICK

      Reply

      • Sgt. M

        October 17, 2017 at 14:53

        Human race

        Reply

  6. Original Heretic

    October 17, 2017 at 13:18

    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.

    Reply

    • Tracy Benson

      October 17, 2017 at 13:19

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

      Reply

      • Original Heretic

        October 17, 2017 at 13:24

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

        Reply

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      October 17, 2017 at 13:23

      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.

      Reply

      • Original Heretic

        October 17, 2017 at 13:26

        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.

        Reply

    • Phaezen

      October 17, 2017 at 13:25

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

      Reply

      • Geoffrey Tim

        October 17, 2017 at 13:27

        100% – and the response so far has been a little wishy washy tbh.

        Reply

  7. Nikola

    October 17, 2017 at 14:20

    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;)

    Reply

    • Nick de Bruyne

      October 17, 2017 at 14:33

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

      Reply

      • Nikola

        October 17, 2017 at 14:36

        hahahahaa:)

        Reply

  8. HairyEwok

    October 17, 2017 at 14:37

    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……..

    Reply

    • Nikola

      October 17, 2017 at 14:48

      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:)

      Reply

      • HairyEwok

        October 17, 2017 at 14:54

        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.

        Reply

        • Phaezen

          October 17, 2017 at 14:58

          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.

          Reply

        • Nikola

          October 17, 2017 at 14:58

          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…

          Reply

          • HairyEwok

            October 17, 2017 at 15:04

            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

            October 17, 2017 at 15:55

            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

          October 17, 2017 at 15:51

          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.

          Reply

        • Gareth Lagesse (eXCheez)

          October 17, 2017 at 16:07

          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

          Reply

        • Sageville

          October 17, 2017 at 16:10

          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).

          Reply

    • Phaezen

      October 17, 2017 at 14:54

      Repeat after me: Cosplay is not consent.

      Reply

    • BakedBagel

      October 17, 2017 at 17:37

      Nope, you will get shat on for asking questions.

      Reply

  9. Braiden Becker

    October 17, 2017 at 16:58

    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.

    Reply

  10. Gerard Matthews

    October 17, 2017 at 19:31

    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.

    Reply

  11. cloudzn

    October 18, 2017 at 11:36

    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.

    Reply

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