Sexual harassment has always been a hot topic in society and has been discussed repeatedly from incidents in Hollywood to politics. But, it doesn’t just happen in places of public figures, sexual harassment has been a problem in the cosplay community as well.
Whether it’s a scantily clad superhero or a risque pin-up of someone’s favorite anime character or even a simple cosplay of a cartoon character, people will see cosplayers everywhere in conventions or online. Cosplay has become widely popular and people love viewing each of their pictures. The problem is some people behave inappropriately when they see these cosplayers. Either getting handsy at conventions, posting crude comments online, and sometimes, in one cosplayer’s case slipping ruffes into their drinks.
According to an article posted in LA Weekly, “Some con-goers tend to get over-excited when they see someone dressed up as their favorite character. But, not all of the harassment cases are that innocent. Some come with a twisted sense of reality that because they are dressed up as these characters they are no longer human, but objects. Things that can be toyed with. That is why conventions nowadays have to be more vigilant and create stricter harassment rules.”
With stricter rules, conventions would be able to make it a safer environment for con-goers and cosplayers alike. “The conventions themselves need to be just as open to conversation as the people who attend them. Security must be open and watchful of situations, and not just pass off people’s stories as ‘little things.’ Conventions need to make strong rules against the behavior or assault and avoid using victim-shaming language or rules while doing so.” A cosplayer from Cosplayers of Utah said. “They need to listen to attendees when they voice concerns about guests or panelists or attendees. They cannot be fully responsible all the time, but they need to start by setting parameters that exist to help victims feel empowered to speak up.”
When harassment happens in a convention or online, it begins to make cosplaying certain characters harder and less fun. These cosplayers are less likely to make or wear a costume that shows more skin or is more sexualized for fear of being harassed.
“I think that a lot of cosplayers tend to shy away from cosplays that can be revealing and that puts them in a situation where Cosplay is not Consent comes into play. This can restrict a cosplayer’s artistic freedom and their ability to be comfortable in not only their own skin but in their cosplay. It’s mainly for fear of what could happen to them. Especially speaking from experience,” A professional cosplayer from Utah said.
As sexual harassment becomes more noticeable in the cosplay community, several things have arisen to help stop it. Things such as the Cosplay is not Consent movement as Aspen mentioned–where people make it known both in social media and conventions that just because someone is dressed up as a certain character, does not make it ok to do whatever they wish to them. To groups of cosplayers banning together and patrolling social media and/or conventions to be on the lookout for anyone who does something without a cosplayer’s consent.
“Someone here (in Italy) proposed to organize a sort of group of superhero cosplayers, with masks to make them anonymous (ex. Spiderman or Deadpool) who would take turns to patrol the convention and if they see or are told about a bad episode, they would circle the harassers and single them out peacefully, by like shouting “perv” at him. I thought the idea would be funny to see and might actually work in some bigger conventions,” Imriel Cosplay, a professional Italian cosplayer said.
Overall, it’s clear that sexual harassment isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. And things can escalate very quickly if people aren’t aware of their surroundings or who exactly they are with. But, with stricter rules and movements like Cosplay is not Consent the cosplay community can be made a safer place.
“For a long time, the idea of randomly hugging people or making crude comments wasn’t ever called out, so there is this idea that those kinds of things are acceptable when they are not. If you see that type of behavior happening, say something. If you see a cosplayer in a situation where they look uncomfortable, act. Ask questions of cosplayers to see if that hug is appreciated or if they’d rather you not, complement the costume, not the way it makes their body look. Be willing to listen.” A cosplay photographer said.