[Cosplay 101] Cosplay Harassment – Who’s Responsible?

Cosplay Harassment

Cosplay 101

 by AzHP Photography
by AzHP Photography

One good example of harassment was Luna Lanie’s experience at Momocon 2015 in Atlanta.

According to Luna, she experienced what many costumed con-goers do – unwanted attention. Yes, we dress up with the intent to be noticed, but it’s to be noticed, not groped. We dress up to express our love of the character, our skill, or just to have pictures taken.

Costumes do not mean “touch me,” at the most they mean “look at me.” And what is appropriate on TV, cartoons, or movies is not appropriate in real life. It doesn’t matter what they are wearing, who they are portraying, or who you are dressed as. The rule to follow is Hands Off!

Roshi is a dirty old man in DragonBall, but this cosplayer still respects boundaries, even in full character.

And the same rule of appropriateness also applies to photographers… follow societal norms. Just because the anime always shows upskirt shots, underwear and bouncing anatomy, does not mean those are appropriate picture for you to take. Yes, that cosplayer may have done photo shoots with those elements, but those are in controlled situations by photographers they feel comfortable with and, most importantly, it was their decision to have the photos taken and to make them publicly available. You do not have the right.

What Luna experienced is not uncommon and unfortunately everyone is pointing fingers everywhere but where they should be…at themselves. Everyone involved in the incidents are responsible to some degree.


Is Luna responsible? Possibly.

When people started grabbing, touching, holding, or even commenting, what was her immediate reaction? Did she just grin and bear it, quietly shift away, or did she actually make her discomfort obvious and immediately known? What she is wearing is irrelevant, whether it is a Mu-mu or a few pieces of artfully placed thread. It should be obvious that the rule is hands off. Not everyone thinks before they act.

Many people are frequently blind to the body language of others so a silent message isn’t going to get through. Other people like to ham it up, oblivious to the fact that they are behaving inappropriately. Then there are those that just don’t think about their actions – they see something they like and have to touch. With a simple verbal reprimandm, most of these people would get the message. But there are always the ones out there that are fully aware of what they are doing, don’t care and take full advantage of the situation. Those are the ones we need to look out for.

Are the convention organizers responsible? Yes.

Many cons have taken steps that may not eliminate the problems, but at least make people aware of them. The Cosplay is Not Consent signs are seen, and even if people don’t stop and read the whole thing, the idea is there and has been implanted in the back of their minds. Some cons, such as Bronycon, are taking it a step further with color coded badges, that seem to be working wonderfully.

brony con badges

They also need to educate and monitor their own staff. Yes, most con staff are volunteers so it is difficult to be too restrictive with them, but there needs to be clearly defined rules with penalties for harassment of any sort. The cons also need to take complaints seriously and to understand that with so many people in attendance, it will be difficult to point fingers at particular individuals.

Are the attendees responsible? Definitely

Everyone should be responsible for their own actions. If it isn’t acceptable behavior in a shopping mall or at work, then it isn’t appropriate at the con. I don’t care if Luna had chosen to show up stark naked and prance down the center aisle, that still gives no one the right to touch. Looking and taking photos is perfectly fine; she’s there to be seen, not manhandled. As a con attendee, you need keep in mind a key element and that is to ALWAYS ASK FIRST.

As a con attendee, it is also your responsibility to ensure that others don’t cross the lines. Some people have trouble expressing when a line has been crossed. If you see something inappropriate, do something about it. Say something, step in front of a photographer, accidentally ‘bump’ them away from the person; it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you take action.

stopWhether you are a cosplayer, photographer, vendor, or just an attendee, YOU need to do something to stop it. This is all going to continue until WE step forward and make it known that it is unacceptable behavior. DO something to stop it.

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