Cosplay is NOT Consent: The Movement that Shook a Culture

It’s storytime, kiddies! Gather ’round, gather ’round! Have I a tale to tell!

Picture it: Anime Expo, 2011.

It’s a pleasant summer day as cosplayers, geeks, nerds, and otaku gather at Chicago’s very own Rosemont Convention Center to partake in the joy that is an anime convention. I was amongst these wonderful, colorful folks, and I was cosplaying as one of my favorite anime characters:

Kan-u Unchou from the manga, “Battle Vixens”, aka, “Ikki Tousen“:

As I am pursing the Artist’s Alley area of the convention, checking out some absolutely fantastic artwork, I feel someone brush past me in a hurry. And by “brush past me,” I mean, “Rushed past me and smacked my ass in the process.” I turned around so fast my head almost spun, but this guy held up his hands and said, “WHOA. SORRY. Such an accident.” And me being…well, let’s just say I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, told him it hadn’t been a problem.

…Until I saw him do it again to another cosplayer. Let’s call this a prime example of being at the right place at the right time, because less than one hour later, a friend and I went to go check out the yaoi booth for some hot guy-on-hot guy action. I saw a girl dressed up as a simple maid/cat girl, except her cosplay was a leotard with thigh-highs and a white, ruffled maid ensemble. Suffice to say, her butt was sticking out as she was detailing which manga she was specifically looking for. I saw the very same guy from earlier, whispering to three or four of his friends, before he goes and makes a beeline for her.

If Erika (my friend) and I hadn’t seen it with our own eyes, we wouldn’t have believed it. He walked right past her, in a “hurry,” but in a way that when he bumped her, he grabbed a handful of her butt. She looked around, obviously shocked, but he pulled his absolutely shocked and mortified face, and apologized profusely. She gave him the same hesitant look before accepting his apology. And before he could even walk off, Erika stormed over to him, grabbed him by his arm, and said, “You sick motherfucker!”

I looked over at his friends, who scattered like sprayed roaches, and make my way over to the booth. We explained to the man running the booth that this pervert had been pulling this sick stunt all day, and he was quick to alert con security. But his excuse? Wait for it…

“Shit, they’re the ones dressed like sluts. If they’re putting it out, I’m free to touch. C’mon, it was just a joke!”

Because sexually harassing someone is totally funny. Ha. Fucking. Ha. Stories like these, where men (and women) feel that they are entitled to a grab or perhaps to make some sort of lewd/vulgar comment, are reasons why the most epic movement in the cosplay community was started.

I would post an actual link to their page, but some asshole has recently hacked the page and made a mockery out of what this entire movement is about. And not to pull the sexism card, but I’m 99% sure it was a dude. Mainly because, statsitically speaking, 89% of complaints about sexual harassment that are reported have stated that the perpetrator has been male. But that isn’t to say that women aren’t guilty of sexually harassing male cosplayers as well; it just happens less frequently, or is less reported.

Cosplay is Not Consent was founded earlier this year, in 2013, as a response to those people, be they male or female, who believe that how a person is dressed, regardless of how scantily clad they are, is an invitation to just walk up to them, manhandle them in any sort of sexual way, or make disgusting/lewd comments.

It’s just about on the same tier as the Slut Walk movement, where women dress up (or dress down), and protest that how women are dressed is not an invitation to rape them. Period.

What’s bothersome about this is that there are more and more people protesting Cosplay is Not Consent; not because they want to run around and molest people, but because they simply don’t take it seriously. The biggest argument (and really, it’s not even an argument) is this: “Well, if she wasn’t dressed like such a slut, it wouldn’t happen.”

Gee. That sure does sound familiar. It sounds like, “Well, if you don’t want to get raped, don’t dress like a slut.”

Frankly, I’m all for taking back that word. What is the anatomy of a “slut?” Short skirts, cleavage showing, high heels, and flirty, right? Yeah, that sounds about right. Oh, and drunk. This “slut” is always drunk, and then she goes running to police, crying her eyes out about how she was violently and savagely raped because she was drunk, suddenly changed her mind about having sex, and then was forced into it anyway.

Yep. It’s all her fault if that happens.

Now. Does that mindset sicken you, or does it sicken you? And if you’re one of those people who believes that, get the fuck off this page, get the fuck off the internet, and kindly, get the fuck off this planet. Do you know what we call that? Slut shaming.

As far as this goes in cosplay, can we please take a moment to observe some irony? Case in point. Let’s say a girl is dressed up as, say…Power Girl, who is known for her “keyhole” – a gaping hole in her costume.

She’s notorious  for it. And while we’re on the subject, let’s take a peek at a few other famous women ladies love to cosplay:

Emma Frost aka The White Queen

Starfire

Black Canary

Black Cat

Yoko

Tifa.

You know, just to name a few. Now, for the irony? Ready for it? Ya sure? Wait for it…..

These female cosplayers, the same ones who put their hard-earned time, money, sanity, and overall dedication into making sure their costumes are on point only to debut them and get called names such as “Slut,” “Skank,” “Whore,” or anything else demeaning, often wonder, “What did I do wrong?” And the answer:

Nothing. Because they were only cosplaying female characters, whose costumes were designed by men, to appeal to the same men who have the audacity to turn around and call them these names.

That’s the irony of it all: women are coming under the heavier fire for wearing cosplay, inspired by the same costume their beloved character wears – that a man designed. Believe me, if women had actually drawn these characters, I’m 99% sure they would have at least made them believable. Nevermind the absolutely impossible bodies these characters are given (huge breasts, tiny waists, huge thighs, and asses), which opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms because that’s when the body shaming begins, but these same men (and women!) have the audacity to walk up to a cosplayer dressed as Wonder Woman or Slave Leia, and call them these names?

Well. I’m sure you see where the greatest irony lies in all of this.

Most people don’t realize it, and find it perfectly acceptable to walk up to a cosplayer and say things such as, “How big are your tits?” or “Wow, your ass looks great.” This is why we need the Cosplay is Not Consent movement. It’s a simple, effective rule that should be bloody common sense – or so you’d think, right?

Apparently not. People need to learn that rape culture has spilled over into the cosplay scene and that it’s absolutely wrong to sexually harass or assault a cosplayer (regardless of gender), simply because some creep couldn’t keep his hands to his or herself, or believed that “red dress is definitely a yes/she wants it” and excuses his or her actions by saying, “Well, maybe if she weren’t dressed like such a slut” or, “I couldn’t resist touching his junk! It’s his fault!”

This is why we need Cosplay is Not Consent.

Because “common sense” is apparently not that common. Keep your hands to yourself, admire the cosplay the cosplayer has worked very hard on. Regardless of how turned on you are by his or her body, really, have some class and respect. Even if she is dressed in what you would consider a “questionable” way, the worst thing you’re doing to help the situation, is comforting a girl who has had her butt grabbed, or an upskirt shot taken, and saying, “Well…you know, maybe if…”

Stop right there. The best way to handle a situation such as someone grabbing you inappropriately or just flat-out being nasty – i.e, asking your bra size, penis size, etc, is this:

Step 1: Call them out on their bullshit.

Step 2: Refuse to speak to them.

Step 3: In the case of physical, sexual harassment, tell someone. Alert the staff ASAP.

Step 4: GET LOUD. “Where do you think you’re touching?!” “Hey! What the fuck are you doing?” “Don’t touch me like that!” Draw attention; cons are just full of horny fangirls and fanboys – someone will help you. I understand 10000% percent how humiliating it is to be felt up or the victim of a pervert. BUT DON’T STAY QUIET. That’s what they want; just like that twatwaffle who thought he could get away by playing “innocent” while groping girls.

Still. It’s a damn shame when we actually need movements and protests such as Cosplay is Not Consent. Respecting a cosplayer’s hard work and their commitment to the character shouldn’t result in being felt up or being asked if they want to go and have a quick fuck in the bathroom.

Class and respect: have both when attending cons and just keep your damn hands to yourself unless you have consent.

Have fun. And keep cosplaying.

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4 thoughts on “Cosplay is NOT Consent: The Movement that Shook a Culture

  1. This is a very well-written piece and very informative in its perspective. It’s sad the rape culture that exists and that people still don’t know what’s appropriate to say or do, and that they blame someone for dressing a certain way as an out to excuse their poor behavior. It wouldn’t matter if this woman was standing in the room completely naked – it would in no way be okay to make any remarks of a disparaging nature. Offer her clothes to cover her modesty? Sure. Offer to take her upstairs? Absolutely not.

  2. Thank you for the awesome post. The ongoing rape culture that has leaked into geek culture is sickening and it saddens me. Also it doesn’t matter at all what someone is wearing, you will have to potential to be leered at, assaulted or called names and be treated like an object because you’re cosplaying a character they spank off too. I recently wanted to get back into the cosplay scene after a few years of hiatus, then I remembered why i quit.
    I was cosplaying a human version of Fluttershy from My Little Pony, completely covered complete with tights and a cardigan. Yet some guy thought it was okay to put his hand on my back and say I should come back to his hotel room, and then call me a slut when I refused. After that I quit going to cons and removed myself from MLP forums and fangroups because from my experience, the local bronies do not know what is okay to say to someone.

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