Cosplay is Not Consent is Not Enough
Cosplay is Not Consent is Not Enough
Hello, hello. I’m sure you can all gather that once again the scheduled piece on the rebellion of fashion is not here. This is due to something truly horrifying that happened over the weekend at Anime Los Angeles and that I feel must be talked about.
For anyone who is not hugely active in Cosplay Twitter you may not have seen, but a cosplayer’s car was deliberately set on fire by another con attendee, which cause a massive fire by the convention hotel car park in the early hours of Sunday morning. Seven vehicles were destroyed, along with everything in them, but thankfully no one was hurt. What has come to light is that the man who set the fire was stalking the cosplayer and had been actively doing so for months, being well known the the cosplayer, her husband and her friends as a stalker. On her GoFundMe, to help cover the fire damage costs, the cosplayer in question called this man an “obsessed stalker”.
This incident is obviously scary and upsetting for many in the cosplay community, and that is not just because they are worried about this specific attack, though of course they are, but more because this type of behaviour is simply a more extreme version of the behaviour that is shown to cosplayers on a daily basis.
Now, I don’t normally talk about cosplay that much on here, mostly because I have a column on Down the Tubes to talk about all my thoughts on the subject and, you know, run a cosplay magazine, but I want to go into this as it is a much larger problem than any convention, news site or media organisation involved in cosplay or conventions, are willing to admit.
A few years ago there was a drive with the Cosplay is not Consent campaign, cosplayers sharing their stories of harassment, abuse or other inappropriate incidents at conventions or online. The aim was to educate people about what wasn’t acceptable behaviour as well as pushing for conventions to do more about these issues, and for cosplayers to back each other up if needed. It was wide spread, and still is, with many events, cons, websites and the like joining in with banners, harassment policies and the like. Since then, many cosplayers kept on pushing so that it wouldn’t be forgotten or ignored, but for most of the conventions and events they seemed to feel that they had done enough.
Despite the efforts of the cosplay community, there seems to be little to no change when it comes to harassment of, predominantly, female/femme cosplayers, with it being common place for them to be sent messages asking for nudes, sexual videos or asking for escorting services, along with abusive or sexual comments being left on their social media accounts and many reports of stalking, info doxxing and the like every day. Women and femme presenting folk are harassed whether they are cosplayers or not, but there is a special sort of, well, obsession and possession in the way that cosplayers are harassed. It would seem that those who consume the media created by cosplayers see them as little more than toys for their entertainment, figures of fantasy to play with in their heads and online how they see fit. They seem to not be able to draw any sort of line between fiction and reality, to the point of terrifying infatuation.
Last year a 15 year old cosplayer was killed by a man who stalked and befriended her in an online cosplay community. Somewhere that should have been safe for a teenager to explore her hobby, was used by a cosplay obsessed man to try and rape her and then murdered her. This man, who set fire to the car of a cosplayer in “revenge” for her simply being with her husband at a convention, because he believed that he had a right to her simply due to consuming the content she produced online. The behaviour of men online, towards cosplayers is not harmless, we cannot simply say “get a thicker skin” or “ignore it” because we are seeing that they are so much more dangerous than that, and it is proving once and for all that Cosplay is not Consent is not enough.
But what can be done? Here’s a few thoughts:
- Conventions should take any of this sort of behaviour seriously. A harassment policy is all very well but if it isn’t informed then what’s the point? If a cosplayer has provided information of a person who is harassing and stalking them, either online or at the event, to a convention they should make steps to make sure that person is not able to attend the con. It is not an easy thing to do, but the safety of the victim and other attendees should be put front and centre.
- Any company that is involved in cosplay events should have well trained, approachable staff on hand to deal with ANY incident and have a safe space away from the con hall(s) to help the victim, take statements and inform the police if needs be, and they should take all reports seriously, to the point of having perpetrators removed from the convention.
- Ban selfie sticks from conventions. This might seem a little odd, but selfie sticks have been used on multiple occasions to take up-skirt shots, take images under changing room or toilet doors as well as to general take images of people without their consent. Its a simple way to make things a little harder for creeps and possibly easier to catch out. It’s a lot more obvious if you are bending down to take a shot under a door after all.
- This is a very hard thing to enforce, but we need better policing of online spaces against harassment in general. But since no social media platforms are willing to step up to chuck Nazis off their sites or get rid of hate speech, it would seem unlikely that this will happen. So therefore companies, events organisers, cosplay pages/forum spaces, conventions and the like should have admin ready to deal with any form of harassment, be vigilant for any behaviour that may be worrying or could turn into harassment, be there to listen to those who come to them about abuse or harassment, and be willing to ban those who are behaving this way. Since the sites themselves are not stepping up (which they bloody well should, and not with lazy algorithms), the community must be aware.
- The biggest thing is, and always is, teach men and boys to respect women. Simply as that. So so simply, and yet so many don’t understand that women are not play things. They are people.
Women, cosplayers, are not there for men or their approval or their desires, no matter how they are dressed, what version of themselves they choose to share or how they choose to live their lives. If a cosplayer is making money from lewds, she is doing it for herself, not for men. If a cosplayer is not doing lewds or anything sexual, she is doing for herself, not for men. She is not being a tease or a slut or encouraging you to come into her space or touch her body or be in any form of relationship with you unless she gives EXPLICIT consent that is what’s happen (eg. “I want to be in a relationship with you” or “yes, I am ok with you hugging me”).
Consuming the content created by an artist of any sort does not give you rights to them or their work. You are the viewer, the consumer, and you have no say as to what that creator does with that work, or what they do with themselves regarding it – this is same of all creators of any sort, don’t be that person. If you are consuming the work that someone has put online then you should be grateful that they are sharing it with you. If you are paying to consume that content on Patreon or similar, then you are paying for the privilege of seeing that content as you would in a museum or art gallery; you have chosen to pay, you may look at the content, you may admire it, you do not touch it, and you move on. It is not yours. Very simple.
Or one would think so.
I know that what I am doing here is flogging a dead horse to a certain extent, and I wish I had more ways of stopping these things because it feels like a monolith of awful behaviour, crushing down on us that will only get worse no matter what we do, but I cannot be defeatist. We cannot be defeatist. We must build each other up, defend and protect our community as best we can. We must be loud about what is happening, share our stories so we are not alone, just as #metoo did last year. There are so many already out there doing this, but we must all do it.
And I’m done being preachy. I’m sorry this was not so much in the way of fun, but we will hopefully be back to that next time. Hopefully.
I will be posting all and everything that comes into my head on both of these, and chatting about life as a nonbinary person and a good amount of cosplay thrown in too. Oh and robots.
As always if you like what I’m doing here, please support me on Patreon for just $1 a month to get access to my posts, articles and all the info on The Cosplay Journal, Ray Gunn and Starburst and all my cosplay adventures!
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If you want more please check out my last articles:
- We Need to Talk About Ellie (Or Esports, Gaming Culture and Bad Behaviour)
- Are We Sitting Comfortably? The Tradition of the Christmas Ghost Story
- The Crimes of Grindelwald (Or The Crimes of Big Budget Movies)
- Coatsink Interview: Is the Future a Virtual Reality?
- An Examination of Horror (Or Why Am I Fascinated by Something so Scary!)
- The Town of Light: A Different Look into Mental Health in Horror
- Cute and Casual (Don’t Judge a Nonbinary Person by Their Cover)
- The Doctor’s New Clothes
Written by Holly Rose Swinyard