Cosplay Is NOT Consent

Cosplay is appearing in costume play to have fun and hang out with friends and fellow fans.  Often cosplayers go to Conventions for Comic Books, pop culture, science fiction, and steampunk.  Appearing in costume, sometimes form fitting and attractive superhero garb is a fun time.  However, there is a growing negative trend of people showing up to not only ogle the cosplayers, but to shout out sexual comments, obscenities, make propositions, or even touch or grope these cosplayers.  Not only is this wrong, illegal and demeaning to the cosplayers, who often show up at the event at great cost in money, outfit preparation and make-up, but it also ruins what they have worked for so long – a chance to relax and have fun with their friends of similar interests.

This is a good article here that Cosplay is NOT Consent.  Just because a cute person is in costume, does not make them an object to fondle.  Even at an actual strip club, patrons cannot simply reach up and touch performers, what makes people think they can do that to a person dressed in a cosplay outfit?  In addition, many of the cosplayers are underage, and could not give legal consent if they wished.  Some of these unrestrained pervert assaulters are harrassing children.

I have several friends in the cosplay community, and I dress as well in steampunk and other outfits (though not so well) myself.  A couple of very cool young ladies who cosplay, and happen to also be very pretty, were being “interviewed” by media with a camera.  All the ogling cameraman and reported could do were make sexual references and questions.  “What is your favorite sexual position?”  Really?!  Asking young women in costumes having fun at a comic book convention about their sex life on camera?  This really needs to stop now.  Here is an article on the topic”

The Beginnings of CONsent

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 April 3, 2013


Last weekend at Wondercon 2013, I began work on a project I have wanted to do for some time now. As many of our readers may know, there has been escalating tension within the convention going community regarding the physical and emotional safety of cosplayers. Last week, cosplayer Meagan Marie spoke outagainst the people within the gaming industry who treat female cosplayers as pieces of meat, only there for the enjoyment of men. This, and the continued discussion within my circle of cosplay friends has pushed my plans forward, and I now present to you the beginnings of my photo essay, inspired by#IneedFeminismBecause; “CONsent: The Importance of Treating Cosplayers with Respect.

I presented cosplayers with a wipe off board, simply reading “Cosplay =/= Consent” and asked them about their experiences of harassment. I was not surprised to hear many horrible stories from women and men alike. These can be as seemingly harmless and annoying as not asking for permission before taking a picture or bothering them for a picture or interview while they were taking a water or food break. But the majority of the stories were more serious and ranged from threats of violence to inappropriate touching, and from lewd facebook messages to stalking.


The consensus is that it isn’t safe to be a woman in cosplay. Yirico, a cosplayer known for being a Crunchyroll Ambassador and an excellent demonic form Catherine cosplayer, mentioned to me that when she wore that particular costume (which covers literally her whole body head-to-toe and even covers her face in thick, white foundation,) someone still made her self-conscious by commenting loudly on the size of her bottom.

“Men often start with their hand at my waist or shoulder when they ask for a picture with me,” one young woman recalled, “But then their fingers wander to my butt, or stroke my back… And it makes me so uncomfortable. I just want to yell, ‘Hands off!’”

Another said, “Lots of guys have used asking for my photo as a segue to asking for my number. When I turn them down, they always call me a bitch or something much worse.”

And cosplaying women aren’t the only ones this problem affects. “Some guys will put their hands on my girlfriend right in front of me,” one non-cosplayer said of his fantastically costumed girlfriend. “I can always tell that she hates it, but I can’t really step in to help her without looking like a possessive jerk or an obsessed fanboy.”

One photographer mentioned that when he is working with a cosplayer and sees someone trying to take a picture of her butt or up her skirt, he jumps in front of their camera, blocking the shot with his own crotch. This draws attention to the pervert and can shame them, while also protecting the cosplayer. This, and the constant attention I got as a female photographer in cosplay myself, also prompted me to expand my project to include a gallery of “Caught Creep” photos: pictures of photographers trying to take sneaky and/or pervy pictures of cosplayers without their consent.

EDIT: Please note — this was not intended as a personal attack against people who were taking normal convention pictures from afar without asking, but rather meant to point out and stand up to people who were trying to take inappropriate pictures of cosplayers without their consent (e.g. an ass shot, down the shirt, while they were bending over, right after they specifically said “no” to a picture, etc.) This is also not intended as defamation in any way, shape, or form. Many cosplayers frown upon those who don’t ask for pictures, but we would like to take the personal stance that this can be ok under certain circumstances that don’t endanger or majorly inconvenience them. We also would like to state that when in doubt, it is ALWAYS better to ask a cosplayer for permission.

As disheartened as I was by the stories, I was also inspired by the enthusiasm and encouragement that so many of them had for the project. Often, before I could rattle off my intro speech, cosplayers would read my sign and shout “YES!” “OH MY GOD, THIS!” or “THANK YOU SO MUCH!” Many of the cosplayers and photographers I spoke to even wanted to personalize their statement or use this project as a venue to speak their mind about the subject. Others beckoned more of their friends over to participate too, or mentioned that they wanted to contribute more to the project somehow by spreading it through their fanpages or local communities.

This is just the beginning. I will be traveling to as many conventions as I can across the West Coast and taking more and more portraits, but I am only one person. There are so many places that I, alone, will not be able to reach… Even with help from the other Sirens, this project cannot succeed fully without the help and support of the global fan community.

That is where you come in. Whether or not you are a cosplayer, you can contribute a picture of yourself holding a sign that says Cosplay =/= Consent or anything else you feel is appropriate to convey your feelings. Additionally, whenever you are at a convention and catch someone in the act of taking a sneaky, unauthorized photo of a cosplayer, please snap a photo of them and submit it under #CaughtCreep. You can submit viaFacebook (tagging our page in the photo,) on InstagramTwitter, or Tumblr with the tag #CONsent, or directly to us via email. If you are a photographer or organization who would like to gather many photos and contribute, please contact us about setting up a joint gallery and the materials necessary to make it happen at various events.

We are looking for stories and more images starting immediately! We would love for as many people to participate as possible, but in the end we would like to have a complete gallery on flickr (and maybe even work towards making a formal book) so please let us know what you have contributed, no matter how small, and how to credit you when reposting your submission in our galleries.

To share your story, you can comment here, on facebook (publicly or via private message,) via email or any other method you can think of. If you wish to remain anonymous please say so in your message. We humbly ask that you keep us in the loop and mention us in your submission so that we can better keep track of every image to have the most complete gallery possible.

The full gallery collected thus far can be viewed on our flickr page here. Thank you for your support and I hope you are as inspired by these brave individuals as I am.


Filed under Humor and Observations

8 responses to “Cosplay Is NOT Consent

  1. Okay — I’m going to be devil’s advocate here.

    While I agree that it is not cool under any circumstances to assault or harass anyone, at the same time . . . you also have to recognize that some of these characters, particularly the female ones, are designed with objectification and fantasy in mind, so if that’s going to make you uncomfortable to draw stares and lewd comments, then you might want to think carefully about that. It may not be fair, but it’s also reality.

    Don’t dress as Power Girl with her ‘boob window’ and then complain random guys are staring at your chest or trying to snap pictures of your cleavage and completely ignoring all the hard work you put into the costume as a whole. You can make every valid and eloquent arguement of why the X-Men’s Emma Frost wears a costume that’s essentially bondage gear . . . but there are going to be people who are just going to write you off as a bit of an exhibitionist who wants to wear Victoria’s Secret and stroll through a crowded convention hall.

    You could cosplay as Princess Leia from Episode IV in a more elegant gown, or you can do Slave Leia from Return of the Jedi . . . same character, two completely different ‘messages’ being sent there.

    Those are examples from a more extreme end of the spectrum, and no, not every cosplayer is an exhibitionist, but if you’re wearing very form-fitting clothing that leaves little to the imagination, or that is showing a lot of skin, you probably shouldn’t be shocked that some people are going to react poorly.

    Also be cognizant of the fact that cons are now more pop culture events that are going to draw a larger and more diverse crowd. There’s a type of attendee who is there now not for fandom but for the carnival / sideshow vibe. To them you are literally just an attraction, part of the ticket price, and they feel little shame acting in a boorish manner. Worst case scenario to them, they get asked by security to leave, which is no big deal, they were just there for kicks, anyway.

    Fans who get too grabby and pervy and can’t control themselves, I’ll totally agree that’s not cool, and it wouldn’t be okay whether you’re in a costume or not.

    But being too upset that people are taking dubious photos on the sly, without express permission . . . you *are* kind of willingly putting yourself on a pedestal and up for public display. You may think of it as lack of manners but to people outside your specific subculture, the first thing they’re going to say is “Well, if you don’t want people to take pictures, don’t dress up in spandex and go into public.”

    Just as a tip if you’re trying to spread awareness of this issue — which I think is totally valid — you may want to package this message carefully, because as soon as the discussion starts to drift into the area that you’re complaining that people are paying attention to you because you’re dressed up, that starts to get into whining that you’re in an elaborate costume in a public place but only want people to interact with you a certain way, under your specific terms.


    • Michael Bradley

      Women wear much less and act more provocative in nightclubs but that does not justify groping them, taking their pictures or calling out lewd sexual comments. If you did that in any other public place you would be in trouble or ostracized. You seriously cannot even do that in a strip joint or adult club. So why then at a Comic Book Convention? I know many of the cosplayers personally, some are very young, some married, others building up a professional modeling career with real photographers and are paid to be at booths. They are not geisha girls. I think you are wrong on this. If you look great, male or female, and you wear tight clothing, it is not “asking” for anything. Stares and sighs and ahhs, sure. But not touching or yelling crude things at them. They are people, not robots.


      • ” If you look great, male or female, and you wear tight clothing, it is not “asking” for anything. Stares and sighs and ahhs, sure. ”

        That’s a contradictory statement: they want the stares, sighs, and ahhs, but don’t want to deal with lewd comments.

        You can’t attempt to provoke a reaction from someone with your appearance and always assume you’re going to get the exact reaction you want or are comfortable with.

        I’m obviously not talking about groping or touching — that’s never acceptable, period.

        But the comments . . . it’s unfortunately going to happen, and you have to suck it up and deal with it and decide whether you want to cosplay or if the comments bother you that much, which is more important to you.

        My girlfriend dyes her hair loud, unnatural colors and has multiple visible tattoos and piercings. (This is not a hypothetical example.)

        She gets quite a bit of compliments from complete strangers on her style when we’re out in public. . . and she does, on occassion, have people cop a negative attitude and even say rude things to her just based on the way she looks.

        When that happens and she gets upset, I gently remind her that she can’t have the compliments without taking the occassional barb. Is the negativity ‘called for’? No, it’s not. She’s the sweetest female I’ve ever met, quiet and introverted, but she does make an impression on people just based on how she looks.

        But she chose to make that impression — she wasn’t born with pink hair, piercings, and tattoos. If it bothers her that much, she probably shouldn’t go for the bright pink hair and wear tops that cover her tattoos better, or take the piercings out when she’s in public.

        As for guys taking pictures without ‘permission’ (and this is where the line starts to get blurred for me) — again, you want the attention, that comes with the territory. That’s like celebrities wanting their currency of fame yet getting angry because people show enough interest in them to want to snap a photograph unless its a situation that’s completely under their control.

        Most girls don’t go to nightclubs dressed like superheroines. Pretty sure if they did, they be asked for photos and have them taken regardless if they were okay with it or not.

        That’s my point: draw a line when you’re taking a stand on this issue to the things that are really important and don’t dilute it with “I hate when I wear spandex and people take pictures of my butt.”


      • Michael Bradley

        Still wrong. Let’s take your girlfriend and you and you go to the beach. She wears a bikini, and looks good and has unusual hair. So strangers can come grope her, grab her butt, yell for everyone to hear that they want to f her, and strangers with cameras can come up while she is swimming or lying next to you on a blanket and take pictures? Reporters can come over and say they are covering the beach scene, then ask her about her sex history? You would be ok with that right, because wearing a bikini at the beach is “asking for it?” Just like wearing a costume that you look good in at a comic convention is “asking for it.” You are just really wrong about this.


  2. Bradley, I think you’re missing the point which Allan is trying to make. Most popular shonen anime are targeted towards male audiences and have female characters designed and dressed for the sole purpose of titillation. Dressing up like that is actually asking for it. What you are saying is akin to making provocative religious speeches but not expecting any outbreak of violence because violence is wrong. Nobody is justifying groping or leching or violence but there are always going to be rotten tomatoes anywhere. Maybe you can arrest them or whatever, but you will never eliminate them. Freedom also brings responsibility. If one cannot accept the consequences of their actions, its best that they do not indulge in them. I’m quite certain that groping and leching and secret camera shots happen in strip clubs and beaches as well.


  3. Michael Bradley

    I am not missing the point, I understand both of your viewpoints. I just believe you are wrong. Anytime you use the phrase “asking for it” it should be a big red flag to you that you are wrong. Justifying harassment by saying the person “asked for it” or “knew what would happen” makes you sound like an un-repentant rapist to most of modern society. If a woman walks out nude in public at a PETA protest against fur and eating meat, she is not “asking” to be raped or molested. You can never justify or excuse improper behavior by saying someone “asked for it” by appearing at a comic convention dressed as a character.


    • Michael Bradley

      I also want to add, that I approve each comment individually on my blog site, so I welcome dissenting viewpoints such as your own. I think it is very healthy for us to be able to discuss how we disagree on important issues like this. It is much better than people keeping their viewpoints bottled up.


  4. Excellent article 🙂

    Yes, maybe taking photos on the sly is a minor transgression (depending on how sleazy a photo we are talking here) but it’s still not cool. I’m sure most of the girls would be happy to pose for a photo if you just ask them.

    But if you’re spending too much time defending the sleazy-photo takers – you’re missing much of the point. The main target here is guys that think it’s okay to grope or shout lewd things (ie. blatant sexual harassment) … Just don’t do it.

    Here’s another article I like on a similar subject …


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