Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Does Cosplay Equal Consent?

I'm not sure how many of you are into cosplay or attend comic book conventions but a popular topic lately has been "Cosplay Does Not Equal Consent". This message is mostly backed by women who cosplay and feel they have been violated by men at conventions or online because of how they are dressed. This bothers me so much for multiple reasons. I felt like it would be an interesting subject to discuss and see what you guys and gals think.

First of all, I will openly say that I do not support cosplayers who dress immodestly or provocatively in public. That goes for men and women. I do not want to see a girl dressed in basically her underwear around a convention or a man in a speedo! As much as I love a good-looking guy like every other girl, I'm sure his wife or girlfriend wouldn't be pleased if she knew I was checking him out. Yes, the human body is a beautiful thing and our bodies should be celebrated, but I believe our bodies are also sacred and shouldn't be displayed for all of the world to see. I also know that many of the comic book characters we see are drawn to look very exaggerated. The women are drawn to be tall with itty-bitty waists, voluptuous bottoms, and "blessed" chests while the men are ripped beyond belief and have perfect bone structure. For the most part, real people don't look like that unless they've unnaturally enhanced their bodies. I agree that it's cool when people look exactly like the character they're cosplaying as, but taking steroids and getting a boob job is going way too far. Working out, using make-up/prosthetics, and dying your hair a different color can be examples of what I think is "okay" in the realm of trying to look like a comic book character.

Here's where it gets down to the nitty-gritty. Do women (and/or men) have the right to rebuke people who grab them without consent or say inappropriate things to them? In a perfect world, the answer would be yes. People shouldn't have to fear being violated if they want to express their fandom by dressing as a specific character. However, we don't live in a perfect world and people can be repulsive animals sometimes. While men are usually blamed for being the ones who contribute to these inappropriate gestures, I have seen women do it too. Both men and women are visually driven. If a man sees a very toned woman wearing barely anything but spandex, of course he's going to feel inclined to make a move or say something! That's how men are wired! With that said, I feel like it's the cosplayers responsibility to be aware of what they are wearing and react maturely, not the audience.

If you want to dress as a sexy Catwoman or a shirtless Thor, go for it. That's your choice and shouldn't be influenced by what others think. However, don't expect people to behave and treat you with value and respect. In today's society, sex sells and we all know that. Like I said before, both men and women are driven by what they see. People are idiots! They will completely forget about respect and personal space if they see huge boobs or perfectly toned abs in front of them. If you don't want people touching you or taking pictures of you while you're dressed scantily, then you might want to reconsider cosplaying. Whether you like it or not, eventually you will encounter a situation where someone is being inappropriate towards you. I think how you deal with it is the most important part, which is entirely up to yourself.

So to conclude this post, I think everyone who preaches "Cosplay Does Not Equal Consent" needs to reevaluate what they're saying. Because in reality, people will always be inconsiderate and there's nothing you can do about that. Next time you're cosplaying, be mindful of what you're wearing, how it can be perceived by the people around you, and how you will respond if someone violates you.

I'm sure some of you won't agree with what I've said in this post, and that's perfectly fine. I'd love to hear what you think so please leave a comment below.


  1. I couldn't agree more with what you've written... well said!

  2. I'm a very big fan of put up or shut up. What this means is simple, if you dress like a skank, you probably will be treated as one, no sympathy.

    Don't cry if someone says something to you. Touching is a grey area, is it allowed? Not without consent, will it happen (I'm sure it does). You don't want to be gawked at or fondled?

    It's simple: Don't Dress Like a Skank. DDLS.

  3. Yes! Thank you for this. This is exactly how I feel on this subject. People want respect, yet they don't even respect themselves to begin with. It's just wrong. If a female is gonna dress like a you-know-what, then she's gonna be treated like that. There are ways to dress like a character and not be provocative about it.
    Heck, my own costume design (created wholly by me) has been designed for beauty, yet modesty. Yes, there is such a thing!

  4. Really great post, Savanna! I think this rings true. If women (and or men) want respect, but dress in a way that doesn't exactly inspire it--they really shouldn't be surprised when they are treated poorly. This is especially true for women! Men are, as you said, very VERY visual! They respond to what they see more than what they hear. And this is true even outside of cosplay! At college I hear stories about young women having problems with men saying something or doing something they weren't okay with. However, their arguments sometimes lose their potency when these girls want to dress in see through clothes. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that women should just 'roll with the punches' in this area at all, but I do believe that they should dress responsibly. Realize that the way they dress is part of the way they present themselves and if they are presenting themselves in an unfavorable light they will be treated unfavorably. Your post is right on the mark!:D Absolutely amazing job! :D

  5. Great post girl!!! I agree wholeheartedly, as a cosplayer you can't expect people to keep their hands to themselves, because let's face it, people are JERKS. They'll do what they want, be as rude and inappropriate as they want, when they want, and you have NO control over that. Should they stop? Yes. Will they? NOT UP TO YOU.
    So definitely work on what you /can/ control and avoid getting into those situations in the first place. If you want to dress as a character who wears tight costumes, okay, fine, but there are ways to do that without looking like a slut, ya know?
    Good job on this post, your essay/article writing is so great, mine is pathetic. Haha! You rock babe.
    Love you,
    Gracie <3

  6. Savannah,
    I have done living history most of my life. My 12 year old daughter is starting to get into cosplay (just did a marvelous Link costume) and I am planning on taking her and my son to Celebration here in L.A.

    As a father, and a Christian I struggle with whether to encourage my daughter in her desire to cosplay. I love costuming and love to see her enjoying it as well. But as you show here you are more than aware of why I might be concerned. Reading your posts are wonderful for me to see a young lady living out her convictions in the cosplay world.

    Thank you.

  7. I think one of the reasons this can be a tricky issue is because it dances around the edges of the cultural response to rape, as well.

    Was it the girl's fault because she was dressed a certain way?

    Or was it the boy's fault because he forced himself on her?

    (To use the most common statistical victim/aggressor genders.)

    I don't think this has to be an either/or question. Whether we're talking about inappropriate touching or harassment in response to cosplay or in response to a party dress, it's the same issue.

    And I think both parties carry responsibility.

    "Cosplay does not equal consent" is an important message. It needs to be said. It needs to be clear that courtesy and respect should always be practiced, at all times.

    Just because some people WILL be discourteous and disrespectful doesn't mean we stop teaching and expecting and promoting proper behavior. We should do it all the more!

    On the flip side, the person wearing the costume (or the party dress) always carries the responsibility for their choices. Pretending that dressing immodestly isn't an advertisement of your body's attractions is foolishness.

    Denial and ignorance are no excuse. If I wear a t-shirt with a rude insult in French and then walk around Paris, I will get dirty looks. I will get a reaction to what I'm wearing, whether I meant to say that insult or not. Whether I was aware that it was an insult or not.

    Both parties are responsible.

    Keep up the faith, Savannah. You're an ambassador in a different culture, in so many ways, and I love hearing your observations and ponderings. Great thoughts!

  8. Part 1/2

    All right. I understand where this is coming from. I've seen plenty of scantily clad cosplayers and instinctively thought "He/she is soooooo asking for it!" or "Why is she/he wearing that?!" And I hate that thought process. It is a product of rape culture, and the fact that Cosplay is Not Consent has to even be SAID depresses me.

    What people tend to ignore (or conveniently forget, your choice) is that cosplayers, especially women, will be harassed/touched inappropriately no matter how fully clothed, or even how young they are.

    My favorite examples are this:

    IMHO, some of the girl's are risque, but not enough to warrant that sort of commentary/harassment. And apparently one of the cosplayers was a teenager. That's disgusting. And completely unprofessional. All that commentary was absolutely disgusting, even if was phrased in the form of a joke. Those women did not attend that convention to cater to whatever fantasies those men had in their heads about Lara Croft. They dressed up as her because they played the Tomb Raider games and they identified with her character.

    And then there's this:

    Okay, come on, this girl IS NOT asking for it. She's pretty fully covered. And she’s not even dressed up as a character. She’s just wearing something that’s fashionable in geek culture. And she's still being harassed and treated like a sex object. And why? Because she decided to express herself through cosplay? Granted, this is more of a non-geek harassing a geek, but it still is what it is. A man harassing a woman for what she’s wearing.

    And to be fair to the men, while I don't have an article on it, back when I used to go to anime conventions, there was a time where Yaoi Paddles (Google at your own risk) became really popular and then suddenly men were getting their asses (and maybe other places) smacked all over the place by women they didn't even know just cause they decided to dress us as their favorite characters. And let's face it, at an anime convention, most of these men are probably not wearing scantily clad costumes. They're dressed as these characters because they identify with them, and they want to express themselves through them. And the same thing goes for the women. As cosplayers, we are here to express ourselves through our favorite characters, and not fulfill some depraved fantasy someone has in their head about fictional characters.

    What bothered me the most about this whole thing was the argument “Be mindful of what you wear.” I despise this argument. It's like telling rape victims that they were raped because their skinny jeans were too tight or their shirt was cut too low, or their makeup too provocative. It's a message women are told all their lives. And it doesn't matter. Women are still raped and harassed every day, regardless if they're wearing sweats or short dresses. Globally. It's not just about how much or how little you wear. It's just an excuse people hide behind in order to ignore the blatant slut shaming/victim blaming culture we've perpetuated. I hate that it's bled into cosplay. Cosplay, to me at least, is a freedom of expression. It should not be a reason to hide. And in the example of the woman in the steampunk kimino, was she asking for it because she was wearing a kimino? Because she represented a geisha, who are traditionally seen as sex objects by Western audiences? People will always find excuses to harass someone and justify themselves that their victim somehow triggered an uncontrollable sexual urge. That isn't a good reason for anyone, male or female, to have to police what they wear just because someone doesn't know the boundaries of human self respect.

  9. Part 2/2

    Is cosplay harassment a problem that's ever going to go away? Nope. Not in a million years. But that doesn't mean we just sweep it under the rug and call it a non-problem. People can preach prevention all they want, (in fact, it’s gotten to the point where we have anti-rape underwear) but in the end it's only a band-aid on gigantic wound that’s become infected. It doesn't address the underlying problem we have of objectification. Male or female. If we simply ignore the problem because it's supposedly non-solvable, or because there will always be assholes who will sexually harass cosplayers anyway, then we let all the creeps and the losers win. Yes there will always inevitably be a few choice assholes out there. But I'll be damned if we didn't at least try to reduce their numbers.

    Cosplay is not consent. In any situation.

    p.s: Apologies for the rant. I blame Google for cutting off my characters lol. But as you can see, this is a topic I do feel strongly about.

  10. Savannah, you can hold your holier-than-thou opinions about how "clothing choice = consent", but until the day comes that YOU are the victim of unwarranted harassment/attention/physical contact, you will NEVER understand what it means to be the victim, and you have absolutely NO right whatsoever to mock anyone for being one. It is nobody's fault but the person who crossed the line in the first place.

    1. She isn't mocking anyone. She is in fact DEFENDING people who are harassed and are victims of assholes who think that it's ok to harass/touch/be general assholes, never once did she say that she was making light of the situation, nor did she ever say "haha, that person got harassed because they were in costume"

    2. Anonymous, she says, "However, don't expect people to behave and treat you with value and respect. ... If you don't want people touching you or taking pictures of you while you're dressed scantily, then you might want to reconsider cosplaying."

      Is she kidding? She's saying that it's the cosplayer's fault for getting touched, and if they don't like it, then they shouldn't be cosplaying. I don't see her defending any victim in this post. She's telling the victims that, well, people are just assholes, so suck it up or don't come to the party.

    3. You apparently missed the importance of this statement (so here it is again) "IF you don't want people touching you or taking pictures of you while you're dressed scantily, then you might want to reconsider cosplaying."


      What she means is simple, if you don't want this the 100% sure fire way to avoid unwanted attention is simply don't dress up. She never once said it's their fault if they get harassed. But like it's been posted either put up or shut up. You don't like it, choices are simple: Don't go, Don't dress up, or deal with the consequences. Are people assholes? Yes. Will people continue to be assholes? Yes. Will moaning about it do a bit of difference? No. (But here's the thing, if my wife dresses up in a revealing outfit, more power to her. She gets her picture taken that's fine. She gets over-zealous comments, it's just words, she complains - I tell her the same thing, don't dress like that.. Someone touches her, that's where the proverbial line in the proverbial sand has been drawn.) So you don't want the pictures, words etc. DDLaS.

      Again, Congrats and Welcome to the 21st.

      (in case you missed the whole point of my rant people are assholes, indeed suck it up - never once did she point fingers)

  11. Hi Savanna!

    Nothing, except consent, equals consent. That is the beginning and end of any debate or question. Details aren't necessary, because they make a simple fact seem to need supporting evidence - it absolutely doesn't. People need to show respect and learn to control themselves. That's all there is to it.

    If people choose to dress provocatively, it is their choice. No one else needs to like it if they do. Consider this - we are lucky enough to live in a place where we are not oppressed, like some countries are or as some religions choose to design their rules. We are individuals who wish to express ourselves in ways that makes us personally happy. No one should have to defend themselves to or from others. I know you enjoy cosplaying Jedi and like the clones (Wolfpack, anyone? ;) ). How would you feel if someone decided one day that you couldn't or shouldn't anymore? I'm not singling you out, just putting it into perspective.

    Everyone has their personal limits and boundaries - and that's perfectly ok. That's a personal preference and choice. However, no one has the right to shame or touch anyone else inappropriately, simply because of such choices. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. It's what individuals do with their opinions and how they treat others that defines their character.

  12. I'm going to sift through the bulk of your post and get to the question at the core: "Do women (and/or men) have the right to rebuke people who grab them without consent or say inappropriate things to them?"
    The answer is YES.

    People (of any gender identification) have the 100% right to rebuke ANY unwanted physical contact regardless of their clothing/costume choice, in any arena. No debate, no question, case closed.

  13. No one, even if they are dressed provacatlively, deserves to be harassed. Others have stated it very well already, put I'm going to state it again anyway- the only thing that is consent, is consent. The way someone dresses does not excuse others behavior- instead of saying people shouldn't dress skimpily, we should be telling people to control themselves, since, really, people can control themselves. Just don't harass the person. It is NEVER the victim's fault.

  14. " if you don't want this the 100% sure fire way to avoid unwanted attention is simply don't dress up"

    Then why do people still get harrassed and raped while not wearing cosplay or 'provocative' clothing? It's not about what they're wearing, nobody is allowed to harrass and rape others. And saying that they should expect that because they're wearing that only makes the problem worse because you're not blaming the person who actively harrassed or raped. It is always the harrasser and rapists fault because they chose to do their actions without the consent of their victim. You can't blame anyone for the actions that others have done to them. You may as well say that people shouldn't get a big home because obviously they should expect to be robbed and it's totally their fault that they were robbed, not the robbers.

  15. I agree with you -- the first time I cosplayed I was 14 years old. While I was fully clothed (I was wearing Jedi's garb) and I still had much older men asking for pictures with me. While I believe this is acceptable, some people held onto me, which I don't think is acceptable to do to a 14 year old girl.
    Granted, I was a lot younger at the time and was dressed modestly, but I do believe cosplayers and convention attendees should be wary of how they dress regardless. I see many inappropriate cosplays that push limits in my opinion. Many times, women complain that men are pigs when they get hit on at the beach or other places where they wear more revealing articles of clothing. Usually, women don't walk around the mall in thong-like subject yourself to it at a convention? If women are going to complain about being the focus of a male's attention at a convention, then I think they should definitely reconsider who they are going to cosplay as.

    At the end of the day, it could happen anywhere. The other day I was wearing a skirt and some guy drove by me in the parking lot and started cat-calling. I didn't rage and protest and demand he be brought to justice and that it was solely his fault for acting like a pig, but I reevaluated the skirt and decided that in some situations it would be best to wear leggings under it.

    It really all comes down to taking precautions, respecting yourself, and respecting others!

  16. I think there is never an excuse to touch someone without consent like that - even if they are dressed provocatively at a Con etc. If you are posing in a photo with someone and you are struggling to judge or haven't seen if they were comfortable with others putting an arm around etc. then ask if they mind for the photo

    I know some aren't keen on handshakes but I think it's excessive to not do that, a handshake is respectful

    If a guy can't control how he looks at a girl even if she's baring all much less how he behaves he deserves all the slaps in the world!

    Great topic :)

  17. Hey! Wow..look..! Have you guys seen this! Here's some nice consent right here !