Cosplay is not consent was a panel slightly different than most other panels. It is an education panel where speakers told us their struggles with cosplay consent and then opened the floor to us for questions. This was an emotional, loud and constructive panel on a topic that should never have been a threat. COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT!
A hot button topic, cosplay is not consent refers to cosplayers who are being sexually, or otherwise, harassed while in cosplay. There are multiple definitions to harassment and each con has its own. However, not all cons have put it in writing which makes punishing those who break the rules much more difficult. In this panel, we heard about instances of sexual harassment toward male and female cosplayers, the dangers of glomping and racist behavior toward cosplayers. None of these are acceptable actions/ concepts inside or outside any convention. They hope that in educating masses we will be able to bind together and free ourselves of such behavior.
Cosplay is not consent covered many problems. Highlighted first is what others see you as when you do cosplay. Cosplay is seen as one embodying the character of their choosing. Much like at Disney Land when you see Mickey or Minnie, seeing (for example) Domo running about creates a thrill in anime lovers which makes it hard for them to remember someone is inside. However, this does not excuse anyone who chooses to act inappropriately. In fact, I personally almost made this mistake. Below is a picture of someone I felt pulled off a good Captain America Cosplay. When I first saw him, I automatically wanted to run up and hug him (I’m a hug person) but I remembered what I’d just learned at the panel. Stopping mid hug I asked if I could take a picture of him instead. When he consented I was overjoyed. I took a couple pictures of him and then politely asked if I could hug him. I was lucky enough to get permission, but running up and hugging him would’ve been plain wrong.
Another example is: one of the panelists was competing in a competition where she was in a bulky and fragile costume. Right before she got on stage, she was glomped and her wings broke. A member of the audience had dressed up as Harley Quinn and was also glomped; her hammer broke and her cosplay was ruined. These are the dangers of glomping.
In terms of sexual harassment, it is NEVER okay to sexually harass someone and if you are harassed please seek help immediately. It is never the victim’s fault. There were two ways the panelists covered harassment of this nature in the panel (a) where the perpetrator didn’t realize that the cosplayer didn’t want to be touched (as in a naive person who momentarily forgot that you’re not really their favorite anime character) or (b) some misguided soul who thinks that they can touch you like you’re an object because you’re cosplaying.
Clearly, with the first case, these are naive people and a simple sentence will remind them that you’re human. That’s where you get an apology and then go your separate ways. The others are not as easy. Our one male panelist was harassed, while underage, by the wife of a stranger when he happened to be cosplaying with friends- as Vegeta. A child, father and mother came up to him and politely asked for a picture. He consented and this was acceptable behavior. However, afterward, the mother acted inappropriately toward him, saying things like, “boy if I wasn’t married…”. She said this to a seventeen year old boy (not that age matters because harassing anyone is wrong!) Her husband looked at him, “like dude just go, just run”. Later that weekend, he was cosplaying as a different character, covered in leather and he was running around in his pants and shirt and hanging out in a hallway and dancing with others.
This was his first time cosplaying and he happened to be very hot in his outfit. This led to him going sweaty and shirtless half way through the con (note: still not a valid reason to harass someone). This woman comes out from the Artist Alley with chair in hand, sits down in front of him dancing pulling a fistful of dollar bills out of her purse and asking him for a lap dance. It turns out it was the same mother from before. He was utterly humiliated. He tried to diffuse the situation by saying, “oh, well my girlfriend wouldn’t like that,” to which this mother responded, “oh, that’s fine,” before promptly shoving a dollar into his pants and leaving. When a dude says, “Hey if you cross the line, that’s not okay,” you get more objections where as men usually backpedal and apologize when confronted by a woman.
While it happens to women more often, it’s no excuse to ignore the stories there either. Women in certain anime wear outfits that range from modest to skimpy (or what some would consider slutty). Seeing as anime women are known for such outfits, one would think that others would be tolerant of it. However, that’s not the case. One of the panelists, for example, was actually approached by an unknown male who proceeded to grab her breast to see if it was real. This is in no other setting allowed, what makes people think it would be here? Despite all the hype of an anime convention, these characters are people. Please keep this in mind!
Another outrageous behavior spoken about in this panel was racist behavior toward cosplayers. Whether someone is white, black, Japanese, Korean or a gunky space monster from the planet Whose-e-what’s-its, we should be tolerant of them (until they try a mass genocide in which case, be gone devils!) Anime conventions, particularly Anime Expo, are places where one can attend events and meet like minded individuals. We are here to accept one another as a community whether you cosplay or not. It is under no circumstance okay for someone to belittle someone else if their skin tone doesn’t match a certain character’s portrayal! To prove this point, people have done studies in the field showing that different nations identify with anime characters and no one truly knows where a character comes from. That’s mostly because anime themes are designed to be relatively universal so they can reach a broad audience. It is up to us to follow the example!