Cosplay is not Consent: The Dragon Con Edition
I feel the need to begin this article with the caveat that I had an amazing time at Dragon Con this year – the problem is that I have to also say that my having a good time was despite some things that happened. That said, I also think that I need to point out that last year, nothing untoward happened to me at Dragon Con – and as far as I know, nothing happened to any of my friends, either. I felt safe. Everyone I met was friendly and respectful. So I can’t put my finger on every single thing that was different about Dragon Con this year, but one thing I can definitely say is that the crowd changed even from last year’s Con.
Additionally, what happened to me at Dragon Con this year (yes, I will get into that in a moment) and the stories I’ve heard from my friends (which I will describe briefly as well, without mentioning any names for obvious reasons) is really not the fault of the convention or the people who run it/work there. 57,000-ish people attended Dragon Con this year, and in no way can we expect there to always be a convention volunteer or policeman/woman or security guard or hotel staff member around everywhere, 24/7. And the thing is – they shouldn’t have to be, because COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT, and people should be able to control themselves. Regardless of where they are or what costume they or anyone else is wearing – and regardless of how much they’ve had to drink.
Thankfully, Dragon Con did a lot in terms of at least trying to make congoers feel safe. They updated their harassment policy, ran bumpers about cosplay is not consent on DCTV, had a “Cosplay is not Consent” panel scheduled, and even set up a separate room in the Marriott where sexual harassment issues could be reported. To be completely honest, that’s more than most conventions I’ve ever been to have officially done in terms of speaking out about the Cosplay is not Consent movement, and in terms of keeping their attendees safe. But as I said above, despite all of this there were several incidences at Dragon Con this year that simply should not have happened.
I have kept fairly quiet on the matter of cosplay not being consent – not because I disagree with it (at all), but because I honestly hadn’t had any experiences that made me consider the matter to the point of discussing or writing about it – nor had I heard stories from any of my con-going friends that would drive me to do so. As far as I know, no one has ever taken unauthorized or questionable pictures of me in costume. No one had ever touched me inappropriately (or even appropriately, without asking). And yet despite – or perhaps because of? – Dragon Con’s increased recognition of and vigilance regarding any sort of harassment, it seemed to be a far more prevalent problem this year. And because of that, there are a few things I’d like to clear up.
1) The main point of the Cosplay is not Consent movement – at least from what I have gathered – is that what someone is wearing does not give others the “right” to do ANY of the following:
(a) talk down to that person
(b) touch that person without permission (in any way, not just inappropriately)
(c) take unauthorized pictures – especially if they are questionable unauthorized pictures.
Seriously. Just as you sure as hell shouldn’t grope a woman’s breast when she’s wearing something low cut, you also shouldn’t, say, grab at someone’s short skirt and then try to play it off like you wanted to know what material it is. Don’t run by someone and smack them on the ass because they’re bending over to pick something up. All of these things happened to myself or my friends at Dragon Con, and nearly two weeks later I’m still appalled that any of them happened at all.
2) On the other hand, what you are wearing also does not give you the “right” to talk or act inappropriately, either.
Don’t touch someone – in any way, ever – without asking first if it’s okay to do so, even if it’s something your character would have done. And even if you have asked, pay attention to social cues and be prepared to back off if someone is uncomfortable. Sure, in character and posed pictures and whatnot are awesome, but not at the expense of another person’s enjoyment.
3) Being drunk is not an excuse.
It’s not an excuse outside of conventions, so it sure as hell isn’t an excuse at them. Ever.
I suppose I thought that enough people were pushing Cosplay is not Consent – that it was out there and besides, isn’t it common sense? Unfortunately – sadly – clearly – it’s not. But it should be, and so I’m adding my voice to those who have already been shouting it from their proverbial rooftops.
Say it with me, folks: COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT.
To me, what happened at Dragon Con – how they are obviously trying to keep their attendees safe, and yet these occurrences still happen (and seem to be more prevalent than in previous years) proves that the ability to make conventions safe lies in us. Report it when people harass you or touch you inappropriately. Think before you speak and act. Treat others with respect.
It’s really not too much to ask.