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What Is Going On With Harassment At Conventions?

What Is Going On With Harassment At Conventions?


There has been a lot of talk lately about harassment going on at comic conventions and more specifically sexual harassment of cosplayers. Before I go any further I am a male and have never done any cosplay at a convention before. But there should be no harassment of any type that anyone should have to endure no mater their gender, age, race sexual preference, body type, etc at a convention. Now before we go any further into this story I want you to watch this video.

Now I do understand that a majority of cosplay harassment is done to females over males, but I can guarantee that it has happened to males at some point. The discussions about this subject has heated up recently with a group calling for San Diego Comic Con to have a more specific cosplay harassment policy in place. Currently San Diego Comic Con does have a general harassment policy in place and  recently a group of cosplayers Geeks For CONsent started a petition LINK and David Glanzer Director of Marketing and Public relations responded to it over at CBR LINK.

While there have been other stories about the “controversy” over the lack of a response to the petition (Comics Beat) and (Comics Alliance) I want to present some other thoughts on the subject.

First San Diego Comic Con does have a code of conduct policy in place that cover harassment. Whether it be someone doing cosplay or someone being harassed in general. People need to also understand that San Diego Comic Con as any other convention has to be careful legally with their written policies and on all of their policies not just harassment. Now does that mean that there wording could be stronger? Sure policies like this could always be stronger and posted more prominently at the convention. The other question is has there been a major problem at San Diego Comic Con? Remember they are only responsible for the show within the convention center. They are not responsible for what happens outside the show off property. The question is while there is always some harassment of cosplayers at SDCC is it a major problem that needs to be specifically worded policy? That is the real unknown factor of the conversation. The video on the Geeks For CONsent while very good in pointing out the harassment that has happened to cosplayers none of the women interviewed specifically stated that the harassment occurred at San Diego Comic Con. The interviews were at Baltimore Comic Con and Boston Comic Con. I would have liked for them to also interview male cosplayers that have also been harassed. I looked for Baltimore and Boston’s harassment policies on their respective websites and I could not find one for Baltimore and the one for Boston is not much different from San Diego Comic Con’s policy.

I do think that the petition is a very good start to the overall conversation of harassment at conventions, singling out San Diego Comic Con while it is the biggest convention in the United States as the one that has problems without any of the interviewed saying that the incidents happened there does bother me a bit. Maybe because San Diego Comic Con is the biggest and by singling out them they have gotten a lot of publicity from it. And that is I’m guessing that is why Geeks For CONsent singled them out over other conventions.

I have been attending SDCC sense 1983 and yes the convention has changed over the years. And while I have never seen a cosplayer harassed at the show I am sure that it does happen. This year Emerald City Comic Con took the extra step of posting signs about harassment of cosplayers at their convention. And while this is not a bad idea, was it going to change the mind of someone who was going to harass cosplayers? I would hope so but that is an unknown factor.


I think that there are some bigger issues even beyond the conventions themselves. We live in a society where harassment happens sadly too often. We see kids getting bullied. We see people harassed because of their sexual orientation. We see people on the internet harassing others with comments because they feel anonymous behind their computer and that allows them to spew hate. A lot of the female characters that women dress up from Comics, Movies, Television and Video Games are many times created by males as sexual objects of fantasy. In recreating the outfit in cosplay can sometimes reinforce those stereotypes. Does that mean that women who like a character that may have provocative clothing should not wear them? Absolutely not. They should wear any outfit they want to. They just have to understand that the more provocative the outfit the more men could view them in the wrong way. Again this does NOT excuse anyone from harassing anyone because of the way that they dress.

Celebrities do and wear outrageous things to get attention like Miley Cyrus at the 2013 Mtv VMA


or Rihanna at the recent CFDA awards practically naked.


They do this to get the product of themselves out there so people are talking about them. It’s all about staying relevant and in the moment. Many cosplayers do the same thing. They wear an outfit to get more attention and some get a different type of attention than others. I spoke to a friend of mine who is female and a cosplayer and I asked her about this subject. She said that she had wanted to dress up as the White Queen from X-Men but she didn’t want guys staring at her breast instead of the costume. While it’s a shame that she was not able to recreate a character that she wanted to, I think that it’s great that she had the forethought to see that a possible harassment situation could arise. She said that she has never been harassed but she does think about it and that is why she chooses to wear costumes that are not super revealing.


We discussed that if you are cosplaying a character with a skimpy outfit it by no means it’s an invitation for harassment but if you think that males are going to be appreciating your outfit over their raging hormones you are sadly mistaken. The same can be said of male cosplayers that say dress up as a Spartan from 300 the females are going look at the eye candy of his body.


Male cosplay harassment does happen and the video below tells a story of how males can be harassed too.

Below I have an example of two female cosplayers. One from the internet of a woman dressed up as Witchblade and one that I have taken at Wonder Con this spring of a woman dressed up as Bombshell Wonder Women. While both ladies have done really great and accurate costumes the woman as Witchblade while covering the not for public areas of her body is much more provocative than the Wonder Woman in my opinion. Now the woman dressing up as Witchblade should in no way be harassed or even ogled because of the choice of costume that she was wearing. Sadly I am sure that 98% of the guys that saw here were not thinking that she did a great job on the costume or who she was cosplaying.


There are a lot of children at most conventions and while as an adult you can dress up as your favorite character, is that appropriate for an all ages audience? That is another thing that should be taken into consideration when you are wearing an costume. If you have a younger brother or sister what would they see in the costume that you are wearing?

The other question is when I attend a convention like Anime Expo where there tend to be more women than men. While I am sure is still some harassment going on but is it less because of a stronger female attendance than most of the other major conventions? Does that niche type show not draw the people who harass cosplayers?

The real answer to the questions raised by this is what is the solution to the problem. Unfortunately the simple answer of respecting other people is the solution. But this issue of common sense seems to be a more lacking thing recently. I think that because people get away with harassing others on the internet that makes it acceptable to do this in public. Blaming the media and other things that cause harassment is no excuse for being stupid. Harassment in any form need to stop from conventions. The reason that most of us go to shows like San Diego Comic Con is to go to a place where we feel at home because of our geekiness. If you are harassed for any reason or see someone else being harassed, tell security or a staff member at the show. While the person may not always be caught, you could be the one that makes sure that they do not do it to someone else. If you feel that the person you told didn’t deal with the situation then you should talk to their supervisor.  A lot of conventions have volunteer staff members that may not know what to do in the situation. Oni Press has made the below penalty cards available to give out at conventions and maybe that will help. We all need to try to make going to a convention a safe haven for everyone.


1 Comment

  1. Jim Cartwright
    10 years ago

    My opinion.
    I’m a convention cosplayer (when I can). I also do cosplay at Renaissance Faires. I was not aware that this sort of thing was happening, although it doesn’t surprise me that some people will push the envelope of their characters just to cop-a-feel, or worse.

    I have always been respectful when asking for a photo, posing, etc, with a cosplayer(s) and I have received the same respect from others when I have been asked for pictures (with).

    When convention goers are in normal clothing, this sort of thing does not happen. Why is cosplay any different? Its not. All I have to say is BE RESPECTFUL. Don’t place hands where they don’t belong.

    When it comes to posing with other people (who are not friends) I will wait for them to put a hand on my shoulder or arm. That is usually a sign that they won’t mind me placing a hand on their shoulder or arm. If they don’t, I don’t. Its a good rule to abide by that won’t cause any issues and allow everyone to have fun and not have to worry about being touched in the wrong areas.

    And one more thing that should be observed at all times. Keep the saucy comments to yourself. I have heard others say things about or to cosplayers that are not very appropriate.

    All of this is my opinion and view of the subject.