Cosplay & Consent

As many of you know through every day life, not to mention various media scandals, and the #metoo campaign, “no means no.” To some, this movement could come off as new wave feminism that puts very confusing restrictions towards people. In reality, consent is everywhere. Whether it’s for sex, physical contact, or even to take a picture. This brings us to the big question…

What is consent?

Consent is an active agreement for something to happen (sexual or otherwise) or to do something between two or more people. It is an ongoing process that often needs a little added reassurance to guarantee comfortability towards everyone. But what does consent look like? Making sure you ask to do something whenever necessary to ensure people’s comfortability, safety, and needs. That doesn’t mean that you have to ask every 5 minutes! Consent can come through various ways throughout your normal day-to-day life through things like:

  • Physical interaction such as hugging, high fives, shoulder taps, handshakes, etc.
  • Bringing people over to private personal spaces
  • Sharing personal information and/or things
  • Taking photos
  • Posting online
  • Forming new relationships
  • Privacy terms on social media

Why consent is important

Simple; it’s just being a decent human being. It’s important to be able to respect one another and especially to respect each other’s boundaries, whether the person is a stranger, a really close friend, or your partner. Besides, you don’t want to end up in a problematic situation simply because you didn’t want to ask! We are all a part of creating a community where people can feel safe and included without fear of harassment, shame, exclusion, and judgement.

How to ask for consent

Consent doesn’t have to be awkward or forward. It can be fun and sexy too! Here are a few examples of asking for consent in casual conversations:

  • “Do you like that?”
  • “Do you want me to____?”
  • “Is it okay if I____?”

Some ways you can ask for consent from your partner or someone you’ve already been talking to about sexy times :
(do NOT use these for strangers – they are kind of harassy!)

  • “Should I get a condom?”
  • “Let’s get these clothes off ;3”
  • Making suggestive humping movements and going “eehhh??” ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

It’s super important to be able to accept a “no” in response to any of these, and even thank the person for having good boundaries! 

What consent looks like

When asking for consent, it’s easy to get caught up in confusion. As that famous radio quote once said “what do you mean? ooh when you nod your head yes but you wanna say no.” This is the first step to consent; asking for clarity. Often times when you’re not sure, these are warning signs to look out for:

  • Person says “I don’t know”
  • Pushing you away
  • If a person is intoxicated or unconscious
  • Unclear body language such as crossed arms, avoiding eye contact, looking away, facial expressions, etc.
  • Avoidance
  • Reluctance to answer
  • Change of mind
  • Unenthusiastic
  • Silence
  • And most importantly a simple “no”

There could also be some obscurity within yourself that even you are not aware of. This is why it’s so important and comforting having someone ask for consent.

Some signs that maybe you are not very down for it after all:

  • Peer pressure
  • Feeling like you owe them something
  • Feeling manipulated
  • Feeling threatened
  • “But they’re such a nice person”
  • Wanting to leave the environment and feeling uncomfortable

Common misconceptions

A lot of us love to cosplay weather it’s for fun, as a profession, to boost confidence, or just because you really love that character. As a community that works towards creating a safe environment, we have to respect that. This means that just because someone wants to cosplay something revealing does not mean that’s it’s an open invitation for touching someone, making sexual comments, or harassing them. Step in their shoes for a moment and realize that cosplayers are human too; they have feelings, emotions, and boundaries. They are not personal models, play toys, or objects.

What to do if you experience harassment at conventions

Although there are preventative measures to avoid such uncomfortable situations, it can still happen. While socializing at conventions, it’s easy to come across new people and assert boundaries. Once these boundaries are breached it can be awkward having to withdraw yourself from someone who may be oblivious to the fact that they are doing something wrong. Here are steps you can take to remove yourself safely.

  • Tell them! Often times people are unaware that they’re making you uncomfortable. It’s best to casually tell them “Hey I don’t like that, it’s making me feel uncomfortable”
  • Usually the reason that people decide not to confront someone is in fear of their reaction and safety or even just being very shy about it. If this is the case, try distracting the situation by making up excuses to leave. Text a friend, tell them you need to use the bathroom, run away, tell them you need to go to a panel, find people you trust (friends, us folks at the Trip! booth, event staff or security, etc), even approaching a stranger and saying “hi. That person over there is making me uncomfortable. Please be my friend for a few minutes” but please keep in mind you don’t owe anyone anything!!!
    Photo credits to: trashlordphotography

What to do if someone takes photos without consent

After then confronting someone that you don’t want your picture taken and they still take pictures, one of the best things to do is prevent them from getting the picture they want. Covering your face, hiding, and (my personal favourite) being as ugly as possible by making a face and posing horrendously.

When dealing with people taking inappropriate pictures and you don’t know how to confront them or you’re just uncomfortable confronting them, take a picture of them with your phone. This way you let them know that you are aware of what they are doing and you now have a picture of them to show to security.

Dealing with kids

Often times when you’re dressed as a child’s hero or favourite princess, one of their first reactions would be to run up and hug you. The upside to young children is that they can still be taught. Holding them back a little bit, asking their parents to hold them, explaining to them that they “wouldn’t want to ruin Snow White’s dress.” Most times children are very understanding.

At the end of the day, it’s all down to basics: keep your hands to yourself, ask first, and most importantly, cosplay is not consent.