So my first NYCC wrapped up a few weeks ago. My first impressions were pretty staggering. I’ve been to the Javits Center for other conventions and the sheer size of NYCC had me experiencing, literally, vertigo. Seriously I got wobbly. Con flu is also not pleasant. Walking around the last day delirious trying to find Kotobukiya Bishoujo figurines for gifts while my head wanted to fall off was something I won’t forget.
Joking aside, we need to talk about something that was on my mind during my trip. So that means talking about cosplay (or dressing up for Halloween). And personal space. And while we’re at it, leaked nudes.
Why leaked nudes? Because all of the above have an element revolving around the concept of consent, the asking for or the lack thereof. We have a problem with consent in our culture. And that’s the heart of what I really want to talk about; we need to talk about consent. And both cosplay and leaked nude pictures and videos aren’t the actual problem.
Let’s put our Sesame Street t-shirts on folks.
1.permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.“no change may be made without the consent of all the partners”verb
1.give permission for something to happen.“he consented to a search by a detective”
Good. We all set there?
First, I cosplayed for the first time this year. The first time. At any convention. Ever. After I finished my interviews I was 1930’s Flash Gordon, which meant donning high waisted short-shorts (former Olympic swimmer Buster Crabbe who played Flash Gordon was 100% fan service). While not anywhere near as athletic as Buster Crabbe, I tried my best. Being a sorta tall guy, 6 ft 2″, 6 ft 3″+ with the costume’s boots, meant it was a lot of exposed leg and thigh. It was, by all means, outside of my usual comfort zone. Miles.
It however went over well; no one knew who I was and I was neither heckled nor asked to have their photo taken except once, which was still flattering that they even asked. I also distracted It was a positive experience, albeit a bit drafty (Buster didn’t have tights, neither will I!). I can see why cosplay is so popular. It’s fun. It’s Halloween, but anytime.
Unfortunately I did have a weird moment while there. While I was not in costume when this occurred, I was also touched during the con by someone when I wasn’t wanting to be touched. The Sub-Cultured group was standing near one of the multiple massage stations that provided some massages for con-goers as we made rounds the floor. My shoulder, sore from carrying my notebook bag made me joke about that maybe I should get a massage. I looked over at the booth with faux longing, since I wasn’t about to buy a session even though it wasn’t that expensive.
One of the masseuses, a guy in his thirties or forties then left the booth to massage my sore shoulder in order to convince me to come buy a session. I don’t recall him saying “Hey want a sample/free/brief session on that shoulder?” which would have given me a chance to give an okay for him to come out and give a sample. I recall him asking if I wanted to buy a session and while I baulked, he ignored it and walked out and started to rub my shoulder. It could have been a friendly gesture, since I was openly complaining and they want business, but it also could have been him being a creep. Maybe a bit of both. Regardless of intent, I didn’t want to be touched and he reached out and started to touch me. I clammed up, and it took a while to be able to say no thank you. He eventually got the message and left. It was a bit unsettling and unprofessional, to leave vendor space and touch me in attendee space. Had I walked into vendor space, it still wouldn’t have been right for him to touch me, but it would have allowed a discussion that could invite a touch to ask what I should do about my shoulder, etc.
I was surprised. Being reserved, I’ve never had that kind of manhandling happen to me, and if it indeed was flirting, which I wouldn’t have wanted, that stuff usually goes over my head. It’s never that obvious to me that someone is doing it. That’s the only instance of inappropriateness that I personally encountered targeted at myself at NYCC. Others may have other things to say. (If you do, please tell us in comments below). I know Jen, dressed as toddler Captain America had an incident that got weird with a rather manic “plainclothes” Tony Stark cosplayer. I should know, I saw it. I was standing in line with them when they started attempting to banter roleplay, which quickly got way out of hand.
So what I aiming for here? While both dressing up and being harassed were separate in my case, for many cosplayers, particularly girls, being asked for consent to have pictures taken and to be touched (hug, pose, etc) or to be approached by people to do roleplay is often not followed through and people go ahead and do whatever they want as seen in Jen’s account. What happened to me outside of costume happens to women and girls (and other boys too) every day as is, and gets even worse when in costume, no matter what they’re cosplaying as, whether in a very revealing outfit, or fully covered. People find ways to be gross.
This is why I must commend NYCC this year as they pushed a heavy “Cosplay Is Not Consent” initiative, warning people to not be assholes regarding people’s consent to being photographed or touched. They had banners both physical and digital screens. It read:
Please keep your hands to yourself. If you would like to take a picture with or of another NYCC fan, always ask first and respect that person’s right to say no. When at New York Comic Con, be respectful, be nice, be cool and be kind to each other.
This was a pleasant surprise and for the most part a lot of people seemed to be respecting that creed. I saw people asking people to take their pictures left and right. Unless there was a big photo-op with many people taking pictures, many were asking consent before they snapped a picture. That doesn’t it mean it was perfect. While there, Jen and I did run into the wonderfully talented cosplayer ChibiNeko, who was in the midst of being bothered. ChibiNeko was later able to talk with me about their experience this year and if it was any different than other cons:
Out of every convention I have ever attended, this year’s NYCC was probably the best. I was only “bothered” twice. The two were actually together. One asked if I could sit in his lap, the friend asked if he could pick me up. Keep in mind these boys are maybe half my size… They accepted my rejection and proceeded to take a normal standing picture with me.Other conventions have been horrible. Anime Boston 2013 I was asked for a picture of just my butt. The reasoning was “I want to picture other girls while looking at it.” That was just one instance during the 3 days I was there.At other conventions I have received unwanted touching. Somebody at Anime Boston 2014, who I had never seen before in my life, walked up to me and asked if I would “fuck him and blow him.” He then grabbed me and tried to kiss me. I shoved him off and screamed, no security in sight. I did not report it… probably should have but this guy was so blown out on drugs.Something that really made me happy this year at NYCC, was when this one man asked if it was okay to put his arm around my shoulder. I freaked him out telling him how amazed I was that somebody was actually considerate for the first time in 3 years. It was Saturday afternoon and I was dressed as Yoko Littner from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. So about 40% of the people I have interacted with in the past 30 events / conventions said something inappropriate or did something that I was uncomfortable with.This New York Comic Con I was actually expecting the worst, thankfully I was wrong!
Hearing what she’s been through is harrowing, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I was glad to hear that, despite the two boys, the con was overall her best experience yet. People can, in fact behave themselves.
With Cosplay is Consent, my shoulder incident and having met ChibiNeko, I found it further thematically coincidental that while NYCC was going on, I learned (through an impromptu tumblr post to the face displaying Doctor Who alum Matt Smith and his ex-girlfriend Daisy Lowe naked in a hotel bathroom) that another cache of stolen leaked celebrity nudes had leaked out again. “The Fappening” or “CelebGate”, the same network of people who breach , hoard and then auction and leak private photos of celebrities (Jennifer Lawrence being one of their notable targets) from iCloud had, after a brief stay, continued their leaks. Daisy had been the target here, since they were from her phone. Obviously none of this was given the consent of those involved.
This leak came as a further coincidence considering that, released just a day before the leak, Batgirl #35 contained a plot point in-story that revolves around a person swiping phones and laptops from parties. A character’s phone is taken and possible nude photos or private videos being on the phone are implied. Finding threads here wasn’t that hard.
Alarmingly, in addition to the celebrity leaks, 200,000 Snapchat leaks of ordinary people, many of which are most likely underage teenagers, were also released. This is indeed very real stuff and it’s obviously on everyone’s mind. What’s up with people not respecting other people?
Matt, like Jlaw, being somewhat of note to the geek community due to Doctor Who (11 is my favorite Doctor) is thus far one of the few confirmed male entertainers inadvertently exposed by this group who are clearly more bent out to (not surprising) expose women. It wouldn’t surprise me that given the wide sweep of actresses they’ve been able to plunder, it’s probable they’d have pictures of well known male entertainers too being hoarded but are withholding them as to “not ruin their career”. Hypocritical. Being said, I’ve since noticed a lack of blow back in regards to Matt and Daisy. Granted, they’re not Jlaw A-list, but Matt is pretty well known. It took two days for me to even hear about it and Matt has, weeks after, obviously avoided the scrutiny and frenzy that Jennifer Lawrence and other actresses have had to deal with. Why? Because he’s a guy. And that’s ultimately not very fair is it? As for the “scandalous” pictures, they’re largely innocuous, while nude, are nonsexual and they confirm that Matt is a colossal dork and Daisy seemed to care for it (among other things).
In fact Matt’s pictures were a good example, from what I can tell (it’s a bit hard to say so without outright viewing picture sets, something I wish to avoid), that many pictures from The Fappening’s celebrity victims are like this. Many aren’t even explicit or while nude aren’t sexual at all (trying on clothes, woo, out at a party, scandalous) and a quite a few feature photos of family and friends. It shows that the mystic celebrity (while, yes, richer) are indeed people and like all people (maybe, accept for two or so) are naked underneath their clothing. And they, surprise, also have to attend to toiletries and other boring stuff just like us. It’s a bit hard to comprehend, I know. Celebrities are actually human beings? Naked? As in. Parts? People have parts? Non airbrushed parts? They still have to brush their teeth?! Go the bathroom? No way Elmo, that’s not possible.
Oh but it is.
Western, particularly American views on nudity and sexuality is confusing and hypocritical. We’ll commodify it (Jlaw, Kate Upton, Daisy Lowe; nude photo shoots, walking around in literally blue paint/latex leaving nothing to the imagination, etc) for people. But people aren’t satisfied, so they obtain and hoard pictures that these people themselves took in private. When it’s suddenly not dictated by those who commodity and someone swipes and leaks it, it’s suddenly The Crucible or Scarlet Letter and these actresses have to apologize or make a statement for it when people inadvertently see them, regardless that someone else made the choice to steal this media. Yeah that makes a lot of sense. It’s even worse for “regular” people from Snapchat. Most celebrities can survive, leaked nudes can destroy people.
We really shouldn’t be looking at these pictures, no matter how we may like to in certain cases, they weren’t for us. It’s like how cosplayers can cosplay spectacularly or choose a character or interpret it in a way where they know or hope will get a lot of attention, but they’re still ultimately dressing for themselves. They’re not your doll. Their costumes are not for you. Celebrities and even us normal folk are the same way; no one is anyone’s and no one owe’s anyone anything. Being in the business celebrities may market themselves in certain things that are sexualized and are by design more or less a product, but that doesn’t mean that they are. If they wanted to share, like happily married pornstar couples on twitter, they would be sharing. Even us “regular” people; these pictures weren’t for you and everyone is being taken advantage of here. So we need to cut it out.
The gist here, before it becomes too much of a tangent, is no one should ever have to apologize for taking nude selfies nor should a cosplayer, or even just a person simply walking down the road or in class have to apologize for what they are wearing (within some reason, I don’t think Super Grover costumes would go over well in school for instance..or maybe they would) and what it does to people to make them act a certain way in response. We shouldn’t have to ask people to adhere to rules of “no touching” and “be nice” that are usually set down in Kindergarten if not earlier.
People dressing up, the costumes they choose to wear, the clothes they choose to wear (or lack there of) and their level of fame and how many pictures they took of their butt in the bathroom is not an excuse to gross reactionary behavior. That is rape culture to think otherwise.
Kudos to NYCC for encouraging Cosplay is not Consent. But we can’t let it end there.
Cosplay is not consent. Age is not consent. Fashion is not consent. Nudity is not consent. Gender is not consent. Orientation is not consent. Celebrity is not consent. Just being is not consent. It’s people who think these are that’s the problem. Men in particular need to learn to control themselves and relearn how to interact with people. Don’t even get me started on Gamergate.
So, basically, as we turn now towards Halloween, just, be kind. Don’t touch. Respect people (and other cultures in your costume choices too, mind you) and just, stop it. We only should have to ask once, if at all.
What was your NYCC experience this year? What have you had to deal with at cons? Let us know, we’d love to hear your story and or opinions.