Blogger Molly McIsaac has a post up about her experiences cosplaying as superheroines at San Diego Comic Con and elsewhere, and what it feels like to discover that people—including those who later ask you to pose for them—have been taking pictures of your rear end and trading them on the internet that’s helped me clarify some of my thinking about sexual harassment at conventions. Specifically, these paragraphs stood out to me:
Several people have tried to make this argument to me: If you didn’t want people photographing your butt, you shouldn’t wear the costumes that you wear.
FUCK. THAT. That’s like telling women not to wear short skirts if she doesn’t want to be raped. These characters are drawn in very little clothing due to art direction and wanting to make sales – and I love them and want to portray them despite what they are drawn wearing. I don’t want to be burka Wonder Woman – I want to be Wonder Woman in all her sexy hot pants glory.
We as a geek community have some of the most rampant sexism and misogyny I have ever seen. Women in cosplay are treated as pieces of meat, on display to satisfy a man’s fantasy of that character. We are without personality or interests, and there’s no way people will believe that we actually know ANYTHING about the character we’re dressed up as (especially if we are hot). I don’t know the reasons for this – I have theories, but that’s for another time entirely. But the behavior I have witnessed over the years is abysmal. And it’s not okay.
For some people, like McIsaac, cosplaying may be about claiming the sexual and physical power of the character she’s portraying. For some people, the fact that a character is sexually appealing or wears revealing clothes may be a secondary impact. But whether cosplaying is a sexual act or not, engaging sexually with someone still requires their consent. They’re a person, not an image, with the right to set their own terms of your interaction with them. And taking pictures of someone’s ass, specifically, rather than of their whole costume from the front, is a sexual act. The fact that folks are doing so furtively, attempting to avoid an interaction that might lead to their being denied permission for their actions, suggests that they’re pretty aware they’re doing so without consent. And if you know you’re sneaking around, and also want to be a decent person, that should probably make you think. As she puts it, cosplay is not a permission slip. There isn’t a lower level of scrutiny for people who take furtive shots of a woman’s behind at a convention or while she’s at school. A creepshot is still a creepshot, no matter where it’s taken and what a woman is wearing.