Cosplay is not consent…. Is it?
Cosplay is not consent. This is phrase in Cosplay that encompasses all forms of sexual harassment and/or sexual exploitation. Just because a woman is in a costume does not give any person, male or female, any right to assume that is it ok to make lude comments, touch, grope, or elicit her /him for sexual favors and/or pictures. This phrase and movement started years ago after so many people, woman in particular, became frustrated with men (sorry guys) not just harassing them verbaly, but physically assaulting them. I have read online of stories where men actually grabbed woman’s rear ends or breasts like it was normal just because they happen to be wearing a costume that was a little revealing. I mean really? Aren’t the arenas where we display our Cosplay supposed to be safe environments? Ones in which the communities embrace the idea that we can accept one another for who we are and how we choose to express ourselves, communities that promotes body positive ideas and communities that uplift each other for creativity in all forms. But here we are with some people assuming women want their private areas touched by strangers because they have some skin showing. This movement was started because there were too many people who saw skin and felt it was ok to touch woman in cosplay. The ironic thing is that most of the men engaged these acts usually know nothing about Cosplay themselves.
Now on the flip side this statement can be turned into a question: is Cosplay consent? It was brought to my attention that some cosplayers have now been using their status as models to make money off of their cosplay and not in the way you would imagine. Many of them will take money in exchange for sexually explicit pictures in their cosplay costumes. It’s not just one person either. There are quite a few people. On many cosplayers Instagram pages you can find just as many photos of them in cosplay as them in lingerie and bathing suits sometimes even in bathtubs or topless covering the private bits. Just out of curiosity I checked out one link on a particular person’s page I follow to discover her website was a dedicated only to buying posters of her. Although lots of them are in her great cosplay costumes, which are all EXTREMELY hypersexualized (to each their own), many of them were photos of her in lingerie, bikini’s or partially nude. The site made the Cosplay posters seem just a little bit dirty. In finding this site I checked into a few more cosplayers with the similar ratio of cosplay to lingerie photos and found the same types of websites associated with them. This put a bad taste in my mouth. It didn’t bother me just rubbed me the wrong way.
Other models have gone a step further than just sexy posters. Some invite their followers to directly message them for more raunchy photo’ when commenting below half nudes. Others have links to their websites which can feature anything from live webcams, to portals to full nude shots, to links for their pages on Suicide Girl profiles. One quite famous cosplayer even has two Instagram pages. You would assume one is for her cosplay and the other is a personal page. Guess again. Her main page is advertising her cosplay, and her live webcam show. The secondary is a beauty page. The link to her website is for her live show where you can buy to watch her______ (you fill in the blank.)
As I scrolled back further and further through her timeline I saw more and more cosplay. It seems as she became more famous she took that celebrity and decided to go in another direction. No one is faulting her or any other cosplayer for changing their focus of their endeavors. It, once again, rubs me the wrong way to know that many times these cosplayers do not separate certain things from their cosplay.
These cosplayers have decided that their cosplay is consent. They do not seem to think it is a problem nor do they think it goes against the movement since they are models. It does not seem wrong to use their status as cosplayers to profit off of sexually explicit photography or videography. They believe it is in their right to do this to further their modeling career and their own business.
I am all about woman taking ownership of their bodies and having a choice to do with it what they want. But using your platform of being a cosplayer to then sell those kinds of photos or videos I thinks goes against all things cosplay. But again, women’s lib isn’t about what I think or even what the cosplay community thinks. It’s about a woman having the right to choose what she wants to do with her own body. I may not personally like the choices of these woman, but they have every right to do it. I am also about building a brand. I support other woman who are branding themselves and being entrepreneurial, even if not in a way I completely love.
This is article was slated to be completed before Nerdbot’s Mos Eisley Cantina Event. I chose to recreate one of the most iconic female characters Princess Leia in the outfit commonly known now as “Slave Leia” in a pinup style. The look consists of a metal bikini with two long pieces of fabric attached to the bottom as a skirt. Although this outfit is revealing, I wanted to try and create the look and add my own flare for two reasons. The first was making something in a style I am very familiar with since this was my first cosplay and secondly, so I would feel completely comfortable wearing it. After three long weeks of working on it, one of which I was injured, my look was complete. The first time I wore it in front of the Nerdbot crew I was shocked. The guys didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. Besides the expected first shocks of seeing me in something that revealing, they simply complimented me on the craftsmanship of the work. What wasn’t ok were the remarks by one person who did said something (jokingly of course) about grabbing my butt underneath my skirt which made me sit down immediately and feel very self-conscious. The comment led me to buy spray glue to make sure that was not possible. Fast forward to the night of the event. I was asked to take pictures with a few people outside. I agreed the first guy was nice and I just stood next to him. The second man picked me up, without my permission. I was completely caught off guard. I must have been holding my skirt for dear life so my rear end wouldn’t fall out. The photo probably came out terrible because my face was in complete shock. I felt completely disrespected. Had I been in any other clothing that would not have happened. Immediately after he put me down I rushed back inside. This was my first experience ever making a costume and my first time being disrespected in one as well.
I started to write this article with certain feelings in my head. I was angry and upset: how could any woman ever user her role in the “sacred” cosplay community to sell sexy photos, nudes or worse have a live webcam show. Then they began to shift. I thought if these girls want to make money off of their bodies then that is their choice. Who am I to judge? Then I found myself telling someone cosplay is not consent. Even worse, I woke up feeling like a toy to someone, like a plaything that might as well have been bought. The morning after such an awesome party I should have been proud of my creation not shamed by how a stranger made me feel in it. This brought my emotions full circle. I got back on the computer to change this article.
I am very comfortable in my own skin. I like my body and the way it looks. Wearing a revealing cosplay is not something I had an issue doing or will in the future. Just because my cosplay shows stomach, breast, thigh, or butt cheek does not give anyone any right to treat me with any less respect than I demand and deserve. These woman are saying for a certain price you can have certain parts of them, whether to post on your wall or watch live from 6pm-9pm. My body cannot be bought. It angers me that the statement Cosplay is not consent has become a question. What makes it worse is the people who are doing the asking don’t even understand the problem to begin with. My cosplay isn’t an invitation. It is an expression of my love for a characters, a show or a game. It is an expression of me. Cosplay takes time, and energy, thought, and heart. Just like any form of art including culinary endeavors. Just because it is a costume doesn’t make it any less of an art form. Would you go up to a giant wedding cake and try to feel under its frosting while you were taking a picture with it? I think not.