Nerd Rage: Sexual Harrassment and Cosplay

Author’s Note: This is an op-ed piece about some recent events and trends I read about in the cosplay community. The below piece is largely a rant explaining my viewpoints about sexual harassment, why it’s wrong, and how I think it affects professionals in the cosplay community negatively.

Recently, I’ve been reading reports about photographers harassing cosplayers by asking them for nudes or requesting bikini or lingerie themed photoshoots. I cannot believe I am writing about sexual harassment in the cosplay community once again. I got tired of writing about it in 2013, sick of hearing about it in 2014, and now near the tail end of 2015, I’m picking up a bat to beat a dead horse.

Let me be as clear as possible to everyone: just because someone wears something that reveals lot of skin, is tight, or really anywhere in between, that does not mean they want certain kinds of attention. That does not mean they are “easy” or “slutty.” Cosplayers hate being harassed. The anti-harassment attitude I hold is a standard to which the rest of the world should aspire to, and this goes double for photographers and other professionals in the cosplay community. When professionals behave badly, it sets a bad precedent and garners mistrust. When professionals harass cosplayers, it creates issues for honest professionals who enjoy snapping and sharing cosplayers’ pictures. It creates issues for interviewers like me, who honestly enjoy talking with and chronicling cosplayers’ experiences with their craft and community. More importantly, people who behave badly towards cosplayers create and contribute to fears and insecurities cosplayers may or may not have when interacting with people who photograph, interview, and follow them on social media. That’s not healthy for the cosplay community, which often describes—and prides—itself on being a fun and welcoming place for nerds and geeks that like playing dress-up.

Personally, I’ve had no cosplayers turn down an interview opportunity. Most of them are happy to be interviewed. They like interacting with others and having their work showed off on my two-bit little blog. So how do I maintain a good relationship with the community? I act professionally. Whenever I contact a cosplayer, I introduce myself, tell them why I am contacting them, and send them links to my previous interviews so they can see what I have done in the past. I give them the chance to accept or decline, and I leave it at that. If they decline, that’s ok. I thank them for their time and move on. If they accept, great. I tell them to let me know if a question makes them uncomfortable so we can forget about that question and ask another one. So far, I’ve not had that issue because I don’t ask uncomfortable questions, but the disclaimer never hurts because it lets the cosplay interviewee know I have their best interests, privacy, and welfare in mind. Know what that’s called? That’s called being professional, considerate, trustworthy, and a decent human being.

The interviews I conduct have led to a couple of friendships, and most everyone I have interviewed is usually happy with the end result. I want to praise the cosplay community for their overwhelming and rapid response to raising awareness about sexual harassment over the past couple of years. Awareness movements like “Cosplay is not Consent” and conventions creating anti-harassment policies are great steps to making cosplay safer and better. In my opinion, anyone who harasses a cosplayer at least needs to be educated about why their behavior is inappropriate. However, professionals are rightfully held to higher standards. When professionals don’t adhere to those standards, well, they kind of deserve the consequences that come their way. And this is coming from a guy that many think of as way too forgiving.

I sincerely hope the cosplay community will one day be able to put the issue of sexual harassment behind us permanently one day, but so long as people continue to behave badly, it looks like I’ll have to pick up my metaphoric sword every once in a while to help protect the community I love so much.

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