There is a growing issue in the cosplaying community – feeling uncomfortable in your costume because someone makes an inappropriate pass at you, sometimes in the form of provocative comments on social media or other various Internet messaging platforms.

And often, people don’t even realize they’re doing it.

We cosplayers spend months and sometimes even years working on our costumes. We want to hear about the merits of our creations – not how sexy you think we look in costume.

Nothing is worse for me than when someone sends me a message that overlooks the craftsmanship and beauty of my costume, and I personally know many others who feel the same.

From personal experience, I have noticed most of us receive the brunt of the harassment outside of the convention center, from disgruntled locals and religious organizations to comments on the Web.

A friend and avid cosplayer, Sefam, has experienced this:

“I’ve been harassed by a female cosplayer at a convention gathering because she thought I was ‘cute’ in my cosplay. She decided to start flirting with me even though I made it clear I wasn’t interested. After the convention, she followed me on social media and started constantly soliciting my attention there in more and more creepy ways until I blocked her. It’s unfortunate that we need to watch out for and avoid such individuals during and after conventions.”

This isn’t what cosplay is supposed to be about.

So here are a few pointers on how to treat those who raise their hands to cosplay:

  • Most of us are not comfortable when you describe us as your sexual fantasy – we are people, regardless of whether or not we are in costume.
  • We aren’t required to respond positively to your idea of a “compliment,” and you aren’t entitled to say whatever comes to your mind.
  • Don’t touch us without asking or take inappropriate pictures of us.
  • We will do poses with you and other things if you just ask us because we enjoy doing it.

While some conventions are attempting to take preventative measures, many others such as the popular San Diego Comic-Con have done very little. Activist group Geeks for CONsent petitioned for a formal anti-harassment policy but failed to get enough attention.

While getting food dressed in my Foxfire Ahri costume at August’s Otakon, a man proceeded to harass me, calling me sexy, saying I should be gratified that he was giving me such compliments.

He even attempted to get me to leave with him.

I continually told him no and that I wasn’t interested, but the harassment continued. The entire time this was occurring, no one said anything to stop him.

I personally know of a few others were harassed by the locals and fans at the baseball games at Otakon last year, ending up with similar results.

Saying something is not hard to do and can really help someone.

I have watched the long and arduous process some of these victimized cosplayers endure in order to create the perfect costume and when I hear they never want to cosplay again after experiencing harassment, I am nothing short of appalled.

Cosplay isn’t frivolous business. Cosplay isn’t just “dress-up.”

With origins dating back to the 1960s and millions of followers worldwide, cosplay is a unique form of imagination and creation. Cosplay transfers animation, comic folklore and video games into reality and allows for legendary characters from Zelda to Xena Warrior Princess to come to life.

So please, respect the cosplayer.

writersblocheadshots17Kaitlyn Peltzer is a junior English and criminology major and can be reached at kpeltzer@terpmail.umd.edu.

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