As I write this, I have just returned from my second large convention, and my friends very first. (she’ll be kept nameless due to privacy) When telling her friends that she were going to said convention, the first thing they asked of me was to keep her safe. No “have fun” or “congrats on your first con!” just… “Keep her safe.”
Keep. Her. Safe.
Last time I wrote about this, I gave light to a very difficult and important situation. I explained the differences between cosplay and consent. I mentioned people who had been in the moment with it. People who had been sexually harassed and assaulted. Some being more lucky than others. But mostly, I talked about why this is important. Why cosplayers being blamed for their sexual assault and harassment is important and shouldn’t just be shoved off like everything else.
More than 40% of convention goers are female. About a quarter of them report being sexually harassed. So when the first response to the word convention is safety, you should know something is wrong.
A week prior, I sent out a survey to a group of 25 cosplayers; asking about their convention/cosplaying experiences with sexual harassment. The responses were something that brought me to tears.
Have you ever first hand been sexually harassed at a convention (or just when you were in cosplay)?:
Out of 25 responses, 15/25 people have reported being sexually harassed or assaulted. 11/25 were minors.
With this question, like many of the questions, you were given the option of a simple yes or no if you felt uncomfortable with it. The following are the six stories I was given.
5/6 of those stories happened to minors.
Have you ever seen someone be sexually harassed at a convention?:
Out of 25 responses, 13/25 people have reported seeing someone be sexually harassed or assaulted.
With this question, I noticed distance. Only six people answered with more than a yes or no. Only two gave me stories.
Now- this is where things get...tricky.
The question that came after those two asked about reporting the harassment. Many conventions, and usually meaning big conventions like Comic-Con, have a very vague policy against harassment. (Or they might not even have one at all.)
When going over the final results of this question, 11/18 responders had not reported it. Some people simply said no, (a few going as far as to say they were scared or afraid of being in trouble.) but...some people went a bit farther.
You can find the rest of the survey here.
One of the very first questions asked was “Have you gone to conventions alone, and if you have were your parents worried? Did they warn you about predators?” (not exactly like that, they were separate questions.)
Only 8/25 people said their parents were worried, or warned them.
They were minors. Kids as young as 14 being warned about sexual assault. Kids that are dressing up innocently as their favourite characters to have fun. Not have sex appeal.
That’s gotta sound wrong to someone other than me.
Working towards a change sounds incredibly ineffective.
So, I think I’ll say “I’m going to make a change.” instead.
So that when someone mentions conventions or cosplay your first thought is not “Be safe!” or “Aren’t you worried?” it’s something like “Have fun!” or “Enjoy yourself!” or “I’m so jealous!”
Because that’s all any of us want.