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Gals in Costume: A Minor Affair

Ok, this is it. The hard topic someone mentioned and I thought I should write about. I warned you all about this article as best I could, and I’m going to warn you now and again. This blog will deal with a very sensitive topic. If you wish to not be offended by the contents below, please close this window. Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
First warning’s gone, so I’m going on again. With all the talk about sexual harassment at conventions, the convention and cosplay communities—as far as I can tell—have neglected to discuss male victims, which I discussed in my last blog. The community has done a good job about calling out the rot and nonsense of sexual harassment, raising awareness, and even shedding a lot of positive light on certain movements, such as the 16-Bit Sirens’ “Cosplay is NOT Consent” movement. However, there is one glaring topic the community needs to discuss at length, and I plan on starting the discussion here. The topic is minors.
If you don’t want to read on, there’s a little red box to the upper-right corner of the screen. Click that, because I’m not going easy on this topic. I’m going to be a high school teacher one day: trust me, I feel like I’m putting my entire career at stake here before it even begins. Consider this a final warning to leave the blog or read on. It’s your choice, not mine. I’m going to approach this subject as gently and as delicately as possible, but even then, I still feel kind of uneasy writing about it. If you are going to read this blog, take a deep breath. Trust me; I am as I’m writing this.

Here we go FOR REALSIES THIS TIME!!! It’s no big secret cosplaying attracts a lot of people from various groups. Look at us all. We got so many kinds of weird and awesome, I can’t even begin to name them. However, one group that is drawn to cosplaying is minors, and by that I mean people less than 18 years of age. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise. I got started with cosplaying when I was 18. Before I cosplayed, I played LARPed from the time I was 15 until I was 18. About half of my LARPing buddies were older than me; the other half were younger and dealing with the same high school crap I was at the time. With college came cosplay for me.
I digress, though. I’ve met a lot of teenagers who cosplay just at the convention I attend. While I’ll admit probably most cosplayers are adults, there’s still a fair share of minors. Just to state facts pretty clearly, two of my cosplay friends are 16. We look forward to seeing each other at conventions. It’s fine to know people who are minors and call them friend. What is not fine is harassing minors at conventions.
I interviewed both of these friends, who both have different experiences with sexual harassment as witnesses and victims. Personally, my stomach churned at a lot of what they told me I will not disclose any of their personal information for their protection. For the sake of this blog, I will call them Beatrice and Alexandria. I will also not disclose the name of the convention(s) their experiences took place at in part for respect of the convention organizers and responsible attendees. I will attempt to contact this unnamed convention’s security staff (I know people) to get their opinion about sexual harassment at conventions and ask if they have a plan to deal with complaints about such conduct, but that’s for another blog.
First off, I want to discuss Beatrice’s experiences. I originally met Beatrice at my first convention. We were both a couple years younger, and since then we’ve become like siblings. Anyways, the year prior to our meeting, she was cosplaying as L from Death Note. L is a very simple character. He wears jeans; a white, long sleeved shirt; and no shoes. He’s also a very conservative character in respect to the fact he doesn’t show a lot of skin. Understand this was also the year prior to me meeting Beatrice. This means she cosplayed as L in 2010. Anyways, she was going around the convention, doing her thing, and a wild fan girl appears out of nowhere. Things go down hill fast. First, the wild fan girl flirts with Beatrice. Beatrice laughs it off and eventually sneaks off. Later on, while Beatrice is minding her own business, this wild fan girl shows up again. She grabs Beatrice’s behind with both hands, giggling in the process. Of course, Beatrice is now thoroughly irked and disturbed. She didn’t mention how she handled the situation, but she certainly didn’t enjoy it.
The following year, 2011—and when Beatrice and I initially met—she was wearing a steampunk costume. I was not present at the time this happened, but I heard about it pretty soon afterwards. While walking down the hall, Beatrice tripped. Innocent enough if not for one creeper taking a panty shot before she could get back up. When I later met Beatrice shortly after this incident, she was kind of freaked. Probably felt violated.
So, here we have two incidences of a minor being harassed and targeted at a convention. I feel pretty disgusted at this point, but wait!! There’s more.
In 2012, I met another cosplayer who is currently a minor. As stated, she will be referred to Alexandria. Alexandria has been the victim of sexual harassment. The first incident occurred at her first rave, where she was grinded to her sheer surprise. A more recent incident occurred at a convention just last October. Alexandria was told by a man the legal age-of-consent in Kentucky (turns out, Alexandria and I are from the same state) is 16. I myself continue to hear this claim, and am unsure as to whether it is true or false. I live under the notion the age of consent in my native state is 18. What made this incident the more repugnant was the fact this guy touched her thighs. Excuse me for a moment while I scream my lungs dry of their air.
Just as importantly, Alexandria has also been a witness of sexual harassment. Mind you, she and a lot of her friends are minors. We’ll move onto to Alexandria’s first friend, hereby identified as Number One.
So, Alexandria and Number One were hanging out, doing cosplay and convention things. According to Alexandria, an unknown man offered Number One coffee on three occasions. Number One smartly refused, and Alexandria referred to this experience as abnormal.
A second friend of Alexandria’s had a more frightening experience. This friend was at a rave and left their drink alone for but a minute. Apparently, while Friend Number Two was away, someone slipped the date rape drug into her drink. She woke up in a strange room on the tenth floor of the hotel. Fortunately, this girl was not violated; however, no charges were pressed against anyone either. Additionally, Friend Number Two has not been a convention since.
Alexandria also shared a third story with me. She was at a convention with a third friend. Friend Number Three is a year younger than Alexandria. According to Alexandria, Friend Number Three is also quite pretty. Now, while jailbait may seem funny, it’s really not. Calling a minor jailbait is not a compliment; it’s creepy. This poor lass was told by a few men “Oh, wait until you’re 18” according to Alexandria.
The collected stories from just these two girls, their experiences, and what one witnessed raises a lot of red flags. If the adult women and men in our community are not safe from sexual harassment, then that means the minors within it are probably not safe either. I’m honestly not sure what the best solution to the problem of minors being harassed at conventions is. Parental supervision would be nice, but that’s not always possible. For some teenagers, conventions are a time away from parental control. I think the best solution is to keep advocating action and raising awareness within our community.
If you witness sexual harassment, report to security and see if they’ll do anything. If you witness sexual harassment, call the creeper out on their crap. Do something; don’t just stand by to wait for someone else. You’ll have to be someone else.
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