Comic Con’s Con-Sent Problems Need to be Discussed
San Diego Comic Con is our nerdy dream come true. We get outstanding panels, a ton of fantastic news, and some of the greatest cosplays we’ve ever seen. This year we weren’t left disappointed and we got so much unexpected news that many of us are still reeling from it all and trying to place what it all means in regards to arcs, movie universes, and changes to some of our favorite characters.
Unfortunately, we also were left with 2 events that proved we need to have a talk about sexual assault, consent, and why women are railing against nerd culture.
Model Adrianne Curry, who is no stranger to cosplay, took matters into her own hands after a man groped her friend, fitness model Alicia Marie. Marie had been dressed as Tigra at the time and while the pair posed for pictures, a man came up to her and yanked her tail while pulling down her bottoms. Curry chased down the man, cracked him across the face with the butt of her bullwhip, and publicly shamed him to make sure that other con-goers would understood that he was not a safe person to be around. The thing is though, Curry isn’t happy with that. Curry wasted no time in also publicly shaming the rest of those who stood silently by and watched it all go down. In her own words:
“I was disappointed with the lack of reaction from the men. Here are women screaming and defending themselves and all the guys are like ‘Look at that, that chick just got molested, cool, right on.'”
Curry speaks for a lot of women when she bemoans the lack of help that women receive in regards to the perverse sexual harassment that women cosplaying often get and its something that is also discussed when the overall idea of rape culture is discussed. Namely, why can we universally agree that sexual harassment and rape are bad things but struggle to help out women (or men) in need and also shift the blame? Remember that Curry and Marie are both well known women and they still couldn’t get help. These were women who were being interviewed and photographed by multiple media outlets and they couldn’t even get someone to help during a very public assault. What does that say about the multitudes of other women who face sexual harassment at cons (or in general?)
We sadly got the answer to that question as well.
Many of you may have noticed a post circulating the internet as follows:
One of my dearest friends was found on the side of the road, unconscious and bloody. She was wearing this cosplay on the day it happened. She was last seen with friends when she ran off after a disagreement. Please, please, please, if you have ANY information or saw her anywhere, contact her mother. The full information is down below. This isn’t okay and it’s sickening to know that this happened at a place people truly can enjoy themselves. Please spread the word.
”I just received a call from the San Diego Police Department and my daughter (redacted) aka (redacted) was found on the side of the road covered in blood with no ID unconscious. They are unsure what happened to her. My husband is on his way to the police station and then the hospital. If you have any information on what happened to her please send me a facebook message or call me at (redacted). Thank you in advance”. -(redacted)
While there is some good news in the form of her injuries being similar to that of someone who fell rather than assault, I’m absolutely appalled at the various reactions that weren’t simply “I hope this poor girl is alright”.
Like Curry said, the real outrage does not need to solely lie within the perpetrator but in the complete inaction and excuses that other people give. When the news about this girl hit, many people’s first response were to publicly shame her and report it as a fraud. Let me repeat that. An underage girl was found unconscious on the side of the road covered in blood and a ton of people decided that the best thing to do was tell her she deserved it and that it must be fake. At this point we have no idea what happened or even if she was assaulted but that hasn’t stopped people from placing blame on a 17 year old girl who suffered extreme injuries.
Initial posts included multiple pictures of her in cosplay as that was what she was wearing the last time people saw her. And with it drew the multitude of posts about how she drew the attack herself:
Marie also was subject to this type of criticism:
The biggest problem with these kinds of behaviors are that they place blame solely on the victim and shaming is the number one way to make sure that victims don’t speak up about the things they’ve suffered. If response to being publicly assaulted is “well what did you expect wearing that?” then we’re not even attempting to help victims and we’re doing a great job of silencing them from any future and potential past assaults. The problem isn’t with the victim, it’s with the perpetrator. I mean, do we really think that people who don’t care one bit about consent or respecting other people would suddenly stop assaulting others if everyone just wore baggy pants and turtlenecks? And if so, why in the world do we have that mentality? We can’t handle unsolicited telemarketing calls during dinner but we for some reason think that the unsolicited touch from a random man is something women are desperately seeking.
Of course, there are also more questions worth asking. We can for certain bemoan the overt sexuality and near nudity of cosplayers but it turns into a really bizarre thing when you begin to question why female characters are even being created with outfits that are getting cosplayers blamed and even kicked out of cons. Curry was once kicked out of a con for a wearing an exact replica of Aeon Flux’s comic costume and Jessica Nigri was famously kicked out of PAX twice for cosplaying various outfits from Lollipop Chainsaw. Nigri, by the way, was an official spokesmodel hired to cosplay this character. Which again makes me question, what kind of messed up world do we live in which people will publicly shame women for cosplaying characters (whether its part of their job or for fun) who were designed in such a manner and will even go so far as to tell these same women that they deserve any and all negativity they experience for being “sluts” and “whores”? And why is this only ever aimed at women?
I mean listen fellas. I get it. Have a nice build and cosplay one of those numerous ripped heroes and I’m certain you’re also going to get some unwelcome attention. But when’s the last time you said you were going to cosplay as Khal Drogo, topless and everything, and someone said “Well have fun getting groped you slut”? When’s the last time you overheard other con attendees call a collection of 300 cosplayers a bunch of whores looking for attention? Why is it ok for men to “hilariously” cosplay characters like Faye Valentine or Misty but when a women does it they’re looking to get assaulted? We need to start looking at these things, having conversations about them, and confronting them in public.
The events that happened to Alicia Marie and the underage girl are not stories that are unusual and we sadly need to be having these conversations if we want anything to change. Women have been nerds for a long, long time and simply want to partake in the same events that men have been enjoying for just as long; without the added frustration of sexual harassment all because they have chosen to represent one of their favorite heroes. With groups like Geeks for Consent and prolific women like Marie and Curry speaking up about the issue I can’t help but feel like we’re fortunately changing for the better simply by actually putting these issues in the spotlight. Marie did unfortunately get groped but Curry was afforded the ability to bust a dude’s face in while dressed as Catwoman and speak about it publicly. And was widely applauded for doing so. But again, Curry made the excellent point in stating that much of the change needs to come from US. It isn’t so much that we aren’t the ones doing it but that we’re silently affirming and excusing such behavior. We can sit here and be outraged at blatant harassment and assault but when’s the last time you stood up for someone? How often have we heard men AND women publicly denounce other women as being “sluts” or “whores” and didn’t say anything about it? How many times have we witnessed a woman clearly uncomfortable with the attention someone’s giving her and chose to walk away because it wasn’t our problem? And these things don’t just apply to cons, they apply to every single day of our lives. Remember that just one person groped Marie but dozens stood there, watched, and didn’t do anything. We all need to be heroes and start taking action.