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Dealing with sexual harassment at comic conventions

Cosplayers at El Paso Comic Con Sept 16, 2021. Photo by Danielle Gutierrez

Comic Conventions are an array of multi-day events where people go to enjoy vast pop culture, from video games to manga, to film and tv, and of course cosplay. There are UTEP students who do attend this convention and I want to alert them about a situation that many may not express or tell their experience. 

Cosplay: the act of dressing up as a character from a movie, show, book, or video game, is a common practice in the comic-con world and people can either buy their costumes or make their own. Many have seen cosplay as an art form because they can use their artist’s libraries and skills to make props and costumes, as well as makeup. However, there is an issue that people overlook while in cosplay or attending conventions, sexual harassment. 

A behavior that should not be tolerated at any time or place.  

As a person who attends conventions and does cosplay, it is a wonderful feeling of having others compliment you, be excited about who you are cosplaying as, asking to take pictures, and having little kids see their favorite characters in person believe that they are that specific character. It really helped me gain confidence and enjoyment in cosplay. I have watched people who cosplay professionally such as Mahou Melody, AnyaPanda, and Axceleration as they have talked about their untasteful stories of people being creepy and inappropriate. I have not really seen many articles about this behavior while in cosplay. I want to maintain a safe space for myself and others free from toxic behavior. But why does it happen in conventions, why do not some see it as a big deal, and does our local Comic Con take the measures to keep people safe? 

I believe people do not see it as a big deal because of the misogyny within the community. Female characters in comics and other media are attractive and usually have revealing costumes, have bigger assets and many are designed by men and for the male gaze. The community will of course have different opinions. There are people believing that women in the community are cosplaying solely for the male gaze and should be flattered by the attention. 

As a woman, I do love the attention of others but not the attention that they are mentioning. I would be happy with the attention of a recognized character, the artistry, the time put into cosplay and have compliments which have a small convocation with that person. I and many others do not want to be sexualized while in cosplay. 

Our city has its own convention called, El Paso Comic Con, which has hosted 40 conventions since its inauguration in the early 1980s.I have started going since I was a pre-teen but never stayed long enough to enjoy it. As I started to really have the feel and experience back in 2019, I was always accompanied by my boyfriend, but if I was to go alone I would feel unsafe as I have a personal history of harassment from people within the community.  

What happens to those who do not have someone to be with during the convention, and what does the convention do if a person experiences inappropriate behavior? Within their website, a zero-tolerance policy applies to everyone attending and the staff which is not limited to stalking, intimidation, unwelcomed physical contact, inappropriate physical contact, offensive verbal comments and any form of physical or emotional persecution. Anyone with these behaviors will be immediately ejected from the event without a refund and law enforcement authorities may be notified. They encourage attendees to alert the staff immediately to resolve the situation.  

I am grateful that El Paso ComicCon is taking violations and inappropriate behaviors very seriously to keep the community safe for all attendees of the event. As it should be a safe place for everyone to enjoy themselves, and connect with people in the community, and I cannot wait to go and see you all at the next convention. 

 Danielle Gutierrez is a guest contributor and may be reached at [email protected] 

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Dealing with sexual harassment at comic conventions