Convention tips for first-time Cosplayers (Part III)

Hurray! Final installation of our 3-Part series on tips for new cosplayers by Magdalena Auditore. This final segment touches on a very important, sensitive topic which not everyone is willing to talk about, so props to her for speaking her mind. Here we go:

8. Make a list of everything you need to bring with you!
    This is important, so make sure you plan it ahead (especially if you are staying at the hotel). Make a list, not only of the things you need for your costumes, but for the essential things you need for the room. It'll be a bad time if you forget to pack your tooth brush or soap or shaving needs, extra batteries, etc. Make sure you have enough with you to keep you fed and well groomed for the duration of your time there. And make sure to shower every day! Nobody likes stinky cosplayers!

    Also, it wouldn't hurt if you put aside money specifically for the convention’s dealer's rooms. Conventions tend to be pretty expensive, so don't invest all your money into just the costume and the badge. You'll definitely want to come home with some souvenirs! In regards to medication, it wouldn't hurt to bring some Motrin or painkillers, since you will be on your feet all this time. If it's possible, taking some cold medicine or a first aid kit couldn't hurt either in the event where you end up getting sick at the convention. Nothing is worse than rooming with someone who coughs and hacks all night long (I speak as the person who has done the coughing and hacking!) If you think you might get sick during the convention, or are currently sick and still want to attend, make sure you come prepared.

9. It doesn't hurt to let others know that you love their costume.
    As long as you are respectful with your approach and ALWAYS ask for permission for a picture or a hug, people do appreciate the feedback. They love knowing that their hard work has paid off, they love to know what they did right, and they like knowing that you love their whole look. Don't be afraid to tell them they look great! There's nothing wrong with putting a lot of love and support out there and showing your appreciation.

Now that we've got the more lighthearted stuff out of the way, I do feel the need to add this to the list. This is perhaps the most important advice one can give first time con-goers, especially if they plan on attending more conventions in the future:

10. Sexual Harassment should be taken very seriously.
    This is especially important because conventions do have a huge sexual harassment problem. Nobody at the convention has the right to verbally or physically degrade you because of the costume you're wearing. As such, you have no right to do that to other people for what they are wearing, what character they're dressed up as, or how much of their body is on display. You also have no right to make lewd comments about someone's body or "what you'd like to do to it." You are talking to complete strangers who are meeting you for the first time. They might not share your same sense of humor and probably will not appreciate someone who is not their friend making comments or jokes like this to them. To put it bluntly, just act like you have some goddamned sense.
Following people around the convention, stalking them, taking pictures of them without their consent, and/or not leaving them alone when they're walking away from you is going to give that person serious creep vibes. Again, you are a complete stranger and they know nothing about you. Even if you have been talking to this person online prior to meeting them in person, you are still a stranger. Even if your intentions might be good (and I am saying this lightly), you need to consider that your actions are still very disrespectful. There is no need to make someone else uncomfortable at a convention and ruin their time.

    I must also add that just as you have no right to verbally or physically degrade someone, you also do not have any right to coerce or pressure another person into sexual acts. This is sexual assault and rape. If a cosplayer has not consented to sex and you have constantly disrespected his/her wishes and decisions to get what you want out of them, you are a sexual predator. I don't care if this person did not verbally express "no," because the absence of a "no" does not mean "yes." They shouldn't need to verbally express themselves if they're actively avoiding you, and you cannot convince me that you are completely oblivious to their message.

Before I conclude this, there is one crucial topic that needs to be made clear at the request of many of my cosplayer friends: you have no right to take advantage of young cosplayers, especially if you are several years older than they are. I know the age of consent in the United States is generally 18, but as far as I'm concerned, 18 is still a baby. I'm 24 and I want absolutely nothing to do with an 18-year-old and it confuses and baffles me that not everybody shares this mindset. For me, I don't care how attractive or "older" they look, or even if they are able to consent legally. You need to understand that even if they are 18, a year ago they were still too young to consent and very little about a person's mental and emotional state changes in just one year. As for the con-goers who are younger than 18, I've heard too many people try to say that the "jailbait cosplayers get innocent people in trouble" and I personally do not buy that. You are an adult and you are fully responsible for your decisions. You have no right to take advantage of younger cosplayers who may or may not be socially awkward or have self-esteem issues. You should be protecting them and looking out for them.

    In the event where you feel disrespected or uncomfortable, try to be as vocal about it as you can. This is not saying that it is your fault if you are not. This is stressing the fact that you have the right to be firm and angry when you are disrespected, so do not feel embarrassed or that you're being too hard on the person who is harassing you. Assume that they know exactly what they are doing when they are disrespecting you and do not feel guilty for putting them in their place. If you feel like it's becoming dangerous, try to find a security guard. If you hear someone sexually harassing another cosplayer, sometimes all it takes is one person to shut that person down, even if it's a simple, "Dude, don't be fucking weird." This should be a fun experience for everybody and to keep the community safe, we need to look out for each other and put a stop to this sort of thing when it happens in front of us.

    I understand that there are those who would prefer it if sexual harassment was not called out or made aware of at conventions out of fear that the convention will shut down or people won't go to them. That being said, I would argue that if you are not safe at a convention and the people running them aren't going to do anything to make the environment safer, that convention doesn't deserve your money. Your safety and health comes first. Seek out the conventions that have no-tolerance policies for sexual harassment. Ignoring the problem only creates more problems.

(Further discussion of these issues can be found at Feminspire, GeeksAreSexyhere and here.)

Final Thoughts 

    Like all things, conventions have both good and bad things about them. There are a lot of positives and a lot of negatives, but for every one I've ever attended, there has always been a togetherness and a sense of community and friendship. Once you're there and you're around like-minded people who love all the same things you do, it is very easy to cut loose and have as much fun as possible. Hopefully these tips will help you when attending your first convention!