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Convention Life: The Other “Con” — Consent

Conferences

I’ve decided to republish the series of posts about conventions and convention life that were originally published over at Speculative Chic. This particular post, about consent — a super important topic in con life — was published on August 10, 2017. You can find the original here!


Maybe you’ve heard the term “Cosplay is not Consent.” It’s a movement within the fan convention community to educate people on how to act — or rather, how not to act. And it all revolves around Consent.

Why talk about consent?

Conventions can be a lot like parties, and at parties people want to have fun. But generally, folks are thinking of their own fun and not necessarily the fun of others. So talking about consent is important both within and outside of conventions so that we can also be aware of other people’s comfort and wellbeing at the con.

It’s also important to talk about consent because having ownership over one’s body is a fundamental right of being human. Setting boundaries on how other people treat us is a healthy way of living life. And consent is a big part of boundary setting.

 

What is Consent?

Photo: CARE – Campus Assault ResponsE – http://campusassaultresponse.org/

Consent is simply agreement. It can be nuanced in different ways, but when you drill right down to its basic definition, it is agreement.

Consent means that all involved parties agree to what is happening, whether it’s something physical, like touching or taking a photo, or verbal, such as being catcalled, being talked about, or objectified.

What does consent mean at a convention?

It means that no matter how someone is dressed, no matter how much (or how little) skin is showing, there is no touching without asking. It is not an invitation for other people. It does not mean that the person — usually a woman — is a party favor for your use.

This isn’t just about touching, though. It’s about everything from touching to speaking. It’s about being aware of how the words we say affect the person we’re speaking to or about. It’s about treating people with dignity.

Cosplay is Not Consent is the movement that has come out of the flood of complaints of harassment and, in some cases, assault, that has happened at conventions across the country, from the biggest to the smallest. Check out Geeks for Consent for some great links to news stories about this topic.

Is it all in the gender?

Fan conventions are often male-dominated, so it makes sense that the higher number of consent violations are done by men. It can be difficult to explain to men why being touched without permission or being objectified by verbal comments is unwelcome.

Often, when we, as women, say, “How would you feel if…?” the response tends to be, “Oh, I would love it if a woman just walked up to me and grabbed my ass!”

What these men often don’t have perspective of is that women receive this sort of treatment all the time. Catcalls, inappropriate comments about their bodies, and even unwelcome touches from men. And it is all with no choice in who is doing these things. It can be any man, at any place, at any time.

If men think this is something they might enjoy, I believe they’re envisioning a woman they’re attracted to doing it at a time and place they would like it to be done. And that is not the experience of women who receive this sort of attention from men, both at conventions and outside conventions. These behaviors are done by men, regardless of whether the woman is attracted to them, is in the mood for such attention, or wants any attention at all. In other words, without her consent.

So men who think they would like this often don’t understand that they probably wouldn’t, if their reality matched the reality of women’s experiences.

But men are not the only people violating consent at conventions. Women do it too. Not nearly to the numbers as men, but they can be just as offensive as men. I once watched a woman literally grab a guy’s codpiece for a photo, to the man’s absolute surprise. I couldn’t tell whether he was offended or not, but it was still non-consensual and a sexual assault by its very nature.

Anyone has the ability to violate consent. It happens much more to women by men than vice versa, but it can happen both ways. The only hope in combating this is to make us all more aware.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to police our own actions.

How To Avoid Being ‘That Dude’ (or ‘That Chick’)

Do

  • give compliments or ask questions focusing more on the costume than the body in it — “Did you paint your leggings yourself? Those are really cool!”
  • give generalized compliments –“Your costume is amazing!” or “You look just like Gal Godot! That’s incredible.” etc.Keep Calm and Get Consent
  • pay attention to body language and environment — If they’re waiting in line for the bathroom, be very brief in your interaction, if it’s necessary at all; if they look like they’re on a mission to get somewhere, let them go; pay attention to whether your attention is welcome.
  • be respectful of someone’s time and space — don’t monopolize.
  • ASK — Everyone appreciates someone who takes a moment to ask their consent to take a photo or touch a part of their costume or body; this can’t be stressed enough.
  • Be respectful of the answer to your question — Always remember that they’re allowed to say no. Don’t already be doing the thing as you ask for their consent. Wait for their answer.
  • Say thank you when they’ve agreed to something you’ve requested, because they’re doing something nice for you.

Don’t

  • catcall, unless it’s appropriate — It might be appropriate at a costume contest, or some other situation where an audience is expected to make noise.
  • comment specifically about someone’s body — Consider “You’ve got great boobs!” vs “You look great!” The first is a big no; the second is a big yes.
  • assume anything — And this means anything.

Accidents Happen

So what do you do when you’ve offended someone by accident, or realize you’ve done something inappropriate?

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

~~Martin Luther King, Jr.

It doesn’t have to be about you having made a mistake. It is absolutely about how you handle the mistake you made.

Always, the first thing to do is apologize. And be sincere. Sometimes, this is the only thing you can do. Sometimes the person you offended doesn’t want to hear it and will walk away. Let them go. They’ve made their decision, and you trying to force your apology on them is just another version of the mistake you made in the first place.

But if they do listen, you can then ask what you can do to fix the situation, what will make the other person okay? There may be nothing you can do other than go away. And that’s okay. But maybe you took a photo without asking, and they tell you that you can make it better by deleting the photo. Then delete the photo. Act with integrity.

The final thing you can do has nothing to do with the person you offended. The final thing you can do is remember your mistake. Remember it and do your best not to do it again in the future. Err on the side of caution if you’re unsure. And, again, you can never go wrong by asking.

Conventions can be a great time! They’re big and fun and exciting. We’re among our nerdy tribe and our fellow fangirls and -boys. Convention producers create them for folks to have a great time. But we have to make sure our good time doesn’t make someone else’s experience a bad time. We’re all in this together!

Do you have questions or comments about any of this stuff or conventions in general? Drop them down below! 🙂

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are mine or CC0 licensed.

Ready for Dragon Con? Surviving A Convention (and More!)

Conferences

Dragon Con is coming up this weekend in Atlanta. It’s a huge science fiction/fantasy/horror fan convention; they’re estimating 82,000 people in attendance this year. That’s a lot of people.

All the things you’d expect to happen with that many people in a two mile square area happen: traffic is crazy; restaurant wait times are off the chain; and don’t forget something in your room, because it’ll take you an hour to get up there and back again. And some things you might not think to expect: don’t bother with your cell phone, as the towers are so jammed, you can’t hold a phone call; texts too. They’ll go through, but on their own time, so if you’re trying to plan something for NOW, smoke signals might be better.

I have a monthly column over at Speculative Chic. Over the last year, I’ve written a number of posts on convention life. I thought it’d be a good idea to curate them all into a list in one post. So here it is!

Conventions 101: What Are They and How Do You Survive Them?

Here’s your intro to conventions. If you don’t have any idea what to expect; if you’re not sure whether they’re right for you; if you have no idea how to even find one or choose one, then this is the post for you!

In deciding what convention to attend, take into consideration your purpose in going. Are you looking to land an agent? Hobnob with actors? Reinvigorate your writing? Your why will help you to decide which conventions you want to invest your time and money in.


 

I wrote two posts especially for those of us who are not independently wealthy, about doing con season on a budget. It’s all about volunteering.

Con Season on a Budget: How to Volunteer at Your Favorite Convention

In this post, I give some pretty detailed steps about how to go about figuring out what you want to do for a convention and how to land the volunteer spot, including how to interact in a face to face meeting with a track director and the wording if you’re contacting them via e-mail instead.

Before you reach out to throw yourself into the volunteering fray, figure out what areas you’d enjoy working in or which could utilize your strengths.

Con Season on a Budget: Being a Great Volunteer

And we keep going with the volunteering theme. In this one, I talk about what to do and what not to do, so that the conventions you work with will want you to come back year after year. Since conventions usually offer free or discounted admission to volunteers, this can save you some nice cash that you can instead spend in the vendor rooms!

And on the topic of guests — people who are on panels or giving classes — you might be in contact with celebrities. It can be a little overwhelming and you might be tempted to fangirl/boy all over your favorite author/actor/artist. Don’t do it.


 

There are a lot of “C” words associated with conventions. I didn’t really notice it until I did this series 😉

Convention Life: Con Prep, Con Crud, Con Drop

If you haven’t done many cons, you may not have heard these terms. But it’s good to be familiar with them so you can guard against things that need to be guarded against and deal with things that need to be dealt with.

You don’t want to be in the middle of getting dressed, then realize you left your pants at home (I say this from experience!).

Convention Life: The Other “Con” — Consent

Consent has come to the forefront of conversations about fan conventions in recent years and I’m really glad that it has. Consent is something we don’t talk about enough in our culture anyway, and conventions are places where having someone’s consent to do anything — from taking a photo to touching them — is of the greatest importance.

Anyone has the ability to violate consent. It happens much more to women by men than vice versa, but it can happen both ways. The only hope in combating this is to make us all more aware.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to police our own actions.

 

So there you go! Lots of stuff about attending conventions, working conventions, and surviving conventions!

Any additional suggestions about conventions? Please let me know in the comments!

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Dragon Con. Unless attributed otherwise, all other images are CC0 licensed.