There has been some recent light shed on certain issues concerning the presence of women in the geek-scene, particularly cosplayers at conventions. That same subject has also shed light on the growing army of douchebags whose limited social skills are making these women feel unsafe in an environment that is meant to take them away from the real world, not subject them to the same shit that they have to deal with day-in and day-out. I wish to discuss this a bit and hopefully bring a little enlightenment to people about what I feel some of the major problems are and perhaps how we, as a group of like-minded outcasts, can bring the sanctity of our scene back.
Right now, everyone and their grandma is getting into the geek-scene. Comic books, video games, toys and all manner of other geek-related hobbies are becoming rapidly mainstream. Just look at the 2012 SDCC attendance of more than 130,000 people if you have any doubts as to that. Super heroes are regular fare for movies (more regular than most things, these days) and even the staunchest geek-hating jock stereotype is proudly sporting his Batman or Green Lantern t-shirt. With this change in demographics, there naturally comes a change in the scene as a whole.
It used to be that conventions attracted a very particular breed of people. These were mostly men, the occasional girlfriend or child and the rare, one-in-a-hundred comic-loving lady. Now, it’s truly massive. Geeks have been breeding for the last 50+ years, spitting out little geeklings of their own and filling today’s conventions with multiple generations of comic lovers, cosplayers and fans. In addition, there has been a rapid rise in the number of newbies – those people who believe that just because they watch Doctor Who, thought The Avengers was the best movie ever or happen to own a vintage game system that they’re in the right scene when they go to a con.
But people at conventions are by nature a welcoming group. We enjoy discussing our likes with other people, seeing the costumes that talented designers create and wear and watching our ranks swell to become one of the largest social movements on the planet. And though this friendliness is a sign of our strength, it also results in the scene becoming crowded with people who might do better elsewhere.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP
These newcomers and “casuals” don’t understand that the scene was organized not only as a place for people to share mutual interests, but also as a safe place for a population of people who have often lived somewhat persecuted lives. For decades we have been fleeing to the cons to find “our people” so to speak, but our people are getting harder and harder to find.
Along with the conventions come the cosplayers. There are plenty of people who take the time and effort to design costumes (or drop the cash to buy them) and then spend their weekends at the cons dressed up as their favorite characters. Some of these outfits are quite revealing, seeing as how super heroes tend toward a “less is more” approach when it comes to clothing and fighting evil. As a result of this, convention attendees (particularly women) end up dressed in next-to-nothing. Sexuality and the cosplay scene are intricately intertwined, because of this and, vice versa, the presence of scantily clad women is an expression of their sexuality. People can try to deny this, or say that there needs to be a change, but it’s never going to happen. You might as well tell hippies they need to stop playing hacky-sack or hipsters to lose the glasses. A population of cosplayers will always opt to have their T&A on display, for several reasons.
When you look at comic books, games, etc., the images of women are made to appeal to what is a primarily male audience. Anyone who doubts that sexuality is a major part of comics need only look to the fact that they’ve actually put out swimsuit editions of certain titles with both male and female characters looking sexier than any Sports Illustrated models. Women are large-breasted, have hips that defy the laws of physics, are of towering height and somehow pour themselves into their spandex outfits every morning. The men are covered in rippling muscles, crotches bulging or, depending on the hero, clad in nothing but a pair of tighty-whities (or tighty bright-colored whatevers). Action and fantasy have traditionally held an element of sex and a comic book or gaming universe is no exception.
Before I go any further, I’d just like to clarify that I am, like most people, totally okay with this extreme and exaggerated sexuality. Human beings are sexual creatures and if they want to display said sexuality within the context of the fantasy genre, then more power to them. Those cruising the con scene in a thonged one-piece or lingerie bear little difference from sun-worshippers cruising the beach in their g-strings (aside from the general paleness of cosplayers’ skin, of course).
But, that being said, women (and the occasional men) who dress in these outfits may or may not be actively looking to put their sexuality on display. Some dress as a particular character because they can relate to them or feel they resemble them physically in some way. Others think the outfits are appealing or cute. Still others are there to show off their costume-crafting skills. Often, the results of the choices are that the outfits are revealing. And usually, the people wearing them are quite aware that they’re getting more than their fair share of leers.
On that note, women (for convenience sake I will avoid “and the occasional men” for the rest of the article, considering there’s like 10 of you out there) who dress in sexually charged outfits do need to be aware of what they’re radiating. Anything else is willful ignorance. I’ve seen more than one Vampirella-costumed lass strutting about and if the person in that strip of cloth outfit does not realize that their goodies are hanging out all over the place, they have serious perceptive deficiencies.
Because of the sexuality inherit in the system, boys (and a significant population of girls) will ogle. It’s human nature and the ratio of men who can control that impulsive response is very small. Pictures taken of bursting cleavage and thonged cheeks are inevitably going to end up in the spank-folders of computer geeks (both men and women) across the world. But ogling and convention bathroom masturbation are far from the prevalent issues here. What is an issue is that the change in the scene is causing unacceptable lines to be crossed.
With the popularization of the scene, the safe place that the cons used to be is changing to something else. What was once a fantastical celebration of the sexuality and fetishism of a certain group of people is now generating assault from two major fronts – the feminists who want to shut the system down or control it, and the douchebags with small brains and no self control. The result is a conflict that threatens to damage the integrity of all we hold sacred.
In the past, certain things have kept issues such as sexual harassment to a minimum. For one, geeks are generally socially awkward people. They can barely talk to girls in many cases, let alone walk up to one and start displaying the superior dipshit skills. Secondly, the ratio of sex trolls to fans used to be very low. People who went to the cons when there to experience what the gatherings had to offer, not to try to hook-up or get their grope on.
Now those rules are changing. The outsider’s view of what a convention embodies is taking on a different shape. People are now assuming a number of things, such as:
- If you go to a convention, you will be surrounded by hot chicks with barely any clothes on.
- The men there are geeks and therefore the women are more receptive to “real men”.
- The do-as-you-will atmosphere means that anything goes, and thus sexy women in limited amounts of clothing are “obviously” there to hook-up and/or tease.
Add to that the fact that geeks are becoming more notorious for their drinking parties and you have people walking into conventions assuming that they’re going to a fetish-themed frat-party where there’ll be booze and loose women looking for muscled men to take control of them.
But the outsiders are not the only problem that’s changing the face of the scene. As geeks start to discover that they’re the rising power in the social world, they begin to feel more confident without necessarily having the social capacity to act on that power responsibly. The same goes for the female element, who feel their own increased sexualization and may choose to take advantage of that by putting on a costume to deliberately become the focus of thousands of sex-starved men.
When the changing face of geek-ness is combined with the rise of those who come to conventions just to “party”, the male population begins to swell its ranks with a large ratio of idiots with few social skills and a deficient view of women as human beings.
Right now we are seeing a rise in sexual harassment. Things like clandestine or blatant groping are also starting to rear their ugly heads. In the future, sexual assaults may emerge to become the main problem. It is essential that we stop the trend before it begins.
So what is the answer, besides culling the herd of those who can’t control the idiot side of themselves?
Both male and female halves of the team need to realize the problem and take steps to change it. We should be protecting each other even as we encourage the pursuit of our interests, whether they be sexual or otherwise. If we ignore the issues, we run the risk of the mainstream overrunning what the true essence of the scene is and, if that should happen, conventions will become spawning grounds for douchebags and we’ll all be forced to find other places to gather if we want to be ourselves.
We could choose to put strict rules on what people wear to cons, for their “own protection”. We could instill a bureaucracy so convoluted that conventions become a chore. Or perhaps armies of police stationed all throughout the convention halls would be the right way to protect people?
All of these options destroy the spirit of conventions. We are there to embrace the freedom of who we want to be, not confine it to strict regulations and Orwellian policing. Be we dressed slutty, demure, cross-gendered or otherwise, the scene needs to retain the choice of the individual to make that decision for themselves.
And as for the male side of the equation, it’s up to us to embody a certain essence of the heroes we claim to idolize. We need to be the Batman, not the jack-off in the Batman t-shirt. We need to remember why we’re there in the first place – because we love the genre and are looking to find others of our own breed. It’s possible to both live up to the expectations of our heroes and still entertain our own fantasies of a Wonder Woman / Harley Quinn threesome, as long as we know where the line is drawn. We need to denounce those who destroy our sanctity and let them know in no uncertain terms that they are not welcome in our home.
And that’s all I got. ‘Nuff Said.