For over 40 years, comic lovers have flocked to Comic-Con International: San Diego to celebrate all things comics, science fiction, and fantasy. Over the past decade, the convention has grown wildly popular, with approximately 130,000 fans in attendance this past weekend. On the surface, Comic-Con appears to be a fun-filled event with competitions, workshops, and special screenings. However, a deeper look reveals a darker side where harassment is rampant and people are hurt.
Sexual harassment is a huge problem across the country, and Comic-Con is certainly not exempt. In fact, harassment has grown to be such a big problem over recent years that a group of women from Philadelphia created the group Geeks for CONsent to combat innapropriate advances and assault. The group proudly holds signs, posts fliers, sell comic books, and hands out temporary tattoos exclaiming "Cosplay =/= CONsent," and they started a petition demanding that event organizers take harassment more seriously and strictly enforce punishments for offenders.
Both men and women have reported being harassed at the event, claiming they've been groped, photographed, and demeaned at the convention. For some reason, some event-goers feel they're entitled to touch or harass scantily-clad cosplayers. This mentality isn't new and is a reflection of a broader problem where people believe clothing choice is directly tied to consent. Just so we're clear, it absolutely is not. Assuming someone wants to be touched, harassed, or assaulted based on their clothing (or lack thereof) is unacceptable, and harassment makes for a hostile and uncomfortable setting.
One example of harassment came from a cosplayer who tweeted: "@GeeksForConsent saw your flier at #SDCC2014. Guy last night kept harassing me, wouldn't go away. Groped me and PICKED ME UP. I was scared." No one should be scared to attend a fun event." Even non-cosplayers expressed their safety concerns. According to the Washington Post, Sci-Fi author John Scalzi told the LA Times that he felt Comic-Con's harassment policy wasn't effective enough. As a result, he took his book signing to another location.
Aside from that, Comic-Con attendees also experienced a stranger form of harassment this year. Hundreds of cosplaying zombies were participating in the seventh annual ZombieWalk "” an event where fans of the undead dress up and creep people out in downtown San Diego "” when a group attacked a car stopped at an intersection.
"The crowd started punching the windows," SDPD officer David Stafford told Deadline. "They even jumped on the hood of the car. They smashed the windshield."
Stafford also told Deadline that the assault victims in the vehicle, a family with children, were all deaf. They were terrified "” and honestly, who wouldn't be scared after a group of people covered in fake blood shattered your windshield "” and drove off. Unfortunately, the car hit a 64-year-old woman who was sent to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. Deadline reported that no arrests have been made, and that the family drove straight to a police officer after the incident.
Whoever thought it was OK to attack an innocent family or harass another person because of his/her costume needs a serious reality-check. Cosplay is supposed to be fun, and it certainly isn't meant to harm other people. If this kind of behavior continues, the consequences could be drastic "” at the very least, I'm hoping someone dressed as Scarlet Witch will deliver a swift ass-kicking.