I don’t think I’m very influential.
This site tends to get just under 100 views a day. Some days it’s lucky to hit 50. So in some ways, this may simply be preaching to the choir. I’m aware of this. But I also know that some of the people who read this are folks I don’t know personally, and may help spread the word to people who would otherwise be unaware of the following. So with that in mind, and simply wanting to promote positive behavior as much as possible, let’s talk about consent at conventions.
Convention season is in full swing. It’s great to meet people there. You may even be compelled to shake hands or even hug someone.
Make sure they’re cool with it first.
You may think it’s fun to give someone a ‘surprise hug’ but the fact of the matter is, there are a lot of people who have had bad experiences when it comes to being touched. An unexpected brush or contact can bring all sorts of unbidden memories and emotions roaring to the surface of the mind, and nobody wants that to happen. We gather in these placed to have fun together, not to hurt one another. It doesn’t take a lot – “May I shake your hand?” “Would you like a hug?” – but it will mean a world of difference to people if you act with courtesy and wait for consent.
This especially applies to cosplayers. A lot of people spend months preparing costumes to show off in large public places where people have shared interests. They do it for fun and to celebrate their fandoms. They, too, deserve the respect of being approached like a human being, rather than sized up like a piece of meat. If you catcall a cosplayer, or worse, impose yourself physically on one without your consent, you’re being part of the problem.
Remember: cosplayers are not wearing their costumes for you. They’re doing it for them, and they deserve to be proud of that without having to worry about getting creeped on by strangers.
Everybody needs contact, reassurance, even cuddles. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. As long as there is communication and consent, we can make our gatherings positive and memorable experiences. We have to work together to do it, and we have to look out for one another. That doesn’t just mean communication between the parties involved, but also communication with those that can help.
If you see something questionable, if someone’s getting hurt or being made to feel uncomfortable, tell someone. If you yourself are put in a position of which you do not approve, tell someone. Staff members are there to help you. There’s bound to be one disconnected from all of the goings on who will not only hear you out, but speak up on your behalf. Yes, there are bad experiences, and yes, sometimes things go sour even when you try to do the right thing.
What’s the alternative? Give up entirely?
If we all did that, if we all just gave up when things got frustrating or didn’t turn out the way we wanted, we’d get nowhere, and communities would crumble, all the good and positivity they create dissolving into nothingness and leaving this world a colder, more empty place. I think that dissent can be a good thing, and those who have a legitimate beef that goes unheard have the right to say what they have to say. My point is that, if we’re all working together, offering consent and speaking up for one another, it shouldn’t have to get to that point. Things can and will get better, but only if we all contribute towards making it so.
We all have to work together. One person, alone, can change very little, but again, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Ghandi once said “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” The more we work to make the collective experience better for everyone involved, the greater our influence on the flow of events and the lives of others becomes. We can, and will, change both how our communities work, and how they are perceived by others. And believe it or not, it all hinges on asking one simple question.
Can I have a hug?
(Images courtesy The Mary Sue; featured Enforcers are RGB, Ysterath, oogmar, and NotHanz. Original images hosted by Auspex on her Tumblr. Many thanks to Uhura Jones for pointing out the shortcomings in the above post.)