A lot of going to a con is based around attention. Paying attention to lots of exciting things, gaining the attention of a celebrity or artist you are excited to meet, or getting attention for all of your hard work on a cosplay. The community as a whole needs to gain an understanding of the difference between good attention and bad attention. The phrase “Cosplay is not consent” has been a huge message at conventions for the past couple of years; and we need to talk about what that means, and also realize that fame isn’t consent either.
Consent is necessary for any interaction with a person, be it physical contact, photographs of them, blogging about them, videos of them or even conversations with them. Consent means that everyone has agreed to, and is ok with what is happening. As the little boy my sister watches puts it “my body my rules”. This also goes for a person’s image.
I feel as a community fandom has a pretty solid grasp on not touching people without their consent, we aren’t animals, we figured that out. But, what we haven’t seemed to figure out is that what we do with a person’s image also requires consent. You can not take someone’s picture without asking them. You can’t upload pictures of someone to the internet without telling them in advance and giving them a chance to say no.
You can not take a picture of someone else’s art without their consent. You especially can not post said picture online where it can be reposted without that artist’s knowledge. You can not reproduce another person’s art without their consent because you “really wanted it on a shirt”. An artist’s display and artwork is their property and their livelihood. you do not have a right to it.
You also cannot draw creepy porn of a celebrity and bring it to them. They don’t want to see it. This behavior is not acceptable anywhere in society. With some fandoms it has gotten to the point where celebrities have had to put out statements to explain to us what should be common sense. You can not walk up to strangers and show them pornography. That is a pretty reasonable assumption to make. You can call it fan art all you want but you still don’t have a right to show someone images of themself being violently sodomized.
A lot of being in fandom, and being a geek in general, is unabashed excitement over things. We are an excitable bunch, and people expect that at conventions, but being that excited is not an excuse for violating consent. You can be excited and still obtain consent and realize what materials are appropriate to show a person. If fan art is rated PG it is fine to show to a celebrity, but they don’t want to see your concept of forbidden love, and they especially don’t want to see things that are illegal outside of a drawing (I’m talking to you wincest kids).
A convention, while a break from the real world, is not an excuse to forget how to act like a reasonable human being. I don’t care how many hours you spent getting Stile Stilinski’s anus just right you don’t have a right to show it to someone and make them uncomfortable. It is not endearing. It’s harassment. I do not care how awesome you think someone’s art is, you can not repost it or reprint it without their consent. It is not flattery. it’s theft. I don’t care how cool or sexy someone’s costume is, you can not touch them. It is not a compliment. It’s assault.
We are living in the age of the geek, we are cool, we are in vogue. Now is not the time to be the shit stains of the universe. If we want to escape the stigma of being the creepy guy in his mom’s basement we have to do better. We need to be better than consent violations and celebrities having to explain things to us like we’re toddlers; and we need to prove it.