Sexualization of Cosplay, does it need restrictions?

art_AkiChan - Sexualization of cosplay

Aki-Chan Cosplay as Super Sonico Nitro Police Photography by Alex Finlayson

Should restrictions be put in place to target the trend on the Sexualization of Cosplay

When did cosplay become ‘too sexy’? Nowadays you can’t even browse cosplay photos without someone making a derogatory comment about the standard of someone’s cosplay because their breasts or abs are on show. What people don’t seem to understand is that the cosplay community is changing, it’s rapidly expanding and growing and with all things that gain popularity rules and regulations are required to try and keep everyone happy. Conventions like PAX and Anime Boston have regulations on ‘skimpy’ cosplays and can ask attendees to change their attire if they deem it inappropriate and eventually other events shall follow suit. Most popular conventions are targeted at the general public and promote a family environment, therefore obscene nudity and things that may not be considered appropriate for younger children are banned, but the rules concerning ‘skimpy’ cosplays are increasing to the point where even Slave Leia will be banned.

Event organizers would be foolish to not acknowledge that there is a new style of cosplay in which cosplayers work harder to achieve amazing bodies and cosplay characters who do not wear an awful lot of clothing but that isn’t the cosplayer’s fault. Videogame and anime characters are famously oversexualized with unrealistic proportions and scantily clad outfits, and if you see one of those characters and decide to cosplay it why should you judged as any less of a cosplayer than someone covered from neck to ankle? I know of a lot of cosplayers who spend just as much time and effort on their ‘skimpy’ cosplays as those who are ‘fully clothed’ and their work is immediately disregarded simply because people see a little too much skin.

art_JessicaNigri - Sexualization of Cosplay

Jessica Nigri as Charizard Photography by Adam Patrick Murray

It has become a current trend to take a character and give them more sex appeal, usually through changing the character’s gender or creating an alternative outfit that is more ‘sexy’ than the character’s original design. Due to the increasing fame of cosplayers like Jessica Nigri these cosplays have become quite a common feature for most conventions. Like any trend it has its supporters and opposition, people state that these cosplays are ‘ruining cosplay’ and ‘take all the attention away from those who worked hard on their costumes’. A lot of the opposition seems to be directed at the female cosplayers who expose too much flesh since I’m yet to see anyone against a Free! cosplayer in nothing but swimming shorts. It is true that those in a revealing cosplay are more likely to get attention from photographers and other attendees, and I understand that cosplayers can play on this but I wouldn’t necessarily blame the cosplayer. If there was no audience for this trend it would have died out before it even started, but photographers and cosplayers who try to make a living off their hobby know that at the moment especially, sex appeal sells. The sexualization trend is nothing more than a passing trend, just like how gender-bending was a trend a few years back, eventually, a new thing is going to come along with new people supporting it and new people opposing it and this whole war on sexualization will be forgotten.

For me a major issue that has increased with the popularity of ‘sexy’ cosplays is the number of people admitting to being harassed at conventions. I have read far too many stories about people assuming simply because someone has a revealing cosplay you can treat them like a doll. I’ve seen friends of mine being harassed and groped by other attendees just because their abs and boobs are out. Incidents such as these occur so often now that the ‘Cosplay is not Consent’ movement has taken centre stage. It saddens me that as a community we need movements like these so that cosplayers can feel safe attending conventions. However, as previously stated, when something gains popularity rules are needed to keep everyone in place. Unfortunately some people need to be reminded that just because someone has shown up as Yoko from Guren Lagann or Dante from Devil May Cry does not mean that you can touch them however you like.

art_Aubergenius - Sexualization of Cosplay

Aubergenius Cosplay as Fem!Dante Photography by Torrent Photography

In my opinion the whole ‘hating on people who do sexy cosplay’ thing is just silly. A lot of these cosplayers work hard
on their costumes and work even harder on staying in shape and doing their makeup perfectly for it just like everyone else, so who are you to tell them simply because there is sex appeal their work is worth less than yours? When the next trend comes along it’ll have its negative points and positive points and all we can do adapt to it. As far as restrictions are concerned, the line between skimpy and inappropriate is a little blurry, if regulations are to be put in place at more conventions then there needs to be a set guideline on what qualifies as ‘skimpy’.

At the end of the day we’re all in the same boat, we’re all people trying to express our love for certain fictional characters in many different ways and it makes no sense to attack people within our own community. If you don’t like sexualized cosplays that’s up to you, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but please don’t spread needless hate. We’re all entitled to our own opinions and our own way of doing things so don’t judge a person just because they want to do something different to the way it was done before. As a creative community we should both support the creativity of these cosplays and offer constructive criticism rather than ‘You only get attention because of bewbs’. So if you take anything from my article just try and appreciate that the people you’re judging are people like you too, the comments you leave and hate you give simply because they’re showing skin is like someone leaving negative comments for no reason on your own cosplay and that’s not the sort of community I’d like to be a part of.

By Paige Dolan (IzZyBOOM! Cosplay)

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Aki-Chan Cosplay –
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3 thoughts on “Sexualization of Cosplay, does it need restrictions?

  1. Joe says:

    Very well put. I completely agree, the amount of skin showing has no bearing on how much effort the cosplayer put into making their costume. The only point that I disagree on is that sexualized cosplays is a fad. I don’t believe it is. They’ve been around as long as cosplay has. If anything they’re gaining popularity because people are realizing that girls can be geeks too and they’re being accepted more and more instead of saying that “the girl in the Princess Leia bikini is only dressed like that to get attention and doesn’t even know anything about Star Wars”

  2. Larry S. Evans II says:

    There’s a broad ignorance regarding what cosplay is and this is frequently fostered by mass media who invariably cover conventions and events by posting pictures of well-endowed (or apparently well-endowed) female cosplayers, along with stereotypical “nerdy guys” so they can claim “fairness. This is because sex sells. It’s a basic human drive, and advertisers have been exploiting it since the stone age.

    And let’s be honest, the images in pop culture comic books, anime, and films are exploiting the same thing. So if one is going to copy or emulate those characters, there’s going to be a component of sexuality.

    And also to be honest, the people dressing up like that are doing it to get attention. I know I do. The only reason that it makes sense to walk around in fifty pounds of leather, rubber, fur, and upholstery material at a convention is because you enjoy people looking at it and going “Wow!”

    So girls, or guys, who want to strut their stuff around the dealer room floor – because the job they have and the home they live in and the community they belong to won’t let them do that – should be able to strut it to their hearts content, free from judgement, insult or harassment.

    I think the cosplay community can get behind that. They’ve done a pretty good job of it for the most part. A lot of the prominent “professional” cosplayers have advocated and spoken out about inappropriate behavior. I hope it’s taking hold. I have two daughters myself who cosplay, and I don’t want to think some perv is stalking them at a con.

    The problem however, is the fact that we have far too many lawyers in this country, and they feel they need to get involved in everything.

    So you get restrictions. Because clearly the way to resolve a problem is not by educating and uplifting the community but by treating everyone like they are in the first grade.

    “Family-oriented” and “family-friendly”? Well, that depends on the family doesn’t it? We know what they mean. Ozzie and Harriet. The Brady Bunch. A fictional quasi-puritanical family that can’t be exposed to exposed naughty bits…like –gasp– cleavage. However, some of us are more in common with the Addams Family than the Cleavers. In fact, I’d argue that most of the people who are gonzo enough to put up the substantial cash for tickets, parking, food, etc. that is involved in a major convention are most likely a little bit odd.

    That’s not to say that June and Ward can’t bring Wally and the Beaver down to see the guy in the Superman outfit (because as you know, Superman is the only allowed comic book in quasi-Puritanical 1950s land…that and pre-zombie Archie). But let’s suggest maybe they take a Sunday afternoon as “Family Time” and let the rest of us weirdos enjoy the con in our comfortable adult fashion.

    The same restrictions are the knee-jerk reaction to assault and sexual harassment issues. Obviously, if they can’t dress like that, then no one would be assaulting them. In other words, the restrictions are based on the concept that the cosplayer was “asking for it”. Can’t throw out the pigs who are groping the girls, have to make sure those girls are not showing those naughty bits.

    Some people are comfortable showing skin, and should have the right to do it among reasonably intelligent adults without fear of reprisal or harassment. Some people are not comfortable, and should be as free to interpret the character in the way that brings them the most joy and freedom. And we need to be sure the convention organizers (and their lawyers) know this, because most of the bigger cons are run by corporations who only regard cosplay as another revenue opportunity.

    In the meantime, if you run across anyone, male, female, mutant or alien that is not giving your brother or sister cosplayer the respect they deserve, you come find me. I’ll be the 7 foot Klingon warrior sweating in that fifty pound costume and I will set them straight.

  3. Lauren M. Doucette says:

    If a guy cant control himself around a cosplay woman, he may have trouble with acting around women in general. And I agree with the statement “Cosplay is not Consent”. Adults should know how to act like a adult. That is my gender bent “Lilly the Puppet” based upon “Billy the Puppet” from the “SAW” film series. Shes not hyper sexualized nor is she dressed as the male puppet himself. I thought it would be creative to make a female version of “Billy”. I have different black wigs for her and she has the same clothing every year at Anime Boston. I see all, and I mean all kinds of cosplayers and each and every one of them has put in hard work on their cosplay be it battle armour or bodypaint. Personally, Ive never seen anyone harassed but I know it happens because people chat about it on the message board for AB. It shouldn’t happen no matter what she/he is wearing.If they are rocking their cosplay then hooray!