Convention Harassment

Should the San Diego Comic Con have an official harassment policy? John DiBello (of Bully’s blog) says yes. Seems to me he’s right — if you’re going to ban smoking, handcarts, and bad behavior with replica weapons, seems to me you should say something about treating all of your fellow attendees with respect and avoiding an atmosphere of fear. Other conventions do so.

Has anyone heard from official staff on this? Has anyone asked them? (Well, I have, but I don’t have any specific contact addresses, only the general one, so I’m not sure my email will get through.)

I think the problem is that too many people don’t know how to have a good time without impinging on the good time of others. I’m reminded of going to an outdoor concert and sitting downhill from overly drunk attendees who kept falling on us (because of the hill, you see). I didn’t care that they were drunk, just that they couldn’t keep it to themselves. If you can’t keep your balance, sit down. If you want to sit in a corner and speculate on the sexual availability and talent of every member of the opposite sex you see, go ahead… but keep your hands and voices to yourself. Don’t put your enjoyment ahead of that of others. Be considerate. Don’t be selfish.

That goes for “free hug” signs at anime conventions, women grabbing hot artists’ butts, men who think groping booth workers is ok, and same-sex examples as well. And people need to know they can go to staff for help and be treated with more than confusion. I suspect many, although profoundly uncomfortable by what happened to them, don’t want to go through the second round of frustration trying to explain why it was a problem and trying to make themselves believed by the clueless or resistant.

18 Responses to “Convention Harassment”

  1. Dave Says:


    People can be jerks and, when they are, they often give other people a bad name.

    I haven’t been to a convention in years and when I did it was a smaller one. As a result, I didn’t realize the problems you’ve brought up have reached the levels they have.

    This behavior is ridiculous and unacceptable. Rules to correct these problems need to be established and enforced immediately. If this is not possible, perhaps (for the sake of respect, dignity, and safety) the practice of comic book/science fiction (etc.) conventions should end.

  2. David Oakes Says:

    “Other conventions do so.”

    They do?

  3. Johanna Says:

    Yes, some commenters in other threads posted sample language as examples.

  4. joecab Says:

    It’s a sad state of affairs when you have to post a rule like that, but some people just don’t get it.

    Can I say how much I hate that whole “free hugs” deal? Call me a prude, but a hug from a complete stranger is beyond creepy. (And why is it always just at anime cons?)

  5. Faith Says:

    I was at the convention and while I didn’t experience any harassment, the “free hugs” people were very aggressive, and acted belligerent when rejected … I gave one guy the frowning of a lifetime when he yelled obnoxiously at a group of women to take part in his free hug giving. Fortunately he was rejected by all. As it should be.

  6. Johanna Says:

    I think of the “free hugs” folks as just young. They’re exploring physicality and haven’t yet had to realize all the creepy parts or understand why some people might not see it as a good thing. It’s playful for them, not so much for the more mature.

    I suspect it happens at anime cons because they have a much more proportional attendance of males and females. Someone who carried a “free hugs” sign at a comic con that was 85% percent male (as they used to be) would have a whole ‘nother context.

  7. David Oakes Says:

    Well, my reply at Bully’s never came through. (As I was afraid it wouldn’t, without an account.) But the reason that the convention book mentions handcarts and smoking is because there are places where such things are allowed, but not at the convention. On the other hand, unwanted grabbing and kissing is well, illegal, and not just at the convention. Telling the convention that it is their responsibility to deal with it not only paints the con unfairly, but also lets everyone off the hook away from the con.

    Let’s say you entered a McDonald’s with a sign posted at the door saying “It is corporate policy that our patrons should not grope each other. If you are asssaulted, please report it immediately to our staff.” Would you feel safe? Or if we assume – again, unfairly in my opinion – that it is ComiCon’s fault, that comics are nothing more than an infantile breeding ground for the next generatiuon of harassers, and they must be stopped at any cost, what is the booklet going to do? I think it is pretty easy to say that Hooters exploits women as sex objects. If you knew that they had a company policy stating that “Women are people too, treat them with respect”, does it suddenly become all right?

  8. Johanna Says:

    If half the McDonald’s I visited made me feel uncomfortable at some point because their visitors seemed to think that verbal and physical harassment was ok, then yes, I would expect them to address the issue. And the sad fact is that that’s true of half the cons I’ve been to. I’m not assuming that it’s the convention’s fault, but some of their patrons clearly need educating on proper behavior. Since the convention is already setting out rules of what is and isn’t allowed in their venue, addressing this issue seems simple to add.

  9. joecab Says:

    OK Johanna that makes sense. BTW what’s the gender proportion of the huggers? Do they try to balance it out?

  10. thekamisama Says:

    There seems to be this creepy little subset in some fandoms that accepts and even promotes this behaivor. I’ve seen it overrun into insane levels of fratboy debauchery (esp. at some relaxicons and regional meetups, those place are awful!)

    The climate seems to get worse and worse at larger cons now as well. Semi-private parties held by consenting adults in hotel rooms is one thing. But with he larger crowds, media exposure, and a push to a more family friendly event at larger conventions, there is no reason why such a policy is not in place.

    After all, isn’t SDCC just one big trade show now? Most of these studios and large comic companies have sexual harrassment policies, its time for Comicon to grow up too.

  11. Charles RB Says:

    I was somewhat surprised to find (via the original link and its links to other articles) that this was so widespread and aggressive. Either DragonCon* is a nicer convention or I’ve been really oblivious to stuff going on around me (probably the latter).

    * I’ve not seen anything at Bristol Comic Expo, but it’s a relaxed, smaller-than-US convention and I doubt you could carry out sexual harrassment without everyone finding out.

  12. Hsifeng Says:

    thekamisama Says: “There seems to be this creepy little subset in some fandoms that accepts and even promotes this behaivor.”

    Then there’s the way stereotypes about who likes comics, anime, video games, RPGs, etc. could encourage antisocial people to think these fandoms are where they belong in the first place.

    If it wasn’t for those stereotypes, then maybe more antisocial people would give sports, music, romance novels, etc. a chance instead. Maybe fewer of them would assume people who actually like comics, anime, video games, RPGs, etc. will welcome rudeness, cater to what they think after they declare “I don’t care what anyone else thinks!!!”, and all that.

  13. buzz Says:

    My daughter used to be in the parade costume department at Disneyland and she has loads of stories about inappropriate behavior (by children AND adults) at the parks. People see the costume and think normal rules of behavior need not apply. I think all conventions would we well advised to adopt some language along the lines of “to ensure safety, please do not touch booth personnel or cosplayers without their permission”.

  14. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Otakon had two similar problems and were forced to address them in the convention booklet. One problem was people carrying signs that said, “Hug Me”. The other problem was people seeing someone dressed up as their favorite anime character, running up and hugging and snuggling them (called glomping by anime fans)without any warning.

    The signs carriers were about 60% female and 40% male. The glompers were about 80% female teens. Otakon banned both behaviors outright and said that offenders would be evicted from the con.

    Mind you, this didn’t stop con goers this year from setting up an inproptu hug line for people to come by and get a little human comfort. But at least both the givers and receivers were willing participants.

    SDCC needs to put a statement in the convention booklet that bans any form of harrasement and says that such cases will be turned over to the police. Let a couple fanboys get haul off in handcuffs for having roving fingers and see how quickly people start behaving themselves.

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  18. Tom Croom Says:

    Our conventions (at Green Mustard Entertainment) keep an Anti-Harassment rule in our publications to make sure it is crystal clear that inappropriate behavior isn’t tolerated. Check out Rules #3 and #16




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