The Appropriateness of Sexually Suggestive Cosplays & Fursuits

A recurring question that faces the #costuming, #cosplay & #fursuit communities involves the appropriateness of sexually suggestive #costumes. We touched on this subject last year when we blogged about the rules regarding #costuming & cosplay. While many #cosplayers, #costumers & #fursuiters don’t believe or aren’t aware that this hobby is subject to any rules, that’s actually not true. As we discussed in the aforementioned blog post, there are many laws pertaining specifically to indecent exposure at various levels of governmental structure: city, state (or provincial), federal (or national), etc.

Because the term “indecent exposure” is a legal term, it is subject to varying definitions depending upon which jurisdiction(s) oversees the particular location where a person currently is. A general definition is given below:

Indecent exposure is the deliberate exposure in public (or in view of the general public) by a person of a portion (or portions) of his or her body, in circumstances where the exposure is contrary to local moral or other standards of appropriate behavior.

Social and community attitudes towards the exposing of various body parts, as well as laws covering what is referred to as indecent exposure, can vary significantly between different countries, states, cities, or other jurisdictions. Laws range from outright prohibition to prohibition of exposure of certain body parts. The exposure of body parts that are most likely to be viewed as indecent are genital areas, buttocks and breasts (usually women’s breasts only).

But it doesn’t stop there: venues and conventions may have additional rules regarding what is allowed or not allowed with regard to the exposure or representation of body parts that would otherwise be regarded as indecent.

Responsibilities of Costumers, Cosplayers & Fursuiters

So, before you decide to wear a particular costume, cosplay or fursuit that either exposes body parts that are generally regarded as being indecent or includes visual representations of those same body parts, you might want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the local, state, provincial, federal or national laws pertaining to indecent exposure where you intend to wear the costume, cosplay or fursuit?
  • What additional rules (if any) does the venue or convention have pertaining to body parts that may be regarded as being indecent if exposed or visually represented?
  • Will any underaged children be present at the venue or convention where the costume, cosplay or fursuit is going to be worn?

If any of your answers to the above questions are “yes”, then you might want to consider altering the appearance of your costume, cosplay or fursuit to be more acceptable with regards to local, state, provincial, federal and national laws, as well as to venue and convention rules or if children are going to be present.

Responsibilities of Venues and Conventions

Like costumers, cosplayers & fursuiters, convention managements also have to be responsible by ensuring that attendees stay within the rules of both the convention and venue. To do otherwise would open the possibility of the convention losing its contract with the venue for future conventions. Thus, it’s in the best interest for both the convention and attendees to comply with all of the applicable rules and laws.

When a convention representative is required to address an issue caused by an attendee that is violating the rules or laws, it’s not only in the best interest of the attendee to change what they’re doing, it’s also in the best interest of the convention to either make the attendee leave if needed to get into compliance or to not permit the attendee back in if the attendee refuses to comply. While that may sound harsh, conventions have disappeared and shut down when they have permitted attendees to do whatever they want, including breaking multiple rules.

Potential Consequences for Indecent Exposure

Any costumer, cosplayer or fursuiter who refuses to follow either the rules or laws governing indecent exposure faces potentially very serious, long-term negative consequences.

Simply put, anyone arrested and later convicted of indecent exposure (especially in front of children) will likely become a registered sex offender. Not only could this potentially mean that the individual could be banned from attending conventions or joining costume clubs; more seriously, this would likely make it impossible for the individual to become gainfully employed. Is that truly worth the risk?

A Recent Real-World Example

Earlier this month, a female fursuiter who attended Alamo City Furry Invasion (ACFI) was seen wearing a fursuit that included very large, oversized furry & foam-filled breasts. This resulted in the ACFI convention staff receiving at least 11 complaints (including from the hotel) because young children were present at the time when the fursuit costume was being worn.

ACFI staff then asked the fursuiter to only wear the costume “after hours” to reduce the likelihood of young children seeing the costume. Their statement is listed below:

On a down-tempo note, we should stop and address a rumor floating around. It seems silly to say it, but no, ACFI didn’t start banning female costumes. We’ve never banned a costume at the con, although this year we did ask a fursuiter to hold off on wearing her costume until the “after dark” side of the con after getting at least 11 complaints (including comments from families, women and men, and the hotel, but excluding staff and vendor concerns.)

Naturally, not everyone was happy with how this particular fursuiter was treated, but given that so many complaints were received about the particular costume, the ACFI staff didn’t have a choice. Below is a video shared by fursuiter Bolt Mutt containing his own views on what occurred:

Since it’s not clear whether ACFI had any written rules regarding the types of costumes & fursuits that would be permitted at the convention, this incident may prompt them to write rules to reduce the likelihood of a similar situation from occurring in the future.

What’s important to bear in mind here is that whether you agree or disagree with the decision that was applied to this particular fursuiter because of the representation of large, exposed breasts, the following rules still apply:

  • Attendees must abide by the written rules of the convention and/or venue.
  • Attendees must abide by local, state, provincial, federal or national laws pertaining to indecent exposure.

While the costume breasts were not real breasts, they were, nonetheless, representations of exposed breasts and they were being seen by small children. Given the sexualized nature of the costume, is it an appropriate costume when small children are present? If ACFI staff had chosen to permit the fursuiter to continue wearing the costume in spite of the numerous complaints that it had received, how would the fursuiters have reacted if the venue then refused to permit ACFI to return in the future?

Something that every costumer, cosplayer and fursuiter needs to remember is this:

Wearing a costume, cosplay or fursuit does not mean that you are above the law or above the rules. The same laws and rules apply whether you are in costume or not.



What Are the Rules of Costuming & Cosplay?

What are the rules of #costuming & #cosplay? If you ask this question to any #costumer or #cosplayer, they’ll likely say that there aren’t any. While this is true in the sense that there is no universal costuming & cosplay group that has established any rules nor would it be possible for such a group (if it existed) to enforce them, there are rules that costumers & cosplayers should follow or face potential consequences for failing to do so, because some have.

What are these rules? Ones that apply to everyone (not just costumers & cosplayers) because they come from established laws or are established by venues, conventions, movie theaters, etc.

Wearing a costume or cosplay (including carrying props) in public does not exempt one from obeying established laws.

The Basic Rules That Apply to Everyone

1. Laws Governing Indecent Exposure

Indecent exposure is the deliberate exposure in public or in view of the general public by a person of a portion or portions of his or her body, in circumstances where the exposure is contrary to local moral or other standards of appropriate behavior. Social and community attitudes to the exposing of various body parts and laws covering what is referred to as indecent exposure vary significantly in different countries. It ranges from outright prohibition to prohibition of exposure of certain body parts, such as the genital area, buttocks or breasts.

Local, county, state, provincial & national governments have typically established laws defining indecent exposure that apply to everyone that is within their jurisdictions. If a costumer or cosplayer decides to go out in public wearing a costume or cosplay that violates indecent exposure laws, then there’s a good chance that the costumer or cosplayer is going to be arrested.

So, before wearing a costume or cosplay in public view, be sure that it doesn’t violate any indecent exposure laws that could apply.

2. Laws Governing the Wearing of Masks

Anti-masking laws refer to legislative or penal initiatives that seek to stop individuals from concealing their faces, who often do so to conceal their identities while committing a crime.

Now, while costumers & cosplayers have no criminal intent while wearing a mask (or other face-covering item, such as helmet) as part of a costume, many criminals do wear masks or helmets when committing crimes.

For this reason, if a costumer or cosplayer goes out in public wearing a mask or helmet that completely conceals their identity and it’s not Halloween or the intent of why as mask or helmet is being worn isn’t clear to the general public, then that costumer or cosplayer could find themselves being arrested or getting into trouble. We have reported multiple such instances on our blog & Facebook page. Here are 2 examples:

Here are other articles we’ve shared about people wearing costumes while engaged in criminal activity:

Thus, it is very important to know when it is and is not appropriate to wear a mask in public. 

3. Laws Regarding Civilians Wearing Military Uniforms & “Stolen Valor”

In the United States, federal laws concerning the wearing of United States Military uniforms by people not on active duty are published in the United States Code (USC). Specifically, 10 USC, Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 45, Sections 771 and 772.

Section 771 states:

Except as otherwise provided by law, no person except a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps, as the case may be, may wear –

(1) the uniform, or a distinctive part of the uniform, of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps; or

(2) a uniform any part of which is similar to a distinctive part of the uniform of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps

Section 772 lists some exceptions, the most important of which that is applicable to costumers & cosplayers is listed below:

(f) While portraying a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps, an actor in a theatrical or motion-picture production may wear the uniform of that armed force if the portrayal does not tend to discredit that armed force.

Now, while on the surface, these laws seem pretty plain, the reality is that no court has ever really defined what a “theatrical production” is. Hence, is Halloween or attending a comic con a “theatrical production”? While this isn’t clear, the only court case where this topic has been addressed had a very liberal determination.

In addition to the laws cited above, there’s also the issue of stolen valor.

“Stolen Valor” is a term applied to the phenomenon of people falsely claiming military awards or badges they did not earn, service they did not perform, Prisoner of War experiences that never happened, and other tales of military derring-do that exist only in their minds.

If you are going to wear a military uniform as a costume or cosplay, leave out any actual medals and don’t pretend that you ever served in the military. Otherwise, you can very quickly be seen as someone stealing valor. The U.S. government passed the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 to address issues of people attempting to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefits by convincing another that he or she received a military award.

4. Laws Regarding the Wearing of Law Enforcement Uniforms, Badges & Insignia

Without going into a lot of detail, it’s generally not a good idea to wear authentic law enforcement uniforms, badges or insignias. To do so could be construed as impersonating a law enforcement officer. If you want to read on this subject further, we recommend starting here: Legal information and links to U.S. Federal & U.S. State Laws and regulations as well as Foreign National Laws governing Badges, Emblems, Uniforms, Insignias and Names.

5. Laws Pertaining to Weapons

As many costumes & cosplays include prop weapons, it’s important to remember that those prop weapons shouldn’t be carelessly taken out into public where they could be misconstrued as being real weapons. Not only could you be potentially arrested, you could imperil your own life should a law enforcement officer decide to fire his/her weapon if the officer feels that he or she (or the general public) is in some way threatened.

For specifics on laws pertaining to types of weapons, the following links are useful:

It also goes without saying that it would be highly unwise to be carrying a prop that looks like an explosive device in this day & age, especially one that looks realistic.

6. Zero-Tolerance Policies at Schools

Most public school districts maintain very strict zero-tolerance policies for weapons & drugs. Even toy weapons (that are often used for costumes & cosplays) fall under this type of policy, as well as masks & helmets.

The bottom line, don’t take any prop weapons or wear masks to or near a public school.

Venue or Convention Specific Rules

Venues and conventions often have specific rules pertaining to costumes & props. As these rules vary widely, it is the responsibility of any costumer or cosplayer planning to attend to understand the specific venue or convention rules ahead of time. While its true that some conventions change rules at the last minute, it’s very important to stay on top of them for that very reason.

Any costumer or cosplayer whose costume or props don’t meet the rules of the venue or convention won’t be allowed to enter, and these rules (especially with regard to prop weapons) have been increased considerably since the unfortunate incident of the armed man who entered Phoenix Comic Con earlier this year. Phoenix Comic Con still has very strict rules. We have written posts regarding venue & convention rules:

Movie Theaters that Ban Masks and/or Costumes

Most movie theaters continue to ban any costumes that conceal the wearer’s face following the unfortunate shooting incidents that have occurred over the past couple of years.

Concluding Remarks

No one likes being told what they can and cannot do when it comes to costumes and cosplays, but applicable laws and rules can impact what individual costumers and cosplayers are planning to do. The most important thing is to be aware of them ahead of time. If the laws & rules are too restrictive for what you were planning to do, consider doing something different. You’ll still have just as much fun without the fear of getting into trouble.



An Inappropriate Cosplay Photoshoot

#Cosplayers love to show off their work at photoshoots, but be wary if you get invited to one: #nudity is not #cosplay. A recent ad for a cosplay photoshoot asks for “sexy” and “nude” cosplay models to appear, along with a registration fees for both cosplayers & photographers.

First, let’s point out the obvious: being nude means that nothing is being worn. Being in costume means wearing a costume, not being nude. Second, being “sexy” is not what cosplay is about. Third, if you have to pay for a cosplay photoshoot, find one that doesn’t charge because there are plenty of amateur photographers out there that don’t charge fees.

Now, as for this particular photoshoot (that appears to be in the Philippines), this appears to be more of a money-making scheme and exploitation. Always remember: cosplay is not consent.