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.