Comic Con Pervs

A pervy nerd is still a perv.

Posts tagged comic con san diego

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Mariah Huehner is a comics writer and editor. She is badass, as evidenced by her appearance on the New York Times bestseller list. In July she wrote the below entry on her blog. I didn’t find it until by chance recently. In a nutshell, it’s a documentation of her experience at a past Comic Con. I just think it’s worth noting that this was not a booth babe, or a skimpily dressed cosplayer. Not that either of those things excuses the behavior Ms Huehner describes. But a lot of times, people outside of the situations like to commentate, and suggest that the way a woman is dressed has “something to do with it”. It doesn’t, and shouldn’t, and that’s why I’m reposting her entry. Anyway:


SDCC is rapidly approaching, and amidst the stress of figuring out my flight, hotel, booth duty, and what the hell I’m going to wear so I don’t feel uncomfortable but also don’t look crappy for 4 days…I’m thinking about two incidents that happened at my first SDCC (which is about 5 years ago now, maybe even 6) that have forever colored the way I view it and every other convention I attend, and likely will attend, for the foreseeable future.

In short: during the 2nd night, at the Hyatt, I experienced two separate physically and sexually threatening situations. The first was a groping that I was too shocked to register until the next day. The other was being cornered, touched, and made uncomfortable by two drunk men.

Both left me feeling shaken, upset, and like I had done something wrong. I kept thinking: how did I get in that situation? What did I do to provoke it? What mistakes had I made? How did I allow this to happen? Why didn’t I make a huge scene? Basically, I immediately started blaming myself for being a woman who did not prevent someone else from making me an object. Something that I had absolutely no control over, did not deserve, and yet still feel responsible for in some way, to this day.

First, the groping. I was standing with a group of fellow professionals I had worked with for years. Most of them I knew quite well, one not very well. They were all drinking, I was not. I suddenly felt a hand trail down my back and cup my right…er…posterior. My stomach immediately flip flopped and I turned to the guy, shocked. He was talking to someone else and then stumbled away. He did not look at me once. I said nothing, because I had already started telling myself it hadn’t really happened, I must have imagined it, who does that, no way.

The second happened about an hour later. I had drifted away from the group I had been talking to, to write an idea down in my sketchbook. I was against one of the large windows. There were many groups of people around, as there usually are. I did not notice the two men until they were towering over me. I was stuck and felt very small and uncomfortable. I looked around to see if anyone I knew was close by, but they weren’t, and in any case, couldn’t see me because these two men had neatly blocked me from view. I didn’t know them at all and, the clearest thought I can remember when I realized I was cornered, is that I wished I was wearing my boots. I had left them at home because they’re a pain to deal with at the airport. I was wearing flats after a day of standing on my feet, and I suddenly felt about two feet tall (I’m actually a little over five feet tall). They started asking me what I was so intent about, why was I so serious, what was I doing at SDCC, was I a friend of someone there. I said, no, I’m an editor. This was a mistake as they were then curious about why a girl worked in comics. They moved closer. I backed up, but there wasn’t anywhere to go. I could tell they had been drinking, likely a lot, and for some reason I felt compelled to be…nice. I was scared to be mean or just get away, afraid they’d get mad or rough. I felt like I was stuck to the sidewalk. One of them men reached out and touched the front of my jacket, telling me I looked like a Tim Burton character. He tried to run his hand down the stripes and that’s when I unfroze. All I could think of to do, because for whatever reason I just couldn’t yell, I said…oh, I see some people I know, bye. And I quickly moved away. I had to squeeze myself against the window and duck. I practically ran to open the door and went up to my hotel room where I proceeded to have a very hard time sleeping.

My mind raced. I had every cliche thought you can think of. Had I been wearing something “wrong”? Not unless you think being covered from neck to ankles in baggy black, with a striped jacket is “revealing”. Had I somehow suggested I wanted attention? Not unless being shy and a little freaked out at my first SDCC indicates that. Had I acted inappropriately? Other than a bit awestruck and not drinking (which might be considered weird at a convention), no. Had I, in short, done something to deserve what happened?

Although I am rationally aware I did not, and that you can’t “deserve” being objectified in any case…emotionally, I was convinced I had done something wrong. Namely: that I had moved away from people for a brief moment, thereby allowing myself to be in an unpleasant situation. I had not been vigilant. I had not been “smart”. The groping I felt less responsible for, because it had just…happened. And I was sort of convincing myself it hadn’t, like somehow someone’s hand would trail down your back and cup your ass by accident. I just couldn’t process it. And it didn’t occur to me at the time that experiencing both in one night was perhaps a lot to deal with and that I was having a panic attack. I felt sick, I remember that.

The rest of the convention I didn’t really go out at night. I avoided the bar. I was at my industry’s largest event, with all kinds of people I admired right downstairs…and I was scared to leave my room. I felt wrong, that’s the only way I can describe it. I spent the rest of the convention nervous, on edge, and not because of how big it is or the fact that it was the first time I’d been there. That was overwhelming enough. I had wanted to be this strong, independent professional…and instead I felt like a groped, disrespected, thing. 

I didn’t feel like I could talk about it because I’d be confirming all the stereotypes about women being harassed at conventions…and I was worried people would blame me. That they’d say I should have done something different, not been alone, yelled…or worse…that it was something I would just have to get used to.

In the years since, I haven’t had a single experience like it at SDCC or any other convention. And yet, it colors the way I view every nighttime event. I don’t always have the option to go to something with a group, and professionally, going to the bars or hotels to interact with creators and publishers is important. It keeps you visible, lets people get to know you a bit in a more casual setting, and can lead to opportunities. And it can also be cool to run into the various other people who go to cons, you never know who you might get to chat with. It’s supposed to be, you know, fun.

But for me, it rarely is. I can’t not think about what happened that night. I still blame myself, if I’m being really honest. It’s a big reason why I don’t drink, although it’s not the only one. I might have a beer I’ll nurse all night, but that’s it. There are plenty of reasons that’s not a bad thing, and I don’t wish I could get smashed. But I do wish I didn’t have to spend every second being vigilant and on guard. That I didn’t have to feel scared, way down, most of the time.

Women tend to get criticized for bringing up scenarios like this, because most people want to believe we did do something to “make” it happen. And I’m sure someone reading this will think, well, you SHOULD have been more vigilant. Honestly, it’s exhausting. And no one can keep that up 24/7. Then there are the people who will say it was either complimentary, or I took it too seriously, or they were drunk so what did I expect? Well, I’ll tell you what I didn’t expect. To have my personal space invaded, to be touched without permission. No one should be assuming, no matter how drunk they are, that other people’s bodies are a free for all. The fact that they did shows a profound lack of respect for me personally, and women in general. It’s not a compliment, I can tell you that. As for taking it to seriously…no. Other people don’t get to define what is threatening to me, and cornering a young woman in the dark is, by definition, threatening. Every man on the planet should know better.
And anyway…shouldn’t the men, who acted like that, be responsible for NOT putting me in that position? Being a woman is not a reason to harass me or any other woman. Drinking isn’t an excuse. Just…don’t do that, okay? It’s awful. And I won’t be forgetting it any time soon.

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So, I guess this is on Metafilter.

FWOOOOOOM, a whole ton of traffic just hit the tumblr, all from Metafilter. Though my reading comprehension levels have generally been pretty high, I keep re-reading the original author’s post though, andComic Con Pervs has its zoom lenses at the ready for San Diego Comic Con this year” isn’t 100% clear to me. Like, I read the post, and it sounded to me as though it was being suggested that there will be photos of “booth babes” and the like here. But just to be clear! That’s not what I’m going to do. I’m taking photos of the perverts with the cellphones and so forth. So I guess if you’re looking for some photos of some HOTT SEXXY booth babe action, you’re just going to have to go troll flickr or wherever else with the one free hand. 

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So why this is A Thing

As with anything on the Internet, I suspect there will be someone out there that will be, for lack of a better word, butthurt about my little endeavor here. So I figure I’ll explain myself here, and also to people who don’t understand what it is I mean when I make reference to Comic Con Pervs, because they’ve never been to a con.


I started going to Comic Con in 5-6 years ago. My boyfriend and I are exhibitors. Let me set the stage for those of you who have never been: it takes place every year in the San Diego Convention Center. The hall is enormous. It’s cavernous and dark and dank and cold, and each year I fear a catastrophic earthquake that will result in tens of thousands of people in various costumes trampling each other to death in an attempt to escape the collapsing roof. If you’re claustrophobic or agoraphobic, you will not survive. It’s thousands and thousands of people (I need an accurate number for the hall’s capacity but I think it’s over 20,000) milling about in congested aisles as they peruse toys, comic books, get autographs, test new video games and so forth.

So something that’s big is, yes, costumes. It goes beyond dudes dressed as Batman (though rest assured, there are a shitload of those dudes), and the ladies get in on the act. It’s like Halloween. For four days. Why not, right? Besides, if you want to be a random chick from that obscure anime that came out 6 years ago for Halloween, no one might get it. But, if you take that costume to Comic Con, you’ll not only be recognized, but your taste will be validated by people taking your photo or congratulating you. From that comes a sense of community, and it’s fun for me to watch from behind my table.

But this is where the pervs come in— Take for instance, the Sailor Moon cosplayer I saw the first year. She was quite cute and her skirt was the appropriate length (read: tiny as hell) for the character. Someone stopped her in the aisle as I was walking back to my table, and snapped a photo. She smiled warmly and turned to walk away in front of me. I suddenly became aware of two guys quickly shuffle up behind her, stick their camera phones underneath her skirt, take photos, and disappear. I whipped my head around in shock but by the time I turned towards her, she was gone in the crowd. “Holy shit,” I thought, “what creeps”. Except that wasn’t the only time that happened. No man, that happened over and over all day, every day. I saw it in various places— the most blatant thing I saw were guys sitting on the floor training video cameras up the steep, steep escalator in the front, undoubtedly zooming in when a girl in a short skirt rode up. There are thousands of people shoulder to shoulder milling about that hall, so there’s plenty of time for someone to train their iphone or digital camera on your ass while you’re facing the other direction.

I’ve said things to guys before, but they typically act like they don’t hear me and duck away. My boyfriend reminded me of the time I loudly started yelling at some guys for pulling the upskirt-camera-trick on an unsuspecting girl while we were waiting for a trolly to pass outside the convention center. They basically ran away in fright.

And, in case you’re one of those people who wants to pull the “they’re asking for it” card, fuck that. Would I wear a short skirt in a crowd? No. Not anymore; I’ve been groped in public by a stranger when I did. That happened years ago, and I learned you can’t trust other people not to be assholes. I didn’t ask for that anymore than a girl in a costume at the convention—whether she’s paid to be there to promote something or is there as an attendant— is asking a mouth-breather she doesn’t know to stick a flipcamera up her skirt and take grainy photos to spank it to later. 

I just think that it’s time for someone to catch the dudes in the act. If they’re too pathetic to make eye contact with a woman but will sneak up behind her and take a photo of her ass, or “accidentally” touch her there, then there’s no reason in the world why I shouldn’t take a photo of them in the act and post it publicly. You can’t get away with that shit at the mall, so why should you get away with it at a comic convention?

To paraphrase Uncle Ben: “With a great cameraphone comes great responsibility.” Nerds, you know better! Behave or it’ll be your pasty face on this tumblr!

Those of you with appropriate social skills that are going to SDCC, join me, won’t you? Let’s shame the hell out of some dudes; if you catch shady behavior, you can submit it here.

Filed under sdcc comic con san diego cosplay comic con pervs wtf real talk