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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

why do women wear sexy cosplay costumes, anyway?


Um, why are you asking me? I’m not a cosplayer. Never have been. I can’t read other people’s minds. If you want to know why a woman might go out in public — like at, say, a comic-book convention — in very revealing fantasy fancy dress, you’re best off asking her. I’m sure you’d get as many different responses as there are female cosplayers.

(Pro tip: If you’re gonna ask a cosplayer about her costume, don’t be a jerk about it. Asking “What are you doing out and about got up like a nasty dirty slut, young lady?” will probably not get you a serious answer, and it might get you a punch in the face, which you will have earned. Try something like, “Hey, I really like your costume. What made you pick that character to emulate?” And make sure you’re not leering when you ask. Also be sure to look her in the eye, not in the boob.)

But when a reader recently asked me on Facebook what my “take” was “on women dressing in bodypart-emphasizing costumes” such as at Comic-Con, and I informed him that I didn’t have one and that it was none of my business how other people dress, he wouldn’t buy it.

So, okay, fine. Here are a few guesses — and I stress, these are guesses, if educated ones — on why a woman might engage in cosplay that has her half naked.

• She enjoys being half naked, and enjoys appropriate attention from other interested parties. That is, respectful appreciation and any mutual flirting that might ensue, not catcalls, wolf whistles, or random invitations to sit on your dick. No matter how a woman dresses, cosplay or not, it is always primarily for her enjoyment, not yours.

• She wants to honor and respect a character whom she admires and identifies with, and this sometimes necessitates dressing in skimpy attire, because the artist(s) who drew her was a sexist asshole.

• She wants to experiment with wielding one of the few powers our culture grants women: the power to be “sexy.” (Cuz, you know, if you Google “sexy cosplay,” the results are all about looking at women. “Sexy” is presumed to be something that women do for men. Which is bullshit, but there it is.) Perhaps this is not a power she feels she gets to enjoy in her everyday life. Perhaps it’s a power she does not typically feel a need to deploy. (Kind of like how a male cosplayer dressed as Wolverine, for instance, might want to experiment with stereotypical male characteristics — physical strength, endurance, and stamina — that he might not typically feel when he is not dressed as Wolverine, or that he doesn’t typically feel drawn to expressing.) Cosplay can be a literal form of playacting at things that one doesn’t necessarily want to really enact in real life.

• She is inviting you to consider how an actual, flesh-and-blood human woman dressed for crime-fighting in flimsy lingerie looks, compared to the cartoonish expression of such on a comic-book page.

• She is being ironic, or making a satirical statement on how genre media treats women. Like these Starfleet bunnies, who are barely more naked than female Starfleet officers — that is, educated professionals in their work environment — in the original 1960s incarnation of Star Trek:


(That’s from the just-wrapped San Diego Comic-Con, via io9.)

I’d love for some female cosplayers to check in here, and let us in on why they cosplay as they do. Anyone?

Your own guesses as to why women cosplay in “sexy” or revealing costumes are welcome. But anyone being a sexist jerk will be treated with all the respect they deserve.

photo at top by Lone Star Pin-up

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