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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Should Anime Conventions Screen For Sex Offenders? Do We Really Have to Ask?

Well, the good news is that women have a very big presence at anime conventions. The bad news is that some of those girls are underage and may be approached by very shady men. Obviously not all men who attend anime conventions are pervs, but ever since news of an arrest by a registered sex offender came out, people are wondering if there is more that can be done to keep women of all ages safe without treating innocent male attendees unfairly.

The story referred to earlier is about Michael Allen Alper, who was convicted of trying to have sex with a 13-year old girl (Alper is in his mid-30s, not that it matters when it comes to a 13-year old girl) who he met at Katsucon in 2010. Unbeknownst to Katsucon organizers, they let a guy in who had already been convicted of raping another 13-year old girl. While this is easily not the norm, it’s undeniable that older men (and by older, we mean anyone older than the age of consent, i.e., guys who really should avoid looking at teenagers) are not exactly controlling their gaze when there are girls (of varying ages) wearing costumes of their favorite characters that can very easily be classified as skimpy at times. And while it’s unfair that men who go to cons to merely take in the atmosphere can be lumped in with guys like Alper, can we at least admit that staring at women is gross? Especially if they’re underage? Take this quote, for example from a 43-year old con attendee:

“There are definitely people who can wear skimpier costumes a little better.”

Uccccccch, really? Hi, Pedobear!

Obviously, this is in no way a blanket accusation of all men at anime conventions. And yes, some women also stare at men or make improper advances, and they might not like it. But men and women alike should be able to enjoy a molestation-free time at any anime convention they desire. It’s the responsibility of the organizers to protect their visitors — all their visitors — from the tiny percentage of the population who have committed serious crimes like rape. It doesn’t have to turn into a witch hunt or be invasive to an Orwellian degree. But when you apply for a job, don’t we all have to disclose any criminal convictions on the first paper we see? And don’t employers run background checks anyway?

Blastr posted a couple of comments pointing out that criminal background checks on every single attendee of a convention would be impossible and that people should not be scared away from conventions because of a handful of bad incidents. And we agree with that. There’s also something to be said for things that happen outside of conventions that are not the responsibility of the organizers (as was the situation with Alper). But that doesn’t mean nothing should be done.

After the incident with Alper, Katsucon said that they would begin checking their pre-registered guests for any criminal activity. Though Otakon, as of right now, has not made a decision on whether or not to do this.

(The Washington Post via Blastr)


  • Anonymous

    why do people have to dress provacitavely at these things? 

  • Kristen Williams

    On the flip side, are we really going to ban people caught urinating in public, which can be enough to land you on the sex offender list, from conventions? I think for convenience cons would most likely just use the national sex offender registry to ban or allow participants, and the conditions for being forced to register are not always as clear cut as rape or child molestation.

  • Geek Sweetheart

    I think it’s the responsibility of the attendee (and potentially their parents) to take precautions and be safe; however, we do a free registered offender check online on any potential employee at my office, it takes 30 seconds and could easily be incorporated into a con registration…

  • ainok

    There’s a lot to be said for educating potential victims, too. A few years back I was at a festival and some guy kept trying to get me to go off with him. Not very well–I asked for directions, he said, “Come this way and I’ll show you,” but frankly if I’d been a trusting sort, or ten years younger, who’s to say I wouldn’t have? Knowing how to behave in these settings, not putting yourself in risky situations if possible, sticking together in groups, etc., are things that people can do to at least reduce the risk of being targeted.

    Background checks seem like a good idea, but it could also create a false sense of security, since there’s no reason to assume someone with no record at all might not decide to do assault someone. It seems like it should be a two-pronged approach, both in terms of removing as many potential threats as possible, and making sure potential targets are prepared to deal with, or take steps to avoid, situations as they may arise. As females, we can’t really depend on someone else to step in and make sure we’ll be protected. It’s sort of up to us to be aware and to educate ourselves and those younger than us, and to act in ways that allow us to protect ourselves.

  • William Grewe-Mullins

    At last year’s Dragon*Con, I saw several creepy pervs using tele lenses to take up-skirt photos of sitting women in costumes. Aghast, all I could say was “Dude, seriously? Not cool.”. He acted like he couldn’t hear me, and went on taking photos. Ewwww…

  • Feklar Fourtytwo

    wow.  way to over react and promote paranoia. I think there are some cons where I’ve paid cash and they don’t even know my name, much less my social security number and real address. I’m just going to bypass the whole moral/civil liberties issue with background checking con-goers, because my brain just can’t handle that. FTR, 1. There is a bit (just a *tiny*) bit of a difference in the relationship between an applicant and employer (someone who can be sued for disclosing your confidential information) and a con staffed largely by volunteers (many of whom will think nothing of disclosing confidential info (hey! Joe was arrested for pot possession!) and would be almost impossible to hold liable in any case). 2.Background checks are governed by federal law. Those employment disclosure forms serve a dual purpose–you have to give permission for them to do a background check. 3. There are different quality background checks.  A cheap one (about $20) will miss a lot of stuff, a more thorough one would be $70-$100.  Shall we add that to your con admission?

  • Kristin Frederickson

    It makes sense to do a background check on anyone being employed by the convention, but checking every visitor seems impractical and unrealistic. Besides, I’m pretty sure you can’t legally bar a convicted sex offender from attending an event if they’ve served their time and have been released (unless it a specifically child-oriented event and their parole required they stay away from children).

    That said though, most conventions I can think of don’t have a particularly nice attitude towards women, especially ones that use women in costumes as decorations for the event.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    1. Attention 2. It’s fun to pretend you’re someone else 3. Accurate costuming.

  • Anonymous

    I think its impossible to background check on everyone attending. Just like it would be impossible for Disney World to do the same thing. And even if they could banned known sex offenders, there are the pedophiles who never been caught who can harm children.

    The only solutions would be is to have sure children under 16 or 18 be accompanied by an adult or train staff working there to be on the look out for suspicious behavior.

  • Kristin Frederickson

    Gross. Probably would have been a good idea to alert security.

  • Edcedc8

    “ can we at least admit that staring at women is gross?”
    only if we can admit dressing up with your tits out is gonna get you unwanted [I think] advances.

  • Sarah

    “I’m sure I’ll get called a feminazi”

    I may be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone use that term on this website.

  • Bel

    I think it’s also just about building a climate where that isn’t acceptable, which is again going to be really hard – I’m thinking back to the “Open Source Women Backing Eachother Up Project.”  With con attendees looking out for eachother a place to take reports, everyone can split the vigilance.

  • Bel

    We can admit that if we can also admit that it’s the advancing person’s fault that it happens.

  • Rose Jones

    Put up big neon “No Gropping” signs everywhere and anyone who breaks this rule has to sit through the first three “Star Wars” films, the Doctor Who 1996 movie, and Star Trek V

  • Frodo Baggins

    She didn’t mean by people on this site, I think. Though there have been a few drive-by hate comments, in my recollection.

  • Frodo Baggins

    “but ever since news of an arrest by a registered sex offender”

    Er, I think you mean “of,” unless the arresting officer was the sex offender.

  • Edcedc8

    it would be, provided this advancer were to also hit on a potted fern if the cosplayer never turned up.
    otherwise, the issue of who is ‘at fault’ for a biological urge that some moron can’t control is slightly more murky. look, I’m polite and ask if I can take a photo at a con, I would also probably ‘hoverhands’ if I were in a photo with someone, so I’m not saying it’s justifiable to think “I can touch her! she’s slutty!” though I think if you are a cosplayer and you honestly think you can walk around with a sexy outfit on not get people staring, you are mental.
    let me put it this way – and this is a weak analogy – was it timothy treadwell’s fault he got eaten by bears, or the bear’s fault?

  •!/Akheloios Akheloios

    I think you’re bob on, it’s time we all made this kind of thing the men’s responsibility. Slutwalk showed how hard it is for women to get a fair deal with the problem of sexual objectification. If more of us men stood up and verbally slapped down the kind of pervs that take up-skirt shots or worse, like William said he did in his comment above, then it would set proper boundaries for our peer’s behaviour at these events and everyone could have a better time.

  • Anonymous

    It would be impossible to correctly check every guest. Are they going to check IDs to make sure they didn’t give a fake name? What if someone has a name similar to an existing sex offender and isn’t allowed in? When someone buys a ticket at the door are they going to go online and do a check then and there?

    And, as others have said, there are laws protecting sex offenders who have served their time. Unless their probation specifically says they cannot go to a place or event that is aimed at children (which most cons would not count as), they are free to go where ever they like. I learned this first hand when a child molester I recognized from the newspaper walked into the library where I was volunteering. Even it was story time and there were dozens of children around, he had the legal right to be there and we could not ask him to leave. Of course we watched him like a hawk until he left but it was the only thing we could do.

  • Anonymous

    This might be relevant.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, of course it is their fault for wearing their fav. character’s costume and not the dude who’s molesting them. Let’s blame the victims, shall we?

    Clothes are not consent.

  • Anonymous

    There’s one rational sounding argument that I find more than disturbing: You/they should take care of their own safety.

    Now, what exactly does that mean? It means policing the victims behavior, oh so cleverly reducing the perpetrator’s responsibility.

    You should not have worn that.
    You should not have done that.
    You should not have talked to him.

    YOU are responsible for HIS  behaviour.

    The outcry there is when someone even suggests reversing the same situation into:

    He should not have stood close to her.
    He should not have smiled at her.
    He should not have talked to her.

    Why is it okay to put these restrictions on the victim, and not the perpetrator who had a choice in his actions to molest or not?

    Here’s what is needed to make a con a safe and fun place all around.

    1. More security and enforcement. You take a pic of her ass/tits/up her skirt, you are out.
    2. Break the wall of silence. And this goes for guys and girls. Do not look away when someone does it. Do not stay silent. Everyone who does condones this kind of behavior.
    3. Stop blaming the victims.

  • Anonymous

    This is a damn good idea.

  • Anonymous

    Where is the line?

    Long sleeves? Long trousers? Baggy clothes? Skirt? Coat?

    When does she become an attention seeking whore? And thus has to suffer your advances, because she clearly wants them?

    The problem is not her boobs, the problem is YOUR attitude towards women’s bodies.

  • Edcedc8

    nice kneejerk.
    the line is when she wears something showing her boobs/something to get attention.

  • Anonymous

  • Anonymous

    Nice not answering the question.

    I get the feeling you just do not want to justify why you think you have the right to judge who is dressed slutty and thus deserves to be perved on.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s important to note that there’s a difference between blaming the victim and empowering potential targets. They’re not saying, “You need to be on top of this or it’s your fault,” but rather, “We’ll do our best, but just remember to take some precautions.” When kids are warned not to talk to strangers, is that blaming them for tempting kidnappers? No; it’s just reducing the risk where possible.

  • Joanna Moylan

    Don’t stare.  Make a discreet glance, but never stare.  You just look like an oggling perv otherwise =P

  • Joanna Moylan

    I usually dress to get attention.  But it’s not the “That slut wants me to do her” kind of attention that I want.  It’s “Hmm, what a lovely trendy looking girl” attention I’m after.  This is probably the same for most girls.  Some girls who try to just look sexy, unintentionally appear “slutty”, but in no way is it a cry for their boobs to be oggled.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not “blaming” anyone – it’s just something to keep in mind when indulging in all the fantasy that it’s bound to attract creepy crawlers, sad but true.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps you should have a look at the documentation on why the Slut Walks were created.

  • Anonymous

    Or say “why are you taking those pervy secret photos?” VERY LOUDLY, lol

  • Anonymous

    Just wanted to chip in and mention that not all pedophiles are as male and/or as straight as this article seems to infer.

    Most abuse comes at the hands of parents or people close to the family.  Children should be educated on what can happen; that doesn’t mean just ‘stranger danger’ but a general helping of common sense in how they are taught to handle people regardless of whether they know them or not.

    Preventing child abuse in sensible and practical ways is something I feel very strongly about, the fervor of ‘paedo panic’ often takes focus away from actually helping kids.

  • Ashley Sue

    What about pictures being taken at cons?  I always see men taking photos of women WITHOUT their knowledge at cons, and it makes me uncomfortable.  Add an underage girl in a skimpy costume in the mix (Starfire from Teen Titans is a little showy), and it starts to get very very uncomfortable.

  • Kristin Frederickson

    “can we at least admit that staring at women is gross?”

    I had a slight problem with that line too. There’s nothing wrong with looking, everyone does it, including women. I imagine women would look a lot more too if attractive men dressed in outfits similar to the ones women wear – with the exception of a very small asexual population, we’re all programmed to scope out potential partners.The problem is when you cross a person’s individual boundaries, like when you stare and follow them around like a stalker, rub up against them, touch or continue to talk to them without their permission etc.

    You could make the argument that women all have different ideas of what type of attention is okay, but there are certain things that are pretty universally socially unacceptable, and once a woman says “stop” or “leave me alone”, anything after that is obviously wrong and definitely can’t be blamed on clothing.

  • Eric Vene

    Even assuming that you can screen out people on the sex offender registry, there are a lot of people who are on there for stupid reasons. Public urination can put you on it as can a 19 year old having sex with his/her 17 year old partner. I really don’t like the idea of giving a massively flawed system credibility.

  • Edcedc8

    I did answer the question, though you are yelling at me for the sins of mandom all around the world.

  • Edcedc8

    I would be loathe to stare, at a lingerie fashion show I went to, I tried my utmost to look the pretty girls in the eyes. but I think that had the reverse effect, because a lot of them were smiling at me and kinda cracking up that I wasn’t there to ogle their bodies/garter belts.
    but yeah, I don’t want a woman to feel intimidated or put off by me, probably to my own detriment at times. :D

  • Edcedc8

    “The only problem with looking is when you cross people’s personal boundaries, like when you stare and follow them around like a stalker, rub up against them, touch or continue to talk to them without their permission etc.”
    QFT, I really worry about some girls [and guys] who want to dress up as white queen or cammy, and wonder if there shouldn’t be some kind of security with them at all times. which is kinda sad that some guys would think its ok to stare for a long time or ask a girl out women shouldn’t need protection from idiots, but that biological urge to reproduce that we’ve had since we were plankton can be hard to shake.

  • Edcedc8

    indeed, I don’t think any girl over the age of 20 wants to ‘look slutty’, but with cosplay, its a situation were woman and men are dressing up as sexy characters, and with some people who attend cons, they might not be that great at knowing what is socially acceptable or not. its a shame that people are like that, but I don’t know of there is a solution.

  • Edcedc8

    and as an aside, I’d just like to say that my mother is one of the first people to cosplay in australia, having gone to a fair or parade in a home made wonder woman outfit in the 60′s. and yes, she got wolf whistles if I remember correctly, but she took that in stride, and was only disappointed her friends didn’t also dress up like they said.
    I have a huge respect for cosplayers and the wonder woman character because of this, so please don’t misconstrue my words, if your bum is pinched and this ruins your day, its awful. whoever did it should be ashamed, however dressing up as cammy means you are putting your bum on display.

  • soul.assassin

    What works in Japan doesn’t quite work well in America.

  • Rosalind Casey

    Dude. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be prepared for a few more eyeballs if you wear sexy anime outfits, but there’s a difference between attention/flirting and inappropriate advances, and you DO realize that in your handy-dandy analogy, your’re comparing menfolk to man-eating bears? 

  • Tiferet

    You know what, dude?

    Even if the person in the revealing costume is an adult who is dressed that way because she does want to meet someone and hook up (and not just because she’s dressed as her favourite character), that in NO WAY makes being a grabby asshat okay.

    Do you think it’s okay for people to make lewd noises or stare or grab at the buttocks of men wearing nothing but spandex because they are dressed as superheroes, or of men wearing fur shorts because they are dressed as barbarians?  Is that okay?  Even if the guy is hoping to get a date?

    Nobody dresses up as Sailor Moon or Spiderman because they don’t want to be noticed.  It is okay to want and enjoy attention.  Attention is not the same thing as harassment.

    If I am dressed up as a sexy anime character the odds are good that I want people to look at me and tell me how awesome I am.  That does not mean I want them to stare at my tits for five minutes and drool, follow me through the dealer’s room like a barnacle, hit on me before we’ve exchanged ten words, or grab me.  If I am hanging out in the con suite there is a chance I may be interested in making new friends, or even getting naked.  That does not mean I want to be harassed, felt up, put down, or raped.

    It is a woman’s right to enjoy attention without being forced to accept harassment.  It is a woman’s right to express interest in sex, sexuality and even finding someone to have sex with without being forced to tolerate pressure to accept any offer that comes along or to put up with maltreatment and assault because she was looking for someone she liked well enough to have a consensual sexual encounter with.

    What is really going on here is that men don’t like it when women decide they want to be the one who does the pursuing and choosing and not just wait to be pursued.

  • Edcedc8

    yes I am aware

  • Edcedc8

    “Do you think it’s okay for people to make lewd noises or stare or grab at the buttocks of men wearing nothing but spandex because they are dressed as superheroes, or of men wearing fur shorts because they are dressed as barbarians? Is that okay? Even if the guy is hoping to get a date?”
    yes, pretty much.

    “If I am dressed up as a sexy anime character the odds are good that I want people to look at me and tell me how awesome I am. That does not mean I want them to stare at my tits”
    good luck with that, I’d like a solid gold toilet if we’re in fantasyland.

    “What is really going on here is that men don’t like it when women decide they want to be the one who does the pursuing and choosing and not just wait to be pursued.”
    so incorrect it hurts, we’re waiting for women to make the first move.

  • B.A.D.

    I don’t think it’s fair to limit womens’ actions because there are people out there who would seek to violate their rights and integrity.

  • Jordanya Brostoski

    It’s really just a matter of being polite. Keep your hands to yourself and don’t stare. Of course you can look, they’ve donned the costume for a reason and that’s hopefully to enjoy “being” the character. It would be a shame not to admire a costume that may have taken a lot of hard work. Some of these costumes are outrageously skimpy but that doesn’t mean that the wearer wants to be ogled, or grabbed. Wouldn’t it be fine to admire the costume and the wearer normally and then move on? If you are interested you could of course make an advance and if turned down be polite. Of course the person being hit on should also be polite. I think part of what makes this so odd is that generally it’s just the physical the person is commenting on, they do not know the wearer at all so of course it seems the only thing they are interested in is the wearer’s outward appearance. It would be different if the onlooker came to chat about costume construction, or why the wearer chose the costume, or the con, or life or robots, etc… Imagine if they were in regular street clothes, would you still want to hit on them? Clothing is not consent, what a person wears does not mean they are up for anything. Once again it’s a matter of being polite.
    This however is not related to the actual point of the article; that a child was taken advantage of is a terrible thing. The person at fault is the responsible adult who made the advances, he knew his age, her age and had been caught doing something similar before. Does it matter that it happened at a con? Does it matter that she may have worn a risque costume? She could have just as well been wearing her school uniform, or a sweatsuit. Do I personally believe that 13 year olds should wear suggestive clothing? No, but I do not believe her clothing is why this happened and I certainly do not blame her for it either. I don’t really see how background checks could have prevented this from happening, and I don’t think they’ll be particularly useful. There are a lot of ifs that can be thrown around, if the perv hadn’t been let in, if the parents had monitored her online presence more, if society didn’t sexualize everything, if the perv had spent longer in jail. It’s quite sad.

  • Miss Zomblicious

     ”biological urge”?  Are you implying that men cannot control themselves?  I know a TON of men in my life that would be offended and insulted that you think that’s the case.  Assault is assault and the fact that you just implied that women who dress “slutty” or “with your tits hanging out” (which, WOW, that’s incredibly close to saying that because she was dressing up at a con, she deserves people to flip their camera up her skirt and take a photo without her permission?  Or worse, sexually harass her?) are the ones at fault.

    I’m calling you out.  People have the right to dress however they would like, especially if they are not violating any laws or restrictions at the convention.  You are just furthering the myth that victims of assault “should have known better” or that they deserved to be treated that way.  Assault is assault.  No one at a convention in costume is asking to be assaulted.  No one is asking for people to take inappropriate photos of them without their permission.  And people who cannot control themselves?  They are the one at fault – not anyone who cosplays as Cammy or Emma Frost.  I really hope you consider what you’re saying and really think about the implications of it.  That argument is cheap and untrue.

  • Catie

    I went to Dragoncon for my first time this year for my 23rd bday. I wound up being drugged and raped by a guy without a badge. Never going back again. my life has been turned upside down.

  • Mike Liggett

     I’m quite shocked that no one has mentioned that maybe under aged kids dressing provocatively is a problem? I have no problem with an adult dressing how they want but they’re also old enough to know and make their own decisions. 13 year olds, however lack experience to understand what some people are capable of doing.

    And for the record…any adult female that chooses to highlight their more attractive features should assume that men will find them attractive and drink it up. That doesn’t mean they can touch but that doesn’t mean they can’t look. If you dress like a cop and walk around downtown then someone’s gonna look at you like you’re a cop!

    And what’s up with the parents that think it’s just fine for their kid to go unsupervised to a major event dressed like a sexy adult?!

    I’m in no way trying to “blame the victim” but people need to take some responsibility for their own safety instead of expecting others to do it for them.

  • Morgan Parker

    I agree with you for the fact that whoever wrote this article is clearly sexist and that comment shouldn’t have been said, because staring at woman is NOT gross.  Women should be appreciated, and most women like it (whether they’re willing to admit it or not) when men stare at them.  It’s an ego boost, and even if it is creepy most women like that hint of danger.  But maybe I should speak for myself in this case.  

    Either way, there is a difference between staring and advancing.  And there is yet ANOTHER big step between advancing and doing something illegal or generally immoral.  But not all girls wear skimpy clothing, and usually the ones that do don’t usually have a chance to feel attractive (I’ve been to anime conventions, and believe me it’s not full of gorgeous, thin seventeen-year-old girls that get male attention on a regular basis).  It’s not always a bad thing for a man (or women) to advance on someone they feel is attractive.

  • Morgan Parker

    To be honest, Ashley Sue, it’s a normal thing for people to take pictures of EVERYONE at anime conventions, and I’ve noticed that most people ask to take a picture if they like a cosplay in the first place.  But even if they don’t, if I were to go out in public like that, with a lot of people taking pictures, and I didn’t want my picture taken, I wouldn’t put myself in that situation at all.  I know “it’s never the victim’s fault,” but how exactly is taking a picture of something a person is already showing off in public victimizing?  There are no rules against taking pictures, and there shouldn’t be, either.  People cosplay to show off their cosplays, or to feel pretty or badass.  I don’t see why picture-taking gets uncomfortable for you.

  • Morgan Parker

    I would just like to say that most, if not all conventions do take measures to prevent this sort of thing.  Many conventions have events ranging from ten until about one or two in the morning that are for adults only.  These events are where many of the “pervs” might hang out, like in bondage panels and hentai-related events, but they are for eighteen +, so to say that cons do nothing about this probably-not-very-frequent problem is false.

    But I do agree that people under sixteen or eighteen should be accompanied by an adult.  Not necessarily a parent, but at least a friend who is eighteen or older.  However, the point of cons shouldn’t be to have one more thing that minors can’t do on their own that frustrates the hell out of them.  Regardless of how “immature” and “incapable” minors may be to some, they still deserve respect and rights, and treating a fifteen year old like a child will not bring about his/her adulthood.  

  • Morgan Parker

    At an anime convention, everyone would be groping everyone to get that punishment.

  • Veronica Cristina

    Maybe, but is still valid and important prevent sexual crimes against kids in a Con 

  • Bookgal 1977

    The problem is that at many conventions, when they have taken steps to ban known sex offenders, there have been lawsuits against the conventions…and many loose. It depends on the terms of the persons release, the level of sex offense, etc.

    I’ve worked for many cons, and obviously the safety of our patrons is first and foremost on our minds. But sometimes our hands are tied, even on this level.

  • Anonymous

    This has been going on forever. I remember going to Katsucon 2 when I was 13 and getting cornered in the elevator by a creep with a camera who wanted me and my female companion on the same age to “show the camera our tits for a documentary”. The worst part? At the time to us and our young damn as sh** brains he was a cute guy in his twenties who thought we were hot older girls so we totally did it. Now looking back, its nice to know I was an idiot and he was a pedophile. Nice.