The Cosplay Sentinels: A New Way To Stop Harassment At Australian Conventions

They are the ‘boots on the ground’. An accessible, friendly team of specialists trained to assess and deploy anti-harassment tactics at conventions throughout Australia. They are the Cosplay Sentinels: they want to make the con experience better and safer for all cosplayers, photographers, attendees. Everyone. Their goal? To empower every single attendee of every convention to enjoy events without fear.

credit: Foto Play Photography


But first: a little history: the convention scene in Australia is currently in a troubled place. In Queensland there is, for want of a better term, the Adam Baldwin/Supanova situation. Having invited Baldwin without pre-knowledge of his role in Gamergate -- an online movement notorious for its harassment of female developers -- many cosplayers are boycotting the convention in response. Many feel unsafe.

In South Australia, the cosplay community is in the process of dealing with a more nefarious situation. Timothy Marshall, a well-known photographer in the local cosplay scene, was recently convicted of statutory rape and one count of aggravated sexual assault. His victim was 12 years old at the time. “This little kid,” she said, testifying six years later, “just wanted to play hide and seek with the man who sexually abused me.”

Many in the local scene were shaken by the news. It was just one more reason to feel unsafe at cosplay conventions in Australia.

For Dustin Wilson, an events director, this situation was front of mind when it came time to launch his own convention, Cosplay Live. How could he help cosplayers feel safer at his event? How could he help remove the stain that Marshall had placed on the local cosplay community?

His answer, in part, was the Cosplay Sentinels, a small team of three people, all cosplayers trying to revolutionise how harassment is dealt with at local conventions.

Team member number one: Thorin Black. The ‘muscle’. An ex-military man with experience as a bouncer, currently serving a police officer in Adelaide.

Team members number two and three: Justine from JusZ Cosplay and Tiffany Dean. Two well-known cosplayers in the local community. Their role: to provide support. To be a point of contact for any cosplayers who have been harassed on the show floor. Their job: educate the harassers, or escalate the situation to Thorin Black if perpetrators need to be removed from the show.

It may sound like a fairly extreme solution but, according to Dustin Wilson, the Cosplay Sentinels are all about support.

“My concern is I don’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable or harassed,” he told Kotaku.

The idea is simple: provide an accessible point of contact for anyone who feels as though they’ve been harassed: someone who understands cosplay, someone who has been trained in anti-harassment policies. Dustin believes this will help cosplayers feel safer at his convention.

“In the past conventions have had anti-harassment policies, or their staff have some sort of training,” he explains. “But from a cosplayer’s point of view if something happens to them sometimes they don’t know how to react. We put the Cosplay Sentinels out there so that instead of having to approach a member of staff or something like that, a cosplayer can talk to an experienced cosplayer who can now look to their training and react accordingly.”

There will be multiple ways of contacting the Sentinels at the show. The plan is to make them as visible as possible with armbands, but there will also be a contact phone number, as well as point of contact at the information booth should anyone need immediate help.

Justine and Tiffany, says Dustin, will be the first point of contact. The team understand that Thorin, might be a little intimidating.

“Thorin, he’s a big guy. A mountain of a man. A bit like The Mountain in Game of Thrones. He’s got all the official training and escalation methods. But when it comes to someone doing a cosplay for the first time at their first convention -- he’s a very large imposing figure. Justine and Tiffany are like the face of cosplay in Adelaide: so they are the first point of contact. If something feels weird, they can contact either Justine or Tiffany and speak to them.”

Dustin is extremely keen to reassure everyone: this is not meant to be an aggressive response. The Cosplay Sentinels, he claims, are there for support, to make people feel safer at Cosplay Live.

“Some people I’m sure will be like, ‘I don’t harass anyone, why are you doing this huge anti-harassment drive?’ It’s there as a passive thing: they’re not out there to patrol, they’re there as support, as a point of contact.

“No-one’s being eyeballed. If you’re going to a con for the first time or you’re cosplaying for the first time, you know the sentinels are there to help support you.”

While the Cosplay Sentinels were, for lack of a better word, 'assembled' specifically for Adelaide’s Cosplay Live event, Dustin has not ruled out using the team’s methodology for other conventions: not just locally in Adelaide, but across Australia. According to him, one other major convention has already signed up for weekend training courses and in the long term? The word ‘franchise’ is being used.

Dustin is using his own convention as a live-test of how the Cosplay Sentinels operate.

“This is like a case study,” he says.

“We see a great opportunity for the sentinels to offer their services to other major conventions.”

Credit: Rob Jenkins Photography


Comments

    If it helps the community thrive and limits incidents of bad behaviour, then why the hell not?

    Good luck to them.

      Perhaps in the same way we dont need police unless we want to be tasered to death by police officers looking to add to their live action roleplay death tolls. Civil people dont need them. The uncivil are the real problem.

    For once, I don't have anything sarcastic or derisive to say. I think this is a smart approach to a problem without blowing it out of proportion. Gooda jobba.

    Not sure I understand this, not that it's a bad thing but were people being attacked and harassed at previous conventions or is it just that the photographer was scum that has caused the need?

      From what I understand, the photographer didn't do anything wrong at conventions, it's just that finding out that someone these cosplayers socialised with was convicted of abusing a 12-year old made them feel understandably insecure.

      I don't think it was just the photographer though - some cosplayers get some quite inappropriate comments or requests at conventions. Not sure if any incidents go beyond that. It may or may not be harassment, which is where the sentinels come in.

      For the record, harassment is when the approach is continued, repeated or if violence or intimidation is used. If you go and ask someone if they want to sleep with you, that isn't harassment as long as you are polite about it. If someone says 'no' to you and you keep on at them, or follow them, that is another story.

        If you go and ask someone if they want to sleep with you, that isn't harassment as long as you are polite about it.
        That's not a great rule of thumb. If you are the tenth person at the convention to ask them that question, then the person is likely to feel harassed even if you only ask once. And if they haven't given any indication that the answer might be yes, why would you be asking it anyway? (note that wearing a game/comic costume at a convention doesn't count as the invitation).

          Unfortunately it wouldn't be harassment if you were the tenth or the hundredth person, as long as you were polite about it and not violent or intimidatory. That's the grey area though, because if someone feels intimidated it's going to be difficult as a non-present third-party to judge whether the conduct was objectively intimidatory. Basically, if you are the police, you just warn someone off if it is the first time you are called. If you catch them doing the same thing again then they are likely to get treated more severely.

            It might not be enough for police to get involved, but that isn't generally the standard I hold myself to when deciding if something is a good idea or not.

            For a number of conferences I've attended it would be a breach of the code of conduct (unwanted sexual attention), so the organisers could then get involved. There is some discretion on how they handle the situation, so it might just result in a warning but could also result in removal from the conference (something that has happened in the past).

          Well punishing person 10 for what 9 previous and unrelated people have done is worse as far as rules of thumb go. Accusing the 10th of harassment for what the first 9 have done would be moronic at best anyway. Just because you feel harassed, doesn't make it so.

          Sure it's shitty to feel like that, but if it worked that way we'd have people being punished for harassment every day simply because they looked in the general direction of another or something equally stupid.

          Personally, I'd hope they'd all just get thrown out based on the conventions own rules and conditions of entry. Legally you couldn't touch them though unless they persisted or were especially impolite in some manner with their initial request.

            You seem to have read something into my comment that I didn't say. All ten people in the example are at fault, which is why conferences I've attended with codes of conduct or anti-harassment policies have attendees agree not to act that way.

            I agree that the single incident probably isn't enough for police to get involved, but that's irrelevant. At privately run events, it is common for certain behaviours to be restricted even if they are otherwise legal. And that's how this kind of thing is generally handled.

              Wasn't trying to say you implied anything actually... I agree all 10 in the example would be at fault from a 'not socially acceptable' standpoint, and that any code of conduct or conditions of entry should be enough to eject them from the premises.

              My point is merely that you can't unreasonably accuse a person of something because previous unrelated people made you feel bad.

              Last edited 02/03/15 7:36 pm

                At fault from a "not socially acceptable".

                But what if you scale it back in severity, hey wanna sleep with me is a bit forward.

                What if it was consistent stream of requests to grab dinner/lunch/movie from different people.

                There isn't anything explicit from it. And one could even argue a reasonable enough question for someone to ask another person.

                The at fault part goes out the window despite the face that it could still be viewed as harassment after enough people.

                Some might argue that a con is not the best situation to ask someone for a date mingle etc. But in some ways conventions are one of those few places from a social standpoint that some of these people will be able to guarantee a pool of people with somewhat similar interests.

                That I can agree with. I brought up the case simply to demonstrate why an "it's okay if you only do it once" rule of thumb will still lead to problems.

        That depends very heavily on context. Asking someone at work if they wanna see your sweet meat is harassment the first time. It's a lot to do with context and generally accepted social behaviour.

          I'm pretty sure anyone being asked that out of the blue is fucking weird and a no no. I don't understand why anyone would ask that. I know it's only an example, but it's a shitty one.

          If you put it like that I'd agree with you. In that statement there is a hint of a threat that you might be showing the said meat to the person whether he or she wants to see it or not.

          As far as workplace harassment goes, I believe it's classified even if its just once; workplace bullying is when it's a repeat thing

          Yeah, a disturbingly grey area. In the workplace, it's only harassment if it's an unwanted advance. Plenty of relationships start in the workplace, and it's perfectly acceptable (outside of specific rules against fraternization, such as in the military).

          For example, if you ask someone at work out on a date, that's not harassment unless you persist past a rejection, because then you know it's unwanted. If you, uh... whip it out, or take some other measure which 'a reasonable person' would interpret as 'inappropriate' (ie: usually anything sexually explicit), then it is harassment... but these terms are all so wishy-washy.

          In general it's bad form (but not illegal) to hit on service workers where they're working because they're not exactly in a position to move away, you kind of have them trapped. Not great. And as indicated elsewhere, they probably get it a lot. Responding to flirting is generally fine, because they started it.

          I'd imagine that - morally - the same attitude should be adopted towards cosplayers. They're 'performing' in a way. And that's often a different mental/emotional mode. They're not following the well-known social traditions of dressing to impress and making themselves publicly available for the sake of attracting romantic interest... they're doing it to perform. They're 'working', in their way. Even when unpaid.

        If you go and ask someone if they want to sleep with you, that isn't harassment as long as you are polite about it.

        Yeah no, that can be harassment. And doing that? Not even remotely acceptable either, to go up to a cosplayer (or, y'know, anyone outside v specific circumstances) and ask them if they want to sleep with you.

        And actually harassment is harassment is whether it happens once or multiple times.

          There's a difference in legal consequences though. Harassment in the vernacular sense is a lot more subjective, and can mean *any* unwanted approach, no matter how objectively innocuous it might be.

            Of course there is legally, but in terms of the above article, if you're a cosplayer - and especially a new one who hasn't had to put up with the kind of scum that cosplayers often have to put up with before - if someone comes up to you and says something wildly inappropriate whether they were polite about it or not, you're probably going to feel harassed and upset by it.

              I think someone here is trying to speak three-dimensionally and create discourse that can be understood by a variety of people in a variety of situations but people are consistently judging and labelling people as "creeps" or "scum" when there may be a bigger issue at large. When we look at high levels of youth violence in schools we CAN'T label them all as garbage despite that being the perspective of victims because it doesn't help society at large progress past this with a modicum of understanding. It's quite often for people to point at this and for whatever reason be offended at looking closely at a situation but I'm not sure you'll see any social issue past or present that didn't benefit from increased scrutiny and conversly didn't suffer from immediate judgement and demonisation by people at large.

              What I like about this article is that these Cosplay Sentinels don't appear to be interested in labelling or judging people based on an arbitrary criteria, they simply want to offer support and safety for all. This perspective acknowledges the need for people to feel safe whilst not impeding or negatively affecting society's understanding of the issue, which is complex. Saying it's simple: you're a creep, is regressive. We've learnt that there are a litany of socially ingrained problems that have now benefitted from research and understanding, even when it's uncomfortable. Sexism is a socially ingrained trait dating back thousands of years and it's sad that the best response people have is "creep". Using a modicum of the empathy used to explore and understand the social and cultural enabling of gender roles by males just like we did with murder, abuse, mental health etc. I think we can get far better results, far more quickly than calling them names.

                I am not sure what your comment is in relevance to mine, apart from the fact I used scum, but cool? Of course there is a bigger issue at large. It's called the patriarchy, and the way young men are raised in society today, but when women start talking about that then they get steamrolled and called feminazis and forgive me if I just don't have the time nor energy for dealing with that bullshit?

                Also don't underestimate the power of language in changing behaviour. It's not sad that the best response people have is "creep". Creep is a great response. Speaking from actual in real life experience as a woman, saying no, and/or asking someone to not say a thing to you that they're staying, or do what they're doing, or coming on to you no matter how polite they might be, often just encourages the guy to try harder, because that's how he's been raised and socialised from everything from fellow human beings to media. A chick says no, she's just playing hard to get, hey? But calling a dude a creep or behaviour creepy tends to get a guy to back down and that's what (might) get him to think about what he's been doing, because there's no talking yourself past that. If she thinks he's creepy, she thinks he's creepy. He's not just going to try harder.

                That said, but I do quite resent the implication there's a lack of empathy here for this. I have had to live this life for decades, and I have talked about this kind of thing for years, and frankly, it's frigging tiring not being listened to. I am not going to apologise for calling people who think it's acceptable to harass women scum or creeps in short comments (or not). And I'm not going to stop calling their behaviour what it is either.

                tl;dr: these guys don't listen to women who say no, and they certainly don't listen to women who say "this is why this behaviour needs to be changed"

                Last edited 02/03/15 4:41 pm

                  I agree with you. In a one-on-one situation, many men will not take a 'no' from a woman they are interested in, like you say. That's why I think that this Sentinel idea could be good, because you get a third party coming in and talking to the maker of the unwelcome comments/requests in a way that is not designed to be confrontational, but rather educational. I think it is a good step towards not just changing behaviour in men, but changing attitudes as well.

                  @zambayoshi oh definitely, and I like that it's the two women and not the big burly dude who are the first port of call, because okay yeah, some guys will be dicks no matter what if they're getting requested to stop a particular kind of behaviour, but it's less aggressive/confrontational right from the start, which is what you want at something like this.

                  Also outside of the dudes making the comments, it can be good and reassuring for women who are feeling uncomfortable or have been made to feel uncomfortable to talk to another woman about it.

        For the record, what YOU think is harassment isn't what other people may feel it is.

        While you personally might be THRILLED if random strangers proposition you, many, many people find that confronting, offensive and scary, no matter how polite their 'I don't know you from a bar of soap but I want to orgasm in/on/around your body' statement may be phrased.

        The fact you need to be told this is quite frightening but not surprising as it's a commonly-taught perception to men. You're on the top step of a very, very icky path down, I truly suggest you give this due consideration.

        This is how harassment happens. Very, very few people who harass THINK they are doing anything 'wrong' and are genuinely surprised at the reactions they get and then blame the other person.

          I think you misunderstand me. I would never behave in that way and am not defending people who do. I am just suggesting that there are multiple possible reasons people do behave this way, and there is also a legal difference between people being offended by a one-off comment or approach that is not violent or intimidatory, and people being harassed. Short story, no-one is going to go to gaol for propositioning someone in a polite way, non-repetitive way, no matter how subjectively 'creepy' it might be.

            Thank you for explaining. Well, legally it DOES constitute harassment in some circumstances - for example the workplace - as to whether it would see you in gaol, well yes, that is unlikely. It is still harassment however.

        If you go up to a random stranger and ask if they want to sleep with you, that is not polite no matter how soft-spoken you ask it.

      From what i've heard from friends who cosplay being harassed is pretty common, especially female cosplayers.

        I know. This is not excusing the conduct, but I imagine that it is quite difficult for some dudes who are socially awkward, who fantasise about a videogame or anime character, and who are suddenly confronted by a lady dressed as that character. It makes me wonder about the ratio of inadvertently creepy behaviour to purposefully creepy behaviour.

          Creepy is creepy. The mindset of the offender at the time is for the police to sort out later.

            Yeah, but creepy isn't necessarily illegal. That's the difficult part. Most of the time you can't just have someone arrested because they make a perverted comment to you.

              I'm sorry, but if you are going to say something inappropriate to someone that is obviously a real person you are purposefully fucking creepy.

                I think you'd be surprised. There are a lot of people out there, particularly those suffering from antisocial personality disorder, who can come out with the most inappropriate comments not because they want to offend, but because they either lack the awareness of how that comment would make someone feel, or simply can't control themselves.

                  I have never been unable to control myself. And anyone that has a disability that serious is hardly ever on their own, thus with a friend who will likely know them well enough to act as a sounding board or filter for that sort of thing. It's not like they would have never been in a similar situation in the real world.

                It's not so much a matter of control as much as it is conditioning.

                Socializing is a skill, just like any other. And if you're entirely self-taught, without any practice, and without any examples to copy off, then it's definitely understandable that people will get it dead wrong.

                We aren't born knowing 'how to human'. It's learned. And some people have learning difficulties.

                Edit: Criticize sure, but don't demonize.

                Last edited 03/03/15 2:59 pm

                  I am pretty sure that you will be able to know that the vast majority of what could be construed as inappropriate is inappropriate from socialising with family, school friends/teachers and work colleagues.
                  Look. I know that the thought that comes to mind is Autistic, or even aspergers. But they're not that totally withdrawn from social context, honestly. And if they do come close, they won't be going out on their own.
                  So I still hold to the idea that you will know when you are being inappropriate.

                Nah. Some people are like rescue dogs. Very poorly socialized and filled with tics and triggers and reluctances that have nothing to do with being defective... just bad experiences.

                Society mistreats the socially awkward just fine, at home or at school. Just go back through the articles about peoples' high school lives and you will see some real horror stories and a truly staggering (and disappointing) amount of vitriol and venom aimed squarely at the bullying received in school. The exclusion, the withdrawal, hunching down, huddling over, just trying to get through it.

                I'd say it's no small coincidence that the targets of that kind of behaviour are the same ones given to fantasy, escapism, geek culture,

          Inadvertently creepy behaviour definitely needs to be called out too, though. "I didn't know it was creepy" isn't an acceptable excuse, but if it gets people to reevaluate how to be a human, that's a good thing. But of course, it has to get people to want to reevaluate how to be a human.

          At SDCC the other year I called a guy out who was surreptitiously filming a cosplayer in a Goblin Queen outfit. And sure, that might be a super revealing cosplay, but that doesn't mean you should stealthily film her without her explicit permission. It might have been his first time seeing an IRL woman's underboob in the flesh, but he sure as hell didn't listen to me telling him it was not appropriate or acceptable to do it without her permission.

          I just hope me telling him to stop being creepy really puts him off when he tries to use it for his spank bank. He probably just mutes it though. If this guy was socially awkward he had no interest in changing his behaviour.

          If you're socially awkward odds are your opening line isn't going to be

          "Hey DTF?"

          And if it is your probably pulling that shit with people regardless of their costume play or if they are in their yoga gear

          Authorial intent doesn't matter so much as people like to think. You can mean to say a thing and say something that comes out very different'y. It isn't everyone else's fault that you made a mistake and didn't mean it like that.

        As I have said before, you can find harassment occurring at conventions. It's not very common, but it is still there. I have heard a 16-18 year old boy telling a female cosplayer to get out of the convention because she didn't know some facts about my little pony that were very obscurely related to Harley Quinn, who the girl was dressed as.
        I think this is a great idea. Sometimes, a first time cosplayer may think something is normal, but may be unsure about it. It gives males and females a point of reference.

        I just want to add, at manifest several years back. Two guys were dressed up as Vegeta and Goku and had foam chests to complete the look. My friend asked if we could fondle their foam chests for a photo. They were great sports about it, but if she hadn't asked, or if it had been their actual chest, then it would definitely be a cause of harassment.

        Last edited 03/03/15 4:55 pm

          That's hilarious. This is the kind of thing that some people might find creepy (especially if it had been males approaching a female cosplayer and asking to fondle her chest for a photo) but is not harassment. If you go up to a cosplayer and ask politely if it's OK to take a photo with your arm around him or her, you aren't doing anything wrong. Being respectful is a huge ingredient in making these conventions enjoyable for everyone.

            There's a woman who makes fake foam breasts for people who are uncomfortable going as a revealing character. If it was for an amusing photo and someone asked before hand, they could certainly fondle the fake breast. It's just foam after all =D

    Another fantastic idea out of South Australia.

    Show the rest of the country how it's done!

      Not really, all it is is just security guards playing cosplay.

    I still don't quite understand why cosplayers are going to feel unsafe if Adam Baldwin is signing autographs. I get that he has said dumb things on the twitters, and I know that all anti vaccination lobbyists are blithering idiots, but he is easily the best Baldwin. Also, because firefly.

    Nice idea with the team, having more people openly embrace the creative side of their nerdiness is cool. Brisbane supanova has always felt pretty welcoming that way, but a boost can't hurt!

      Not so much about Baldwin himself, but his followers. It'd be like Pauline Hanson performing a speech; no-one's worried about Pauline, they're worried about the behaviour of the overly fanatical supporters.

        It's ok everyone, I'll just beat up everyone dressed as jayne!

        Jokes, but aren't the other side also "foaming at the mouth" levels of nuts, too?

        What if someone beats me up if I dress as jayne?!

        Every fifth cosplayer should be handed a real weapon in place of their prop. The fear of that should keep the rowdy in line, and the herd immunity should give quite a nice protective coverage.

        Guns solve yet another problem!

          As a avid Krieg cosplayer, my blunt buzzaxe is still probably a real weapon if I hit you hard enough.

          Not that I'm going to.

          Unless you grab my ass in cosplay. Then you're going to have a discussion with Buzzy.

      The reason they feel unsafe is that they're worried his presence will attract some people who agree with some of the more extreme stuff he has come to be a part of. Keep in mind we're talking about feeling unsafe, regardless of whether or not that feeling is justified that is how they feel. Also keep in mind a lot of the truly dispicable side of Gamergate focuses on fear and intimidation. Threats of rape and murder. I'm of the opinion that those people are just blasting hot air but it's certainly not unreasonable to be uncomfortable with the idea that those people might attend.

      Last edited 02/03/15 3:05 pm

      The mention of Baldwin was nothing to do with Baldwin. It was more about explaining the context of the situation that this new thing came out of. The one-two punch of publicity problems of the Baldwin saga and the statutory rape conviction of someone within the community is understandably going to be a big hit to the morale in the wider cosplay community.

      He's not related to the other Baldwins
      He's a firm proponent of freedom of speech. That doesnt mean people have to listen to him, or agree with him. It just means he can say what he likes without interference by his government.

      The thing is, before gamergate, he was mouthing off about all kinds of stuff. Constantly. I mean I followed him on twitter regularly- especially while Chuck was in production.
      99% of his tweets went un-noticed- and he said all kinds of conservative stuff that would really rile up progressives. It wasnt until he said those magic words that all of a sudden he's the devil. If people choose to be offended by what some guy says on twitter then they're really really trying hard to be offended in the first place.
      The internet isnt for children. It isnt safe. It is anarchy. It always has been, and attempts to turn it into a nanny state will just create more 4chan's and troll clubs.
      In other words- the behaviour wont stop, you'll just drive them into specialised clubs.

      Last edited 02/03/15 3:36 pm

        I'm kind of astounded someone hasn't called you the devil simply for pointing out that unfortunately some people really do go far out of their way to be offended by anything and everything...

        Almost always so they can bitch and moan about it purely for the attention it gets them.

    I can appreciate what they're doing and the problems cosplayers face, there's not just the isolated problems individuals face but the greater lack of respect cosplayers deal with, but the way all this is framed makes it sound less like a support group and more like some sort of vigilante event staff. I get that busting heads is the opposite of what they want to do, that their 'muscle' is an off duty police officer, and that they're actually part of the event staff, but just the presence of muscle at all sends a very confused statement. It's like announcing that you have a gun you're not going to use. There's that mixed message of 'I want a peaceful resolution and I have no intention of shooting anyone, but I also want you to know that I have a gun and I could use it to force you to agree with me, but I won't, even though I totally could if I chose to'.
    Admittedly my stance on the bigger picture is that a lot of this stuff is small issues on the event floor that are a serious problem coupled with big vague problems on the internet that make it seem like a full on warzone, so I lean towards resolution techniques that are less confronting and less likely to cause the floor problems to esculate to the size of the internet problems.

    [Edit: Just to be clear I'm not simply against the idea of them being intimidating and/or accidentally esculating things. A big part of my issue with the direction is that it clouds what the group actually does and hurts it's ability to do what it sets out to. If they're seen as being about revenge or vigilante justice that means some people won't come to them when they should. If I understand correctly a lot of cosplayers don't go to event staff with their problems because it'll esculate things into a big deal. A cosplayer encountering someone who is a problem but isn't a 'call the police' problem might not feel as though the Cosplay Sentinels can help, even though that's exactly what the group was formed to do.
    If I'm reading this correctly someone making you feel like an asshole for wearing a costume is exactly the sort of issue you should take to them. Yet it still feels like a group designed to kick the shit out of guys who think pawing at cosplayers tits is ok.]

    Last edited 02/03/15 3:18 pm

      It looks like the aim is reassurance for cosplayers and education for people who might offend them, with Thorin Black as a back-up in case things turn nasty during the 'education'.

        That certainly seems to be their goal, they state it outright and in terms of functionality they're event staff specifically to service cosplayers and provide a dedicated security guard which is great, but I feel like everything from the name to the way they present themselves screams vigilante justice. Thorin's job isn't to hurt anyone, he's acting as a bouncer for a group that doesn't want a violent resolution, but they're still flirting with the idea that he's just a guy walking around the convention who'll kick the crap out of the creeps.
        It feels like image-wise they want to give convention goers that satisfaction of thinking 'yeah, we got our own bully who'll bully the bullies'.

          Yep, agreed. They need to 'PR' this a bit better. It'll be interesting to see how it goes in practice.

      I think it's more about the perception that if you have a problem, there is someone on this team you can feel safe turning to for help.
      Big guy is definitely a good option to have on the off chance you actually feel physically threatened, but I doubt he'd be cracking skulls or escalating situations, more just providing that immediate feeling of safety while the appropriate venue security teams are briefed.

        He is a fucking cop after all. He can hardly plead ignorance about anything untoward.

          Fantastic generalisation there.

            I think the generalisation was that as a police officer he would be familiar with the law

              It certainly didn't read that way to me personally, but I'll happily apologise if I'm mistaken.

    'The idea is simple: provide an accessible point of contact for anyone who feels as though they’ve been harassed:...'

    What happens if it's someone's word against another and there is absolutely nothing that can be done though? Why would we not just utilise say the Police? Unless 'serving a police officer' should be 'serving as a police officer'? But then is Thorin acting as a Police officer? Would the 'team member' stuff then just be a means to avoid the potential seriousness of saying 'we have police this year'?

    I'm not into cosplay at all and have never been to a convention. But is there a need to dictate what actually constitutes harrassment and under what grounds help should be sought? For instance, feeling harrassed VS someone (cosplayer or enthusiast) making a cosplayer feel uncomfortable.

    Also (not directed at Serrels), the undertone of 'don't fuck with Thorin' is just pathetic. If he is actually acting as the Police, the intimidation factor would be unprofessional and unnecessary. What's a bit concerning is that if he ISN'T in a police uniform (IF he isn't an officer), what would the average joe/joanne think if Thorin (not in a police uniform) 'escalates' (give me a break) the situation and starts grabbing people? I definitely know what my immediate reaction would be.

    But, take it for what you will from someone who knows zilch about cosplay.

      Thorin is a Police Officer, but I believe he will be off-duty. Surely this provides greater assurance that things will run smoothly as no doubt as a Police Officer there is a level of duty-of-care; especially in a public space where people are aware of his profession.

      If a situation can be resolved without the need for Police resources, not to mention that fellow cosplayers as a point of contact is far less intimidating, is it not better for all involved? I'm sure if things escalated then the Police will be involved if and when appropriate.

      You also know zilch about security. I don't mean that to be dismissive, but there's a reason that terminology is used. 'Escalation' is a specific set of protocols in allowing a police officer, security personnel, or even a general member of the public to deal with a threat in a way that is appropriate and legal.

      As a police officer, he has been trained in appropriate escalation responses and has every right to use them. I wouldn't be surprised if he is being hired in a professional capacity as a security officer, as a lot of police do security work in their off time. Provided he follows the rules and uses minimal appropriate force, that would give him limited powers to restrain, eject, or (in extreme cases) take someone into custody while waiting for on-duty police to arrive.

        Zilch? I daresay my knowledge of security and safety is what lead to my concerns in the first place.

        ''Escalation' is a specific set of protocols in allowing ... a general member of the public to deal with a threat in a way that is appropriate and legal.

        Consider me an expert then. And I actually mean expert.

        The problem is that it's not defined what this Thorin actually is on the day. Is he a police officer assigned AS an officer in a uniform? If so, fine, perfect. THAT'S WHAT I'D PREFER AND WANT!
        But it's not specified and you didn't address it.
        What rules and protocols would he adhere to based on the below roles he may have?

        An imposing big dude who can 'handle' things if things 'escalate'?
        An off duty police officer working as security?
        Just an off duty police officer used as 'muscle'?
        A police officer as an undercover police officer?
        Or merely a 'team member' as he is portrayed above with no professional relationship to his role as a supposed police officer?

        Just seriously think about it. Thorin in a police uniform grabbing someone VS Thorin in casual clothes with an unspecified role to the grabee. Now let's use my example and say a no-uniform Thorin grabbed me and I had no idea who he was. Either he or I are going to be seriously hurt. That's not safe. That's not secure. That isn't security.

        If Dustin Wilson has not already specified what his role is, or if this article happened to not state it, then people going to the convention NEED to know. Merely saying he's an imposing figure (the 'muscle'), with training in the military and the police, and that he'll be there on the day(s) is NOT security.

          Ok, so by expert, what do you mean? I was a security guard for four years, and a school teacher for six. I have been attacked with and without weapons, I have defended myself and others, I have had people die at my workplace while I was security on duty. I have dealt with domestic violence situations, armed break-ins, gang violence, even police violence. I worked at the stock exchange, an oil refinery, investment banks, luxury apartments, pubs, bus depots, universities, shopping centres... I'm still sure as hell not an expert. From what you say, you've been in some fights. Woop, woop, buddy. This is about very specifically defined legal allowances of reasonable force in a given situation.

          Uniformed police are police. They aren't security guards. You can prefer your waiter to shine your shoes, but that's not their job. I actually did address it in saying that he may well be on the team as a security guard. A lot of police moonlight as security when off duty. He is specifically mentioned as a serving police officer and that being part of why he is there. Presumably he knows the rules and how to follow them.

          It's already been mentioned that they will be identifiable with some sort of uniform markings, like arm bands. If it comes to a point where you have to be physically restrained, then you're already several rungs up the escalation ladder and there has to be a legitimate reason for doing so and that reason would hold true whether he were there in a professional capacity or not. The difference between a security guard and a normal person on the street is insurance, training, and a specific job to do that has been set out by the employer. They have no extra powers whatsoever. So it doesn't matter if he is security or not. He is a liaison who also happens to have the training they would normally have to pay for. Now they get it for free.

          So what you are saying in the last paragraph is that if the very article that we are talking about didn't hypothetically exist, then there would be a problem? Good thing it exists, then. There will be security. There will be patron liaison people. There will be patron liaison people who also happen to have really good training. Somehow this is a bad thing.

            I'm the sort of expert that would be advising Dustin Wilson to remove the gaming innuendo, and state matter of factly, and upfront that he has either a) a security guard, or b) a police presence at the event. None of this ex-military, muscle man-mountain crap. I would trust my 174cm, 57kg female police officer friend as much as Thorin on the day. And then I'd advise Mr. Wilson to contact a legal advisor and to have a small chat with them.

            'He is specifically mentioned as a serving police officer and that being part of why he is there.'
            Is it really though? Is he also there because he's the 'muscle', a man-mountain, and has ex-military training? If he's the police and acting as the police, why not just say he's the police? Why go through the unprofessional and unnecessary glamorisation? Are we underestimating his skills and perceptions as a police officer at a cosplay convention, or overestimating the skills and perceptions of the other two team members?

            Re: Third paragraph. It absolutely matters what role he undertakes on the day. There is a reason why police have and utilise a uniform, and why it's a serious offense to wear one illegally. Also, on a day where people are walking around with goodness knows what clothing all over their body, it becomes even more imperative that an identifiable uniform is used, again, IF he is acting as the police or a designated security guard. An armband is not going to cut it, they'll just be playing pretend with everyone else cosplaying as an authority figure.

            Re: Fourth paragraph. Uhh no. If his role has not been specified by the event manager or if this article didn't state his role. Nothing about the article not existing.

            'From what you say, you've been in some fights. Woop, woop, buddy.'
            Nope, have never been in anything that would constitute a single fight. But again, using my example, what if an un-uniformed person were to grab me and I couldn't escape their grasp? I don't know who they are, I see an armband 'Wait..is that..who are...?', they start telling me to 'calm down mate', I resist because I'm scared and terrified, I fear for my safety, they grab harder and I resist harder.
            A suitable and encouraged self defense mechanism (for instance if grabbed from behind) is to break their fingers by pulling them back at right angles. It's not hard and doesn't require great strength. It's extremely painful to the grabber and will allow sufficient time for the grabee to escape. As you say yourself, 'This is about very specifically defined legal allowances of reasonable force in a given situation.' The situation I described is extreme but not incredibly unlikely.

            Again, exactly what Thorin is wearing or exactly what his role is, has so far been undefined. You yourself as an experienced security guard must admit that this is not the best course of action, at a cosplay event!

            Again, if Thorin is in anything but an immediately identifiable uniform (again, we're at a cosplay convention here) and his role is undefined to attendees, and he's as intimidating as the source of the article irresponsibly implies, someone may get seriously hurt and/or sued. Granted there may be an extrememly small chance of this happening, but why even allow it if the chance can be removed?

              I agree with you 100%, the way it's stated sounds like cowboy levels of security, like the Queensland or Western Australian Police Force.

              Using this as an intimidation factor confuses me wildly and the article about the rape victim that was done well off the convention floor, from what this article is saying that the incident happened during or in the convention floor was already silly as you have children and adults mingling in together and you don't know who to trust (as most are long friends who haven't seen each other for a while, this is country town Adelaide). That's why you have paid the security guards in the convention center and it's there job to do what Thorin Black is doing (you should of a point of call for people being harrassed). Unless he's an undercover police officer at the time then 'yes' specifically say so from the police point of view (he is the police presence of AVCON which is fine (as rock concerts has them, royal show has them and any other event with more than 5k people) ) but from what I read it sounds AVCON is a very dangerous place to be in. (which should be not as the convention centre supplies both the place and the security personnel in place). Adelaide is an extremely hard place to be unknown by someone and the person you could be grabbing that is doing the 'harrassing' could of been a long friend and they could be just playing.

          Heyo! Also former-security here.
          It's a fair point that his role could probably be clarified, but my assumption is that because it hasn't been explicitly stated, it SHOULD be assumed that he's not attending officially as an officer, and it's only brought up because it's an indicator of experience.

          That said... if an off-duty officer sees a crime in progress, that puts them back on-duty. And they'll have to identify themselves as such before attempting any 'grabbing'.

          But even if he didn't? Your hypothetical is a little weird.

          BECAUSE he's a police officer, he should know full-well that he can't simply grab you without you being pretty well damn aware of why you're being grabbed. He'd face disciplinary action for that, so he won't. But even if it wasn't an officer... you have to be in the process of an indictable offense for a civilian arrest without warrant, or physically threatening the safety of others. So if you're getting restrained, legally, then you're getting restrained for a reason.

          What I'm getting at is...
          If you're being grabbed as part of the legal escalation process, it doesn't actually matter dick who it is that's grabbing you - if it's legal, it's legal.

          Your reaction might be different if you get grabbed by a uniformed officer as opposed to someone in civvies, but that doesn't make the difference in your reaction any less legal. If someone has the right to restrain you, they have the right to restrain you regardless of who they are. If your only reason for resisting a legal attempt to restrain you is that the person restraining you wasn't in uniform, that reasoning isn't going to save your ass in court.
          Very much a non-issue. You're worried about how people are going to react if he doesn't act professionally, or if the people are idiots and get themselves in even more trouble.

          (Or what @Pokedad already said.)

          Last edited 03/03/15 3:17 pm

            I like you.
            Absolutely, there is training involved and confused protocols. I'v never disputed it. Whether the reaction is legal or illegal is not the point.

            My intial post was this;

            1) His role is undefined, but we know it's a form of security
            2) What he's wearing is undefined
            3) There is an undertone of 'don't fuck with Thorin'; intimidation, force, muscle.

            There's a chance that because of 1-3, someone may get (seriously) hurt. Either he or someone else. What I'm saying is that it's not needed. It's unnecessary and unprofessional fromt he event manager. There's no reason to not remove the chance of that happening.

              Yeah, I still don't think 1-2 are relevant at all. Not to us, and not to anyone on the floor, and even not to anyone who decides stupidly to take a route of violence. I think if someone's going to get hurt, they're going to get hurt, regardless of 1-2.

              ...3, though? I'll agree with you on that.
              I think Dogman articulated elsewhere that the posturing is probably unnecessary, but I also suspect (without having read anything 'official'), that it's not actually official posturing either, just the enthusing from coverage/cosplayers who feel like they can finally thumb their nose at their harassers. 'My Dad can beat up your Dad' bullshit, I'd reckon. Which, from a community that's dealing with a lot of fear (justified or not), I can see where they're coming from. Even if it's not particularly sensible or virtuous.

              (Edit: On reflection, also some light-hearted well-intentioned - if ill-advised - playing up on the idea of 'caped crusaders for realsies', at a show full of them in costume.)

              Last edited 04/03/15 1:25 pm

        "has every right to use them" I hope you mean in a professional capacity like when he's working as a police officer or when he is hired as a security officer.

    I've personally never felt or noticed any sort of harassment or unease at any convention here in Adelaide I've attended / cosplayed at (AVCon / Supanova / Oz Comic Con), I'd actually say it's very care free.

    It's possible that I just don't keep in "the know" and ignorance is bliss.

    Last edited 02/03/15 2:46 pm

      Just for interest, are you female?

        Nailed it.

          It almost sounds like because of my gender, my observations at these conventions are invalid.

          I would have to be incredibly naive to think that harassment of either gender didn't happen, of course it happens and having this group to approach, who are relatable cosplayers (2 of them are fairly known in SA) is a great idea.

            Nah didn't mean to jump on ya, it's just that men presumably have a way different experience to women. I don't even think you have to be unusually dense to miss it.

            I've kinda come to the conclusion that just because I never see anything go down, there's far too many reports of it for it to be overstated.

            No, your observations aren't invalid, but the fact is with a lot of harassment guys just don't see it or don't see it for what it is. And it's not just you, and I'm certainly not having a go at you for not seeing it, it's actually a problem with the wider community.

            It's like with street harassment, I was in an online group once with a friend of mine who was doing a cartoon on the topic of street harassment, and he asked the women for examples and most of the guys were absolutely horrified at the things that had happened to us. Just purely because they'd never noticed it before because it was never a thing they "had" to notice (the way women have to, I mean).

            It's the same with harassment of both female nerds and cosplayers at conventions or in any kind of nerdly situation, or in her LCS, or when she's just waiting for a train wearing her superhero tshirt and some guy feels the need to interrogate her on her nerd cred (which has also happened to various friends of mine).

            What it means is that certain experiences are gendered and you are unlikely to have the same experience as someone who is not of your gender. For example, you are completely unable to know the experience of being a girl at an all girls school unless you are a girl. That's not your fault. It's how things are set up.

            But it's also silly to think that you could say what that experience would be like, especially when someone who actually has experienced it can tell you about it.

    This kind of feels like the beginning of vigilantism

      Who'd expect that at a convention full of people dressed as superheroes? :-p

    I really love that the community is doing its best to take care of itself like this. I wish them luck and really hope they don't need to handle anything bad.

    I just want to ask one question.
    Are you guys serious when you use the term vigilante in regards to this? Or are you just being typically internet?

    I dig this and I dig that there is a guy named Thorin who will be around as costumed security if needs be.

      I'm not saying they're acting as vigilantes. They're a group created by the events director at Cosplay Live with hopes of being an official part of other conventions. That's about as far from vigilante as you can get. It's just that they seem to be leaning heavily on the idea that they're an independent group that isn't related to event security while at the same time pointing out how heavy their muscle is.
      Again, that's totally not what the group is about, but because they have their own dedicated security staff member it makes it appear as though the ability to resolve violent situations in a way that regular event security staff members can't/don't is one of their primary functions. That is very vigilante.
      The reality is that his job is more about respecting cosplayers and having experience with cosplay specific situations. Where regular event security might think cosplayers are strippers, losers, whatever, because they're used to nightclubs or boat shows, he understands they're not and presents himself as a more approachable security figure. However that's sort of underplayed here.

      Last edited 02/03/15 4:34 pm

    First off Adam Baldwin is going to Sydney / Perth, not Queensland.

    Second, I don't condone harassment of guests at conventions but being an exhibitor you get to see all kinds of outfits going past you, some of which would make professional strippers blush, so if you are wearing some skimpy outfit made up of scraps of material you should expect some unwanted attention. Use your common sense people.

    Some US conventions have a floor dress code to help reduce the "Eye-candy" harassment and a free for all for the Cosplay competitions which conventions in Australia should look at adopting instead of hiring muscle.

      If only the women would cover up, sexual harassment would go away!

      "Although we recognise that the intention may not be of a sexual nature, we don't want people dressing in basically nothing, because this is a family event and our concern is exposing children to content/costumes that could be considered sexual. If we fail to protect our youngest attendees, parents will stop bring them to conventions, and that's something we want to avoid." - Totally reasonable argument.
      "We don't want people [women] dressing in skimpy clothing because they'll get harassed; therefore, those people should stop dressing like that." - Not a reasonable argument.

      There are plenty of reasons why you may want to discourage very skimpy costumes, but using the behaviour of a third party isn't fair on an attendee who just wants to cosplay their [her] favourite character.

    I'm not sure about the concept of vigilante security. Giving folks someone to talk to who might potentially be more approachable than event staff sounds like a positive step. Operating with their own muscle however sounds like it'd open up a few problems, some of them legal. Would it not be better to summon the event's own contracted security?

      You're kidding right? Aren't contracted security just mimimum wage guys who don't care?

        I suspect that's a rather unfair generalisation, but if it is the case, then that there is the first problem that needs addressing.

        I guess if these guys are really serious about looking after the cosplaying people then their next logical step, assuming they don't get themselves into any kind of strife, might be to go official and setup an event security agency that specialises in cosplay typed events.

          I don't think it's an unfair generalisation. The course they do isn't something that takes years - it's not the police force - it takes weeks.

          I worked in a place where a security guard watched TV in the staff room while on duty and ignored piggybacking. My closest friends lived with a security guard that would beat people up in the camera black spots.

          It's also fair to say that there is a history of bullying done by security in this country.

            I did security for five years and never assaulted anyone, nor did anyone I ever worked with. I saved two lives in my time, stopped a woman from being assaulted and potentially raped and worked alongside AFP and ADF force personnel on multiple occasions. Our security staff being the most professional at all times.

            Stop making assumptions about people and/or careers. You don't hear about someone doing their job, you only hear about the bad eggs.

            Last edited 02/03/15 10:09 pm

              Actually you do hear about people doing their jobs. Firefighters, police officers and life savers get acknowledged for their efforts saving lives because that is not your fiction.

                Anecdote is not data. Your experience is not indicative of the whole.

                Every single business in any city you care to look at in this country has security. Whether it's a guy in a car who comes by once or twice a night to check that the place isn't on fire, to a staff of a dozen or more on a 24 hour team roster and using a sophisticated system of cameras and sensors. How many of those do you hear about? Not many.

                What you hear about are thug bouncers, or jerks who watch cartoons while neglecting their jobs. Security is a huge business and I guarantee you that you don't even notice about 80% of the people working in it.

            There's a history of poor people stealing things, but we don't assume that all poor people are thieves. That would be grossly unfair.

      From the article, it sounds like they're being employed by the event organisers, and presumably have the event's conditions of entry to back them up should they need to remove someone. So it is far removed from vigilantism.

      The main difference to other event security seems to be the decision to use members of the cosplay community as the primary contact points, which seems to be a good idea.

      Personally, I got the read that ideally it's a liaison, awareness/education, support gig... and by the way, one of the supporters is frickin' huge and knows his way around the law.

      Community engagement is a big deal in the Force, and police training is all about calming a situation down first, not physical intimidation. Even off-duty and even if not contracted specifically in a security role, the guy's influence in any incident will likely be more legally-responsible than a security guard's, thanks to police training. And if it comes to it, an off-duty cop can go back on-duty when witnessing a crime, as long as they identify themselves.

      There's a perhaps-unpleasant but very understandable element of, "See that, bullies? You can't physically intimidate US anymore, because we've got our own big guy, so nyeah!" to pointing out that one of the guys is frickin' huge and can handle himself, but what do you expect? Humans, right?

    Seems like an awesome idea. Totally non-judgemental way to ensure safety for everyone.

    Just three people?? That's going to make a little bit of difference but so few that it should be asked why bother?

      I don't think the amount of harassment cases are likely to exceed the capacity of this team, nor any other event staff available.

        There's never a cop around when you need one , so the saying goes.

        With only three extra people to handle things, are harassed people going to have time to find the right staff member in a busy crowded convention centre then to track down the harasser?

          I think the idea is that they'd contact a regular staff member who may contact the these guys since, as the article suggests, they are a support group and don't have a laundry list of event tasks that the regular staff have to attend to. I'm also given the impression that these guys would be listening in on twitter etc. for actual attendees calling for them.

    So nobody's going to mention how geeky/cool the name Thorin Black is? Seriously; that's geeky/cool.

      He better be carrying a huge arse sword and bitching about the upcoming winter

    An off duty cop being used as private security. I'm sure there is a conflict of ethics or interest or something highly illegal in this somewhere.

      Off duty police are regularly employed to be security guards in their own time. They are licensed just like anyone else and when they are acting as security they have civilian powers only.

        Fair enough, thanks for the clarification.

    Having people with a vested interest in the community (and suitably trained) whether it's volunteer or paid is a reasonable option in my opinion. When it comes down to it events are generally understaffed in regards to security, this based on a few things, estimates in crowd control are stupid, we're talking a few security officers for a few hundred people, companies wanting to not pay out big bucks on staffing and places don't have a lot of officers actually patrolling, which means terrible lines of sign for static positions. Another thing is, security officers are generally getting terrible money to be there, we're talking 18 bucks an hour plus penalties (if they haven't been signed away for a flat rate in bargaining over the years), so the officers don't really care or just aren't on the ball. There is always the saying 'Never a cop around when you need one' or the fact that some people aren't comfortable speaking to people in uniform or in a position of authority, so they may find someone with an armband from community easy to approach, it might even be the officers seem standoffish. I've worked in and around security in government and crowd situations for over 10 years and it doesn't hurt to have extra eyes and an extra pair of trained hands around.

    Last edited 02/03/15 7:05 pm

    I like how the 2 female cosplayers they've put onto this gang are pretty faces. I feel that the Australian cosplay scene has lost all it's integrity. It's just a game of popularity now. How many facebook likes can I get, what can I attach my name too? I certainly don't feel any safer.

    I think this is a good idea, I don't think the physical violence will be the major issue, it will be the scum that go to these cons with the sole purpose of seeing girls dressed in revealing clothing, they harass them, make them feel uncomfortable and try to slut shame them.

    Then you have the other group of hardcores who harass and demean cosplayers of any gender because their costume is not 100% screen/page accurate.

    I cosplayed for the first time at BrisNova last November and I was nervous as hell, thankfully all I got was praise for my Penguin cosplay but you often hear people make comments that are less encouraging about another persons costume. I hope the Sentinals work and possibly expand.

    It is a nice little gesture and if it makes a few people feel better that brilliant. Id hate to think that people will only behave nice because "big brother"is watching though.

    I just wish people would learn that sexist, harassing behaviour is NOT ok. whether you're polite about it, do it only once, or whatever, Going up to a stranger and commenting on their costume being "sexy" alone can be harassment in my opinion, and even if its not, its kinda rude and creepy. Just wish as a culture we could all learn to be a little more human and decent.

    Best idea people if YOU see a friend behaving badly toward someone, pull them up on it. If they continue to act like a fool, and carry on, stop being their friend. Dont encourage uninvolved people by letting them continue their behaviour.

    Anything that makes potential harassers uncomfortable and think twice, and makes cosplayers feel more comfortable and safe, sounds like a good idea.

    I cannot approve of this enough. thank you so much.
    in my first convention experience (I went alone, without outside supporters, as I feel this is a very friendly and inclusive culture) I noticed some of my fellows feeling rather uncomfortable. we talked and made friends and it was great! it saddens me that I cannot be there myself at each and every event that these friends of mine attend, from my experience they are lovely people and would much rather convey their perspectives than enter into a confrontational situation (or have the 'offenders' kicked out just cause they don't really understand something or other).
    thanks again.

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