Cosplay: The new front-line on sexual objectification


Illustration by Sarah Hofstedt

Benjamin Verheiden

Cosplay is where you dress up as your favorite characters (even ones you happen to create) and has been my main hobby for years. However, as the hobby has become more mainstream, it has increasingly turned into a screen accuracy and popularity contest. This has put unnecessary and dangerous pressure on cosplayers, especially women with this new obsession for complete screen accuracy and/or over-sexualization for maximum popularity.

The same toxicity and problems with the modeling industry are being shown in cosplay, and I cannot say enough about how many times I have cringed at seeing over-sexualized characters and/or costume designs in cosplay both in person and online since I started this hobby, and it is getting worse by the day.

To have such a cringing reaction to this as a male myself is certainly an extreme rarity as most males have their groin taken over completely on seeing these exact same types of images. Many of these female characters that are over-sexualized are supposed to be powerful and athletic — characteristics that the current modeling body type standard for women are certainly not.

To see this stigma broken and women cosplayers specializing in characters and/or costume designs that break them, I always find extremely refreshing and powerful, and I have even encouraged friends I have made in cosplay to keep a healthy weight when they are seriously considering modeling; using their own work as proof that they are excellent at modeling at a healthy weight already.

This is probably a natural evolution of me never liking complete screen accuracy when making my own cosplays, specializing in cosplaying a character that I look like naturally out of cosplay without doing anything, and taking great pride in it, and making friends based on internal feelings my whole life. Because of this, I feel a sense of freedom and originality in doing my own takes, and feel happy in just being like my normal self in and out cosplay.

But with all this pressure on replication and these dangerous modeling standards in cosplay now, I feel it is no longer enough to do my own takes on characters, and have to be completely original and much nobler to save the creativity and power of this artistic hobby many others and I enjoy. With all these skills to replicate extremely well by many in this hobby, I feel that can easily and urgently needs to be applied to making truly powerful original characters that break these trends.

Do cosplayers seriously want to be remembered for being the best duplicate of a character and being the most popular, or for using what they learned to be powerful and original at a time when it is most needed? The latter is how I feel, and I find it a matter of conscience. We cannot stand back and see lives and this hobby destroyed by these toxic and unrealistic standards.