A Lesson in Con Etiquette

March has arrived. Daffodils have begun to bloom. Sneezes have begun to plague us. And the most glorious sign of spring has also arrived: con season is ramping up. Soon thousands upon thousands of fangirls will descend on convention centers across the land to squee together, wait in line, and cheer for their faves. But with this season comes a particular set of dangers and drags for con-goers old and new. Thankfully, if we work together and remember a few simple manners, we can make all our cons better places.

1. Remember cosplay is NOT consent.

This awesome witch said it was okay to photograph her at ECCC in 2014!

This awesome witch said it was okay to photograph her at ECCC in 2014!

This has been a rallying cry and growing movement for many fangirls for the past years. Just because someone is wearing a costume is not an invitation to touch, grope or hug-tackle them. It’s also not consent to photograph them. Yeah, I know people might say that by dressing up they are showing they want the attention, that’s just as bad an assumption as thinking a costume means someone wants to be touched. If you see someone is an awesome cosplay, tell them how cool they look and ask them politely if you can snap a pic. Also, ask them if it’s okay for you to share it if that’s your intent. Be extra careful if you’re taking pictures of someone’s kid.

2. Don’t touch the butt. Or ask about it.

What applies for normal people also supplies for celebrities, and maybe even more so. It doesn’t matter if you paid $139 for that photo op, it’s never okay to grab someone’s butt or other part. Hugs are fine but don’t do the sneaky butt touch, okay? In the same vein, don’t yell things at actors or ask questions that you would be embarrassed or offended to get yourself. Remember, guests are people too.

3. Be mindful of everyone’s time.

Time moves differently at cons. When you’re standing in line for a panel or photo op it can drag by, but when you’re actually doing A Thing, it flies. Remember though that there are hundreds, if not thousands of other fans standing in the same lines as you, so try to be careful. Don’t lag. If you’re talking to a guest and there’s a big line behind you or lots of others waiting, don’t monopolize their time. The same goes for artists and vendors. It’s fine to chat if there’s no one waiting behind you, but if there is, be efficient and courteous and keep things moving.

Similarly, don’t get mad or pushy when things start slowing down. We’re all in the same boat trying to have a good time. If the people in charge sense there is a danger, or that a situation is becoming unpleasant or unsafe, even just because there are too many people trying to get in somewhere or waiting for the person, they will shut things down.

4. Use questions wisely.

Getting up and asking questions at a panel is a daunting task, and it takes a lot of guts to do it because it’s a big responsibility. People come to panels to hear new and interesting things from guests, so don’t ask them for hugs or to say hi to your mom or your friend. That’s awkward for the guest and the audience. Also, recognize that guests often aren’t fans in the way we are; they may not remember that time they licked their lips just so in episode six of season nine, so don’t get too esoteric. Also, if you know that your topic is controversial in your fandom, do consider if you want to be responsible for the flame war that might ignite online when video of the response inevitably makes it to YouTube.

5. Don’t be a dick.

Smaug at SDCC 2014.

Smaug at SDCC 2014.

This is an excellent rule for life as well as a con, but it’s important to repeat. Whether you are a star or a fan, recognize we’re all here to have a good time and celebrate the things we love. So don’t be mean or judge-y or dismissive to anyone. If you feel the urge to say something awful, open your phone, type a text message of what you’d want to say, and consider if you’d be okay with sending that text to your mom (assuming you and she have a good relationship). Then move on.

In general, most of the fans I’ve met at cons don’t need these rules and I’ve had generally wonderful times among my fellow nerds in the wild. But once in a while it’s important to remember the things we can do to make the experience great for everyone.