“Cosplay Massage” – this needs to stop at public/family cons

21-JUNE-2011 As a trained massage therapist (formerly Nationally and State certified) and a cosplayer/model, I feel a particularly unique perspective to this trend that WIZARD WORLD has at its shows: COSPLAY MASSAGE. Sure, it’s supposed to be innocent, but is it really?

Regarding the costuming, there are several things to address:

* Characters that are redesigned to be sexy.

* Characters that are already in skimpy/tight outfits already considered sexy.

* Characters that are supposed to divide their time between appropriate for children as well as adults.

Ask any male geek about his sexual fantasies and you’ll hear answers of Princess Leia in the gold bikini, Black Cat, Catwoman with her whip or some anime character I can’t name that’s nothing more than a pre-pubescent character drawn with oversized breasts.

There’s the path of what I call “slutifying” characters’ costumes: taking a non-sexy character and redesigning it for a revealing cheesecake style that should be reserved for places that target adult audiences. This slutifying of characters is a whole discussion unto itself. I’m not opposed in general, but there’s a time and place.

THE "THERAPISTS" AT WIZARD // photo by myphl17

Then there is the problem of characters that aren’t sexual but forever pigeonholed as such like Wonder Woman and Rogue. You can lecture me about Wonder Woman’s back story all you want but the private life of her creator William Moulton Marston is not the same thing as discussing the character. Wonder Woman is forever the icon of bondage, whether it was Marston’s intention or not.

When it comes to massage therapy there are many modalities and only one of them is identified as allowing for sensual contact (That’s called Tantra if you’re really interested). No legitimate practice is going allow for sexual fantasies to be fulfilled during a massage session. It is a valid wellness care therapy and should be seen as such. It is extremely difficult to build a practice no matter how good you are. Massage is one of those expenses that is first to be eliminated when budgets are tightened. It doesn’t matter how beneficial it is for your musculoskeletal structure and circulatory system or that it’s been proven to boost mental processes in test score comparisons; it’s not usually seen as “medically necessary.”

There is a problem with the fringe of prostitution crossing into massage. The “massage parlor” is still a very real thing and they are raided by authorities and shut down on a regular basis. Debate the ethics of prostitution all you want in your own forums, please. The bottom line is it is illegal here in the U.S. So when you take the common sexual fantasies of roleplaying and add it to massage (mind you the “therapists” are only attractive thin young girls), what you have is a venue for getting male geeks stimulated into arousal; that could be mentally or full on erection. It’s not uncommon for a man to get an erection during an appropriate massage in a serene day spa or in a medical office; it just happens. Adding the cosplay element to massage is in bad taste.

These conventions are billed as “family friendly” with advertisements to “bring the kids” and “meet the stars.” Then you have sexy girls wearing skimpy outfits getting paid to provide a physical service. Huh? What is WIZARD ENTERTAINMENT thinking? I’ve heard many complaints about the skimpy costumes simply being worn around the con because of the presence of children; most of the complaints are by women.

At a past Big Apple Con (now run by WIZARD as well), there were stripper poles set up with girls in slutified cosplay on them. I love a great pole dance routine as much as anyone but it was in not the place for it.

Other conventions put a stop to scantily clad booth babes. If the con organizers feel the outfits of the spokesmodels are too skimpy, they are stopped.

I’ll be publishing an interview I did with sex educator Cunning Minx at a future date where we do discuss appropriate use of cosplay in an adult situation plus the sexuality of characters like Slave Leia and Wonder Woman.

21 comments on “Cosplay Massage” – this needs to stop at public/family cons

  1. Eryn Roberts
    June 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm (3 years ago)

    Rock on Amber! I’ve turned to massage to treat a number of ailments and even being a girl and going for a massage, there’s always someone who thinks you’re going to get a happy ending or something. It’s disgusting. Add to that the already huge stigma of female nerds at comic cons being verbally harassed by male con goers because to them, apparently we’re there for their enjoyment. The women who feed into this are not doing anyone any favors (no pun intended).

    Reply
  2. Bunche
    June 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm (3 years ago)

    I find the idea of a “slutified” Freddy Kreuger to be especially questionable since the character was supposed to be a child-killer (something that was very much glossed over as the series progressed) with strong implications of sado-pedophilia. Not in any way my idea of sexy, even if the outfit is worn by an especially toothsome woman. It’s downright flesh-crawling.

    Reply
  3. Anon
    June 21, 2011 at 6:43 pm (3 years ago)

    I’m so glad I got your input on what is proper for two consenting adults to do. I may have inadvertently mixed up my p’s and q’s.

    Reply
    • admin
      June 21, 2011 at 6:50 pm (3 years ago)

      Dear “Anonymous” – I’m sure you read the entire article and understood that I said there is a time and place for what ADULTS want to do. You seem to have completely missed the point that certain conventions are billed as FAMILY FRIENDLY. Do you get it?

      I’m a Cosplay Deviant model. I have no problem obviously with sexualizing a character for adult entertainment purposes. I do have a problem with it when it’s a public forum. I’ve even talked about the CosDev models getting a booth at show. But guess which show? Go on. Guess. Not FAMILY FRIENDLY Wizard World. No. I suggested we look into Exxxotica where other subscription based adult services have booths.

      If you have a problem with me – GET THE FUCK OFF MY SITE.

      Amber

      Reply
  4. Kristen
    June 21, 2011 at 9:46 pm (3 years ago)

    Wizard World needs to wise up, not only is this questionable in terms of the audience they’re seeking, but it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. Somebody gets grabby with a girl, somebody gets too wound up, or has a hair-trigger, “response,” on the floor and it looks really bad if a kid sees that and a parent calls the cops. There are appropriate venues for this, and I actually think massage at a con is not a bad idea. I’ve had them at big music festivals and it’s awesome to be able to relax and unknot after hours of trudging around a site. Massage professionals at cons = win. Sexualized cosplay + massages at supposedly family-friendly cons = really bad idea.

    Reply
    • admin
      June 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm (3 years ago)

      Exactly the point I was trying to make, Kristen. The artists in particular get absolutely torqued from hours hunched over taking commissions. This show had very long hours, even on Friday which is usually a half day for three-day shows. But there’s a level of professionalism that should be sought.

      Reply
  5. Rishard
    June 21, 2011 at 11:31 pm (3 years ago)

    I didn’t attend the con so I have no frame of reference as far as the massage goes. I don’t quite understand the issue because its not really spelled out in the text as far as I can see. Did you see something happening in a cosplay massage that was inappropriate, or was it just perceived to be inappropriate because cosplay was involved?

    Really looking forward to hearing back from you on this because It seems like an interesting topic, but I’m not sure what it was exactly that you saw.

    Reply
    • admin
      June 21, 2011 at 11:36 pm (3 years ago)

      I’m sorry you don’t think it’s clearly stated. I don’t think that the two things (massage & roleplaying) should be mixed; the other issue is just my opinion on the level of “skank” of the costumes because I’ve heard a considerable number of parents complain. Certain cons have banned booth babes because they are tired of the forced sexualization of something benign like a car stereo. That’s the opposite extreme. Massage would be acceptable if they were in official Wizard World t-shirts and pants. If you want “a geek gimmick” why can’t the girls wear the different Lantern Corps t-shirts? As someone who costumes, I can tell you there is inappropriate crap we put up with on the con floor and online. As a massage therapist, there are “creepy incidents” which are a sad part of the industry you have to overcome. Wizard has not created what I would consider a safe environment for those girls AND as I’ve said a billion times, it’s not appropriate activity to be around kids. The likely number of guys that couldn’t stand up right away were probably begging for a privacy curtain.

      Reply
      • Rishard
        June 22, 2011 at 10:30 am (3 years ago)

        Thank you for the clarification. I do think that there are some cosplay outfits that are a bit much.

        As far as the cosplay massage goes, I might have to disagree a little. At a few of the Reed cons (C2E2/NYCC) I’ve seen some massage people setup, but they are wearing con shirts. I was really tired from a lot of walking, and my legs and shoulders were sore from carrying all of the crap I bought. I really felt like getting a massage, but didn’t want to shell out the money for it. I just couldn’t justify it in my head and dealt with the pain/soreness I was dealing with.

        Had they been wearing cosplay outfits (sexy or not) It probably would have pushed me over towards getting it because it adds something to me for the convention itself. Not on a sexual level, but on a fun level/story/picture, and I would have felt better afterwards at least mentally if not physically as well.

        If someone can use a gimmick to help them make more money, more power to them. Hopefully people don’t get creepy/touchy feely with them because its usually very public (at least at Reed, I don’t know what they do at Wizard cons).

        Still a very interesting article though. Thank you.

  6. MstrFantastic
    June 28, 2011 at 10:29 am (3 years ago)

    Yeah it’s a tad ridiculous, but it sounds like you’re just being a little uptight about what should and shouldn’t be acceptable at Cons. I’ve attended several gaming cons with the infamous Booth Babes. I find them far more insulting than these cosplay massagers since Booth Babes tend to be “models” trained on video games for a few weeks, dressed in “sexy” gaming costumes and then promote games on the show floor. The problem is, these are not real gamers representing the games. They’re hired “sex” ads to attract attention via their outfits. Fortunately there have been rules put in place to prevent these ladies from wearing “too sexy” an outfit.

    But you’re going to see this borderline adult content at any place that cosplay is a part of it. Boot Babes and these cosplay massages are taking advantage of the horny nerds out there. I would think tighter outfit restrictions would be a better way to handle it than simply banning them.

    Reply
    • admin
      June 29, 2011 at 8:13 am (3 years ago)

      I’m not at all bothered by booth babes if you’d actually read my article. I’m bothered by combining the legitimate healthcare practice of massage therapy with the fantasy fulfillment of cosplay. I thought that was clear. I’m actually one of the few people that defends the booth babes because geek girls tend to complain them all the time. This massage booth happened to hire only girls of a certain physical type to wear skimpy outfits but then expected them to offer up professional medical services. As someone at the comicsbeat page said, you wouldn’t want your dentist dressing up like that, would you?

      I should not be shocked by how many people completely miss the point of what I said. This is the internet and people will read what they think is being written, not what is actually written.

      Reply
  7. Lady
    June 28, 2011 at 10:39 am (3 years ago)

    I’m working right now, so instead of intelligent paragraphs I’m going to do bullet points in no particular order:

    -This is written like a high school paper
    -Wizard has little control over what their clientele wears
    -also their magazine got canned lately, so they obviously don’t know what they’re doing anyway
    -Just because something is billed as kid friendly doesn’t mean it is for better or worse. Also, if you’ve ever been to a convention before you should know there will be scantily-clad women and overweight men in spandex. If this bothers you, don’t go/boycott.
    -For a massage therapist you sure seem to have a sexually-charged idea of massage
    -Most of those costumes (especially Elektra) are really tasteful. Slave Leia is the only one who stands out as “slutty” (I don’t approve of that word, and if you did some historical research you probably wouldn’t either) and that’s because it’s an accurate costume.
    -There’s no reason to think these girls want to be creeped on.

    Reply
    • admin
      June 29, 2011 at 8:10 am (3 years ago)

      My degree in Communications from 1993 is not up for question. So if you don’t like my writing or ME, why are you on my website?

      Reply
      • Lady
        June 29, 2011 at 10:49 am (3 years ago)

        I was linked to it by a coworker with similar opinion of the article.

  8. Gentleman
    July 2, 2011 at 11:45 pm (3 years ago)

    Hello,

    I respect your opinion about this topic. There was another group of massage therapists at Chiller Theater in New Jersey years ago. Although they dressed up in a sexy, goth style, they were very professional and knew the law.

    Have you thought about interviewing them? I’m worried that, seeing how popular this discussion is becoming, that we would make judgments without hearing their side of the story. Looking at the picture used in this article, I’ve seen cosplayers dressed much more provocatively than they have at other conventions.

    I totally agree with you about conventions advertising as family-friendly should stay family-friendly. But I can’t make judgments till I see or hear their side first.

    Reply
    • admin
      July 3, 2011 at 6:54 am (3 years ago)

      I’m not concerned with interviewing them. I think they are doing a disservice to the profession which already has plenty of problems with prostitution. If a media service wanted to pay me to do a full expose on the subject, then I’d talk to them and their patrons; but since this is MY site, I’m going to write from my perspective. People seem to be overlooking that.

      Reply
  9. Actrjay
    July 7, 2011 at 6:30 pm (3 years ago)

    I’m coming in late to the conversation,but,I agree that a “family friendly”event is NOT the place for a cosplay massage.Having a masseuse(masseur,massage therapist)there for convention goers and participants is a great idea though.Time and place people,time and place.

    Reply
  10. Druja
    August 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm (3 years ago)

    Here’s my question: what about the fans who come to the conventions dressed in skimpy costumes? You’re vilifying these massage therepists who are providing a good public service. Doing a convention, especially a four day one, is hard work when you take into account standing in lines, carrying a lot of items that you have purchased and so on. Not only is it convenient to have a massage place there, but it’s also nice that it’s inexpensive and affordable. Hotels charge through the nose for this. Let me ask you this, Amber: how much do you usually charge per session? And for the uninformed, there’s nothing remotely sexual about it. It’s a simple, straightforward neck and backrub, and that’s coming straight from someone who’s had it done at their table. There are fans who come to conventions dressed in slave Leia and even sexier and skimpier costumes, but nobody jumps all over them for it. And what about the Playboy Playmates and various other “booth babes”? They’re usually provocatively dressed and located all over the convention floor. And yet these cosplay massagers are so wrong and so immoral for actually doing something worthwhile and providing a service rather than just hawking themselves. They don’t even select their costumes: they have to wear what their manager tells them to wear. And then of course everyone loves to use the children defense: “Oh, this is so wrong, kids come to these conventions!” Here’s a piece of advice: If you don’t want your child exposed to the “mind-scarring trauma” of seeing women dressed in sexy costumes, then don’t bring them! You might as well lock them away in the attic, safely away from all contact with the outside world, because they’re going to see it eventually anyway! Man, people need to seriously wake up and get over themselves!

    Reply
    • admin
      August 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm (3 years ago)

      First of all, what I charged was between me and my clients.

      Second of all, where in there did I say I was against Massage at con? I said I was against Massage by girls in skimpy costumes at a con. I would 100% support professional massage at a con. I heard one show did it but the therapists wore scrubs. I even cited ways to keep the geek theme like having the therapists wear Lantern Corps tees. But you can’t look at THAT selection of therapists and tell me that it’s a coincidence they all look like Hooters girls. All of a certain size and all wearing outfits that elicit sex appeal doing – what you even say – a type of hands on massage which is not supposed to have sexual elements.

      And for your information, people DO in fact complain about fans that come in skimpy costumes. Scroll through my articles and you’ll find the one about the Daenrys that showed up to San Diego in nude colored pasties.

      I’m also one of the first to jump to the defense of booth babes so you can stop taking my words and trying to twist them to your liking. I don’t like that most babes don’t know shit about their products but there’s been marketing analysis that proves the draw people to the booths which is the point. THAT however, is a completely different topic.

      Reply
  11. Matt Sealey
    August 24, 2011 at 11:21 pm (3 years ago)

    I only found your website because I googled this subject only to get another glimpse of the lady in Slave Leia outfit.

    Thanks, and enjoy the irony.

    btw, she talked to my children the whole time and was very friendly to them while I had my BACK serviced.

    Reply
    • admin
      August 25, 2011 at 7:33 am (3 years ago)

      I’m glad you enjoyed your experience. I’m very impressed that you didn’t pop over here to join in with the people on other websites that picked up my column and chose to attack me personally rather than keep to expressing their opinions. Thank you.

      Reply

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