Comic-Con 2014: Outcry, Action Against Harassment Grows

By Rebecca Keegan
Los Angeles Times.

SAN DIEGO
Mariah Huehner attended her first Comic-Con as a newly minted comic book editor a few years ago, looking to network with artists.

But at a nighttime party in a hotel by the bay, she realized that others had a different kind of connection in mind.

“One of the guys suddenly had his hand on my butt,” said Huehner, 35, who is best known as the author of the “True Blood” and “Emily and the Strangers” comics. “It’s a shocking reminder that you’re seen differently.”

Comic-Con International’s dense crowds, Bacchanalian atmosphere and mask-wearing anonymity make it prime territory for misbehavior, according to both men and women who have attended the event many times.

Here, and at other similar events around the country, convention-goers have been known to grope, stalk and take “upskirt” photos with impunity. The behavior is so common that there is even a term for it: Creeping at a con.

But as San Diego’s annual convention opens Thursday, a backlash is brewing.

One prominent science fiction author is holding his event away from the official Convention Center site to protest what he calls lax anti-harassment policies.

And a group calling itself Geeks for CONsent submitted a petition with 2,500 signatures calling on organizers to post signs in the convention halls detailing its anti-harassment policies.

It also wants convention volunteers to get training on how to respond to harassment reports.

“San Diego Comic-Con is the mecca of conventions,” said Rochelle Keyhan of Geeks for CONsent, who plans to hand out literature about what constitutes harassment while dressed as a steampunk Disney princess. “They should be leading by example. Instead they think they’re the only convention that has no harassment.”

Organizers point out that Comic-Con already posts its policy, that “harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated,” on its website and in a printed events guide.

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