That said, I will not be availing myself of the numerous offers of "Free Hugs" to be found around comic convention floors. When I look around at those making this offer, they mostly seem to be teenagers, and I get the impression that the offer really only extends to other teenagers. Still, every year I see a fifty year-old man walk up to a fourteen year-old girl and wrap her up in a lengthy bear hug. And then I feel the need to take a shower. Thus the hugs-only-upon-request policy.
It's not the age difference that's at issue here. Should a teenager ask me for a hug, a hug they shall receive. The issue is the imbalance of power in that brief relationship. The adult taking advantage of the free hug puts the teenager on the spot, basically forcing them to choose between either accepting a hug they might not otherwise welcome, or shunning the hugger, thus taking some of the fun illusion of freedom and acceptance away from their open offer of affection. It's up to us, as adults, to seriously consider the position in which we put kids in this situation. An easy rule of thumb for adults: if you don't already know a youngster well enough to ask for a hug, leave them alone.
Sadly, the “Free Hugs” kids aren’t the only ones who suffer from creepy behavior by con attendees. Most comic convention floors feature dozens and dozens of cosplayers and booth models. Regardless of their reasons for dressing up, regardless of whether they’re being paid or not, regardless of the clothing they wear (or lack thereof) or how they may act while "in character," inside the costume is a person who deserves the same respect that you should afford to anyone else. All too often I hear post-con horror stories of supposed fans groping booth models and cosplayers, or speaking to them in overly suggestive, if not downright lewd terms. This needs to stop. Now. Have the same consideration and caring for the feelings of your fellow fans that you would for your dearest relatives, and treat them with that same degree of manners and civility.
Comic con attendees deserve a fun, safe environment. As fellow attendees, it’s our responsibility to behave properly, and assure that environment exists for everyone.
This is the second of The Ten Comic-Conmandments series. Check back here or follow me on Twitter to read future entries.