Another Important Aspect of Consent

I recently came across this post entitled Celebrity Is Not Consent, which deals with the unfortunate cultural supposition that celebrities are the public’s property, and thus can be jumped on at will.

Everyday we hear about how being drunk isn’t consent, how women dress doesn’t mean consent. It is one of those unforgiving things that society must understand and get better at recognizing. It’s no different in geek culture, too. The “Cosplay Is Not Consent” motto has popped up at conventions all over in response to the ongoing problem of convention-goers grabbing, groping, or otherwise putting their hands on cosplayers, believing it’s okay as they’re in costume. We now know – or should, at least – that it’s not okay, and simply because someone is in costume doesn’t mean they’re free to be touched without their consent.

However, it goes both ways and fans too often forget that. Being a celebrity is not automatic consent, either. It does not give fans a free pass to do what they want simply because they see a celebrity they love before them. Celebrities put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. They are not their characters and they are not our toys. They do not “owe” their fans anything except entertainment, which they gladly give in whatever field they happen to be in. It’s why we become their fans in the first place.

The post includes many examples, including one of the most awkward gifs I have ever seen of Jensen Ackles being mobbed and kissed by a fan at a convention.

This is one of those aspects of consent in which our culture makes it far more difficult for men than women when it comes to establishing boundaries. Our culture expects men to love being hugged and kissed by any young hot woman they come across, and any male celebrity who might complain about it, or try to address it, would most likely be met by a chorus of other men calling for the cue to the world’s tiniest violin. While being mobbed by fans also undoubtedly happens to female celebrities, women are culturally expected to rebuff advances, and to try to establish boundaries with male fans. However, it is an important topic to address regardless of the gender of the celebrity, or the gender of the fan. As the writer points out, celebrities are normal people, and deserve the same respect as you would give any other you meet. While planting a kiss on Jensen Ackles would make many women’s year (mine included), it’s still not O.K. to dehumanize our favorite celebrities into pretty play things, nor to prop them up to demi-god status.

And to those of you who are planning to fill the comments with laments about their fame and wealth and who cares if this is the price they pay, please stop. Celebrities become famous, and sometimes they become rich, because they are good at what they do and people are willing to pay for the entertainment they provide. That does not mean that they should have to choose between their personal space, or their right to not be groped by complete strangers, and a career in entertainment. It is also not OK to grope a random person on the street whom you find attractive, regardless of how much money they are actually making, nor is it OK to jump on stage at a strip club and dry hump the dancers just because they are performing in a sexually suggestive way. It’s a matter of simple respect towards our fellow human beings, not petty jealousy towards their fortune or fame.


  1. says


    I think it’s often because some people mistake celebrities pretending to be friendly and accessible for actually being friendly and accessible. I used to have a friend who’d consistently rate cute movie personalities as “nice” or “honest” (which is funny because she adored Leo DiCaprio) and I’d say “what do you form your belief about them on?” Of course it’s on their roles.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      But even if they are friendly and accessible in real life, it still doesn’t mean that they will appreciate being hugged, kissed and/or touched by mobs of strangers. I think that’s another unfair assumption that people make about celebrities: if you smile and pretend to adore the touching, then you’re nice and friendly. If you want to be able to have a say in who touches you, then you’re arrogant, cold or bitchy. In that Jensen Ackles example, the writer provided a video of Ackles laughing off the encounter and pretending it was all cool and fine, despite him being clearly uncomfortable in that video. He probably didn’t want his fans to think him cold or uptight, but that’s not fair either.

  2. says

    Now, obviously it’s wrong to just pounce on celebs like that, it’s just not cool. Period.

    But this got me thinking — if Jensen Ackles were to speak out about how inappropriate this sort of thing is… imagine the impact he could have!

  3. smrnda says

    I’d like to add that, even celebrities can have issues with touch and proximity. It’s one thing to be admired from afar, another to have a mass of bodies pushed up against you and hands grabbing you and random mouths planting kisses – just thinking about it makes me feel anxious. Does someone really want to cause a celebrity they admire a massive breakdown and panic attack? .

  4. says

    And what smrnda said.

    I, personally, wouldn’t deliberately violate another’s boundaries without damn good (life-or-death) reason. Like, I’d probably ASK [insert celebrity here] for a hug or autograph, sure, but I’d never be like, *pounce* “HUG ME NAO!”

    I think that having “greeting rituals” like cats do is a good idea for humans. (With less butt-sniffing, of course.)

  5. drken says

    Society seems to have issues regarding men and consent as we’re all supposed to be incapable of not-consenting. It probably goes back to the basic “men can’t control ourselves because we’re so over-sexed” that usually results in other people having to adjust their lives around us. Maybe now that the shoe is beginning to be put on the other foot, more men will realize that “Hey, I’d love it if random women would grab my junk” is far more horrifying in practice than the fantasy we’ve built in our head. It is really necessary for people to experience sexual harassment/assault before they take it seriously? You’d hope not, but here we are.

  6. enkidu says

    Commenting a little bit late, and slightly off topic, but I would really like you to post something on cultural differences and touching.

    The first time I ever kissed a man (I’m a man) was in Italy, where we stayed with an Italian family. Hugging friends and kissing on the cheek was once unknown here (NZ) but becoming more acceptable. Would really like to read your experiences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *