What people put on to get off.
While not quite as insidious as LARPing (Live Action Role Play), cosplay strikes a similar obsessive nerve across global fandom communities. Most commonly associated, at present, with major video game and graphic novel conventions like Comic-Con or Anime Expo, the practice of costuming oneself as a beloved fictional character—on an occasion with no relation to Halloween—has become an indisputably popular art. Not only will you find wildly realistic character get-ups at major fairs and festivals, but you’ll also find beauty bloggers and Twitch streamers sharing their favorite cosplay tips online, or major designers revealing cosplay-inspired lines at Fashion Week. And better yet, for couples across the globe, it’s adding a whole new layer to your classic, sexy role-play scenario.
Before we get there, however, let’s take a few steps back. While cosplay might seem like a bi-product of recent animation or contemporary graphic novel culture, the practice actually dates back as early as the 1930s, when a man named Forrest J. Ackerman reportedly arrived at an American sci-fi convention in “futuristic attire.” While he wasn’t dressed as any one character, in particular, he’d clearly costumed himself as a member of the era the convention was designed to celebrate.
The practice didn’t become commonplace, exactly, at relevant conventions or gatherings until 1975, when The Rocky Horror Picture Show premiered, encouraging fans to dress up as their favorite characters for any/all live viewings. At the time, mainstream films and television shows with equally beloved central characters were growing in popularity (think: Star Trek and Star Wars. Everybody loves a white dude in space!), which certainly contributed to the phenomenon.
The term “cosplay,” however, was not coined in the U.S. Instead, it originated with Japanese journalist Nobuyuki Takahashi in 1983, after he attended a sci-fi convention called WorldCon in Los Angeles—where the practice of costuming as beloved characters was already alive and well. Like a combination of “Costume” and “Play” (complex, we know), the term took off instantly both locally and in the U.S.—and cosplay quickly became a major trend across Japan (still considered cosplay’s largest hub).
You’re probably wondering where, exactly, all this fits into your sex life, then? Sexual role-play has taken on many forms over many years—and while cosplay can certainly operate as a form of role-playing, the practice itself is far more specific. In cosplay, you’re not just operating in a generic alt role, or as a pedestrian in a different era. Instead, you’re adhering to all the exposition that comes with the character you’ve chosen to dress as: their back story, personality traits, even vocal intonations. There’s a pre-ordained plotline to be addressed. And for plenty of folks, entering into a beloved storyline can certainly operate as a kink or even a long-standing sexual fantasy—so making it into a reality can feel uniquely erotic. Plus, for most sexual cosplay regulars—or cosplay aficionados, at all—costumes are not an after-thought. There’s some serious artistry at play, here. We’re talking authentic garb.Of course, like with anything else, consent is critical—and degrees of die-hard commitment to the cosplay bit in question depends on the couple at hand. But for most cosplayers, getting into character means staying in character—from flirtation to foreplay, to climax, to whatever post-coital activity you’ve got planned afterward (cuddling, for instance). It’s not just about the brief high of exploring a kink—it’s about exploring a wholly distinct character, and thus the world from which they’ve come.