Hypocrisy

Japan hosts an annual penis festival. So why is a Japanese woman on trial for her vagina art?

Facebook/Rokude Nashiko

All Megumi Igarashi wanted to do was make a boat that looks like her vagina.

The seemingly harmless and wink-wink silly art project has landed Igarashi at the center of a high profile obscenity trial in her native Japan. The trial began on Wednesday; if convicted, Igarashi could face two years in prison and a fine of 2.5 million Yen (about $20,975).

The trouble for Igarashi, 43, began when she tried to raise funds online for her so-called “Pussy Boat,” a kayak based on a 3-D mold of the artist’s vagina (and let’s be honest: if you take a good look at the kayak, it’s kind of surprising that Igarashi was the first person to try it). She was charged in December of last year for distributing obscene material because she sent donors 3D printer data of her scanned genitalia.

Igarashi, who also goes by the name Rokudenashiko (“Good-For-Nothing-Girl”) has become known as a prolific producer of vagina art. She has made a vagina lampshade, a remote-controlled vagina car, a vagina smart phone case, and a vagina-themed comic book. She also hosts workshops for women who want to learn how to make models of their own vaginas because, you know, who wouldn’t?

The point of it all is to subvert lopsided Japanese taboos surrounding the female genitalia.

“Penis … has been used in illustrations and has become a part of pop culture,” Igarashi writes on her site. “Vagina has been thought to be obscene because its been overly hidden, although it is just a part of a woman’s body … I wanted to make vagina more casual.”

In some ways, the charges against Igarashi belong to a continuum of fusty morality laws that date back to the early 20th century. Though Japan boasts a healthy porn industry, penetrative pornography produced in the country is still required to be pixelated. According to the International Business Times, a 1951 Supreme Court ruling defined obscenity “as something that stimulates desire and violates an ordinary person’s sense of sexual shame and morality” — a rather sweeping categorization that lends itself to censorship.

But it seems that when it comes to displays of genitalia that do not involve feminist expressions of sexuality, the obscenity code is interpreted quite loosely. Possession of child pornography only became a criminal offense in Japan in the summer of last year, and it is still legal to depict sexualized images of children in comics and manga. And during the annual Kanamara Matsuri festival (aka the “Festival of the Steel Phallus”), an enormous, pink penis statue is paraded through the streets of the Japanese city Kawasaki.

That’s right: In Japan, it is completely legal to foist a giant penis around in public, but a woman was arrested for making a boat that sort of resembles a vagina. The injustice here is jarring, the hypocrisy flagrant.

See photos from Japan’s Festival of the Steel Phallus:

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