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Japan: Artist appeals obscenity ruling over ‘vagina art’

10 July 2017
A Tokyo court upheld a 2016 ruling fining artist Megumi Igarashi 400,000 yen (USD $3,500) for distributing obscene material related to her “vagina art”.
Photo: Magumi Igarashi/Twitter

 

On 13 April 2017, the Tokyo High Court upheld a 2016 lower court ruling fining visual artist Rokudenashiko (real name: Megumi Igarashi) 400,000 yen (approx. USD $3,500) for digitally distributing obscene material related to her “vagina art”, reported Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun on 13 April 2017.

Igarashi immediately appealed the decision.

The artist told The Japan Times that “it’s wrong for the government to judge what is art and what is not”, adding that artists in Japan practice self-censorship so they don’t have to face the possibility of arrest.


Artist arrested
The artist’s ordeal began in 2014 when she was arrested for distributing data as a gift to her crowdfunding backers that allowed them to make 3D prints of her vagina. The funds from the backers allowed the artist to build a fully functional kayak modelled on her genitals.

A second charge related to the display of other works modelled from her genitals at a sex shop in Tokyo was dismissed by both the lower and higher courts.

While the court said the art displayed could not be “directly linked to an actual female sexual organ”, it deemed the 3D data was an accurate reproduction of the artist’s genitals, which “produced a strong sexual stimulus”.

In a recent interview with Glamour magazine, Igarashi said:

My work is meant to make the female sex organs funny and fun and cute and just generally something we can get a good laugh out of. I hadn’t thought any of that fell even remotely into the purview of ‘obscenity’ in the first place. But the judicial courts have this idiosyncratic concept of the vagina as something that will arouse men when they see it no matter what. I believe sexual arousal is a personal feeling, but by wresting control over the freedom to experience those personal feelings, the state takes further control over the people. The state taking control of sexual proclivities is much more frightening than whatever I am doing.

Igarashi explained that she began her “vagina art” projects because in Japanese society the female sexual organ remains taboo, while the male organ is not, going so far as it having its own annual festival: The Kanamara Festival at Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki.

She told the magazine that even the slang term for vagina – manko – is censored in print, but the word for penis – chinko – is not.

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