Artist Challenges Japanese Obscenity Laws With a Vagina-Shaped Kayak
But sharing is still a crime.
Every spring, people from around the world flock to Kawasaki, Japan for its Festival of the Steel Phallus. This annual event is a celebration of the penis, and features numerous phallic sculptures that are paraded through the city. Japan’s wholehearted embrace of the penis is curious in a country where pornographic films are censored by blurring out the images of real-life genitalia. This hypocrisy provoked a conceptual artist to create a controversial piece that’s sparked country-wide dialogue about sex.
Conceptual artist Megumi Igarashi, who goes under the pseudonym Rokudenashiko (which means “good-for-nothing kid”), recently both won and lost a court case based on her construction of a kayak modeled after her vagina. In order to pay for the kayak, Igarashi started a crowdfunding campaign and awarded supporters with CD-Roms containing the computer code for images of her vagina. When Igarashi was brought up on charges for constructing the boat and distributing the CD-Roms, it shed light on Japan’s hypocritical views of male and female genitalia.
In an odd ruling that closely mirrors the country’s inconsistent views on sex, Igarashi won the obscenity charge over her yellow kayak, but was fined 400,000 yen ($3,670), for distributing the CD-Roms. She defended herself against the charge that stuck by telling CNN that “Genitals are not obscene at least for lots of women including myself so I think it doesn’t make sense.” The artist also says the data she gave her supporters wasn’t intended to arouse anyone. “It is strange that pornography which shows sex scenes is not prosecuted, and my work is charged,” she told CNN. So next time you’re in Japan you can build a boat based on your sexual anatomy, but don’t share the blueprints, that’s a $3,670 fine.