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the vagina boat artist is japan’s pussy riot

At this point, we all know about the vagina boat artist in Japan, Megumi Igarashi (who goes by Rokude Nashiko), right? For those living under a rock of legal phallic art, Igarashi has been arrested in Tokyo on obscenity charges. In an effort to ‘make pussy more casual and pop’, Igarashi has used a vagina mold to make dioramas, iPhone cases and a lampshade. But to-scale molds were not enough for the forty-two-year-old artist. Why not vagina cars, or bedspreads or wallpaper? It dawned on Igarashi that she could, in fact, use an image of a human vagina to create larger art… with a 3D scanner! 3D scanners are expensive and, like many artists, Igarashi appealed to the larger arts and feminist worlds for financial backing. With Kickstarter and Pozible campaigns, contributors get something in return for a donation. While many of us are happy to donate for arts’ sake, a kickback is nice. In her crowdfunding video, she hawks vagina molds so that women can create their own cunt crafts. Although the video doesn’t explicitly say this, several articles report that Igarashi’s obscenity charge is for distributing image data (of her vagina), which can be used by anyone in possession to print their own 3D image.

 vagina boat

Pornagraphy is a fickle thing, with no univerally recongnised definition. According to The Age, nude images of children only became illegal in Japan a month ago. Pornagraphic manga and anime are excluded — even those aimed at children. Here is the bit of penal code that Igarashi has violated:

A person who distributes, sells or displays in public an obscene document, drawing or other objects shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 2 years, a fine of not more than 2,500,000 yen or a petty fine. The same shall apply to a person who possesses the same for the purpose of sale.

And yet? AND YET. The Huffington Post offers examples – with images taken in Japan, where ‘displays of an obscene document’ are illegal – of penis lollipops, dick candles, cock facemasks, and schlong wood carvings. Japan has an annual penis festival, Kanamara Matsuri. Pornography rules are arbitrary, and decided based on the personal opinions of those with decision-making power. A vagina boat is hardly offensive compared to an image of a teenage girl sucking a dick lollipop. Pictures of a human actual vagina? Anatomy. Bodies! Sucking a penis treat, which is in effect stimulating oral sex? Nah, that’s not obscene. That’s just fun in the name of the PENIS FESTIVAL.

Image via The Huffington Post

Image via The Huffington Post

This is not about obscenity; it’s about the larger continuing struggle to stop making women’s bodies obscene. In her video, Igarashi said that as a child, she’d never seen a vagina. She wasn’t sure if hers was normal, or if there was something wrong with it. Her words are The Vagina Monologues music to our ears! A vagina boat is fun and silly, not obscene. And selling a picture of a vagina of one’s own does not deserve a two year jail sentence. Artistic expression as a means to spark dialogue is nothing new, and it’s vitally important. This is Japan’s Pussy Riot. FREE MEDUMI IGARASHI!

Head over and make your voice heard at the change.org petition (Google will translate it).

Also, who do I know that can get me a vagina mold? And should we stage a protest where we all wear these?

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