Over the past two years, Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi has faced charges for distributing data that could be used to make 3D models of her vagina and for creating a yellow, yonic kayak, as well as small vagina-shaped plaster figurines, that she displayed in a Tokyo sex shop. According to the AP, a court ruled yesterday that Igarashi, who goes by “Rokudenashiko” (“good-for-nothing girl”), is guilty of obscenity for sharing the data but not for exhibiting her physical objects since they qualify as art under Japanese law.
Igarashi must now pay 400,000 yen (~3,660 USD) for making the data publicly available. The court had argued that any resulting objects created by someone who downloads the information could be sexually arousing since they would form a realistic shape. On the other hand, her trinkets, which feature little faces and come in all sorts of vibrant colors, do not accurately resemble female genitalia and could be considered pop art. They are known as “Deco-Man,” a portmanteau of the words “decorated” and “manko” — a Japanese slang term for “vagina.”
“This verdict is extremely rare,” one of the artist’s lawyers told Reuters, noting that it had “high historic value.”
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In a news conference, where Igarashi also displayed her controversial figurines, she noted that she plans to appeal the verdict and continue the fight to prove her innocence.
“The ruling explained my artwork was OK because it didn’t look like real female genitals,” she said, according to Japan Times. “It still says genitalia are obscene objects.”
Many people supporting Igarashi since her first arrest have noted that while depictions of vaginas in Japan are usually deemed obscene, those of penises are openly paraded — such as during the country’s annual “Kanamara Matsuri,” or, the “Festival of the Steel Phallus.” On this day, which celebrates the legendary shrine in Kawasaki, attendees may encounter phallus-shaped sculptures, candy, and vegetables.
The verdict coincides with the English-language release of Igarashi’s graphic memoir, What Is Obscenity? The Story of a Good for Nothing Artist and her Pussy. Released today on Koyama Press, the book chronicles her journey to challenge social control over the female body.
Igarashi’s full statement to the court, as shared with creative agency MASSIVE in an interview about her memoir, reads as follows:
I make fun, cheerful things that attempt to overturn prevailing perceptions of female genitalia. I’ve attempted to make things specifically for supporters of my work, but was then indicted and arrested, as you know. While I find the whole ordeal absurd, it is precisely because of my arrest that so many more people have been able to think more seriously about the perception of female genitals and of their right to a freedom of expression, which is ultimately a good thing. And yet, I have absolutely no idea what makes the three pieces for which I’ve been indicted, crimes of obscenity, why other works haven’t been deemed obscene.
It has become impossible to establish a standard (of so-called obscenity), and this case will shut down any opportunity I may have in the future, to create other similar work. I am also financially challenged. If there continues to be no fair criteria, museums will be less inclined to hang challenging art or work by similar artists, and the arts as an institution will become closed minded. I am convinced of my innocence and I believe the court is capable of viewing the situation with fairness. I beg of you consider my circumstances.
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