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A few months ago we were alerted to the work of Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi, who makes stuff shaped like vaginas. Igarashi’s most recent and most viral work was a crowd-funded kayak that she created by sending backers 3D files of her vulva. Japanese art enthusiasts could then 3D print the files and fulfill their dreams of traveling via vag watercraft.
Unfortunately Igarashi’s work also caught the eye of Tokyo police. Igarashi was arrested in July on obscenity charges, and was released after outraged supporters campaigned for release. She was then arrested again in December, along with writer/feminist/sex shop owner Minori Watanabe, 44, who displayed Igarashi’s works in her shop window. On Wednesday she wasofficially charged with distributing “obscene” data. If convicted, Igarashi could face up to two years in jail and a fine of ¥2.5 million (about $USD 20k.)
Vagina art has really become a genre of its own this year. Along with an uptick in people willing to count themselves as feminists, we’ve seen a huge increase in the art world visibility of female genitalia. And it’s not just in galleries either. Thanks to the miracles of modern science and Kickstarter, we’ve seen vagina art extend into the realms of tech, landscaping, and even — in the case of Igarashi — transport. Don’t forget the time Usher was spotted testing the new frontier at Art Basel by charging his phone in a real vagina.
But things are particularly backwards in Japan. Police there aren’t just not down with vagina kayaks — they’re notoriously up with public displays of male genitalia. This is a place where you can buy used panties from a vending machine and watch porn that uses cartoons to depict young girls being raped by tentacles. You can also, once a year, celebrate something called Kanamara Matsuri or “Festival of the Steel Phallus.” The festival is held each spring at the Kanayama Shrine, where prostitutes used to pray for protection from sexually transmitted diseases.
Here are some completely non-obscene things you can see at Kanamara Matsuri:
This colossal pink steel penis:
People riding on giant wooden man genitals:
These assorted phallic knick knacks:
This man literally dressed like a dick head:
All these penis-shaped candles:
To be clear, Kanamara Matsuri is a great festival. It raises awareness of HIV, and looks a helleva lot more fun than reading pamphlets. But if you can parade a 30-foot dick down the streets of Kawasaki, why can’t you paddle home in a vagina boat? Like the porn laws recently passed in the UK, it’s yet another timely example of antiquated morality standards dictating what female sexuality should look like. Not cool.
Reprinted with permission from Styleit.