3D genitals, art and censorship in Japan

Megumi Higarashi

If I asked you who the kinkiest people in the world is, there is a strong probability you’d name the Japanese (Germans make a close call, but they tend to be more discreet in their filth and not as infamous). Japan is, after all, the land where every other girl appears in porn videos and where everything becomes a fetish; the place where used panties vending machines and virtual rape victims were invented.
Japan however is one of the most schizophrenic countries when it comes to porn, censorship and sex education. While kiddy porn mangas are perfectly acceptable, actual adult videos come digitally censored, with genitals hidden behind a mosaic effect.  This has several interesting social effect, among which the rise of an underground industry of dubious “uncensoring machines”, a fierce war against regular porn peddlers, and a widespread ignorance of basic sex knowledge among people – most noticeably young females.

Megumi Higarashi, a 42-years old visual artist, has built a career around her fighting this state of affairs. «I had never seen another vagina» she says. «While the penis is frequently depicted, even in cute forms, female genitals are not. I didn’t even know what a vagina should look like, so I became self-conscious of mine, thinking it might be abnormal. The vagina is just another body part, yet it has been kept culturally so hidden that the very thought of it has become obscene, a taboo. Japanese media won’t even mention my artist’s name of Deco-Man, because the ‘man’ part comes from the root of ‘manko’, which means ‘pussy’!».
Her reaction was to create a number of crowdfunded art pieces based on the reproduction of her own genitals: vagina smartphone covers, vagina remote-controlled cars, a vagina lampshade, a vagina diorama and so on. Her piece de résistance is a yellow “pussy boat” consisting of a modified kayak whose pit cover is molded in the shape of a 2-meters vagina.

Last week Higarashi had another idea to push the acceptance of female anatomy into the public discourse. She made the 3D scan files of her genitals publicly available online for people to use them as they saw fit – hopefully for artistic mashups. This simple act however backfired, as she was immediately arrested on the grounds of electronic distribution of obscene materials.
The future doesn’t look very bright for the artist, who didn’t acknowledge the charge stating the material is all but obscene, but who is bound to face a very tough time in the notoriously uncompassionate Japanese prison system. On the bright side, the news has reached the world media and of course every national channel, so in the end people are actually talking about the taboo topic. Mission accomplished?