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3D-Printing Vagina Artist’s Book Challenges ‘Obscenity’ of Women’s Bodies

A review of one woman’s self and sexual expression in Japan.

ALT WORD

Where does society draw the line between obscene nudity and celebrating women’s natural bodies? Societal views of nudity often fall, broadly speaking, into two categories: either nudity is classed as obscene or pornographic, or nudity is classed as art or natural expression. Rokudenashiko, a Japanese artist and author, explored this dichotomy in her most recent publication What Is Obscenity? The Story of A Good For Nothing Artist and Her Pussy.

Manko art

Her book, presented as a series of comic strips, tells the story of how she created manko or “pussy” art as a way to subvert the notion that vaginas are always obscene, and instead to showcase them as something “brighter, funnier, less serious” as Rokudenashiko said in her book.

Her artwork includes pieces like “deco-pussies,” a cartoon manko-man, and most notoriously, a crowdfunded, 3D-printed and magnified copy of her genitalia that was adjusted to form the top half of a kayak. In 2014, she was subsequently arrested for distributing obscenity, though the term obscenity was never explicitly defined.

Public sphere

A frank discussion about this is explored in Rokudenashiko’s book as she reflects on the spectrum of sexual images displayed to the public eye on a daily basis.

For example, in Japan the police mascot Pipo-kun is a naked cartoon character with no sexual organs. On the other hand, the annual Festival of the Steel Phallus in Kawasaki celebrates a large penis sculpture. As a result of this spectrum, understanding what can and can’t be exposed in a public sphere becomes vague.

International headlines

Rokudenashiko’s 2014 arrest made international headlines—which some people viewed as laughable and ridiculous. However, the notion that natural parts of women’s bodies are often sexualized in a negative and volatile light is a problematic barrier of self-expression not just in Japan.

Despite countries like the United States and Australia reacting to the arrest in disbelief, these same societies often also have negative views of women’s bodies and sexualities. There have been occurrences of women in the USA and Australia being shamed for publicly breastfeeding, or something as simple as not shaving their leg, underarm, or pubic hairs.

Not backing down

“My work is motivated by concern as to why the word ‘manko’ (pussy) is so problematic. It is nothing more than a part of my body, but the mere utterance of these syllables ‘ma-n-ko’ causes outrage and fear,” the artist said in her plea to the court when fighting the charges made against her.

“It angers me that the more manko I create, the more children emerge from this vital organ that we should respect, my work is actually received in the exact opposite matter intended. Using my anger as a springboard, I have made cheerful, positive manko art.”

Rokudenashiko’s arrest shines a light on how difficult it can be for women to have a voice with regard to their own bodies. Since the arrest in 2014, the artist was arrested again under the same charges, and released after a short period. Although many people agree with her work, or can at least see the humor in it, her arrests seem to have only made her message stronger. Her brave, funny and outrageous book will hopefully have a positive impact on the future of female empowerment in art, sex and society as a whole.

Rokudenashiko’s book What Is Obscenity? was published in May 2016.

Image source: Amazon

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