SEOUL, South Korea — Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi, who goes by the alias “Good For Nothing Child,” finds herself in an unusual bind in a country known for its blunt eroticism: fighting obscenity charges for a crowd-sourcing effort to build a kayak modeled after her own vagina.
After she sent out computer data on her vagina to more than 30 people, the 42-year-old artist was arrested on June 12 and accused of distributing “obscene” files. She was released this week but could still face criminal charges, which could carry up to two years in prison.
“I had no idea why I had to be arrested and detained because I don’t believe my vagina is anything obscene,” she said in a press conference. “I was determined I would never yield to police power.”
At a gathering at the Tokyo Foreign Correspondents’ Club this week, Igarashi joked that she’ll enter politics in her very own “pussy party,” but only after consulting her lawyers.
Since when did any old vagina become verboten in the land of kinky fetishes?
In Tokyo, you can indulge in weird, perverse pastimes without worry. Wanna sniff a schoolgirl’s used panties? A number of sex shops claim to sell them. Ever wanted to play out your fantasy of being molested on the subway, or just love watching a woman urinate? Look no further than Tokyo’s entertainment district of Ikebukuro.
Despite the debauchery, Japan’s pornography laws are surprisingly strict, although there has been a relaxation in recent years. Until the 1990s, pubic hair was off limits in porn films, and pornographers pixelated actors’ private parts to ensure no line was crossed. This week, police arrested a pornographic actress and an advertising executive in the southern city of Fukuoka for broadcasting live sex streams that went uncensored.
Yet a handful of clever Japanese artists always seem to get around the bans, putting out some twisted porn that far outstrips the “obscenity” of Igarashi’s vagina. Here are four Japanese genres that the police don’t seem to care about, thanks to weird loopholes in the law:
1) Tentacle rape
Japan invented a dark brand of porn in which phallus-shaped tentacles squirm, slip and force their way into a helpless woman’s you-know-what.
It may look like a weird obsession for depraved adolescent boys. But tentacle rape art has a long and strange history that pre-dates modern censorship, starting with woodblock carvings in the early 1800s.
Still, this style of porn didn’t become a trademark until the past three decades, and it was ironically censorship that contributed to its preeminence.
In the 1980s, Japanese artists wanted to circumvent a law that essentially banned the depiction of penises, but not the depiction of penetration by other objects. The solution? Make cartoons about robotic phalluses and giant octopi that fondle girls who look like pre-teens.
Since these monsters are genderless, their nether organs can’t be considered penises, and hence no need for censorship.
Talk about unintended consequences. Nice job, Japanese censors.
Tentacle rape isn’t the only genre to catch on thanks to censorship. Decades ago, Japanese filmmakers similarly wanted a way to push the envelope while averting the eyes of law enforcement.
So they indulged in bukkake, which focuses on a woman’s face and chest rather than the surrounding male appendages.
Originally from Japan but also a niche in the West, this famed act features a circle of men who splash their semen all over a demure schoolgirl or secretary or — for viewers who enjoy it — another helpless young man.
In Japan, the porn star on the receiving end acts humiliated and shamed, which apparently turns some people on. Their Western counterparts, on the other hand, pretend to take pride in their role.
Interestingly, the word “bukkake” roughly means to “splash” or “dash” and doesn’t always imply sexual weirdness. If you order a bukkake udon or bukkake soba, you’ll receive noodles with hot broth.
3) Most child pornography is now illegal, but kiddie porn comics are still OK
Yes, the possession of child porn, of all things, was completely legal in Japan until just last month. Its production and distribution was the outlawed part.
On June 16, Japan finally passed a law that bans the ownership of child porn. People found with explicit images of children could face up to a year in prison or be fined $10,000, giving them a year-long grace period to dispose of their goods.
The catch? Draw a cartoon of a child being raped or fondled, and you’re in OK territory.
That’s because the manga industry vehemently opposed any prohibition on depictions of child sexual abuse, including rape. The result is a torrent of criticism over the artist Igarashi’s arrest. If the child-sex manga at your local comic book shop isn’t so lewd that it should be illegal, why go nuts over a grown woman’s vagina?
4) Wearing a diaper and wetting your pants does it for some people
Speaking of child porn, Japan is home to an, erm, unique pant-wetting fetish called Omorashi.
Practitioners of one variation of this act, called Yagai, wet themselves in public and get aroused from not getting caught.
The other way to practice Oromashi is to wear a diaper and urinate in it. So intense are its fans that they even watch game-show videos in which contestants must hold their urine for as long as possible before releasing it. Others live out their fetish through computer games and by purchasing collectibles such as specialized toilet paper and figurines.
So there you have it. If the Japanese government doesn’t consider these “obscene,” then what is?