by Shannon Jay
Megumi Igarashi, better known by her pseudonym Rokudenashiko (meaning “good for nothing”), is a Japanese manga cartoonist and sculptor who, after getting labia surgery and feelin’ herself, indirectly challenged Japanese obscenity laws.
[other meanings: “reprobate”, “bastard”, “ne’er-do-well”]
Light-hearted molds of her new vulva—turned decorative dioramas—quickly became a political statement when met with much criticism and backlash from members of the Japanese populace. Whether it was men disgusted at the sight of female genitalia, or perverts who sexualized her objects, Igarashi’s purpose became pushing the limits and mass-producing pussy to make the reproductive organ “casual and pop.”
This was an especially tricky feat in Japan, where female genitalia is censored in everything, even pornography. Before her molds, Rokudenashiko had hardly heard the word “manko” (meaning “pussy”) ever uttered. She had little idea what her own vulva even looked like, let alone another woman’s.
Each year, however, Japan holds an annual Festival of the Steel Phallus, which celebrates male fertility by displaying gigantic phallic-shaped shrines and plenty of penis-shaped memorabilia. Despite this, blurred pussy is in accordance with a 100-year old obscenity law where distribution of “anything eliciting sexual desire” could lead to fees or jail time.
In Igarashi’s case, she got both. She was arrested twice in 2014, her house raided and artwork confiscated. She was charged with distribution of obscene materials after sending 3D vector files of her molds to crowdfunders who helped build her pussy-shaped kayak. After much uproar, she was released from prison.
What Is Obscenity? The Story of a Good For Nothing Artist and Her Pussy, follows Rokudenashiko’s journey throughout her trial. The entertaining autobiography details the raid of her home, where cops, unable to utter the moniker of the objects that they were confiscating, squirm as a bold Igarashi defyingly yells the word “MANKO” aloud. She discusses her stint in jail, and details the wacky women who came and went. The book delightfully chronicles the artist’s difficult trajectory toward manga and manko art—an inspiring and relatable journey that begins with unsureness, but ultimately leads to a means of changing the world.