Japanese artist arrested for distributing 3D scans of her vulva

Last year, here on Top 4 3D Printing, we published our guide to the criminal potential of additive manufacturing. Though we extensively covered how the technology might affect fraud, gun crime and piracy, there was one legal transgression that we did not consider: obscenity.

Perhaps the reason for that is, as a UK site, we are based in a country with relatively relaxed obscenity laws, and the idea of a 3D print being so indecent that it would actually see its designer locked behind bars seemed unimaginable. Elsewhere in the world, however, things are rather different, as demonstrated by the week’s most talked about 3D print story.

3D printed vagina

Yesterday in Japan, artist Megumi Igarashi, 42, A.K.A. Rokudenashiko (a moniker that we can most politely translate as ‘No Good Girl’) was arrested for emailing data of a 3D scan of the exterior part of her genitalia to 30 backers of her recent crowd funding campaign. The goal of the campaign is for Rokudenashiko to gather enough funds to create Manko Boat (rough translation ‘P***y Boat’), a full sized kayak modelled upon a detailed scan of the artist’s vulva.

While all this might sound like rather silly, vulgar fun (and, certainly, humour plays a big part in Rokudenashiko’s work), the artist has a serious intent. In her home country, a nation where the iconography of adult entertainment can be seen in films, fashion, cartoons and advertising, the vagina is still seen as shockingly taboo. While the male member commonly appears in art, exposing the corresponding area of the female anatomy is considering deeply damaging to all concerned.

3D printed vulva art

Though, it must be said, this double standard does not only exist in Japan, it is rare to find a country in which it is so strictly enforced by the government. For example, an officially sanctioned festival celebrating penises takes place annually on the streets of Kawasaki, while even saying the Japanese word for vagina (‘Manko’) in public is considered unacceptable.

Rokudenashiko’s output, which includes dioramas, phone cases, lampshades and remote control cars based on her vulva, probes at the hypocrisy of this situation and, as if to prove her point, police responded to her most recent venture by clapping her in handcuffs.

The artist refuses to admit her work is obscene, though the authorities beg to differ. If convicted she could face up to two years in prison or a 2.5million yen (£14,500) fine. The internet has reacted with instant anger to the arrest, with a Change.Org petition demanding Rokudenashiko’s release already attracting 13,000 signatures. The outrage has been stoked by its proximity to another recent controversial story regarding obscenity and legality in Japan: the ruling that the graphic images of child abuse and sexual assault that regularly appear in Manga comic books and animated films were not illegal under Japanese law.

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