Drawings of Rokudenashi-ko (ろくでなし子) a.k.a. Megumi Igarashi (五十嵐恵)...







Drawings of Rokudenashi-ko (ろくでなし子) a.k.a. Megumi Igarashi (五十嵐恵) at the Tokyo Distrct Court on April 14th, 2015
by Twitter user @paruchin 

“I am innocent because neither the data for female genitals, nor my art works shaped like female genitals, are obscene.”

Rokudenashi-ko is on trial facing charges of “obscenity” over her famous vagina kayak sculpture and the 3D Printing data of her own vagina she used in its creation. The artist is bravely challenging the charges, and has said she’s prepared to take the case to Japan’s highest court. 

The obscenity law in question is laid out in Article 175 of Japan’s penal code:

“A person who distributes, sells or displays in public an obscene document, drawing or other objects shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 2 years, a fine of not more 2,500,000 yen or a petty fine. The same shall apply to a person who possesses the same with the purpose of sale.” 

The vague statute, which has been on the books since 1907, has been selectively used to prosecute all kinds of artwork deemed obscene by the authorities, from Lady Chatterly’s Lover in 1951, to ground-breaking gay magazine Barazoku in 1975, to the male nude photography of Leslie Kee in 2013. Because the law never defines exactly what is “obscene,” the definition shifts over time and jurisdiction. It’s a law enforced at the whim of the police, often in blatantly homophobic and misogynistic ways. The penis-worshiping Kanamara Matsuri, or the “Festival of the Steel Phallus,” for instance, exposes a deep double standard in Japanese culture regarding depictions of male anatomy and female anatomy.

Most of the time, artists, merchants, and publishers who have been targeted by the obscenity law spend a few nights in jail, pay a fine, and submit to the public shaming. In a country teeming with pornography, the obscenity law seems to exist mainly as a formality to keep artists in line with the government’s idea of modesty. Article 175 is the reason for the tiny black censorship bars you can see barely hiding the male anatomy in gay manga (and erotic manga in general)– an example of how the mere gesture of self-censorship is usually enough to stave off police interference. 

Rokudenashi-ko is brazenly refusing to self-censor or to be shamed, and she’s challenging the very notion of obscenity in her court case and in her new book, What Is Obscenity? (ワイセツって何ですか?), available now on Amazon.co.jp

Spread the word about Megumi Igarashi’s fight for justice! If she succeeds, it could lead the way to reforming “obscenity” and freedom of speech in Japan.

Drawings of Rokudenashi-ko (ろくでなし子) a.k.a. Megumi Igarashi (五十嵐恵)...







Drawings of Rokudenashi-ko (ろくでなし子) a.k.a. Megumi Igarashi (五十嵐恵) at the Tokyo Distrct Court on April 14th, 2015
by Twitter user @paruchin 

“I am innocent because neither the data for female genitals, nor my art works shaped like female genitals, are obscene.”

Rokudenashi-ko is on trial facing charges of “obscenity” over her famous vagina kayak sculpture and the 3D Printing data of her own vagina she used in its creation. The artist is bravely challenging the charges, and has said she’s prepared to take the case to Japan’s highest court. 

The obscenity law in question is laid out in Article 175 of Japan’s penal code:

“A person who distributes, sells or displays in public an obscene document, drawing or other objects shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 2 years, a fine of not more 2,500,000 yen or a petty fine. The same shall apply to a person who possesses the same with the purpose of sale.” 

The vague statute, which has been on the books since 1907, has been selectively used to prosecute all kinds of artwork deemed obscene by the authorities, from Lady Chatterly’s Lover in 1951, to ground-breaking gay magazine Barazoku in 1975, to the male nude photography of Leslie Kee in 2013. Because the law never defines exactly what is “obscene,” the definition shifts over time and jurisdiction. It’s a law enforced at the whim of the police, often in blatantly homophobic and misogynistic ways. The penis-worshiping Kanamara Matsuri, or the “Festival of the Steel Phallus,” for instance, exposes a deep double standard in Japanese culture regarding depictions of male anatomy and female anatomy.

Most of the time, artists, merchants, and publishers who have been targeted by the obscenity law spend a few nights in jail, pay a fine, and submit to the public shaming. In a country teeming with pornography, the obscenity law seems to exist mainly as a formality to keep artists in line with the government’s idea of modesty. Article 175 is the reason for the tiny black censorship bars you can see barely hiding the male anatomy in gay manga (and erotic manga in general)– an example of how the mere gesture of self-censorship is usually enough to stave off police interference. 

Rokudenashi-ko is brazenly refusing to self-censor or to be shamed, and she’s challenging the very notion of obscenity in her court case and in her new book, What Is Obscenity? (ワイセツって何ですか?), available now on Amazon.co.jp

Spread the word about Megumi Igarashi’s fight for justice! If she succeeds, it could lead the way to reforming “obscenity” and freedom of speech in Japan.

Dear Graham, Hello! As a curator of gay manga, I thought I'd ask some questions about "The...

Q: Dear Graham, Hello! As a curator of gay manga, I thought I'd ask some questions about "The Black Bar of No Fun" a.k.a. the sensor bar in Japanese erotic material. 1.) Do gay manga artists make their work without the bar or do they include it knowing it must be there? 2.) If uncensored versions exist and because other countries have different standards for erotic material, why can't gay manga be published without the bar in different markets? Thanks for reading this! Have a lovely day!

Great questions, T!

Manga publishers and artists who self-publish doujinshi typically self-censor their work to prevent it from running afoul of Japan’s vague, completely non-specific obscenity law, Article 175. Article 175 has been part of the Japanese penal code since 1907 and has been used to incarcerate as well as extort fines out of artists who don’t comply with the arbitrary obscenity standards of the day. Before the 1990s, the entire pubic region had to be obscured. Today, usually a black bar will suffice in covering what’s supposedly the most “obscene” part of the male body - the glans. But the standards of censorship fluctuate - sometimes stricter censorship is required, and at times enforcement has become more lax. Recently, censorship has been on the rise in the buildup to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics - so artists are in real danger of being arrested if their work offends the sensibilities of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

As for uncensored versions, they can and are being published in foreign markets! The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame presents gay manga without censored body parts, as does our upcoming anthology Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It. Usually manga artists add censorship measures to their work after the fact, on a separate Photoshop layer if they’re working digitally. There is one story in Massive that retains its black bars, because it was drawn on paper and the bars were applied directly to the page. But legally, we are free to show as much cartoon cock as we want in the United States! These days, Japanese artists also have the option of hosting their work on international servers (like Tumblr) where they are only beholden to the site’s Terms of Service. Hence, the glorious plethora of penis on Ebith’s Tumblr. Thanks, Yahoo!

For further reading, check out the “Censorship“ tag on Gay Manga!

Dear Graham, Hello! As a curator of gay manga, I thought I'd ask some questions about "The...

Q: Dear Graham, Hello! As a curator of gay manga, I thought I'd ask some questions about "The Black Bar of No Fun" a.k.a. the sensor bar in Japanese erotic material. 1.) Do gay manga artists make their work without the bar or do they include it knowing it must be there? 2.) If uncensored versions exist and because other countries have different standards for erotic material, why can't gay manga be published without the bar in different markets? Thanks for reading this! Have a lovely day!

Great questions, T!

Manga publishers and artists who self-publish doujinshi typically self-censor their work to prevent it from running afoul of Japan’s vague, completely non-specific obscenity law, Article 175. Article 175 has been part of the Japanese penal code since 1907 and has been used to incarcerate as well as extort fines out of artists who don’t comply with the arbitrary obscenity standards of the day. Before the 1990s, the entire pubic region had to be obscured. Today, usually a black bar will suffice in covering what’s supposedly the most “obscene” part of the male body - the glans. But the standards of censorship fluctuate - sometimes stricter censorship is required, and at times enforcement has become more lax. Recently, censorship has been on the rise in the buildup to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics - so artists are in real danger of being arrested if their work offends the sensibilities of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

As for uncensored versions, they can and are being published in foreign markets! The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame presents gay manga without censored body parts, as does our upcoming anthology Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It. Usually manga artists add censorship measures to their work after the fact, on a separate Photoshop layer if they’re working digitally. There is one story in Massive that retains its black bars, because it was drawn on paper and the bars were applied directly to the page. But legally, we are free to show as much cartoon cock as we want in the United States! These days, Japanese artists also have the option of hosting their work on international servers (like Tumblr) where they are only beholden to the site’s Terms of Service. Hence, the glorious plethora of penis on Ebith’s Tumblr. Thanks, Yahoo!

For further reading, check out the “Censorship“ tag on Gay Manga!

This is a good question, and one to which I don’t have a complete...



This is a good question, and one to which I don’t have a complete answer. Censorship in Japan has so many gray areas!

If you look at the sample images for Animal Synchronicity 1 on Rainbow Shoppers, both the English and Japanese versions are uncensored. However, the sample images on Digiket, another (more widely known) Japanese-hosted site, are censored by Mosaic, as are the sample images Kaz posted on his own blog. Why does censorship apply in one case and not the other? 

I think it might be a case of the vague, archaic Japanese obscenity law Article 175 mainly being enforced towards products that are sold in physical stores. Online stores are perhaps more willing to take liberties with censorship. Also, Animal Synchronicity 1 is essentially a digital doujinshi, not backed by a big publisher that might be more fearful of prosecution.