Browsing posts from the category Musings


The academic study of porn

Illustration by AnotherExample.

Taking an analytical eye to porn is not new. When feature-length porn films began playing in movie theaters in the 1970s, some feminist scholars and activists reacted with disdain, arguing that porn was inherently objectifying. Others disagreed, leading journalist and activist Ellen Willis to coin the term “pro-sex feminism” in 1981.

Around this time, film scholar Linda Williams wrote the groundbreaking book Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the Frenzy of the Visible, and Concordia University film studies professor Thomas Waugh started including porn in his classes on sexuality and cinema. The school endorsed his decision, but colleagues often did not.

It’s been 30 years since then, and, as shown by this excellent piece in University Affairs, interest in the study of porn has not waned. In fact, there’s a new academic journal from Routledge called Porn Studies, created specifically to compile scholarship on the subject. At the helm of the publication is Lynn Comella, associate professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who has been teaching about porn since 2001. Only after receiving tenure last July did she dare use the word “porn” in her course title.

What does a class on porn look like? Well, take the aptly-named “Porn Studies,” taught at York University by associate professor of sexuality and gender studies Bobby Noble. It’s held at 8:30 in the morning with the aim of attracting only serious pupils. For the first several weeks of class, students aren’t shown any film clips, photos, or images — instead, they discuss what pornography is and what assumptions are made about it. The first images they see are those of Victorian women from the 1850s.

In later weeks, Noble teaches about more contemporary issues such as queer and feminist porn, and the ways in which modern technology has altered the consumption and perception of the medium. “I was very impressed by their levels of maturity, the levels of sophistication, their poetical analyses,” Noble said about the first time he taught the class. “I could tell that these were questions about sexuality and sexual representation that they wanted to talk about, but haven’t had the space in which to do that.”

Meanwhile, Noble’s colleague at York University Lisa Sloniowski is compiling the Feminist Pornography Archive, which originally existed simply to provide materials for students taking applicable courses. It received a three-year grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in 2010, and Sloniowski is now tackling the difficult questions: what is feminist porn, actually? Will the collection reside in the library itself or in a more private location? How will it operate in the digital age?

Ultimately, the study of pornography is similar to studying any artistic medium. Rebecca Sullivan, who teaches an advanced film seminar on pornography at the University of Calgary, explained:

I want to look at this film the same way we’d look at Hitchcock. What’s going on here? What do we learn? How do we embrace or resist it? Let’s move away from the pro- and anti- argument. It’s divisive and counterproductive. And it’s bad scholarship.

Read the whole piece at University Affairs.

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What it’s like to be professionally cuddled

Samantha Hess, owner of Cuddle Up To MeYou may have seen the headlines. Woman Opens Professional Cuddling Shop, Struggles to Keep Up with Demand. Woman Opens Cuddling Shop And Gets 10,000 Customers In The First Week.

But if that seems fishy, it is: that figure would amount to less than 1 minute of cuddling per customer, with the cuddler working non-stop, 24 hours a day.

The truth is that owner Samantha Hess got 10,000 email inquiries in the first week of opening her shop, Cuddle Up To Me, on E. Burnside in November last year.

But none of this was a surprise to Hess. She knew the demand was there — she’s been cuddling professionally since 2013. She had just exited a 13-year relationship and was inspired by the free hugs offered by folks at Saturday Market. For a while, she traveled to clients’ homes or locations of their choosing, sometimes up to five hours out of Portland, to cuddle. But she wanted to expand: she wanted a space.

It took her eight months to find a landlord who understood that her business had no ulterior motives. Cuddle Up To Me now resides in 3,500 square foot space and features four themed rooms (forest, ocean, universe, and zen), security cameras that record every session, and four professional cuddlers. Sessions cost about $1/minute and can last 30-180 minutes. The business welcomes anyone in need of human connection.

Without any direct stories, it can be hard to visualize these cuddling sessions. But a piece in Salon illuminates both what goes on in a session and how therapeutic it can be. Writer Melissa Duclos went into the experience unsure of what to expect, but she was quickly won over.

It’s hard to argue with the value of unconditional acceptance, though the notion that it can come from a stranger is difficult for many people to swallow. According to Hess, though, a stranger — who doesn’t know you and who isn’t in a position to judge you — is the best person to deliver this message. Beyond that, she explains, professional cuddling allows clients to be completely selfish, receiving what they need without having to give anything in return. It brings them back to being children: loved, accepted and completely taken care of.

Given this explanation of the value of cuddling, it was apt that the first cuddle position we used was called the “Mama Bear.” Hess sat on the bed with her back leaning against the wall, and instructed me to sit between her legs, my back and head resting against her torso. She wrapped her arms around me. I closed my eyes and kept my arms at my side, my hands on my own thighs. We remained silent, though Hess had assured me that talking was fine if I wanted to. As I leaned against her, she stroked my arms, played with my hair, and massaged my temples and the always tight muscles in my jaw. My breath began to deepen, matching the pace of hers. It started to occur to me that snuggling with a stranger was not such a crazy idea after all.

Duclos left the session feeling “euphoric, giddy like a child and more open to the world around me.”

Samantha Hess even developed a 40-hour cuddle training program to teach her employees 50+ cuddling positions, how to read body language, and how to guide the flow of the cuddling session depending on a client’s desires. Sometimes, clients prefer to cuddle on a couch rather than a bed, or listen to the cuddler read aloud to them. Some like to talk during a session; others prefer to remain silent.

The important thing, Hess emphasizes, is “making people feel worthy for who they are today.”


A productivity app for the poly community

The Poly Life appThe single biggest myth that polyamorous people have to dispel constantly: it’s not all about sex. Being in a non-monogamous relationship does not translate to “orgy.” In fact, most of the time it just translates to “tons of communication and inordinate use of Google Calendar.”

That’s why the new phone app The Poly Life has two benefits: it helps poly folks stay organized, and its existence fights misconceptions against the poly community.

The Poly Life is the brainchild of an anonymous polyamorous quad, brought to life by app developer Christine Tseng. They all came together after the family had been in contact with Natalia Garcia, the producer of Showtime’s Polyamory: Married and Dating. The family had to reschedule their Skype session with Garcia more than once, prompting them to joke that they needed an app to keep them in line. Garcia name-dropped Tseng, and things took off from there.

Tseng had previously only created games, so she was thrilled by the idea of stepping out of her comfort zone to develop an app for the poly community. She also knew there was no competition, since The Poly Life was not a dating app or a hook-up app (really, it’s a productivity app). Tseng and the family spent a year working on the app before releasing it.

Some features of the app tackle logistics: a shared calendar, a chat function, a map, a to do list. Others help define parameters in the relationships, such as rules, boundaries, and statuses — allowing for updates and changes over time. All of these features are private except for the “Poly Fun” section, which allows users to publicly share events with the broader poly community.

A member of the family behind the app explained a fun use for the “Agreements” section of the app:

I drive my wife crazy with my laundry. I’m a bit messy and tend to throw my dirty clothes on the floor. So she sent me an agreement, “If all of your clothes make it into the hamper this week, we’ll do a group date night of your choice.” I had to press the agree or disagree button and, of course, I agreed! That agreement stayed in my phone as a reminder and for the most part, all of my dirty clothes made it into the hamper. Although we use the agreements mostly for relationship and sexual boundaries, we want to remind everyone to think outside of the box. This app has been a really fun way to make the mundane interesting and to have fun with each other.

Progress toward mainstream acceptance of polyamory is slow, but apps like The Poly Life, along with classesarticlesinterviews, and stories all contribute toward a better, more nuanced understanding of what being polyamorous means.

Sometimes, it just means delegating someone to pick up milk on their way home.


Good porn for women: it exists!

Cover of Erika Lust's film, HandcuffsJournalists, especially those not familiar with the adult industry, can sometimes make sweeping statements that aren’t exactly correct. For example, it is common for a mainstream journalist or blogger to off-handedly lament that there is no porn out there for women.

That’s what happened when Nikki Gloudeman wrote an article at Ravishly arguing that she couldn’t find any tasteful, well-acted porn for women. While she conceded that feminist porn does exist, she insisted that all of it was “decidedly low-budget and short on a truly compelling plotline.”

This isn’t true, and readers and porn filmmakers alike rushed in with evidence to the contrary. A month later, Gloudeman wrote a follow-up post. “I was wrong. Very wrong. Shamefully wrong,” she wrote. She was sent a box of DVDs from Jacky St. James, director of New Sensations’ Romance Series.

I immediately curled up on the couch to watch a rom-com sex romp called The Friend Zone. And, well . . . it was good. Like, really good. It had legitimate production values. The acting ranged from just fine to truly impressive. The script was funnier than most mainstream rom-coms in theaters today (Hollywood producers, take note). And . . . what’s this? Is that a sex scene involving people who actually seem to care about one another? Is that woman being respected as she’s being pleasured? Is that a condom I see?

The experience was, in a word, a revelation, satisfying in every desired way.

With this new world opened up, Gloudemen set out to interview several women doing great things within the adult industry. She talked to two producers of adult DVDs, Erika Lust and Jacky St. James, and two owners of erotic websites, Angie Rowntree of and Anna of

Rowntree began in the mid-’90s, when everyone told her there was no market for women’s porn, and she has been steadily proving them wrong ever since. Anna started with an erotic blog, which then morphed into writing stories and making films with the same sensual aesthetic. Lust studied political science and took film directing classes before shooting her first erotic short, which was so popular it changed the course of her life. Jacky St. James, an avid porn consumer, happened upon a script-writing contest for New Sensations’ Romance Series. The company loved her submission, and she soon quit her corporate job to write and direct full-time.

Ultimately, all four women were dissatisfied with some facet of the erotic material they consumed (as Erika Lust put it: “when I first watched porn the feminist in me felt cheated, the activist in me felt mad and the sexual me felt . . . aroused”), and that is part of what drives them to make something different.

Gloudemen asked each of them about their personal histories with porn, their goals and ideals with their work, what they think about the word “porn,” and where feminism fits in with what they do. The interview is full of amazing and thoughtful answers, but Rowntree’s response to the question “why is it important for women to have access to adult films that resonate with them?” is particularly insightful:

One of the criticisms I hear the most about the porn industry is that its products objectify women and present us in a very unflattering way—and that’s true of a lot of porn. To me, though, the answer isn’t to protest the porn industry, try to get porn censored, or even to spend a lot of time and energy trying to convince people that porn is bad. To me, the answer is to make better porn. The answer is to make porn that does present women in a good light, that does depict true intimacy and that does emphasize mutual pleasure, instead of reducing the women it depicts to being mere objects of men’s pleasure.

All four women urged readers to always keep looking if they can’t find porn that appeals to them. Go beyond tube sites and rudimentary Google searches. Peruse the nominees and winners of the Feminist Porn Awards. Visit sex shops and ask questions. It’s out there, and it’s really well-done — you just have to dig a little bit deeper.

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From velcro to veterans: the history of Sportsheets

Military veteran in a sling designed by Tom Stewart, founder of Sportsheets

Sportsheets International began quietly, as a small business operating out of founder Tom Stewart’s garage. It was 1993, and Stewart had already spent years teaching himself to sew. He had a vision, one that had been sparked years earlier as he watched David Letterman, decked out in a velcro suit, jump on a trampoline and stick himself to a wall.

What if you could stick your sex partner to a wall?

The result of this inspiration was the company’s flagship product — a soft velcro bed sheet called the Sportsheet. With the accompanying anchor pads and cuffs, users could strap their partners down anywhere on the bed.

The following year, Stewart asked his sister Julie to become his partner in the business. Neither had any formal business experience, and the company wasn’t initially making much money, but the tides quickly turned. There was a definite market for the Sportsheet. Eventually, more of Stewart’s family joined the business, and they now operate out of a 17,000 square foot building in Huntington Beach, California. They’ve developed more than 400 different bondage and positioning products, with half manufactured in the US.

Tom Stewart, you could say, has become an expert on encouraging sexual creativity and helping people achieve sexual positions. He also spent 20 years in the military. So it made sense when, five years ago, he was invited to show off his products at the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes Road to Recovery ​conference, which brings wounded troops and their families together. His straps, slings, and harnesses were a huge hit with attendees — so he kept going back, listening, brainstorming, and inventing.

That’s how he came up with the heavy-duty adaptive sling pictured above, designed for a quadriplegic veteran wanting to have sex in the missionary position. He also invented a strap to facilitate doggy style for folks who can’t bend over easily. Even something as simple as a thigh harness can change a couple’s sex life, as Stewart explains:

One of the products we came up with was what’s called a thigh harness, and it’s like a neoprene knee brace. If you slide that up your thigh with a dildo inside the little hole, all of a sudden you’ve got a dildo mounted on your thigh. I took this thigh harness and other strap-ons to a [retail sex] show in Canada, and there was a guy in a wheelchair who came up and said, “Hey, I want to try this.” We put this thigh harness on him, and we put this dildo on his right leg.

I said to his girlfriend, “Come over here. Squat down on this thing — imagine you’re naked and this dildo’s going inside of you.” So, she was kind of grinding on his thigh — you know, simulating — and she’s going, “Oh my God, this is phenomenal. We can have intercourse like this!” This was really the beginning of products for people who have disabilities.

As Sportsheets enters its third decade in business, they remain true to their motto of “Keeping Couples Connected.” Although the company began with only a single product, today they are known for their work with disabled veterans, their inexpensive bondage products such as paddles, feather ticklers, and handcuffs, their great beginner’s harnesses, and the ingenious Under the Bed Restraint System. Tom Stewart is currently working on a hollow dildo strap-on harness for folks experiencing erectile difficulties.


Early Playboy pinups revisit the camera

Dolores Del Monte, Miss March 1954

The first issue of Playboy came out in December of 1953. The pioneering models who graced its pages in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s are now entering into their golden years. NY Mag caught up with a handful of them to ask them their thoughts on the experience — and take beautiful new photos of them.

Compared to other magazines of its day, and particularly compared to the landscape of erotic material these days, Playboy is pretty tame. In the early days, Playboy didn’t even publish full-frontal nudity, but competition from Penthouse and Hustler changed that:

In 1972, Playboy published its first full-frontal nudity, a shot of centerfold Marilyn Cole Lownes. But to Cole Lownes — and other Playmates of that era — the photographs didn’t feel like they were about getting men off so much as they were about celebrating women. Cole Lownes’s father told her the photograph that ran in Playboy was like a Rubens painting. Using the language of the era, she now describes the whole experience “liberating.” (At the time, she wrote to her parents that she’d be a rich old lady, since “every time they change the backdrop I make $300.”)

All the women interviewed for the piece echoed the same sentiment: modeling for Playboy made them more confident. They were drawn to the idea of being both the object and the objectifier, although there is debate about whether the end result was simply objectification. Candace Jordan, now age 60, was in Playboy in December of 1979. She’s now a society columnist. She says:

I was the valedictorian of my high school in Dupo, Illinois. I had a scholarship to St. Louis University but I was absolutely bored to death and swore I had to find a different path. A girlfriend of mine told me they were hiring at the St. Louis Playboy Club. I’m an only child so all these girls were like the sisters I never had. Feminists always say, “I can’t believe you’re objectifying yourself.” And I would say, “Do you think I was forced at gunpoint to do this centerfold? No, it was my free choice, and that’s what women’s lib is supposed to be about.” After Playboy, I worked as a model, and I was in Risky Business with Tom Cruise . . . A lot of us still go to these autograph shows. Playboy fans are very, very respectful.

Most of the early Playboy models did not continue modeling. Instead, they became stylists, journalists, public relations people, doggie-day-care counselors, and real estate agents. One gave birth to a daughter who would later become a Victoria’s Secret model. But their power as Playmates has not faded, and they remember those years fondly.

There is a grace that comes with aging. You can see it — a knowing look — in the eyes of the models in their new photos. Cole Lownes, the first full-frontal model for the magazine, put it this way: “When you look at pictures of yourself from long ago, you see this young girl. You look into the eyes of the model, and you realize she doesn’t know what she knows now.”


Thrills and mundanities on a queer porn set

 Nic Switch and Iona Grace with Shine Louise HoustonWhat goes on behind the scenes of a queer feminist porn shoot? According to Anna Pulley, writing for Alternet, performers ogle cat photos, knit scarves in the colors of the bisexual flag, and shoot the breeze about fisting censorship and breast milk pumping. The kitchen is well-stocked with coffee, fruit, and chips, and Feminist Porn Awards line the walls.

Scenes for queer porn site Crash Pad Series are shot in an unassuming neighborhood in San Francisco by filmmaker and director Shine Louise Houston, production assistant Jiz Lee, videographer Alexa Shae, and photographer Tristan Crane. The room is equipped with a “voyeur cam,” which allows members of the site to watch the scene in real time. The best scenes are compiled for DVD releases.

Anna Pulley visited the set to watch two scenes unfold: Nic Switch and Iona Grace, followed by Ray and Maggie Mayhem. As is always the case with Crash Pad scenes, performers first discussed their vision for the scene with Houston. Performers’ desires and limits are steadfastly respected and followed; the only true rules are no blood, no poop, and… no glitter. (It’s far too difficult to clean up!).

Then, the scene began. Pulley writes,

Since the room was small and crowded, I tried to flatten myself against the wall as much as possible, but even then I could’ve reached out and touched the performers, they were so close. I briefly considered the possibility of being in the line of fire should ejaculation occur, but mostly pushed that thought out of my mind and enjoyed my front-row seat. Luckily, I remained dry through both shoots…at least outwardly.

As a feminist, I’ve found there’s often a negotiation that occurs when watching most porn, especially if it involves any kind of heavy aggression or degradation. Because, let’s face it, our desires are hardly ever politically correct. When a woman in porn is tied up and being called a dirty whore, the last thing you want to be thinking is, “Does liking this make me a bad person?” With “Crash Pad,” there was no such negotiation. The performers genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves. Nothing about the sex seemed contrived or for the benefit of an audience. Pleasure was the central tenet, and it worked. It was hot.

When all was said and done, several hours later, Pulley had witnessed a litany of sex acts, from strap-on play to Magic Wand buzzing to squirting — and a whole bunch of intense orgasms. Pulley commented on the large wet spot left on the bed afterward; her fascination was met with “oh, that’s nothing.”

After the scene, Houston interviewed the performers again to debrief. Grace explained why she does porn: it’s way more fun than being a cashier. Switch was more philosophical: she enjoys learning about herself and representing the queer community.

Pulley left the set with an armful of queer porn DVDs and a new outlook on feminist porn. She concluded, “it was certainly refreshing to witness Houston’s work, and to experience the kind of frank, pleasure-focused, authentic sex that rarely exists outside the mainstream.” Amen.


The glory of sex-positive emojis


Gone are the phallic fruits and suggestive winky faces — four designers in California have just upped the ante on sexy emojis. Their project, Flirtmoji, consists of tons of adorable yet provocative icons that can be pasted into any phone messaging app. In it, you’ll find everything from wiggling Jell-O and heart-shaped hot tubs to chastity devices and a drill with a dildo attachment.

The Verge interviewed Katy McCarthy, one of the two artists involved in the project, who explained that Flirtmoji was born after many frustrating attempts at using existing emojis to communicate about sex. Behind the project at all times: inclusivity and sex-positivity. Many of the emojis were shown to the designers’ friends for feedback first.

We wanted to be able to show this to all of our friends and have them all feel comfortable. We wanted them to be able pick their own body parts in the Emoji — within the limits of size and colors. So we invited a ton of people to come look at them and to provide feedback. We wanted them to tear it apart, or say “yes, this is good and I feel safe.” It’s not supposed to be college frat humor, although part of being inclusive is making it funny. It’s just not that hard to have everybody feel represented.

Flirtmoji: "booty call"Even the name of the project was deliberate. The team went with Flirtmoji to make the icons feel light, funny, and accessible to even folks not necessarily having sex. They wanted to represent everybody — including many skin tones and kinks — without judgment.

There are some challenges to drawing sex emojis that you may not realize. For instance: hair. Hair is very difficult to depict in the simple line stroke style of tiny icons. McCarthy agrees that hair representation is important, and the team is working on some new icons including it.

Although lighthearted, McCarthy believes sex emojis can help folks communicate in new and interesting ways.

What’s really beautiful about sex, and emoji, is that sex is really playful and also really difficult. And at the core of good sex is good communication. So to that end, I think that whatever it takes for you to be able to communicate what you want or need, or what you don’t want and don’t need is fine . . . with sex there are things that are really hard to say and hard to ask for, and that’s such a beautiful window to be able to provide someone with language.

Flirtmoji is not available in the iTunes store — on purpose. The team read too many horror stories about sexually explicit apps being rejected, and they chose not to be involved in a sex-negative platform. Instead, you can download some emojis for free, and others for 99 cents, on their website.


What does being a sex researcher really entail?

Dr. Debby Herbenick, Dr. Justin Lehmiller, Dr. Kristen Mark, and Sarah Merrill

Ask the average person what a sex researcher does, and they’ll likely guess that researchers watch people have sex in a lab. The truth is, sex researchers don’t usually come that close to their subject — but they still love their jobs and are producing excellent and insightful work (which we have highlighted on this blog many a time!).

To show how varied the field of sex research is, Nerve interviewed four different researchers: Dr. Debby Herbenick, a research scientist who studies consumer sex products, self-image, and health, Dr. Justin Lehmiller, an expert on casual sex, Dr. Kristen Mark, who focuses on sex within long-term relationships, and Sarah Merrill, who studies physiological and subjective arousal.

Dr. Debby Herbenick fell into sex research first by working at The Kinsey Institute. She now teaches human sexuality classes at Indiana University, gives talks, writes articles, and of course, conducts research. She does a lot of survey research focusing on genital self-image and health, sexual behavior (such as use of condoms, sex toys, and lube), and exercise-induced orgasm. She is the innovator behind Make Sex Normal and believes the most important thing to remember about sex is that “we’re all a little unique with our sexuality — and that uniqueness is something to appreciate, not fear.”

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a casual sex specialist who conducts anonymous surveys and runs a blog called Sex and Psychology. His interest in sex research was piqued when he was assigned a teaching assistant position for a sexuality course in graduate school. He firmly believes that the modern hullabaloo about “hook-up culture” is unfounded — young people aren’t having any more casual sex than in the 80s and 90s. He finds that being a sex researcher makes him a hit at parties: “Every time I tell new people what I do, whether I am at the bar or at a formal dinner, everyone wants to talk about sex and ask their burning questions for the rest of the evening.”

Dr. Kristen Mark works at the University of Kentucky as director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab. She is interested in how couples can maintain satisfying sex lives in long-term relationships (short answer: communication). When not conducting surveys, she also teaches several courses and seminars on sexuality education and healthy relationships. What people forget about sex, she says, is that “Individual preferences outweigh any tips or tricks. Talk to your partner. Learn what they like. Explore.”

Sarah Merrill is a Developmental Psychology Ph.D. student at Cornell University. Her research focuses on sexual orientation fluidity (“There can be, and should be, a significant amount of nuance when talking about a person’s sexual orientation”), the role of sex in adult attachments, and the gap between physiological and subjective arousal. Using a combination of eye tracking and pupil dilation measurements, her lab tracks sexual arousal in participants and compares it to the participants’ subjective accounts of what arouses them. Often, subjective arousal and physiological arousal don’t match, and Merrill is trying to figure out why — and if any alterations to the studies can make them match more closely.

Read full interviews with all four researchers here!

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Japanese vulva artist jailed, but undeterred

Megumi Igarashi, pseudonym Rokudenashiko, in her "pussy boat"If you need a new hero, look no further than Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi, pseudonym Rokudenashiko (“good-for-nothing girl”).

The 42-year-old sculptor and illustrator launched a crowdfunding campaign last year to raise money to create a “pussy boat,” a kayak formed in her vulva’s image. The campaign was wildly successful, and as a token of thanks, she offered to send a 3D printable image of her vulva to those who donated $30 or more.

In July, Rokudenashiko was arrested for following through on her promise — or, as the police deemed it, distributing obscene material. They raided her office, seized 20 of her art pieces, and arrested her. In response, she has said, “I cannot agree with the police’s decision to label the data as obscene. To me, my vagina is like my arms and legs. It’s nothing obscene.”

The arrest spurred a petition protesting the charges, which has now surpassed 20,000 signatures, while Jon Stewart pointed out Japan’s “genital double standard” in a segment of the Daily Show, saying, “Japan, you arrested a woman for 3D-printing her vagina, but you gave dicks their own holiday.”

Rokudenashiko was released a week after her arrest, but she could be re-arrested and formally charged down the road. If found guilty, she would face up to 2 years in jail plus a fine of 2.5 million yen ($24,655).

Rokudenashiko's vulva art

For years, Rokudenashiko has been making artwork to combat Japan’s silence around the vulva. Her amazing work has included iPhone cases with vulvas on the back, glass vulvas hanging to form a chandelier, a vulva charm bracelet, a lamp with lit-up clitoris, and tons of vulva-shaped dioramas in a seris called “Deco-Man” (after the Japanese word for pussy, “manko”).

In one diorama, women sunbathe on a beach-vulva. In another, astronauts land on a moon-vulva. In another, soldiers scale a battlefield-vulva.

Rokudenashiko explains:

Why did I start making this kind of art pieces? That was because I had not seen pussy of others and worried too much about mine. I did not know what a pussy should look like at the same time I thought mine is just abnormal. Manko, pussy, has been such a taboo in the Japanese society.

Penis, on the other hand, has been used in illustrations and signed as a part of pop culture… [but] pussy has been thought to be obscene because it’s been overly hidden although it is just a part of women’s body. I wanted to make pussy more casual and pop. That’s how I came to make a pussy lampshade, a remote-controlled pussy car, a pussy accessory, a pussy smartphone case, and so on.

As “taboo” as it seems to make vulva-themed art in the United States, Rokudenashiko is up against an even more uptight society. She’s a brave and fearless individual — and hearing her describe and create her art is bound to make you smile.

Update! Rokudenashiko wrote a book called What is Obscenity? Of course, we picked it up!


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