Supreme Court Of Japan: Mapplethorpe Photos Not Obscene

TOKYO – You have to hand it to the Japanese. When they're not getting nuked, committing wartime atrocities or worshiping late bluegrass and country guitar hero Clarence White, their highest court is debating the artistic merits of the male genitalia. In other words, this a country that loves cock.

The Supreme Court of Japan ruled on Feb. 19 that the phallocentric photography of Robert Mapplethorpe is art and that Takashi Asai of Uplink, a Japanese publisher, could legally sell a book comprised of Mapplethorpe's black-and-white portraits—one of which features a 1976 photo of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger posing in swimming trunks.

While the Land of the Rising Sun is well-known for sexually unambiguous shops, bath-equipped brothels called "soaplands," so-called manga comic books that feature comely young women engaged in sexual congress with squid and holothuria, the country also has oddly prudish laws about pornography.

Imported movies and magazines that show too much flesh are censored. Up through the 1990s, it was forbidden to show pubic hair in Japan.

The problem with the Mapplethorpe book was that in a 1999 case involving the artist's work, the Supreme Court ruled that the display of male genitals was obscene.

However, with the new ruling, the Japanese will now be able to look at all the cock they want.

What next...nude women? That would be something!