I have proof that women aren’t human beings. (Sorry, Dr. MacKinnon.)

6 Oct

In fact, we’re sushi plates. I bet you didn’t know.

Despite my lack of cable and my lack of interest in television, I’ve somehow managed to see two separate reality television show episodes in which the renobs on the show sit around a table and eat sushi off of the naked body of an Asian woman. The first was on the first season of The Surreal Life, in which viewers got to watch Vince Neil drink copious amounts of Miller Lite and try to bang everyone in the house while Corey Feldman whined about the fact that no one understood his veganism or whatever. The second was on the seventh episode of From G’s to Gents, a Jamie Foxx production on MTV in which some guy named Fonzworth Bentley (riiight) — who acts as a consultant to rappers who want to start acting like they’re into Lacoste sweaters and Scotch instead of Starter jackets and sizzurp — teaches 14 clowns pretending to be gangsters how to pretend to have manners and class.

(I won’t get too deep into my views on From G’s to Gents here except to say that it might be the greatest show ever made. The contestants display the highest stupid asshole quotient per episode of any show I’ve ever seen, which is my main criterion for evaluating entertainment. I won’t get too deep into my views on The Surreal Life either, except to say that it sucked. I don’t want to watch famous people act like assholes because all famous people are assholes. It’s only good when the person acting like the asshole is absolutely clueless and unwarranted in doing it.)

I remember back in 2003 when I witnessed a live human being being used as a plate for the first time thinking to myself, “Wow. That’s really fucking offensive. And it’s also really gross.” But it had been a busy week, I didn’t have a blog yet, and I lived in LA at the time, so it didn’t seem all that egregious in comparison to, like, everything about daily life. I would have forgotten about it had I not seen it again while watching an episode of From G’s to Gents with a friend, who deemed it “the most offensive thing” he’d ever seen. (Guess he’s never seen a Max Hardcore video.)

The Wikipedia entry on the practice, known as nyotaimori (にょたいもり – I’m learning Japanese), has some interesting things to say:

Before becoming a living sushi platter, the person is trained to lie down for hours without moving. She or he must also be able to withstand the prolonged exposure to the cold food. Body hair, including pubic hair, would also be shaved, as a display of pubic hair may be seen as a sexual act.

Before service, the individual would take a bath using a special fragrance-free soap and then finish off with a splash of cold water to cool the body down somewhat for the sushi.

In some parts of the world, in order to comply with sanitation laws, there must be a layer of plastic or other material between the sushi and the body of the woman or man. Wrapping a naked person in cling film may also be regarded as a form of fetishism.

Another variation of the human platter is the “bondage sushi bar”, which can be found in some BDSM conventions and play parties in Britain and in Europe. In this variation, the individual acting as a living sushi plate is tied up to hinder movement or prevent it altogether. Nyotaimori could be considered a form of erotic humiliation.

Well, well, well. As interesting as all that is, I think whoever wrote the Wikipedia article on nyotaimori has missed part of the point. I don’t doubt that there is some kind of sexual fetish that involves eating fish off a naked person. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a sexual fetish that revolves around riding a unicycle while selling cotton candy and juggling tacos. But that isn’t what’s going on on these reality TV shows. It’s something much less sensational, much more mainstream, and thus much more frightening.

Here’s how the whole thing went down on From G’s to Gents: contestants Creepa, Shotta, Cee, E6, D Boy and T-Jones (that’s right) had recently been given a lesson on table etiquette by Ted Allen (the food guy from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, because apparently only gay guys know how to behave like anything but troglodytes at the dinner table) and were sent to dinner with a few of Mr. Bentley’s “business associates” to put what they’d learned into practice. The “business associates” were three Japanese guys who Bentley described as being real sticklers when it came to manners at the dinner table. In reality, they were just three Japanese dudes in suits who were willing to humiliate themselves by histrionically emphasizing accents they may not have even had and by caricaturing themselves with overly stern behavior reminiscent of a bad stand-up comedian’s impression of General Tojo.

Once the “G’s” entered the room where they’d be eating, the Japanese dudes instructed them to sit down cross-legged around a table upon which a naked woman covered in sushi was lying prone. (I can’t find a clip of it, but you can watch the episode here.)

Bro, can we fuck the plate when we're done?

The “G’s” looked a little confused when they saw the woman, but the Japanese dudes put them at ease by telling them that eating sushi off of naked women is, like, traditional as fuck in Japan and that they should just ignore her and git ta eatin’. Obligingly, the “G’s” sat down and ate, spending what might have been hours with these men jabbering away and slobbering all over their sushi rolls without once looking down at the human being they were using as a plate or making a single gesture in recognition of her humanity.

Needless to say, I noticed a few problems:

  1. The woman wasn’t Japanese. If eating sushi off of a naked woman is some kind of tradition in Japan, something that we ought not to balk at because “it’s part of their culture” (retch), then why did they have to hire a Southeast Asian woman to fill the role of the Japanese woman who, because it’s a part of her culture, should naturally be all about getting naked so a bunch of strangers can eat cold fish off of her body? Could it be that Japanese women in Los Angeles are generally better off financially than female Southeast Asian immigrants, and hence don’t have to allow themselves to be used as tableware (by men too stupid to tell the difference between a Japanese and a Thai woman, no less) in order to make a living? Or maybe the men don’t give a shit about the fact that they’re enjoying a “traditional Japanese meal.” Maybe they don’t care what color the woman is as long as they get to use her naked body like a Dixie plate. (Could it also be that Asian women don’t actually have an irresistible innate craving for rice and mistreatment? I know that might come as a shock to white men everywhere, but it’s nonetheless a fact.)
  2. As an advanced Japan hater, I make it my business to keep abreast of all the weirdest Japanese trends and traditions. I know what hentai is, I know what bukkake means, I know about the predilection of Japanese men for schoolgirls and vending machines that dispense soiled panties, but I’d never heard of any Japanese “tradition” that included using women as tableware. I had to look into it to make sure I was right, and it turns out I was (surprise). Apparently yakuza dudes — in addition to being into tattoos and perms — started the practice, but now it’s spread to the kinds of people who idolize gangsters and dudes with perms and a lot of tattoos. However, not only is eating sushi off of naked women not a Japanese tradition outside of the realm of the yakuza, but regular Japanese people apparently think it’s a European trend.
  3. It isn’t cool to use human beings as tableware. Using the bodies of human beings like objects as a means for expressing power and status makes you a horrible human being. I don’t know what else can be said about that.
  4. Sitting around a table with a naked person lying on it requires one to be constantly conscious of where one places one’s gaze. It should have occurred to these dudes, if only because of their own discomfort, that if you have to avoid looking someone in the eyes, you’re doing something wrong.
  5. It’s gross. Someone call whatever department it is in LA that gives restaurants A, B, and C ratings and give these motherfuckers a Z.

I suppose the idea that MTV and VH1 are promoting absurd racial stereotypes and the most obscene forms of misogyny ought not to surprise me, but I can’t help wondering why I Googled nyotaimori and didn’t find a single blog entry or media article with a tone that could be characterized as anything but amused. Are we still human beings, or have we really been reduced to a bunch of robots fueled by porn, stupid rap songs, and Mountain Dew? I don’t know what the answer is, but the fact that anyone has the ability to ignore the eyes of a naked human being lying right in front of his face while he tells stories and tosses back sake and California rolls is a fucking outrage, and the fact that we’ve reached the cultural nadir at which no one takes notice of something as egregious as women being used as tableware on national television during primetime is terrifying.

This place is fucked. Anyone wanna move to the Nicobar Islands with me?

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26 Responses to “I have proof that women aren’t human beings. (Sorry, Dr. MacKinnon.)”

  1. gloriouslyhorrid October 6, 2008 at 2:19 AM #

    i saw this recently on a crime show… i cant think of which one at the moment… i want to say one of the law and orders. i was vaguely disturbed by it at the time but didnt give it much thought.
    now that ive read your post and thought about it some im pretty disgusted by it. mostly i just want to know:
    1) who would have the audacity to open such a restaurant
    2) what kind of low lifes would actually go there [hey honey want to go downtown and spend an outrageous amount of money to eat sushi and totally degrade another human being?!?]
    3) what kind of people have that little self respect that they would actually *want* to work there
    i cant even imagine considering that. the mere concept is almost surreal to me.

    i watched the first little bit of that movie you linked to and shut it off after that perky hostess type woman was saying everyone should be naked and blowing kisses to the camera like it was some amazing cultural revolution.

    our country is in a sad, sad state

  2. salsa_maggi October 6, 2008 at 4:54 AM #

    The scary thing is that they don’t see it as degrading, but rather “edgy” and “sexy.” Barf.

  3. isme October 6, 2008 at 5:54 AM #

    “i saw this recently on a crime show… i cant think of which one at the moment… i want to say one of the law and orders. i was vaguely disturbed by it at the time but didnt give it much thought.”

    I saw the end of that…the woman was working as a plate because she got fired from her old job cause she wouldn’t sleep with her boss, and so her boss would always demand to eat off her, so she poisoned her toenail polish so that when her ex-boss ate off her she’d poison her and…people get paid for writing this.

    I can sort of understand the idea of eating off someone else…in the privacy of your own home with someone you are in a relationship with. Well…sort of. But a complete stranger, in a club?

  4. vintagefan October 6, 2008 at 8:12 AM #

    “Are we still human beings, or have we really been reduced to a bunch of robots fueled by porn, stupid rap songs, and Mountain Dew?”

    Sounds like Idiocracy.

  5. Bell Pepper October 6, 2008 at 10:52 AM #

    I’m a fan of looking at the ways guys objectify women and reversing the genders and gauging my reaction to see if it titillates, and a lot of time I can see at least some appeal in it. But in this case, no. I’d find dining off an unkown guy’s naked body in a restaurant incredibly awkward and uncomfortable I think.

    And I’m hearing your point 3. Every week there’s something on TV about Zany Japan™, it’s the el cheapo way of getting ratings. The fetishization of Japanese weirdness is like a cottage industry, and it results in all sorts of irritations. Like this white otaku guy at my work who tried to tell me that bukkake is a longstanding samurai tradition, rather than a workaround to a specific set of censorship laws. And then the panty vending machines, well I dunno. I heard that they actually only existed for a brief time in 1993 or something, and Wired ran an article about them, and the rumour spread through the west and way outlasted their existence. But it’s still one of the first things most people think about when they think of Japan.

    Not that Japan isn’t fucked up, though. I too am learning Japanese (though I’m not a Japanophile, it’s more cause I’m a linguistic masochist). And it’s the stuff like this that makes me question the amount of time I spend cramming kanji and memorising counters.

    I really like your blog by the way.

  6. isme October 6, 2008 at 2:03 PM #

    “Like this white otaku guy at my work who tried to tell me that bukkake is a longstanding samurai tradition, rather than a workaround to a specific set of censorship laws.”

    It is? I had heard it was a form of punishment for unfaithful wives, immediately followed by her decapitation…did someone just make that up to make it somehow “sexier”?

  7. Sally October 6, 2008 at 6:19 PM #

    I used to be a crazy anime fangirl, so you know, Japan was clearly the epitome of coolness, but then I discovered feminism and started looking at everything oh so differently. I used to think the whole maid thing(I assume you know about the fashion trend for women to dress like french maids and the cafes and such? You tend to know this stuff) was cute, but then I took a look at it and thought “What the fuck? Why are you taking a male sexual fantasy and trying to make it /cute/?! And serving guys in cafes dressed like that? And giving them massages? How is that considered ok?” There’s so many things I could rant on about japan. Mainly the Hello!Project music stuff. I’m ashamed to say I listen to the songs due to the fact I can’t get enough of repetitive moronic shite, but seriously, seeing lil 12 year olds do those routines… Definitely creepy. I feel like I’m raping small children with my eyes by watching it.

    I saw the whole body sushi plate thing in the Sex and the City movie(my friend made me watch it, don’t blame me) but she was just doing it for her boyfriend. I say just, it’s still fucking wrong, it’s like when people say it’s fine to pole dance if you just do it as a nice thing for your boyfriend, I’m sorry, I didn’t know degrading yourself and turning yourself into a sex object for the pleasure of your boyfriend was a /nice/ thing to do. But I digress, that’s more personal then just being completely used as an object. I mean what the fuck? Just, argh. It makes me so angry.

    Excuse the rantishness of that, you get my general point :P

  8. Renee October 6, 2008 at 9:08 PM #

    I recently read a promotion for a restaurant that used humans as plates. At the time I had no idea that this was some sort of trend. Not only is it sexist when women are being used, it is class exploitation. I remember reading that diners were uncomfortable at first but quickly learned to disregard the body that they were eating off of. Every time I think that we cannot sink any lower I am proven wrong.

  9. Nine Deuce October 6, 2008 at 9:34 PM #

    Exactly, Renee. At first I just prickled at the misogyny of the whole thing, but then I started to notice the classism and racism inherent in it and my head nearly exploded.

  10. Chai Latte October 6, 2008 at 9:45 PM #

    This is absolutely vile. Each time I think I can’t despair of humanity any more, I’m proven wrong.

    The true mark of a gentleman would be if one of the G’s had brought the woman some clothes, gotten the staff to put the sushi on REAL plates, and spent an hour and a half lecturing the the management on human rights. Because that is what a decent HUMAN BEING would have done.

    I suppose the point was to show that the G’s were Gents because they weren’t immediately jumping on the naked woman. *headdesk*

    For people like that…it probably does constitute gentlemanly behavior. Ugh.

  11. Bell Pepper October 7, 2008 at 1:22 PM #

    “It is? I had heard it was a form of punishment for unfaithful wives, immediately followed by her decapitation…did someone just make that up to make it somehow “sexier”?”

    Hmm, that does sound a bit urban-legendy. I heard it started because censorship/ratings barred depictions of intercourse, but allowed ejaculation. So that became the focal point, and the multiple-men aspect made it more thrilling (yawn) and made up for the lack of “proper” sex being shown. I’m no expert on bukkake (thankfully), so maybe this is wrong, but it sounds pretty plausible to me.

  12. ZoBabe October 8, 2008 at 1:51 AM #

    I have never heard of this before (Jeez, I lead a sheltered existence).

    Yeesh.

    I would totally move away with you, but I already did. For a lot of the same reasons.

  13. Isidro October 9, 2008 at 4:09 AM #

    Japanese men will never get anywhere using women as human plates — in my own country of Portugal, we have taken the initiative in using women as bandsaws and furnaces. This is a great improvement over previous times, when we used them as fishing rods and shepherd’s crooks. In time, we may even learn to use them as computers.

    Soon, no doubt, we will have restaurants with human tables and benches as well. And television sets, so we can watch “Ow, my balls” while we eat.

    Islands sound good. I could sit around and occupy my time like Tiberius, thinking idle, malevolent thoughts.

  14. Skulligan October 9, 2008 at 1:46 PM #

    Are you sure you didn’t mean the person was in the supine position?

  15. Nine Deuce October 9, 2008 at 2:29 PM #

    You mean instead of “prone”? Prone means lying flat.

  16. Jenn October 9, 2008 at 7:35 PM #

    That Gs to Gents show you plugged (I don’t watch television, because it makes me angry) sounds like it is completely missing the point. Now, I haven’t watched the show, but it seems like they are “teaching” a bunch of immature homophobic misogynist black dudes to be a bunch of arrogant homophobic racist classist misogynist white dudes. Obvious, at no point is any sort of improvement made.

    Television is just stupid. At no point does anyone seem fit to ask themselves why it is acceptable to “civilize” black rappers into arrogant Nice Guys, instead of talking about things that are actually valuable; for instance (holy shit!) channeling the energy and rage of their music into things like human rights, civil rights, and following in the footsteps of people like my buddy MLK instead of Hugh Hefner.

    See, it’s totally cool to dehumanize and objectify people and use them as fucking tablewear if you’re a “gentleman” when you do it. By “gentleman” I mean rich white dude.

    Barf.

  17. Skulligan October 10, 2008 at 9:38 PM #

    I just got confused because prone has the connotation of face down, and I had visions of sushi on the bum.

  18. Rachael October 13, 2008 at 5:58 AM #

    Ewwww. This is no more “traditional” than tentacle rape.–although I suppose plenty of people think that’s “Japanese tradition” as well.

    There was absolutely no reason for the show to include this other than ratings. From what little information I could glean from the Internet, no, most sushi bars are not going to have beautiful women lying naked covered in sashimi, just waiting for horny males to eat off her body. I highly doubt any Japanese businessman would invite his American associates out to an occasion that called for such humiliation. It would be bad for business, and worse, bad for Japan’s image.

    That is the first time I’ve heard of “G’s to Gents,” and hopefully, it will be the last.

  19. wiggles October 13, 2008 at 6:36 AM #

    I love how the Wiki entry is all gender-neutral, as if men are equally subjected to this kind of crap. I’ve seen the “person as sushi platter” trend on T.V. a few times. Not once has the human sushi platter been a dude.

    3) what kind of people have that little self respect that they would actually *want* to work there

    Women who, since they were born, have seen women being objectified and dehumanized to the point that it looks normal.

  20. SAAM October 16, 2008 at 11:21 PM #

    Those islands are looking pretty good right about now!!

  21. Skeptical_guy June 19, 2009 at 4:29 AM #

    Ah…..the memories of Japan are starting to come back now……

    Well I plan to marry my beautiful and intelligent wife within the next few years if all keeps going well for us!!!

    ….yeah..and keep hating Japan n stuff!!

  22. Imaginary September 26, 2009 at 9:09 AM #

    What? I think my brain just broke. I don’t know why, but I just started laughing. And laughing. And laughing until I couldn’t breath. Persunally, I’m just praying for the Anti-Christ to come and kill us all. Might hurt less.

  23. Venomous Woe October 13, 2009 at 3:08 PM #

    Those crazy Japanese…

    At least they make cool video games. :P

  24. Imaginary October 26, 2009 at 5:52 PM #

    I’m not sure what I’d do in that situation. I’d want to help her off the table, get her some clothes and give her a hug or something, but she’d probably protest. Something about needing money to buy food and shit.

    Seriously, what to do in that situation? Just walk out and leave her alone with whatever pricks you were sitting with?

  25. Immir March 4, 2010 at 6:33 AM #

    I think what’s scary is not just that a woman can be used as a plate, but that nobody bats an eyelid at the strangeness of it.

  26. Dan May 5, 2010 at 12:05 PM #

    When this was done in the Michael Crichton thriller “Rising Sun” (1993)–except with a Japanse guy eating off one white woman and drinking off another–NOBODY complained. I think the silence set the tone for its expansion ever since.

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