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.)
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:
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?