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Thu Oct 23 21:12:29 SAST 2014

Rich men, flesh and sushi

Phumla Matjila | 01 November, 2010 23:360 Comments
Phumla Matjila. © Unknown.

Phumla Matjila: What do George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Kenny Kunene have in common?

"Kenny who?" I hear you ask.

He's the tycoon whom Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi lashed out at for "spitting in the face of the poor" by spending R700000 on his 40th birthday more than a week ago.

A disgusted Vavi said: "It is the sight of these parties, where the elite display their wealth, often secured by questionable means, that turns my stomach."

Still thinking about those names? Here's a clue . our page 3 on Friday. Picture the peculiar snapshot from the party: curvy models smothered - from the neck down - in grey paint, wearing nothing but lingerie and high-heels.

Another model, sans the paint, sprawled on a table like a corpse, serving sushi from her shapely thighs and wash-board flat stomach.

No, the answer is not the gentlemen's penchant for designer suits, but their fondness for nyotaimori, which is Japanese for female body presentation, otherwise referred to as "body sushi".

Nyotaimori is the practice of serving sashimi or sushi on a woman's body. In Japan, where the practice originates, it was the preserve of the elite, but today it has become the piece de resistance of seedy sex clubs.

But in the UK, the US and Canada it is marketed as a form of Japanese food culture by enterprising and celebrity-savvy businessmen.

Never ones to miss out on a trend - and a mention in the media - Pitt and Clooney were victims of yet another rich man's infatuation as they devoured sushi served up on naked women at an upmarket club.

The Daily Telegraph reported in August that two London entrepreneurs upgraded the nyotaimori by hosting clandestine "flash sushi" nights, at different venues in London for a limited period, for adventurous businessmen "with deep pockets" and rich celebrities.

For £250 (R2782), guests were given champagne on arrival and a 10-course sushi dinner, eaten off a beautiful woman with a gorgeous pimple-free, stretch-mark free, cellulite-free, toned body. Only a limited number of people (up to 24) took part in the flash sushi outings, which ended in March.

In Europe and the US, where nyotaimori is a fad, women's groups condemn the practice because it objectifies women.

They criticise the portrayal of women as food meant to be devoured, like the sushi resting on their nipples, to satisfy the appetites of rich men.

Here at home, Vavi's deputy, Zingiswa Losi, added to his boss's condemnation by criticising "these men's attitudes towards the women who were photographed".

The pictures I saw splashed on our newspapers last week left me mortified. They took the objectification of women up 100 notches.

Kunene's photo, with his entourage of lingerie-clad women, added a spine-chilling element to the portrayal of women as objects.

By having his models or hostesses (I'm not sure which word to use) covered in grey paint from the neck down, to give them an ashen, corpse-like appearance, the parts of their bodies that mattered most for the purpose of his birthday were highlighted.

By detaching the women's heads from the rest of their body by using paint, the women were portrayed as headless "just bodies" whose sole purpose was to entertain.

The only woman in the picture who had not been painted lay still, like the unthinking, unfeeling object she is supposed to be.

The whole practice of body sushi makes me cringe.

Apparently, before a woman becomes a living sushi platter, she is trained to lie down for hours without moving.

She must also be able to withstand prolonged exposure to cold food. And, before the dinner, she is supposed to take a bath, using a special fragrance-free soap, and then splash cold water on herself to cool down.

She has to be clean for cold, stinky, raw fish to be placed on her flesh so that men with dirty hands can nibble off her.

Having said that, it would be rather one-sided of me to criticise the men when women consent to being treated as platters.

Why, given the progress we've made in women's emancipation, do women agree to be the objects of male-fantasy themed parties?

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Rich men, flesh and sushi

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