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Naked Sushi celebrates the tradition of sexism, not Japanese culinary culture

The sexist practice has come to Vancouver, with one feminist saying: "It's dehumanizing to be treated as a plate."

Naked  Sushi - Facebook - Ariana
Model "Arianna" posing with raw sea food on her body - Naked Sushi Facebook page

Ever feel as though your dining experience is missing something? Naked bodies, perhaps? At long last Vancouverites have the opportunity to partake in the “elegant Japanese tradition” that is eating raw fish off of naked bodies. Not just any bodies, mind you – specifically female ones.

A company called "Naked Sushi Inc." launched in Vancouver in July, promising that their "team of professional staff and models will create an atmosphere of traditional Japanese elegance that will render your event unforgettable to your guests." 

The word nyotaimori means to "serve [food] on the female body." The practice of serving sushi or sashimi on a male body has a name too –“nantaimori” – though, oddly, the male version hasn’t gained the same popularity.

Well, "odd" is probably the wrong word... 

The objectification of female bodies is a fairly universal practice today – from strip clubs to pornography to advertising, movies, and fashion, you will find women’s bodies presented as beautiful, sexualized things to be looked at.

We pay them to undress on stage for an audience, film their body parts in order to provide masturbatory aids for men and boys, use their half-naked bodies as background decoration in music videos, dancing and lounging around fully clothed men -- status symbols that communicate his power and wealth, like exotic animals or an expensive car collection.

The notion that we would literally turn a woman's body into a platter doesn’t seem so unfathomable within that context. But does that make it acceptable or harmless?

Petition demands business be shut down

A new petition is calling on the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority to shut down Naked Sushi, saying the business "is just commodifying women’s bodies."

I contacted Mike Keenan, the founder and executive chef at Naked Sushi, to find out how he responds to such views.  He declined a phone interview, but said via email:

"It is unfortunate that we have offended a group of individuals who to date have not contacted us directly so that we can discuss their concerns in detail and try to address them."

"The models we work with feel the experience empowers their sexuality and serves as an achievement of pride for themselves."

"I agree that objectifying women is wrong; with that said, anyone who feels we are objectifying women or degrading them in any way has never been to one of our events. Our events are artistic live events in a mutually respectful environment," wrote Keenan.

It remains unclear which offended individuals haven't bothered to contact him directly, as I did.  Nor is it clear what lying completely still on a table while men eat sushi off your naked body has to do with female sexuality.

Jessica Perry - Naked  Sushi - Facebook

Jessica Perry - Naked  Sushi - Facebook

But the entrepreneur did put up Jessica Perry to speak with me.

The 20-year-old has been "modelling" for Naked Sushi since its launch. Keenan contacted her through a modelling site to ask if she would like to work for him and pays her about $100 an hour, she said. 

Perry is familiar with criticisms that say her job objectifies women. One woman approached her on the SkyTrain after seeing her picture in the Vancouver Sun and asked her how she felt about "setting women's rights back so many years." 

“Most people have more of a problem with Mike, who runs the business, than the models themselves” as they see the women as "victims” said Perry.  

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