Mao Sugiyama - asexual artist/activist/entrepreneur - had his sex glands electively surgically removed in a Tokyo hospital on March 31 (his 22nd birthday). Post-op, he asked for and received his severed genitalia - frozen and double-bagged - that he stashed in his freezer. April 8, he tweeted a shocking invitation to watch the disposal of his defunct erotic parts. April 13, he cooked, seasoned, and served bite-sized morsels of his testicles, scrotal sack, and penis to five gourmands who dished out $250 apiece for the rarities, at a public banquet at Asagaya Loft A event space.
Seventy additional guests paid to observe the bizarre feasting, while dining on non-organ meat themselves (crocodile and beef).
Sugiyama’s gross receipts helped pay for the surgery, but his sex was permanently sacrificed via the penectomy and neutering castration. (His lost penis, he reports, had been 16.1 centimeters - 6.3 inches - long at maximum size.) Physically abandoning his gender extremities was precisely what he wanted though, because as an asexual he is totally disinterested in sex.
Sugiyama’s intention in the operation was not to be"transsexual”; he didn’t receive a constructed vagina in exchange. What’s in his crotch now? “E’s” a “nullo” or “smoothie.” (“E” is one of the gender-neutral Spivak pronouns used to define either gender, or, in eir’s case, people with no gender. Sugiyama tweeted that the surgery left em with a urethra opening for urination at the lowest point in eir’s crotch, in front of eir’s anus.
Will Sugiyama have any regrets? Or is e enjoying eir’s long-wished-for wet dream? Probably the former. E announced, in a pre-banquet panel discussion, that e’d gone on a pre-surgery one-month sex binge with anonymous internet sex partners, just to make sure e wouldn’t regret the operation.
(Media jokesters are rollicking in word-play. Huffington Post noted, “this chef’s got balls” and NowPublic.com says when “Sugiyama says ‘Bite Me’ - he means it.”)
AVEN - the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, established in 2001 by college freshman David Jay - defines asexual as “a person who does not experience sexual attraction.” Asexual is not the same as celibacy, or sexual dysfunction. Multiple sub-categories exist under the asexual umbrella - ranging from complete dislike with even hand-holding, to having sex to satisfy a partner; from total disinterest in masturbation, to masturbating but not regarding it as sexual; from having “romantic” feelings, to being “aromantic.”
Sugiyama’s asexuality is in the nullo, smoothie, or MTE (male to eunuch) fringe; eir’s desire is to be non-gendered, as asexual as possible, so e can, e suggests, “wear transparent clothing.” E even attempted to burn off his nipples with sodium hydroxide. E is taking female hormone therapy and e wears a corset, apparently to counter-balance eir’s genetic masculinity and attain an androgynous figure.
Studies reported in The Journal of Sex Research and New Scientist have estimated that approximately 1.0% of the population is asexual. (One researcher - Dr. Anthony Bogoert - postulates that the figure is actually much higher.) Famous members of this sexual orientation group include American macabre writer/illustrator Edward Gorey, Scottish writer J. M. Barrie (Peter Pan author), comedienne Paula Poundstone (“I don’t like sex, so I abstain”), actress/standup Janeane Garafalo (celibate in a ten-year relationship), and Tim Gunn, fashion designer of Project Runway, who claimed, “do I feel like less of a person for it? No… not even remotely.”
David Jay of AVEN aims to assist asexuals who feel they are “broken” by transforming the notion of defectiveness into a positive identity. In recent article inThe Guardian he expressed hope that asexuality would leap into a “third phase” that “challenges the mainstream notion of what constitutes a normal sex drive.” In The Atlantic he also opined that he’d like to see the dominant culture, “stop defining our significant relationships only as those that are romantic or sexual,” and he suggested, “we celebrate sex in a way that is inauthentic…we… fetishize… sexuality… and equate it with the sum of our value and relationships.”
Back to the banquet: how is Sugiyama’s intimate surgery and personal flesh-sale a techno-progressive IEET topic? The episode, although tasteless to many, is chockfull of contentious bioethical and social issues. Here’s a few:
* Will other asexuals follow Sugiyama’s “reductionist” path? Cutting off “useless” body parts that only perform unwanted functions? Has he advertised the nullo/smoothie/MTE option to a wider audience?
* Will “smoothie” become an in-demand operation? Offered via competing hospitals, world-wide? (Thailand is currently a leader)
* Will health insurance policies be pressured to cover the costs?
* Will asexual emerge as an increasingly vocal identity group, with specific demands on the dominant culture?
* Will asexuality be acceptable as a lifestyle choice to the public majority, or will it be persecuted?
* Will asexuals align tightly with LGBTs, in the updated “LGBTQIA” acronym, that adds “questioning,” “intersex,” and “asexual”?
* Will religious groups support or attack asexuality? Will creeds that disapprove of sexuality regard asexuals as “holy” or “enlightened”? (In Matthew 19:12, Jesus states, “...there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”)
* Will surgically-removed body parts be legally delivered, to every patient in every nation? What about inner organs?
* What will the laws be concerning what you can do or not do with your removed body parts?
* Will selling and eating, or having others eat, your body parts - cannibalism - become a legal issue? (Japan has no laws regarding cannibalism; thus Sugiyama cannot be prosecuted)
* Will economically-marginalized people view Sugiyama’s banquet as way out of poverty?
* Will asexuality be viewed as a desirable lifestyle choice in the future, by workaholics, perhaps, who don’t want to be distracted by lust? Or religious people?
* When the “smoothie” operation becomes easily reversible, will people choose it for certain segments of their lifespan, when they don’t want distraction?
* Will the “smoothie” operation become a sentence delivered to rapists? (there’s a precedent, in China)
* Will asexual relationships - romantic and non-romantic - be explored and exalted in literature and the cinema?
* A study cited in Scientific American notes that castrated men in a Kansas institution lived 14 years longer than their intact peers. Further research is needed; will this absence-makes-the-life-grow-longer statistic (that resembles caloric restriction) become popular?
Asexuals already have a new flag, new organizations, Asexual Awareness Week, and new spokespeople, like AVEN’s David Jay (who’s been featured on The View, MTV, and France 24), or writer/Princeton student Katherine Chen who blogs at Lemondrop, or perhaps Gunn, Garafalo, Poundstone, or even Mao Sugiyama emself, who ironically has become a “chick magnet” for attractive 20-something Japanese women ever since eir’s organs were removed and swallowed in the public/pubic surgery/spectacle.
If significant numbers ever follow eir’s path there will also be… an Anatomically New Gender.
Additional Sugiyama Banquet Details
Eir’s genitalia was prepared on a portable gas cartridge burner. Sugiyama cooked them emself, under the supervision of a professional chef. Organs were garnished with mushrooms and Italian parsley. The scrotal skin had 3mm of pubic hair growth.
The diners did not savor the meal. The penis root was “hard, rubbery” and “spit out after a few chews.” Scrotum was “even harder and more rubbery.” The testicles were “soft and glutinous in the middle” with the look and texture of sea urchin sushi, and a fishy taste. One person who ate part of the penis became distraught after the event, expressing his regret that he “had lost his common sense.”
The recipes were donated to the Japanese website Cookpad.com.
A CalorieLab.com article provided the food photo and bulk of information for this essay. Additional photographs of the “food” are available there. Not for the squeamish!
Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Interim Managing Director and Fundraiser. He was IEET’s Managing Director on January-October in 2012, and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.
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