Genital Banquet: A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity
May 26, 2012 12:30 PM   Subscribe

On Sunday, April 13th, Tokyo illustrator Mao Sugiyama publicly seasoned and braised his own genitals on a portable gas cartridge burner and then served them to five eager diners who each paid about $250 for the meal. Sugiyama self-identifies as asexual and appears to fall into the gender classification of male-to-eunuchs called "smoothies". (Warning: Consider all links in this post to be NSFW)

Some more information about the voluntary eunuch community.
posted by hugandpint (218 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I miss Japan.
posted by PipRuss at 12:34 PM on May 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


Interesting. If you're going to cut it off anyhow, may as well do something worthwhile with it.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 12:36 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's unclear to me how we know this is not a hoax. Couldn't it just be an animal penis?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:37 PM on May 26, 2012


It could be. There's no real way of know unless you find one of the people who partook of the meal. It's best not to know and just let Japan do what it does best in my opinion.
posted by PipRuss at 12:38 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm imagining those news anchors who dutifully report on the latest horrific news story, reading out the content of the teleprompter with stoic expressions. But instead of rape, financial fraud, the usual crime, etc., each night features one piece of truly WTF piece like this one, followed faithfully by a fluff piece about work at the local animal shelter.
posted by stroke_count at 12:41 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of fascinating stuff here BUT I STRONGLY WARN YOU TO ATTEND TO THE NSFW TAG.

Specifically, the first five seconds of the trailer for American Eunuch has forever burned a huge whole in my mind. And yes, it's exactly what you think it would be.

And yes I should have really known better.
posted by Alex404 at 12:42 PM on May 26, 2012


A "fluff" piece about the local animal shelter? /golfclap
posted by hincandenza at 12:43 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am actually totally OK with this. I mean, he's definitely making kind of a weird spectacle of himself, but that's fine, people are allowed to do that. Sounds like they were originally removed by a doctor, so as far as his health is concerned I guess it was as safe as possible. And the diners obviously knew what they were getting into. My only concern is the permanence of the surgery, I mean, I hope he's OK with this 70 years from now, and that this doesn't end up defining him or else that he's OK with being defined by this episode. But lots of people have this kind of permanent surgery (traditionally as part of a transition to a more gender-normative female body plan, but I see no reason why that should be a requirement) and are OK with it later on, or at least happier than that were beforehand, so I'm OK with him doing this.

Mostly though it seems like all involved were informed, consenting adults so basically it shouldn't matter whether I'm OK with it or not. My judgement here is irrelevant.

What's most interesting to me is that people with non-binary gender identities are starting to get more mainstream attention. How long before it is generally accepted that there's more to gender than just Male and Female? A long time, I bet, but we're seeing the first steps happen now and it's exciting. I'm sure it'll mostly be extreme, sensationalist stuff like this for the time being (I don't think this was a great story in the way it was written, especially that headline) but eventually it'll become normalized and we'll see more representative portrayals of people with non-binary gender identities. I'm definitely all for that.
posted by Scientist at 12:47 PM on May 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's probably good to have laws against cannibalism for public health reasons, so if this precipitates that then lovely
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:48 PM on May 26, 2012


I STRONGLY WARN YOU TO ATTEND TO THE NSFW TAG

Work is the last thing I was worried about this being safe for.
posted by Trurl at 12:49 PM on May 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


I would have charged more than $250 a plate.
posted by Drumhellz at 12:50 PM on May 26, 2012 [19 favorites]


Well, that took balls.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:52 PM on May 26, 2012 [45 favorites]


Sugiyama had also intended to include his nipples on the menu, but his attempt to burn them off with sodium hydroxide did not result in anything usable.

In a hundred years, I believe it will be viewed as barbaric that instead of treating a person like this with therapy and psychiatric medication, our society and its doctors took his $12,500 and used a scalpel on him.
posted by red clover at 12:57 PM on May 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


Yeah, I mean. You can hulk smash the gender binary without having to resort to fetishistic cannibalism. Surely.
posted by elizardbits at 12:57 PM on May 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


I would have charged more than $250 a plate.

That was my first thought as well. He should have tried to auction off his bits and given the proceeds to charity.
posted by Seiten Taisei at 12:58 PM on May 26, 2012


Well yeah, elizardbits, but I think people should be allowed to go to extremes if they really feel like they need to. Nobody's suggesting that we make this mandatory or anything.

Also I find the suggestion that "people like this" are mentally ill and should be medicated and therapied into staying with a body and identity that doesn't suit them to be frankly rather offensive.
posted by Scientist at 1:01 PM on May 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


Obligatory Rammstein
posted by Existential Dread at 1:02 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]



In a hundred years, I believe it will be viewed as barbaric that instead of treating a person like this with therapy and psychiatric medication, our society and its doctors took his $12,500 and used a scalpel on him.


In a hundred years, I believe it will be viewed as barbaric that instead of allowing consenting adults safe access to modify their own bodies any way they want, we instead force differently gendered people to take therapy and psychiatric medications.
posted by JimmyJames at 1:03 PM on May 26, 2012 [61 favorites]


Also I find the suggestion that "people like this" are mentally ill and should be medicated and therapied into staying with a body and identity that doesn't suit them to be frankly rather offensive.

I think perhaps the "people like this" was directed not as towards differently gendered people but towards people who cut off their own gentials to cook and serve to paying guests.
posted by elizardbits at 1:05 PM on May 26, 2012 [23 favorites]


Ah, I see that he had it removed (sorry, would "he" still be the correct pronoun? not sure, don't wish to offend) by actual surgeons and not as an act of self-mutilation. Somewhat less troubling, then.
posted by elizardbits at 1:07 PM on May 26, 2012


>the trailer for American Eunuch has forever burned a huge whole in my mind.

We get the best Freudian slips around here.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 1:09 PM on May 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


And my girlfriend regrets the permanence of her tattoo!
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 1:21 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also I find the suggestion that "people like this" are mentally ill and should be medicated and therapied into staying with a body and identity that doesn't suit them to be frankly rather offensive.

This isn't transgender. This is fetishistic bodymod taken to an extreme, and the doctors who participated in this should lose their licenses.
posted by kafziel at 1:22 PM on May 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's fine I guess if he wants to do this, but just on a visceral level: EW.
posted by timsneezed at 1:22 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


What if he strongly felt like his arms were not part of his identity? What about his legs and his arms? What if felt like he was meant to be blind? Or deaf? At what point would you stop encouraging him to conform his body to his identity and instead encourage him to learn to love the body he was born with?

I'll make my prediction for the future. People will not look favorably upon the nominally progressive people of our time who encouraged people to conform their bodies to their genders instead of encouraging a society where the definitions of what it meant to be male, female, or others were broad and inclusive enough to embrace all different bodies and body parts.
posted by the jam at 1:23 PM on May 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I also think this guy is probably mentally ill. Being asexual is one thing but going to these extremes...
posted by timsneezed at 1:24 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would have charged more than $250 a plate.

I would have fed more than 5.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:27 PM on May 26, 2012 [58 favorites]


Isn't this a particular case of Body integrity identity disorder? I understand that it's not about "limbs" but the symptoms seem similar.
posted by elgilito at 1:30 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


So far, people seem content to place the unconforming along a continuum stretching between the two poles of male and female, which is essentially a one-dimensional view of gender, and carries implications of greater than and lesser than, as well as necessarily defining each gender in terms of qualities the other lacks, but it would be a more neutral metaphor to see the genders as axes, and that would also allow possibilities-- such as an individual who is very male and very female at the same time-- which are currently implicitly foreclosed.

We could conceivably even need a few more axes, for that matter.
posted by jamjam at 1:37 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I believe he has a right to alter his body, but I also agree it's a sign of severe mental illness. Wanting to mutilate yourself- especially your reproductive area- seems like it's treating a symptom, instead of learning to accept your existing body. There's a difference between this, and elective surgery such as LASIK, implants, rhinoplasty, etc. It's permanent and unrecoverable, and it hits at one of the most core parts of our anatomy.

I guess, if you're okay with this level of self-direction without therapy or mental health assessment... you can't ever say we should offer rehab services for people killing their bodies with meth. You can't ever say that suicide hotlines should exist, or that we'd ever try to dissuade a suicide. Because personal *choice*, man...
posted by hincandenza at 1:48 PM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I guess im okay with the idea that someone did this, but I don't want it to become a trend.
posted by snofoam at 2:05 PM on May 26, 2012


I guess, if you're okay with this level of self-direction without therapy or mental health assessment... you can't ever say we should offer rehab services for people killing their bodies with meth. You can't ever say that suicide hotlines should exist, or that we'd ever try to dissuade a suicide. Because personal *choice*, man...

Nah, this is just a slippery slope argument. Giving some people more choice is not the same as giving everyone unlimited choice. No more than allowing people to marry within their own gender is inseperable from allowing pedophilia, bestiality etc.

If someone develops a body that is at odds with their mind, why should they have to "learn to accept their existing body?" Do we ask that of people with scars, burns or disfigurements? The doctors and psychiatrists charged with handling cases like these are closely familiar with the difference between rash, desperate, addicted or fetishistic impulses, and persistent, fundamental needs and conditions. It's not right to draw a line in front of the minor procedures you're familiar with and say that everything beyond it is as irrational as suicide or serious meth abuse. I mean, for a start, everything you said applies just as much to regular gender transition/reassignment surgery; are you comfortable saying everyone who's transitioned is insane? You can say it's all self-mutilation if you like, but that's completely at odds with the medical facts.
posted by Drexen at 2:14 PM on May 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


I don't really understand why people make a distinction between whether someone is interested in modifying themselves for a fetishistic purpose or because they have some identity/gender disturbance. Why is one more acceptable than the other?
posted by timsneezed at 2:39 PM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks Drexen. As a trans woman seeking to eventually have GRS, this argument that body modification = mutilation makes me very uncomfortable and a little offended. That same argument is in fact often used against trans people.

Same with the idea that a more accepting society would somehow alleviate issues for people who seek surgeries for what is likely a mismatch between neurological body plan and body (which this case, though I can't relate to the specifics, may be an example of).

As long as one is not seeking to disable themselves to the point where that person can no longer care for themselves, I don't see what business medicine, or society, has telling that person what they can do with their body. Of course, finding someone to do it for you is a wholly different matter.

That said, the bizarre meal this person served either a result of mental issues, or a horrific performance art piece.
posted by polywomp at 2:57 PM on May 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


You can't ever say that suicide hotlines should exist, or that we'd ever try to dissuade a suicide. Because personal *choice*, man...

Nope, sorry. This doesn't even remotely hold water. Mental illnesses are categorized by their negative impact on one's life. In gender reassignment surgery, radical changes to one's genitals are made in order to make a positive impact on one's life, and to equate that with suicide (which does not generally have a positive impact) is really just totally wrong.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 2:57 PM on May 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't really understand why people make a distinction between whether someone is interested in modifying themselves for a fetishistic purpose or because they have some identity/gender disturbance. Why is one more acceptable than the other?

Because one is the attempted correction of a birth defect - fixing a cleft palate or such - and the other is a symptom of mental illness.
posted by kafziel at 3:05 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because one is the attempted correction of a birth defect - fixing a cleft palate or such - and the other is a symptom of mental illness.

How can you make that determination?
posted by timsneezed at 3:07 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


All this makes me think of my aunt. She was 44, and perimenopause was driving her batty. Besides the inconvenience of it all, she became anemic. She was contraindicated from thermal treatments, decided against HRT, and eventually asked her doc to just remove her uterus. Doc's response? Ovarian cancer is tough to catch and tough to treat. If I'm gonna cut you open, let me take your ovaries, too.

And so, that's what they did. A much, much more invasive surgery than castration (though maybe not for a penectomy).

It's peculiar to me that a woman can find her bits inconvenient and uncomfortable, and get help. A man, though...
posted by Athene at 3:08 PM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think perhaps the "people like this" was directed not as towards differently gendered people but towards people who cut off their own gentials to cook and serve to paying guests.
posted by elizardbits at 1:05 PM on May 26 [6 favorites +] [!]

You're screwing up his intent here. He didn't complete the act so he could feed people his junk, he completed the act because he's asexual, and found the parts to be useless. So he had them removed by a surgeon. Then, after the fact, he decided to give open-minded people the opportunity to see what it would be like.

How is this any different than having male genitals removed in order to transition to female? Why is it only ok if he's turning into another binary gender? Why can't he be no gender?
posted by FirstMateKate at 3:09 PM on May 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


As you can see in my very next comment, I clarified that I'd thought he cut off his own junk and fed it to people. I have no problem with anyone transitioning from anything to anything else, and I don't give a shit what gender anyone feels they should be, because it's not my business and not my problem.

It is possible to defend the rights of self-determination for other-gendered people while at the same time condemning fetishistic cannibalism as super unusual and troubling.
posted by elizardbits at 3:14 PM on May 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


If someone develops a body that is at odds with their mind, why should they have to "learn to accept their existing body?

If someone develops a mind that is at odds with their existing body, why should efforts not be made to help their mental state?
posted by Jimbob at 3:14 PM on May 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Some people just have to make very difficult choices. From the article and comments:

"Braising in red wine seems a terrible way to prepare human genitals."

"Rounding out the presentation the chef garnished the genitals with button mushrooms and Italian parsley."
posted by binturong at 3:17 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a little surprised. It really strikes me that folks here would feel differently about this guy having himself surgically castrated if it were part of his transition from male to female. How is it different just because he apparently feels most comfortable somewhere in between? (Or maybe, feels most comfortable as a sexless male. I'm not really sure exactly what his identity is, and I agree that it's not just a one-dimensional continuum.) I fail to see how his conception of the proper body for himself is less legitimate than that of someone who was born with a male body and feels it should have been female. Or is the argument that transgendered people should not be allowed surgical treatment either? Because that's a very different fight.
posted by Scientist at 3:17 PM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Gender reassignment surgery is all well and good, but that's not what this post is about. This is about cooking and eating the removed genitals. There are at least six fucked up people in this story.
posted by rocket88 at 3:18 PM on May 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


I fail to see how his conception of the proper body for himself is less legitimate than that of someone who was born with a male body and feels it should have been female.

I'm sorry, I know I'm not supposed to be shocked and upset, but when I hear about someone trying to burn a part of their own body off with sodium hydroxide, I don't immediately feel sympathy for their aims. I see self-harm. Especially since on a male, nipples are about as gendered an organ as earlobes.
posted by Jimbob at 3:23 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Funny, this is exactly the Sisyphean torture I had thought up for Sandra Lee. (The diners would be the most detestable Top Chef judges... Toby Young I'm looking at you)
posted by mek at 3:25 PM on May 26, 2012


as gendered an organ as earlobes

Some of the folks here don't like earlobe modification much either.
posted by box at 3:26 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


If someone develops a mind that is at odds with their existing body, why should efforts not be made to help their mental state?

Oh, for fuck's sake, do I have to do trans 101 now? The answer is that it doesn't fucking work.
posted by hoyland at 3:29 PM on May 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


There are at least six fucked up people in this story.

Other than the fact that it was human testicles I don't think there is much difference between what they did and this.
posted by Xurando at 3:30 PM on May 26, 2012


Being in the range of asexuality myself, I see gender itself as a category of fetishism. Heterosexual males have a "woman fetish" that goes well beyond what shape of genitals they desire. Stereotypically they have a "femininity fetish" as well, though this is getting less common. They'd be called something other than heterosexual if they had the latter without the former, et cetera.

So yeah, if you're going to shun surgery based on how fetishy it is, you've got to point someone as the Executive Sexologist of the State to decide which fetishes are normal variations in the human experience, and which are vile aberrations.

As self-mutilation goes, I find the removal of one's legs (for instance) rather more problematic, because you'll need to move around no matter what you do with the rest of your life. Genitals? They're useful for entertainment and making people; this fellow obviously didn't find them terribly entertaining, and we have a surplus of people.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:31 PM on May 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


Gender reassignment surgery is all well and good, but that's not what this post is about. This is about cooking and eating the removed genitals. There are at least six fucked up people in this story.

Ehh.

It's all been done voluntarily and as safely as possible, so who cares? It might be in a bit of bad taste, but nobody's asking you to eat up...
posted by MartinWisse at 3:31 PM on May 26, 2012


If someone develops a mind that is at odds with their existing body, why should efforts not be made to help their mental state?

They are. That's what gender reassignment accomplishes.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:35 PM on May 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


If someone develops a mind that is at odds with their existing body, why should efforts not be made to help their mental state?

Because for some people - for example transgender people, and more rarely, other kinds of non-standard gender-havers - that is not effective, and the attempt causes harm and stigmatization and many other ills. In the same way, we recognise that attempts to 'fix' homosexuality cause more harm than good. For all its shortcomings, the process of physical and/or social reassignment has far better results.

when I hear about someone trying to burn a part of their own body off with sodium hydroxide, I don't immediately feel sympathy for their aims. I see self-harm.

Maybe. I'm not in a position to understand how that particular act fits into the greater thrust of his need to not have physical sexual characteristics. I certainly don't think you can say that because he resorted to trying to fix the problem himself, that it's done purely out of the need to harm himself. The people who are in such a position are the doctors and psychiatrists who handled his case and okayed the surgery.
posted by Drexen at 3:39 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now that's a spicy meatball!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:40 PM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is a lot less morally iffy than routine infant circumcision.

In other words: Meh.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:41 PM on May 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


(That said, I could really go for a plate of sauteed foreskins right about now.)
posted by Sys Rq at 3:41 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is about cooking and eating the removed genitals. There are at least six fucked up people in this story.

Who isn't fucked-up? </glib>

But seriously... *shrug*. What does it achieve to say it's "fucked up"? Where exactly is the harm in what they did?
posted by Drexen at 3:44 PM on May 26, 2012


Marinaded in special sauce I'm guessing.
posted by gomichild at 3:49 PM on May 26, 2012


Seems like some people are too invested in what a consenting adult is doing with their body.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:55 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are at least six fucked up people in this story.

This. FirstMateKate's answer to elizardbits ...he decided to give open-minded people the opportunity to see what it would be like. [to eat human genitals] strikes me as rationalizing something that is not OK.

Gender reassignment and choosing non-sexuality is fine, as long as it's done in a healthy mental state. Given that this guy tried to burn his nipples off with acid, I wonder if he's not very troubled concerning sexuality, period. This sounds more to me like self-mutilation. Given that he chose to cook his genitals and sell them as food, I'd say something is certainly off, both in the way he chose to handle the castration and in the attention-seeking behavior.

There needs to be a line drawn somewhere. Cannibalism is wrong. If it's OK to eat this guy's junk, then is it OK to pay someone to amputate a limb for dinner? There are people in this world poor enough to consider giving up an arm. Is it OK to slice off a piece of Uncle Jim before you plant 'em if he died of natural causes? What if Uncle Jim leaves a note he wouldn't mind a bar-b-que style wake? If it's not a problem to eat human flesh, then does a murderer who kills and eats part of his victim deserve a more severe punishment than a plain 'vanilla' style murderer? Two types of people want to eat human flesh: the absolutely starving and the morbidly curious. You're in bad shape either physically or mentally to indulge.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:58 PM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


There are at least six fucked up people in this story.

Are you fucked up if you read and talk about it?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:05 PM on May 26, 2012


relevent ancient Kuro5hin article
posted by localroger at 4:06 PM on May 26, 2012


Why would I need to be warned that this wasn't work safe? Are you calling me a moron?
posted by hermitosis at 4:07 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cannibalism is wrong

Cite? I mean, there's leeway here depending on what culture you're from. And even within "mainstream" culture it's common enough to chew one's nails and to consume another person's sexual secretions, so...
posted by hermitosis at 4:10 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are you calling me a moron?

No, a snack.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:19 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


consume another person's sexual secretions

Wait, are you for serious seriously trufax really for reals comparing blow jobs that end with swallowing to eating a severed fried dick?

caught between lol and cry, halp
posted by elizardbits at 4:28 PM on May 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


I really don't care if people are curious, morbidly or otherwise, about eating flesh off a person who was willing to have their flesh be removed and eaten. It seems more ethical than eating flesh off an animal who wasn't all that willing to be eaten for people who are interested, morbidly or otherwise, in eating it. And while the idea that people are in such dire circumstances that they'd consider selling a limb to be eaten just so they can have a momentary lift in their situation is upsetting, I'm frankly more upset about the dire circumstances than their theoretical solution to it.
posted by Casuistry at 4:29 PM on May 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Cannibalism is wrong

Cite?


Well, prion-based diseases for one. Also, I would imagine that if you eat a person you are probably eating pharmaceuticals they have ingested as well.
posted by Existential Dread at 4:32 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Both of those are true of beef as well. And, as with beef, you can test people for those issues if you have the time and money.

If you got as far as picking candidates you probably have the time and money.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:35 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


>Cannibalism is wrong

>>Cite?

>>>Well, prion-based diseases for one. Also, I would imagine that if you eat a person you are probably eating pharmaceuticals they have ingested as well.
posted by Existential Dread at 4:32 PM on May 26 [+] [!]


That's not wrong, that's unhealthy. Is it 'wrong' to eat eggs that have been left out on the counter?


I just don't see cannibalism as inherently wrong. In looking at it in as logical a manner as I can, removing all social stigma and emotional attachements, all I'm left with is: We're meat. What's the big deal?
posted by FirstMateKate at 4:36 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Possibly relevant.

(The initial question: "Would you eat a friend's leg if it was severed in an accident and he was cool with people eating it?" The final conclusion: "Can't feed your friend's leg to a robot.")
posted by kmz at 4:37 PM on May 26, 2012


Now that's beanballplating
posted by elgilito at 4:45 PM on May 26, 2012


I think what we have here is a case of cognitive dissonance. Most people are extremely opposed both to having their genitals removed and to the idea of eating human flesh. These are very normal positions to have in our culture, and you can come up with all sorts of good functionalist rationales for why we have such potent and effective taboos against castration and cannibalism.

However, when one looks at this specific issue as being one which involves informed, consenting adults; where nobody is exploited, health risks are minimized, and everybody who is directly involved feels better off for having had the experience, it kind of makes something go haywire in people's brains. There's this feeling that it can't possibly have been OK, that somebody must be fucked up, disturbed, mentally ill, self-hating, narcissistic, or something. (Somebody other than us who are reading and gossiping about it, I mean.) I mean, who would want to cut off their genitals and feed them to people? Who would want to eat them? Only a sicko, right? But that really doesn't seem to be the case here, at least not conclusively given the incomplete and no doubt biased picture afforded us by this rather sensationalistic article.

What we're dealing with here is a situation in which some serious cultural taboos have been breached -- taboos which exist for what are normally very good reasons -- but in a way that nobody was (verifiably, at least) mentally or physically harmed by the breaching. In fact, the people involved may have benefited from it. It's a hard thing to wrap one's mind around when it's so strongly at odds with one's personal experience, but there it is. Castration and cannibalism are things that we find icky, but we find them icky because we're taught to by our culture. We're taught it for good reasons, but those reasons don't apply universally. This is a case where they don't seem to apply.
posted by Scientist at 4:51 PM on May 26, 2012 [19 favorites]


We're meat. What's the big deal?

Nice legs you got there.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:51 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would consider it 'wrong' from a public health standpoint.

I don't think you can remove all social stigma and emotional attachments from this, in reality. If this is to be acceptable to society as whole, there are pretty big issues of consent to contend with, as well as hygiene.

If we would like to invest the time and money and infrastructure to screen human meat the way we do beef, it might be that we are closing in on Soylent Green territory.
posted by Existential Dread at 4:51 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find myself really uncomfortable with the whole 'oh, I'm just being LOGICAL' as if we exist in vacuum. As if cannibalism is not a social act, just the consumption of flesh. Or that GRS is just another cosmetic surgery that exists outside social concepts of gender.

And if you think every GRS associated doctor, surgeon, therapist and social worker is actually up-to-date, honest, well-trained and competent, I'm wondering just how much contact you've had with the medical institution. Subsections of the whole still fall prey to the problems faced by the larger industry - GRS is not immune to incompetency and outright fraud/harm.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:00 PM on May 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well, OK, but we mostly need that beef-screening infrastructure because of the industrial scale of beef production. So far this is just one guy, I don't think we need to invent an entire regulatory bureaucracy yet.

I don't think that anybody is arguing that this practice ought to become widespread, or at least if it were to become widespread I agree that we might need some more formal regulation to make sure that everybody involved is protected and that health risks are minimized or at least that everyone is aware of the risks. But right now it's just one guy and five diners. The risk of a public health crisis seems low.
posted by Scientist at 5:02 PM on May 26, 2012


Fair enough. The "Soylent Green" comment was more directed at LogicalDash's comment.

It seems to me many societal proscriptions stem from a public health issue, such as not eating shellfish or pork. Those taboos can gain strength through reinforcement, until they inspire a more visceral reaction. I tend to agree with geek anachronism that cannibalism doesn't exist in a vacuum. And, as with the episode that inspired the Rammstein song I linked to above, those who indulge in cannibalism in Western society are probably indulging more deep-seated psychological issues than just "hey, I'd like to try some human flesh from a consenting party as an interesting experience."
posted by Existential Dread at 5:18 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


We're meat. What's the big deal?

Nice legs you got there.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:51 PM on May 26 [+] [!]


When I'm dead you can have them. Modern Funerals are bad for the environment, anyway.
posted by FirstMateKate at 5:21 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Also I'd like to say that this is a really interesting discussion and I love you all. I hope we can all continue to bring our A games and really hash out this issue in an intellectually vigorous, personally honest, and mutually respectful way.)
posted by Scientist at 5:25 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I'm dead you can have them.

Throwing all social stigma and emotional attachments aside, that's not a hard problem to fix.

That's why cannibalism is wrong.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:30 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I'm dead you can have them.

Throwing all social stigma and emotional attachments aside, that's not a hard problem to fix.

That's why cannibalism is wrong.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:30 PM on May 26 [+] [!]



Wuh? Are you talking about the me being dead problem? So cannibalism is wrong because people might murder because if it? So, is being black wrong? Or having a really expensive watch, or what?
posted by FirstMateKate at 5:34 PM on May 26, 2012


If we're throwing social stigma and emotional attachments aside, as you said you were, then being a watch or having an expensive black really doesn't matter.

That point is that if you have completely throw out human social bonds and emotions to make cannibalism ok, then perhaps it isn't ok.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:46 PM on May 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


I seriously doubt that all societies that have practiced cannibalism throughout history had abnormally high incidence of what we would consider mental illness.

Also, in some book I read about Caribbean history there were some very amusing cannibalism anecdotes about the Carib people. One was that captives from neighboring islands who were destined to be cannibalized would engage in trash talk to diminish their captors' enjoyment. They would be, like, "Suckers, go ahead and eat me, I ate so many of your uncles and brothers. Have at it, it will be like your grandma's stringy flesh." Etc. Also, there was apparently a hierarchy about the taste of white people. I think the English supposedly tasted best, the French were okay and the Dutch were practically inedible.
posted by snofoam at 5:47 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some of what is being said in this thread reminds me of what's said in other places about transsexual women.
"Why would they want to mutilate their bodies like that? It's sick and depraved, and there must be something wrong with them."

I don't have anything to say about the cannibalism though. Consenting adults, yada yada, or something.
posted by yeoz at 5:56 PM on May 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


If we're throwing social stigma and emotional attachments aside, as you said you were, then being a watch or having an expensive black really doesn't matter.

That point is that if you have completely throw out human social bonds and emotions to make cannibalism ok, then perhaps it isn't ok.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:46 PM on May 26 [+] [!]


Alright, your point is a bit more clear now. Sort of. But I don't really think murder is wrong because of social stigma or emotional attachments, I think it's inherently wrong.[which was what I was trying to get at with cannibalism. The root of it's wrong-ness] But, maybe you don't, so this analogy really isn't going to work for us.

Instead I'm going to focus on this: Emotional attachments and social stigma are different for everyone, and effect everyone differently. If you don't have them, then you can't really throw them out. Maybe this guy didn't have any weird queasy feelings attached to cannibalism, and neither did the people who ate him. So, is it wrong now? I can sort of agree with your premise that maybe if you have to throw them out then it's not ok, but what if he didn't have to?
posted by FirstMateKate at 5:58 PM on May 26, 2012


LET THEM EAT COCK

go ahead and drag me to the guillotine i am ready
posted by elizardbits at 6:11 PM on May 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


Murder is only called murder if it is wrong. If you don't think it's wrong there are lots of other words for killing.

Moving on.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:12 PM on May 26, 2012


We already have medical procedures to detect whether someone has HIV or prions or what. If you're really interested in eating human flesh that's something you will want to pay for. It will be expensiver than fuck, whatever.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:14 PM on May 26, 2012


no, it will be reasonably priced at $250.
posted by elizardbits at 6:16 PM on May 26, 2012


Because one is the attempted correction of a birth defect - fixing a cleft palate or such - and the other is a symptom of mental illness.

I'm not sure from where you're drawing the idea that a person who wishes to be physically genderless is mentally ill. Psychology has for decades recognized the "undifferentiated" classification of psychological gender, i.e., those who score very low for both male and female traits on the BEM test measuring psychological gender, or who do not otherwise consider themselves either male or female. These people are not considered mentally ill, nor are people who want their physical bodies to be a reflection of the psychological genders considered mentally ill. Do you have anything to base your assessment on, other than your personal squick?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:25 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fuck, I don't understand this at all. I'm really struggling to sort my feelings and thoughts on this. On the one hand: I'm fine with a neutral gender identity and taking surgical steps to improve a person's mental health. On the other: this just seems like a fucked up way to do that.

As long as everyone's safe, I guess.
posted by byanyothername at 6:31 PM on May 26, 2012


$250 a head!

Maybe this guy didn't have any weird queasy feelings attached to cannibalism, and neither did the people who ate him.

If he thinks it's ok to kill or rape someone and they're ok with that, then is it alright?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:43 PM on May 26, 2012


Dude. When I serve my genitals to "eager" diners, it will be a hell of a lot more than $250/plate.

I get more than that /now/.

Zing!
posted by clvrmnky at 6:49 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]




Maybe this guy didn't have any weird queasy feelings attached to cannibalism, and neither did the people who ate him.

If he thinks it's ok to kill or rape someone and they're ok with that, then is it alright?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:43 PM on May 26 [+] [!]



No, but like I've already pointed out, I believe murder [and likewise rape] to be inherently wrong, where as cannibalism is not. So every time you try and compare the two, you're not making your point any more solid, in my viewpoint. It's like trying to compare nudism and murder. To me, you just sound silly.

Maybe you wanna try a 3rd time though? I'm sure if you just compare the two enough, I'll cave in and admit you're the most supreme high ruler on all things moral.
posted by FirstMateKate at 6:50 PM on May 26, 2012


Next time on Extreme Kabuki Diner: Ten Thousand Yen Clambake Bentos.
posted by vozworth at 6:52 PM on May 26, 2012


I certainly don't think you can say that because he resorted to trying to fix the problem himself, that it's done purely out of the need to harm himself. The people who are in such a position are the doctors and psychiatrists who handled his case and okayed the surgery.

Sometimes it's fair to armchair-quarterback. In this case, you have a person who attempted to burn off his nipples with acid (and possibly succeeded?) and who staged a public spectacle of braising his own genitals and feeding them to strangers at $250 per plate. Not all doctors or psychiatrists are competent or possess good judgment. Based on all the facts we have at hand, I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that the people who were in the position to exercise judgment failed to do so responsibly.

It's unfortunate if anyone feels offended by my opinion on this subject. I recognize that it may be a minority opinion on MetaFilter. I don't intend to offend anyone. At the same time, this aspect of society offends me. I believe that in a hundred years, it will have changed, and that future society will look back on something like this similarly to how we today look back on the forcible institutionalization and sterilization of mentally retarded persons. I believe it will be seen as barbaric.
posted by red clover at 6:53 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have no real reaction the cannibalism stuff, but I don't quite understand the no gender stuff.

I suppose someone needs to explain (to me at least) the functional differences between transitioning to a different gender and removing one's genitals in order to be genderless. I mean, I am admittedly incapable of appreciating the feelings that might go into either decision, having never struggled with my own body. What I want to understand is if the frustration one experiences as the "wrong gender" is similar to the frustration this person might have experienced having male genitalia rather than "no gender." Like, is the latter case as well documented as the former?

If he gets real psychological relief now that his body fits the form he always knew it should have, good for him. But if he did this because he's really into some subculture and not particularly attached to his junk (ha ha), I'm pretty sure he'll end up regretting his silly spectacle.
posted by palidor at 6:58 PM on May 26, 2012


We really are living in Transmetropolitan, aren't we?

I don't really see how the cannibalism angle here is getting translated by some people in the thread to "hey! we as a society are all going to become cannibals, lose all social and emotional connections, and SOYLENT GREEN, GUYS!"

I mean, I don't see a lot of people going in for this, even among the MtE community mentioned in the link. I really doubt that it is going to spread beyond that, or that we're going to see the roaming hordes of cock-hungry cannibals that Brandon Blatcher appears to be afraid of. There's no indication that he sold his junk out of financial need, either.

If he thinks it's ok to kill or rape someone and they're ok with that, then is it alright?

The key word here, I think, is consensual. Rape and murder are, by definition, not. If the other person is truly okay with it, not under physical or emotional duress, un-inebriated and in their right mind, then they are, respectively, sex and assisted suicide - the ethics of which are maybe debatable to some but in a completely different category from some dude finding a unique way to get rid of what he'd already had taken off him for a completely different reason.

That acid thing - does anyone who knows more about it know how painful it was, whether he was anesthetized, or what? I mean, that's the only thing here that suggests to me that he might have some underlying issues, and might have made a jump from body modification to self-hate/self-mutilation out of frustration or something else.

Not seeing mental disease. Definitely a weird dude, maybe looking for Internet fame as a side benefit, but not crazy.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:07 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


the hard, rubbery penis root almost bent his fork, and he spit it out after a few chews. The only taste was of the red wine that it had been pre-stewed in. The scrotum was surprisingly even harder and more rubbery than the penis, but tasteless. (Matsuzawa didn’t mention the pubic hair.) The testicles were hard on the outside, soft and glutinous in the middle, with a fishy or gamey taste.

First, this person clearly sucks at braising. Properly braised meats should be fork-tender.

Second, I have trouble understanding how the penis could still be hard.
posted by snofoam at 7:08 PM on May 26, 2012


Second, I have trouble understanding how the penis could still be hard.

So many jokes....
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:11 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know a guy, a painter, who cut off his own genitals in a car parked just outside an emergency room, because no doctor would do it for him. He was in a coat hanger abortion kind of situation.

I met him fifteen years after the procedure, and he seemed to be one of the most centered and content in a room full of artists. He talked about how much extra time he had to think and create now that he has so little conflict in his life. He seemed to have many meaningful and intimate relationships with a lot of people, and he did talk about how much he likes being touched and sleeping, literally sleeping, with people he loves.

So yeah, more power to people who have the guts to be who they want to be.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 7:15 PM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't really see how the cannibalism angle here is getting translated by some people in the thread to "hey! we as a society are all going to become cannibals, lose all social and emotional connections, and SOYLENT GREEN, GUYS!"

It's not. I think you're mischaracterizing the arguments presented.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:29 PM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't really see how the cannibalism angle here is getting translated by some people in the thread to "hey! we as a society are all going to become cannibals, lose all social and emotional connections, and SOYLENT GREEN, GUYS!"

It's not. I think you're mischaracterizing the arguments presented.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:29 PM on May 26 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]

I'm going to second what Existential Dread said, because the 'lose all social and emotional connections' part of that statement came from something I said. Which was: If we did, there would be nothing left to pin the 'wrongness' of cannibalism on, so maybe it's not so bad after all.

Eventually that got twisted into "we should just throw everything out the fucking window and start murdering people to eat their limbs off."
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:40 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, but like I've already pointed out, I believe murder [and likewise rape] to be inherently wrong, where as cannibalism is not. So every time you try and compare the two, you're not making your point any more solid, in my viewpoint. It's like trying to compare nudism and murder. To me, you just sound silly.

No sillier, IMO, then saying "In looking at it in as logical a manner as I can, removing all social stigma and emotional attachements, all I'm left with is: We're meat. What's the big deal?"

It's nice and understandable that you think murder is inherently wrong, but what's the issue there, if we're just meat and removing emotions from the equations. People gotta eat or want nice things. If you have those nicer things, why not just kill you and take thme? What does consent have to do it?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:53 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


First, this person clearly sucks at braising. Properly braised meats should be fork-tender.

Thing is, though: Penises aren't made of muscle. They're made of weird spongy tissue. No matter how well braised, I don't imagine it gets any less spongy.

Second, I have trouble understanding how the penis could still be hard.

Not all cocks is chickens. I wouldn't expect cooked dick skin to be extra tasty crispy. Probably more like boot leather.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:56 PM on May 26, 2012


Well, given some of the philosophical objections to cannibalism, let me ask this -

Given slightly better technological feasability of the creation of so-called "cloned meat" that is being created today, would there be a objection to the creation of something like wendymeat? Is it a problem with consuming human meat, or is it a sourcing issue?
posted by Samizdata at 8:00 PM on May 26, 2012


Are "sex" and "gender" interchangeable terms now?
posted by TheKM at 8:02 PM on May 26, 2012


It's nice and understandable that you think murder is inherently wrong, but what's the issue there, if we're just meat and removing emotions from the equations.

I think the dispute going on here is between the consensual aspect of this versus its basic humanness making it unethical to eat. Some folks will eat placenta, and that's a considerably larger portion of human flesh, for what that's worth. Is it the fact that this is also the cooking and consuming of human flesh that was going to be discard - only this time, it's genitalia - that makes this over the line? I have a strong revulsion to this act, just don't know where it would lie "ethically" beyond, I guess, "consensual cannibalism where no one dies". Which is still pretty messed up, just not sure if it'd be comparable to murder.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:04 PM on May 26, 2012


What does consent have to do it?

Everything.

Seriously, I don't see why you refuse to understand that.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:05 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suppose that having a surgeon do the removal is better than DIY, but I am concerned about the aftermath as it relates to his body being able to function in a way that is optimal for his health. He wants to be a "neither"? Okay. But how is this going to affect his ability to urinate, will this make him especially vulnerable to bladder & kidney infections, etc.,?

Intellectually, I suppose it's his body to do with as he wishes; but man, this is lighting up all of the more primitive parts of my brain, the parts that contain all of the basic herd survival rules - you don't eat your own kind, you don't let your own kind eat others of your kind.
posted by echolalia67 at 8:41 PM on May 26, 2012


I miss Japan.
The food, mostly?

Sugiyama had also intended to include his nipples on the menu, but his attempt to burn them off with sodium hydroxide did not result in anything usable.

Given that this guy tried to burn his nipples off with acid,

Sodium Hydroxide, used in food preparation, soap making, biodiesel production, along with as oven cleaner and drain opener, is a strong base. It's really the opposite of an acid.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:47 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Basically what I am taking away from this entire discussion is that there are more than a few mefites with whom I would not wish to attend a bbq.
posted by elizardbits at 8:49 PM on May 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


Metafilter: roaming hordes of cock-hungry cannibals

I'll show myself out ...
posted by echolalia67 at 8:51 PM on May 26, 2012


As performance art I find this mildly shocking, which i think is saying something in this day and age.

And I'm cool with it if all of the participants were too and there was no coercion involved. I personally find things like Dick Cheney to be much, much more disturbing.
posted by nowhere man at 8:59 PM on May 26, 2012


Hors D'ovaries.

The real issue is: Fork? Seriously, what sane Japanese foodie would bruise the tenderly braised nuts with a fork. Clearly, this delicious meal calls for the recently invented spork-chop.
posted by vozworth at 9:01 PM on May 26, 2012


Brandon Blatcher, I'm removing myself completely from this argument with you. It's gone way beyond pointless now, in my opinion. We're running in circles, and your primary motivation seems to be trying to convert me to your opinion, or at least questioning every point i try to make with an analogy that doesn't work in it's base nature, since we don't agree on the premises it stands on. I've laid out all my points, you've laid out yours, and I'm done defending mine. We're not bringing any new light into the subject.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:05 PM on May 26, 2012


TIL that for some people "eat a bag of dicks" is not as insulting as it might be to others.
posted by elizardbits at 9:09 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


sebastienbailard is right about sodium hydroxide (i.e. lye) being a base. It also can give a very painful burn. Using it to burn one's nipples off would be a desperate move. Whether that means this man is mentally ill remains a matter of perspective and is probably best assessed on a case-by-case basis. Whether it's self harm or just body modification is down to whether you think this man's neutral gender identity is valid or not.
posted by Scientist at 9:10 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whether it's self harm or just body modification is down to whether you think this man's neutral gender identity is valid or not.

Sorry, no, that is an immense load of crap, dude. I am 100% down with any kind of gender identity that any person has chosen to express. Questioning the mental state behind someone's decision to painfully injure themselves with sodium hydroxide is not the same as invalidating their gender identity, for fuck's sake.
posted by elizardbits at 9:27 PM on May 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


Um, isn't it a little bit racist, or maybe colonialist to state outright that cannibalism is wrong? For instance, if the desire to eat human flesh is truly indicative of mental illness, doesn't that imply that tribes which practiced ritual cannibalism were basically full of mentally ill people, down to the last?

I'm not an anthropologist and am genuinely curious about this angle of the problem.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:29 PM on May 26, 2012


I've accidentally burnt myself with sodium hydroxide (removing an aluminum seatpost from a steel bicycle frame, if you must know) and HOLY SHIT THIS GUY PUT IT ON HIS NIPPLES?

Sodium Hydroxide will basically dissolve your flesh and turn it to soap while simultaneously burning you, as the reaction is highly exothermic.

No sane person would try it.
posted by unSane at 9:39 PM on May 26, 2012


No sane person would try it.
posted by unSane at 10:39 PM on May 26 [+] [!]

Eponysterical?!
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:57 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I sense that my tone of humour is not quite resonating so I'll just contribute a piece of serious scientific insight.

Japan: One quantitative easing meal away from auctioning off the entire endocrine system of a generation to stimulate domestic consumption.
posted by vozworth at 10:16 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"What we're dealing with here is a situation in which some serious cultural taboos have been breached -- taboos which exist for what are normally very good reasons -- but in a way that nobody was (verifiably, at least) mentally or physically harmed by the breaching. In fact, the people involved may have benefited from it. It's a hard thing to wrap one's mind around when it's so strongly at odds with one's personal experience, but there it is. Castration and cannibalism are things that we find icky, but we find them icky because we're taught to by our culture. We're taught it for good reasons, but those reasons don't apply universally. This is a case where they don't seem to apply."

Threads like this on MeFi are fascinating and more than a little depressing for me because they reveal a simple truth that I discovered many, many years ago: what it generally means to be a progressive on social issues is that one draws the line just slightly outside of the mainstream, and not that one's fundamental approach to such issues is different from that of social conservatives. In both cases, the position someone takes is a function of the intersection between their gut moral intuition and the standards of their particular subculture. Cultural progressives exist (or have existed) in some subculture where the standards are slightly outside the mainstream; and, because and in combination with this, have partly internalized some rationalizations regarding those standards. But those arguments, those rationalizations, are almost never prior, they're ex post facto rationalizations of the prevailing subcultural convention.

Thus, in the US, you have some very weird examples of, say, people who are otherwise very progressive defending infant circumcision. And that's because infant circumcision is still extremely common in the US among even subcultures which are socially progressive. Similarly, arguments about animal rights find people who are otherwise progressive making arguments that amount to "this is how it's always been and it makes sense and people who say otherwise have either some noxious hidden agenda or are crazy, or both". And, sadly, again, even from people who are otherwise progressive we see such arguments here and elsewhere about trans issues.

One thing that's interesting to me is that while pretty much everyone — if you push them far enough or peel back the layers of their arguments enough — reveals moral reasoning that is by far founded in their gut intuition and peer convention, it's a somewhat moderately fringe position these days to explicitly make normative arguments based upon that gut intuition and convention. I like to enthusiastically ridicule Leon Kass — mostly because I think his moral philosophy is both idiotic and repugnant and I'm therefore deeply embarassed by his past association with my alma mater, St. John's College — but he's a good example of how only a small portion of the culturally conservative right makes an effort to form a (somewhat) secular rational argument that morality is rightly defined by gut instinct and tradition. Most everyone else pretends otherwise and yet nevertheless reasons on this basis.

A huge fallacy I see being committed by many people in this thread is the implicit argument that all such superficially similar actions X mean the same thing. But of course they don't. Red clover seems to assume that sex reassignment surgery would mean the same thing in a future society where gender is not a simple dichotomy (that is, the evolving notion of gender will reveal such historical surgery to be barbaric) but, actually, it's that the cultural context between now and the hypothetical future are so different is exactly why you can't equate sex reassignment in current conditions with what it would mean in those hypothetical conditions. Personally, I neither agree that gender is as binary as people today think it is, nor that it will ever be as, um, un-binary as people like red clover hope. I do tend to think, as red clover does, that contemporary western notions of gender/sex greatly contribute to unnecessary unhappiness of many people, an unhappiness that is not-very-ideally alleviated via surgical intervention. Nevertheless, the fact is that we live in this society that exists now, these people are unhappy now, and their lives are made better now by such medical procedures.

Specific to this post, I think that people are making the mistake in thinking that everything that is superficially "mutilation" is necessarily the same sort of thing, qualitatively, as psychologically pathological self-mutilation. But of course it isn't. It's not more inherently pathological and deserves the very loaded appellation "mutilation" than does any other body modification — from changing one's hair color, to tattoos, or whatever — or, more poignantly, than does homosexual activity deserve to be thought of as pathological. Because, you know, in a deeply homophobic and closeted society, there were a lot of pathologies associated with being gay. The pathologies, the psychological problems, had everything to do with the cultural context and not anything either inherent or in the behavior itself. Even today, some people are still pretty certain that any sort of tattoo is a sign of pathological self-mutilation. Surely most of us can agree that's silly.

I'm not denying that pretty much any behavior, to the degree that it lies far outside the prevailing social norm, is likely pathological in some sense. That's because people are social animals and that's just the way we are. But it's not necessarily the case; it's not inherent to the behavior. It's a correlation. And it depends entirely on the context.

Cannibalism and (very unfamiliar) body mods and some other things are examples of activities which are so outside the western cultural norm that the disgust reaction which is triggered is assumed by those in whom it's triggered to be self-rationalizing. But this was true of a number of other things which mefites would go to the ramparts to defend, now. And it's not true for all other people around the world, or through all of history.

Also, as it happens, and I've mentioned this before, but I break ranks with my fellow sex-positive advocates in believing that asexuality is a normal (though rare) and totally acceptable psychology/behavior for human beings and being sex-positive means encouraging people to be sexual in the way in which they choose. I can easily see this person as being truly asexual, or as having some psychological pathology. It's hard to know for us which is the case, especially because we know almost nothing about him. But he's not necessarily mentally ill and his behavior is not necessarily "wrong" in some sense. Peoples' gut instincts about morality have been, historically, very very poor guides for what is either rational or what is best for most people. But they have been quite reliable at reinforcing contemporary convention. If you are going to take a culturally conservative position, at least have the courage to do so openly instead of pretending that where you personally draw the line is the divide between "progressive and rational" and "crazy". Because from where I'm sitting, that's exactly how cultural conservatives argue, they just draw their lines slightly to the right of where you do.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:01 PM on May 26, 2012 [19 favorites]


Hear, hear. That was very nearly exactly the point I was trying to make. Like most here, I find the idea of removing my genitals and feeding them to people for a fee to be deeply repugnant. However, when I apply my morality to this man's case and think about it from the starting point of my central moral principles, I cannot see how anyone was harmed, coerced, deceived, or exploited in this specific situation. Therefore it's perfectly OK by me and also, more to the point, none of my business.
posted by Scientist at 11:21 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Doleful Creature: Um, isn't it a little bit racist, or maybe colonialist to state outright that cannibalism is wrong? For instance, if the desire to eat human flesh is truly indicative of mental illness, doesn't that imply that tribes which practiced ritual cannibalism were basically full of mentally ill people, down to the last?

I'm not an anthropologist and am genuinely curious about this angle of the problem.


Ritual cannibalism exists within a cultural framework that expects and condones it. As opposed to chowing down on the amputated penis of someone who tried to remove his nipples in an unneccesarily painful manner. I wonder why he thought there would be anything left afterwards though, and it makes me think he possibly didn't research that as much as he should have.

I'm pretty sure BME has instructions on both surgeries.

I have to say that I'm pretty uncomfortable with the colonialist phrasing to 'these tribes ate people all the time and it was totes okay and they even think the Dutch tasted yucky' as if a rapidly imploding culture attempting to survive imperialist overtaking is a fair representation of how ritual existed prior to colonisation.
posted by geek anachronism at 11:29 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you Ivan Fyodorovich. You've put what I think into words far better and more eloquently than I ever could have.
posted by Bort at 12:14 AM on May 27, 2012


Of course I'm not okay with this. If he cut off his arm and served it, I would not be okay with it. If a person is intent on removing body parts, and it happens with arms, feet, and other less titillating parts, and doctors feel that they must agree to do surgery to prevent worse harm from unqualified surgery, well, that requires thought and investigation, but I can see why a doctor would agree. To cook and serve one's one formerly healthy parts just feels deeply wrong. He tried to remove his nipples with acid, which is not an act associated with mental health.

Now that he has accomplished this act, what next?

Yes, a person can be asexual, but lack of interest in participating in sex does not require cutting off genitals. If he wanted to become genuinely asexual, to not have any of the physical sensations and desires that hormones generate, it seems like denial of one's self more than a recognition.

The difference between this and gender reassignment surgery is that GRS is moving from one state to another state. (well, a difference; not an area of expertise) Healthy parts are removed to make way for new parts.

As far as Hey, if somebody wants to cut off body parts, then cook and serve them, there are all sorts of warning signs here. I can't read the whole article (if somebody wants to post the text, that's be swell). If my child chose to have GRS, I'd make sure he had adequate information, testing and counseling, and I'd give him my support. But if he wanted to remove his genitals, then cook and serve them, I'd get him a good psychiatrist. If he did it anyway, I'd still love and support him, and I'd still get him a good psychiatrist.
posted by theora55 at 12:31 AM on May 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think there's a kind of imponderable here, which is the idea that "no sane person would ever do that, so this person who says they want to do it is insane and therefore incapable of consent so this is horrific".

In practical terms, if you see scars all over my arms because I like to burn myself, particularly after a hard day, I can assume that it would be nigh on impossible for me to convince you that it's not a problem, I just like burning myself and I'm perfectly sane. Even if you can accept it in principle (as I can), in practice you would require extraordinary evidence. Or would my word be good enough?

What I guess I mean is that it comes down to what we mean by "sanity", rather than progressive versus conservative.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:04 AM on May 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


“In a hundred years, I believe it will be viewed as barbaric that instead of treating a person like this with therapy and psychiatric medication...”

In a hundred years we may not even be given the opportunity to be born with genitals by our corporate over lords.
posted by quazichimp at 1:20 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


$250 a head!

Man, I totally got the shaft!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:39 AM on May 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


These people are not considered mentally ill, nor are people who want their physical bodies to be a reflection of the psychological genders considered mentally ill.

But there are pretty good reasons why gender reassignment surgery takes place relatively slowly, and is overseen by medical professionals with an expertise in the field.

A not insignificant proportion of people who undergo gender reassignment surgery come to regret it Estimates put it as high as 20%. Some people with gender identity problems also have co-existing psychiatric conditions unrelated to their gender.

If you've chopped off your own bollocks with a lamb castrator, well, that's a matter for you to deal with. If you come to regret it, that's just tough Sodium Hydroxide-scorched titty.

But if you want someone else to do it, then I think they have a moral obligation to at least consider the possibility that you might be mistaken. And to at least spend some reasonable amount of time on that consideration.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:08 AM on May 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


fuckin' art

i am definitely going to be looking up anything else this guy's done.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:15 AM on May 27, 2012


(Also I'd like to say that this is a really interesting discussion and I love you all. I hope we can all continue to bring our A games and really hash out this issue in an intellectually vigorous, personally honest, and mutually respectful way.)
posted by Scientist


For me, this is one of the things mefi does best, present challenging ideas that I had never teased out before, in an atmosphere where many sides can be expressed.

I think a lot of the taboo emotions here are based on a human history of violence and poverty. In history, cannibalism has been almost always linked to murder (or am i wrong? I don't pretend expertise), and the notion that severing your genitals, against a Darwinian biological instinct to procreate surely has a deep instinctual repulsion. Coupled with the idea that any self harm is likely to leave you less fit to hunt that next bison.

The violence angle is nullified by the consent, and the idea that we must procreate, or cannot afford modified bodies is clearly false, but surely no more weakly held.
So this stuff conflicts with my gut, but really seems to be as ethically sound as you could ask.
posted by bystander at 6:36 AM on May 27, 2012


A not insignificant proportion of people who undergo gender reassignment surgery come to regret it Estimates put it as high as 20%. Some people with gender identity problems also have co-existing psychiatric conditions unrelated to their gender.

To be blunt, I expect better from the Guardian. They did bother to talk to people from PFC and some doctors who pointed out the flaws with the conclusions of that report (which I can't find to read for myself--google just turns up anti-trans websites). If you go search PubMed for transsexual regret (which seems to be the term most likely to produce reports of negative outcomes), you do not get the impression of such a high 'failure' rate. There's this study, which suggests it's less than 2%. Basically, studies reporting negative outcomes basically seem to be discovering that transphobia exists. (They're reporting negative outcomes with regards to social standing. They didn't seem to ask people how they felt about having transitioned. Some said, for example, 'receiving a disability pension [among other things] is a negative outcome' and counted how many people did and others compared trans people to non-trans people of their gender using similar indicators.) Some studies make reference to people who regret transitioning or who have de-transitioned, which is, uh, not surprising, since we know it happens. The point is that it doesn't happen all that often.
posted by hoyland at 6:40 AM on May 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


To be fair, that Guardian article is from 2004, when for whatever reason the editorial angle seemed to be weirdly anti-trans, or at least displayed a remarkable blind spot around trans issues, to the point where Julie Bindel, perhaps the nation's leading anti-GRS talking head, was actually paid to deliver this pearl of scientifically verified and hard-resarched wisdom:
Also, those who "transition" seem to become stereotypical in their appearance - fuck-me shoes and birds'-nest hair for the boys; beards, muscles and tattoos for the girls. Think about a world inhabited just by transsexuals. It would look like the set of Grease.
Bindel's ongoing employment is a bit of a cicatrice on the conscience of a newspaper supposedly committed to social justice, but this is the classic behavior of centrist liberals trying to show extremists how much nicer it would be to be a centrist liberal by giving them money and attention: Amanda Platell is also employed by them to provide "a voice from the right" - a role oddly not reciprocated by the Daily Mail employing Slavoj Zizek.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:05 AM on May 27, 2012


(resarched = researched)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:06 AM on May 27, 2012


Serving ones genitals as a meal to waiting, paying customers goes far beyond a gender identity issue.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:10 AM on May 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


That much, I think, is pretty uncontroversial. I think the question is whether it goes beyond it into a mental health issue, or goes beyond it a performance art issue...
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:36 AM on May 27, 2012


Paging Dr Adder, line 3 Dr Adder...
posted by infini at 8:13 AM on May 27, 2012


If you go search PubMed for transsexual regret (which seems to be the term most likely to produce reports of negative outcomes), you do not get the impression of such a high 'failure' rate.

I did exactly what you suggested.

I take your point about the 20% estimate. I wasn't able to find anything resembling an agreed upon estimate. What I did learn is just how weak the science is in this area, and from reading this article, just how personally and politically dangerous it can be for scientists to tread in these waters.

Which pretty much supports the main point that the researchers that Guardian was citing seem to be making:

"The bottom line is that although it's clear that some people do well with gender reassignment surgery, the available research does little to reassure about how many patients do badly and, if so, how badly."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:24 AM on May 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you are going to take a culturally conservative position, at least have the courage to do so openly instead of pretending that where you personally draw the line is the divide between "progressive and rational" and "crazy". Because from where I'm sitting, that's exactly how cultural conservatives argue, they just draw their lines slightly to the right of where you do.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:01 PM on May 26 [9 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


All
the awards!
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:27 AM on May 27, 2012


I think the question is whether it goes beyond it into a mental health issue, or goes beyond it a performance art issue...

You failed to notice the phrase "...as a meal to waiting, paying customers..."
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:49 AM on May 27, 2012


but this is the classic behavior of centrist liberals trying to show extremists how much nicer it would be to be a centrist liberal by giving them money and attention: Amanda Platell is also employed by them to provide "a voice from the right" - a role oddly not reciprocated by the Daily Mail employing Slavoj Zizek.
goes beyond it a performance art issue... posted by running order squabble fest at 7:36 AM on 5/27


Eponysterical?

This isn't about politics whatsoever from where I sit. You can be a radical lefty and still have whatever opinion you want about this. Turning it into a political purity test is almost as stupid as paying to eat a bag of dicks, and frankly, this is exactly the kind of bizzarro-land, contrived nonsense that makes a small minority of self-identified liberals a useful political bogeyman for the social and religious right. I mean, seriously--what a contrived, deliberately provocative for no real purpose thing to do, in the most charitable reading. Deliberate button-pushing can be a symptom of an underlying antisocial behavioral disorder. This is either that, a compulsion, or something more artificial and cynical, so no, I don't buy into this as a thing that matters other than as a morbid curiosity. Nothing more substantial here than any other carnival sideshow clamoring for attention out there.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:55 AM on May 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


You failed to notice the phrase "...as a meal to waiting, paying customers..."

This is an odd statement. Clearly, I noticed the phrase - it's the thing that makes this something other than somebody having surgery which changes their body to bring it in line with their self-perception (the ethics of which are another question in themselves, of course).

Cooking and selling the removed body part is what presumably makes this go beyond a gender identity issue for you - I mean, that's what you actually wrote. If you're looking for a post hoc rationalization for your emotional response, that's fine - but that's a different issue. In principle, I can see arguments for cooking and serving an amputated body part as a piece of performance art, a sign that one needs some form of counseling or some sort of highly personal process of emotional adjustment. It's certainly unusual - I don't think that's very contentious. But if that's all you're saying, then... sure. Yes. It is unusual. Clearly.

Saulgoodman - it's OK not to be paying attention, or indeed not to be very good at reading, but perhaps it would be best to acknowledge these weaknesses in oneself rather than going off on an adjective-heavy screed in a random direction. What I posted began:

To be fair, that Guardian article is from 2004

To those blessed with the gift of remembering the beginning of a paragraph by the time they get to the end of it, that would probably indicate that I was talking about the Guardian article that Hoyland had just referenced (written in 2004 by David Batty), which was part of a side discussion about "transsexual regret", and the Guardian's handling of transgender reporting and commentary.

Feel free to flag that entire conversation as a derail, if you'd like - it starts here. And, if you ever need help reading something in future, just drop me a line - I'd be happy to help!
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:18 AM on May 27, 2012


Also, I seriously doubt any non-rigidly heirarchical society could survive long in the event of widespread normalization/tolerance of cannibalism. Because a society can't cohere for very long if you have to wonder if everyone you meet might be tempted to eat you--we all know that appetites ae unruly, potentially dangerous things. To tolerate thr appetite for human flesh is to foster mistrust and social paranoia; how are you supposed to trust members of your own species who might literally come to view you as prey?

Feel free to flag that entire conversation as a derail,

Wouldn't dream of it. I just thought it was funny that you were discussing the political angles and your user name is so fitting--really only meant to use your comment as a point of departure for my comment, not to directly criticize your comment, ROSF.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:27 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


As an inveterate and incorrigible mixer of metaphors myself, I feel compelled to acknowledge the transcendent aptness of this masterpiece of the genre:
^What I did learn is just how weak the science is in this area, and from reading this article, just how personally and politically dangerous it can be for scientists to tread in these waters.
Well done.
posted by jamjam at 10:48 AM on May 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


The scrotum was surprisingly even harder and more rubbery than the penis, but tasteless.

Commonly the result of poorly prepared squid as well.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:54 AM on May 27, 2012


Oh, sorry, saulgoodman - it seemed rather from your switch from quoting what I had written about the treatment of transgender issues in the national press to this case, and your mirroring of the language used, that you were equating transgender issues in general with this specific case, which would have been problematic on a number of levels, I think. My apologies.

That said:

Also, I seriously doubt any non-rigidly heirarchical society could survive long in the event of widespread normalization/tolerance of cannibalism. Because a society can't cohere for very long if you have to wonder if everyone you meet might be tempted to eat you--we all know that appetites ae unruly, potentially dangerous things.

Japan doesn't have laws against eating human flesh (or in this case offal), and it seems to be holding together as a society - or at least, doing so about as well as most other developed nations. What it does have are laws against most of the things that would, ultimately, lead to the availability of human flesh to eat. This is about the same as the United States, I believe - there is no federal law specifically prohibiting cannibalism, but there are certainly laws about murder and also laws about the correct treatment of corpses, making it very unlikely that one would be able to eat human flesh in a manner that was legal.

See the case of Armin Meiwes in Germany - he killed and ate a man, at the man's request. What he did was clearly illegal. There is a question about whether he should have been tried for murder or for "killing by request", certainly, but it was never in doubt that what he was doing was illegal - both killing the man and defiling the corpse. If you came upon a dead person and ate part of them, this would likewise be defiling a corpse. If you attempted to eat a person's arm without their consent, it would be at the very least assault. If you attempted to eat their arm with their consent, that would probably depend on whether they were judged competent to give consent, and secondarily whether the local legal code believed that consent could be given to an action of that kind.

(Regina versus Coney, for example, established a precedent in British law that consent was not in itself sufficient protection against a conviction for bodily harm - in that case, in bare-knuckle boxing. Cannibalism is also illegal in British law, however, so that's possibly a moot point.)

The question of a society in which cannibalism is tolerated or normalized seems to be a long way from this case, in which the eating of a human body part was due to an incredibly rare set of circumstances and was described by at least one of those who paid for it as a "once in a lifetime experience" - which does not seem like an unreasonable statement, since most people go through their lives without ever eating human flesh, or indeed wanting to eat human flesh.

This is such an unusual case, requiring such a specific set of circumstances, that it's probably pointless to try to divine any particular social weather from it, or seek to prevent future manifestations of the same situation on social grounds, I suspect.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:07 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Saulgoodman, I was in the middle of typing a lengthy response to your comment above when I realized how much time I was spending arguing against someone who seems to think that allowing someone to voluntarily have their genitals removed and then allowing willing people to consume said genitals will necessarily lead to widespread fear of being cannibalized by strangers on the street and I just sort of threw my hands up in exasperation.

If you can't see the slippery slope fallacy in your argument, you need to look a bit more closely.
posted by Scientist at 11:14 AM on May 27, 2012


What I did learn is just how weak the science is in this area, and from reading this article, just how personally and politically dangerous it can be for scientists to tread in these waters.

From reading that article, I have the distinct impression Bailey wasn't engaging in science (nor was he claiming to be doing so). Or, apparently, listening to his subjects.

Can you elaborate in what way the science is weak? The obvious potential weakness I see is that the sample sizes are necessarily small, but I don't know enough about study design to know how small is too small for the sorts of analysis they're doing. Otherwise, it seems 'Was transition a bad thing?' has been asked in most of the ways I can think of.
posted by hoyland at 11:19 AM on May 27, 2012


Cooking and selling the removed body part is what presumably makes this go beyond a gender identity issue for you

Yep, he cooked and sold, other people bought and ate!
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2012


Sure, which makes this an unusual case - and is one of the things which makes it a significant outlier in terms of trying to draw any useful conclusions about anything apart from there being some extreme outliers in large populations in re: having or eating one's own or someone else's bits.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:59 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


If it "just feels wrong" to you, that's a clue that you're not thinking. Usually it's a good idea to listen and learn, instead of broadcast your non-thoughts. Or, as I often say, "If you just want to say 'just', you are probably just wrong."

Seriously, who said you had a moral right to judge something of this nature, anyway? As long as we're all sitting and judging, lets judge folks that think they have any business expressing moral opinions about another man's junk.

See, THIS is the root of the problem. You're all SO progressive! But you aren't, because like every right-wing lunatic, you still think you have business casting moral judgements about another man's junk. And with it, probably other areas of a person's private affairs that are better left private.

It's the culture. Really, it is. But that being said, it doesn't make you immune. You're infected with your own culture. Like a disease, sometimes. And we all know, when it comes to sex, American culture is one sick puppy. Oh, not American? Okay. But the internet is infected with American culture. You can get it second-hand, although usually in a less virulent form.

It just feels wrong. Yup. It feels sick as shit, I'm with you there. But that's completely irrelevant.
posted by Goofyy at 12:30 PM on May 27, 2012


Well, I've seen some fucked up threads in Metafilter but this one surely takes the cake.
posted by gertzedek at 12:36 PM on May 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


If it "just feels wrong" to you, that's a clue that you're not thinking. Usually it's a good idea to listen and learn, instead of broadcast your non-thoughts.

Feelings, or "non-thoughts" if you prefer that term, have value. They are part of the human condition, and many people find it worthwhile to discuss them. Personally, I find it odd to see somebody suggest that they shouldn't be shared or discussed. I don't think they're irrelevant. I think they are interesting and pertinent.
posted by red clover at 1:00 PM on May 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's nice and understandable that you think murder is inherently wrong, but what's the issue there, if we're just meat and removing emotions from the equations. People gotta eat or want nice things. If you have those nicer things, why not just kill you and take thme? What does consent have to do it?


The difference between sex and rape, or a doctor performing an operating versus a psychopath cutting out people's limbs? That is what it has to do with it. Obviously.

The people involved are all consenting adults; frankly it isn't much of my business what they want to do, and nor does it affect me in any way. I don't want people to eat my penis, and my plan to avoid that is

a) not cut it off;
b) not invite people to eat it.

What's your issue?
posted by jaduncan at 1:02 PM on May 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


*performing an operating
or
*performing an operation

Take your pick.
posted by jaduncan at 1:04 PM on May 27, 2012


Has someone made the "junk food" joke yet? Because I mean, really: junk food.
posted by chavenet at 3:42 PM on May 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


chavenet, I do believe you got there first, which means you win a prize. You want it rare or well-done?
posted by localroger at 4:33 PM on May 27, 2012


I suppose the Fore people of Papua New Guinea could have thought they'd get something out of eating each others brains, too-- and in a way, they were right.

When I Googled 'prions testicles', I got some interesting results:
Dynamic expression of the prion-like protein Doppel in ovine testicular tissue.

The prion-like Doppel protein (Dpl) has many biochemical and structural properties in common with the cellular prion protein (PrPc), and the physiological role of neither protein is known. Experimental data suggest either direct or indirect interaction between the two proteins. In this study, we investigated the expression pattern and biochemical characteristics of Dpl in human tissues and in Chinese hamster ovary cells transfected with wild-type or variant human Dpl gene constructs. Human Dpl appears to be a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored glycoprotein withN- and O-linked sugars. It was found on Sertoli cells in the testis, on the flagella of epididymal and mature spermatozoa, and in seminal plasma.

The Human “Prion-like” Protein Doppel Is Expressed in Both Sertoli Cells and Spermatozoa*

The Doppel (Dpl) and Prion (PrP) proteins show 25% sequence identity and share
several structural features with only minor differences.

Doppel is the first identified homologue of the prion protein (PrPc) implicated in prion
disease.
posted by jamjam at 7:23 PM on May 27, 2012


I'm a little confused about the testicles. The article says "a sliced testicle with the look and texture of sea urchin sushi". The photo looks, well, like sea urchin in a testicle-shaped shell. But people eat testicles from cows and sheep pretty frequently. And they aren't soft. They're firm, firmer than sweetbreads, kind of chewy really. I'm a little skeptical.
posted by Nelson at 7:58 PM on May 27, 2012


I've had ram testicles, and the texture is what you remember more than the taste. The skin is thin and rubbery, while the interior is crumbly and spongy. Probably one of the more horrific texture combinations I've ever encountered in food, and yes, I have had raw oysters.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:06 PM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frank and beans
Meat and two veg

I must stop now before a list of bad puns occurs
posted by Merlin The Happy Pig at 8:19 PM on May 27, 2012


You're infected with your own culture. Like a disease, sometimes. And we all know, when it comes to sex, American culture is one sick puppy.

Hey, what right do you have to talk about my culture in that way? Bigot!
posted by Jimbob at 8:21 PM on May 27, 2012


What does consent have to do it?

Everything.

Seriously, I don't see why you refuse to understand that.


But we're throwing out social stigma and other such things, so what does consent have to do with it?

The people involved are all consenting adults; frankly it isn't much of my business what they want to do, and nor does it affect me in any way. I don't want people to eat my penis, and my plan to avoid that is

a) not cut it off;
b) not invite people to eat it.

What's your issue?


The idea that as long as it's consenting adults, this is ok. I wonder how far people would follow that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:26 PM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Boy this slope sure is slippery!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:32 PM on May 27, 2012


Probably too much blood, should have used a professional!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:55 PM on May 27, 2012


The idea that as long as it's consenting adults, this is ok. I wonder how far people would follow that.

Well, rather more to the point, it's a series of legal actions. The removal was legal. The cooking was legal, the selling of tickets was legal, the eating was legal - and so on. There isn't really a need to consider consent, in this case - beyond the signing of the consent forms, which are about indemnity.

Compare Regina versus Brown in the UK, in which a group of men were convicted of "unlawful and malicious wounding" and "actual bodily harm", despite the wounding in question being done with the full consent of the recipient in the context of sadomasochistic sex. The court decided that consent was not in itself a sufficient defence against accusations under the Offences Against the Person Act (1861).

On the other hand, consider the case of Chris Burden (whose art pieces include Shoot, in which he was shot in the arm by an assistant, and Trans-fixed, where he had nails hammered through his hands as he lay on a VW Beetle) or that of Bob Flanagan, who on one occasion hammered a nail through his membrum virile while telling jokes. There are similar examinations of physical limitation and/or vulnerability by Marina Abramovic, Bruce Naumann, Yoko Ono - pretty mainstream artistic figures.

In the case of Sukiyama, nobody experienced pain or violence against their person - in that sense, it actually resembles a crime (that is, something against a prosecution for which consent might be offered as a defence) considerably less than something like Shoot.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:29 PM on May 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Sugiyama, rather.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:31 PM on May 27, 2012


You know, I'm very comfortable with myself as meat. As I think about it, it's interesting that I'm more disgusted at the idea of eating my lover's body than the body of a stranger. Then, of course, the usual cultural stuff and personal taste stuff applies - that the meal is obviously badly prepared, that the balls are still hairy, that it's not muscle but offal.

But I am far more horrified at the idea of eating the body part of someone who's still alive than I am of eating dead-person meat. I think it does have something to do with consent, and with certain boundaries about embodiment and identity: people who are willing to treat parts of their bodies as so alien, so removed, that they're capable of reducing them to meat are really, really dysmorphic. His fry-ip was just two weeks from his surgery. Those body parts never seemed a real part of him to HIM, but to justify serving them up as meat, and charging 100K yen, they had to seem like something special - healthy human flesh - to him and his buyers.

So maybe if he'd had a cooling-off period, if this didn't seem so much an unhealthy part of his process of ridding himself of the body parts that made him feel wrong? Maybe I would be less repelled? There's something about that brief timespan, about the self-hatred implicit in it, that really gets to me. Maybe it seems coercive (certainly I think the precedent of selling one's body parts as meat is a bad one, since humans will do ANYTHING for money and it looks like a short jump to selling other people's bodies as meat. And slippery slope, yes, but how much farther can you imagine this slope goes?)
posted by gingerest at 12:40 AM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I Googled 'prions testicles', I got some interesting results

Granted, spermatozoa are not the same cells that make up testicles, and prion-like proteins like Doppel aren't necessarily guaranteed to make their way into semen (though not impossible), but one could imagine that, with all the oral sex that is likely going on at any given moment anywhere in the world, it would have been likely that someone would have discovered such a hypothetical prion-like neurodegenerative disease that is caused by it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:04 AM on May 28, 2012


The idea that as long as it's consenting adults, this is ok. I wonder how far people would follow that.

OK, where do you identify the harm?

A) If we accept that the removal was legal (and it is common for gender reassignment, so it seems hard to argue that asexuality should be respected less as a choice), then is this what you claim is unethical? Who are you to say the removal didn't have a hugely positive effect on this man?
B) If not point a then you're going to have to construct a harm based purely around the method of disposal of the dead meat. Who is harmed here more than if the meat was incinerated?

I personally require more than a feeling that something is not to my taste to ban it; I personally find adult babies and hot metal branding aren't for me, but you might and I support your right to do so.

Who here is the victim who must be protected from harm?
posted by jaduncan at 3:17 AM on May 28, 2012


I see a lot of affirmations and reaffirmations of disgust responses and moral reasoning that is clearly motivated by it. Again, I say that I think a large portion of people reason primarily from their gut intuition (which is clearly based, at least in large part, upon cultural mores) whether they are fully aware of this or not, and some of us do not. Those who do are suspicious of those of us who do not, because it seems unnatural. And, really, it is. It's at least quite unusual.

I'm never that bothered by people being the way that people are (including myself). What really bothers me, though, is reasoning that claims to be one thing but is really another. If someone wants to argue that their gut response is a clue to something objective that supports their position, that's fine, because it just might be so. However, there's something deeply ironic about a progressive doing this because such arguments are always immediately suspect and usually dimissed out-of-hand by such progressives when they're used by conservatives. Many, many people are quite certain that their homophobic disgust reaction to homosexuality is evidence of some objective fact about homosexuality that supports an argument against it. And because they feel this in their gut, they know they're in the right. That's why people like Orson Scott Card or whomever will just swap out one apparently rational homophobic argument for another when confronted by contradictory evidence against the first. They already know what is true: their gut reaction is telling them what's true.

In my previous comment, I think I attempted to explicitly allow for the possibility that this guy may well be unhealthy and his behavior pathological. It is far outside of normal behavior of his native culture and that's a not-insignificant sign of possible maladjustment and pathology. But few here are very excited about using that as any sort of a litmus test because, as people who are predominantly progressive, people here are well aware that being non-conformist, sometimes radically so, is not necessarily a sign of mental illness. It's self-serving and awfully convenient to rush to judgment in one case, and oppose any such judgment in another, with only your own gut reaction and your own personal experience about what's "normal" and "abnormal" to distinguish them.

Furthermore, one thing that we all can do is rather than to mindlessly accept our gut-driven disgust-centric moral intuition, we instead query it; we question it and think about it and be rightly suspicious of it. Because history shows that it's at least as often an unreliable guide as it is a reliable guide. Disgust reactions are a sort of data, no doubt. But they should be only one piece of data and we should evaluate an entire issue while keeping quite a distance from those reactions because they're so unambiguously prejudicial.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:50 AM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ivan: an apposite quote from Shaw:

THEODOTUS: Caesar: you are a stranger here, and not conversant with our laws. The kings and queens of Egypt may not marry except with their own royal blood. Ptolemy and Cleopatra are born king and consort just as they are born brother and sister.
BRITANNUS (shocked): Caesar: this is not proper.
THEODOTUS (outraged): How!
CAESAR (recovering his self-possession): Pardon him. Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.
posted by jaduncan at 3:56 AM on May 28, 2012


By the way, if you consider other omnivores and carnivores you'll quickly see that the notion that the taboo against cannibalism is some sort of natural defense against prion contagion is an example of a "just so" story that proves nothing but seems to rationalize prevailing convention. In this regard it's exactly like so much bad evolutionary psychology and, again, it's ironic to see this sort of reasoning from people who otherwise are probably suspicious of EP reasoning categorically.

Not that it's necessarily evolutionary — the argument may be that it's simply cultural. But then, again, if you are going to be scientifically-minded about this (and not just have a convenient veneer of scientific respectability) then because you're assuming that the health risk is strong enough to produce very strong cultural taboos, then you are forced to assume that this health risk must also necessarily be at play in natural selection. Then you're forced to explain why all such risk of prion infection via cannibalistic nervous-system tissue hasn't caused an aversion for all omnivores and carnivores. Because it hasn't.

That's not to say that the risk doesn't exist. But claiming that it is either the source or the rationalization of the taboo against cannibalism is very poor and opportunistic reasoning.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:00 AM on May 28, 2012


That's an interesting example, jaduncan, because I've been a little annoyed lately at the display of conventional wisdom regarding the incest in Game of Thrones. Just as the prion example, and in your more generalized custom==laws-of-nature example, people take their pre-existing biases and rationalize them according to prevailing standards. These days, it's in the form of science. Thus, a lot of the awful EP (and, incidentally, I'm not opposed to EP as a field and am inclined to defend it from those who are inclined to think of human behavior as being somehow not very evolutionary determined) stuff that attempts to demonstrate how convention is really just the product of evolutionary selection (and implicitly, by the what-is-natural-is-right brand of moral reasoning, and is therefore justified).

In the case of incest, all of the disgust reactions have been rationalized into "it's wrong because inbreeding creates horrible, awful, deformed people who may be horrible, awful, and deformed only internally...nonetheless, the disgust I feel reflects something objective about the spawn of incest". It's scientific!

But that's not really the science, as any animal breeder knows. A lot of recessive traits can be deleterious, of course. But many can be positive and that's a core principle of breeding. But in the common misunderstanding these days, there's a notion that inbreeding is precisely equivalent to decay, brokenness, devolution, whatever. That it's necessarily the case that inbreeding produces something that is worse, not better and not the same (whatever those words might mean) than the parents. That's very much not true but the fact that this is the common misunderstanding tells you a great deal about the social psychology of taboo. Disgust equals moral condemnation and that condemnation is rationalized according to the strongest, most prevalent paradigm available. Before, it was religion. Lately, it's science.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:15 AM on May 28, 2012


The idea that as long as it's consenting adults, this is ok. I wonder how far people would follow that.

OK, where do you identify the harm?

A) If we accept that the removal was legal (and it is common for gender reassignment, so it seems hard to argue that asexuality should be respected less as a choice), then is this what you claim is unethical? Who are you to say the removal didn't have a hugely positive effect on this man?
B) If not point a then you're going to have to construct a harm based purely around the method of disposal of the dead meat. Who is harmed here more than if the meat was incinerated?


Excellent points and thanks for bringing them and not assuming I'm here to twist your brain to my thinking.

A. Ethics wise, how often is it that discarded body parts are returned to the person? Society intervenes in the case of person wanting to commit suicide, or to do self harm. When a person wants to change their sex, society intervenes and depends they think about it and examined to be in, for lack of a better term, sane state of mine. Was such venting done here, with the full knowledge of the doctors that the patient wanted to cut off his genitals and either eat them himself or feed them to others?

B. In America, there's usually safety regulations and standards for getting, storing and preparing meat for human consumption. Is it different in Japan, are there no food safety regulations there? Did anyone ascertain whether the food was safe for humans?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:28 AM on May 28, 2012


Again, how do you feel about folks who eat placenta?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:32 AM on May 28, 2012


Excellent points and thanks for bringing them and not assuming I'm here to twist your brain to my thinking.

Oh Brandon, I think we've both been in the same threads enough to know that mutually enjoyable plates of beans appear in many areas.

So it seems to me you have identified two possible harms:

a) The issue with S' state of mind, since S has requested that his genitalia are removed. I would agree with you that this is extremely important, and indeed I'd go back to my statement that consent is required. Knowing consent can't be given by the insane, which puts us rather in agreement that an insane person shouldn't be operated on lightly. This is therefore a rather short conversation if we don't at least hypothetically assume that S is sane. I obviously don't know the details of the medical interventions and checks before operation, but we agree on this point.

b) On a similar note, let us say that the meat was safe. Intentionally poisoning people who do not wish to be poisoned seems extremely unethical, and it is not reported that any sickness resulted from consumption of the penis.

If we assume the points in a & b, do you still have a problem with it? I'm really wondering if your objection is a matter of practicalities or some wider moral unease to do with social mores.

We can, for instance, construct an alternate hypothetical where S had a penis removed after an accident before he decided to sell it for consumption if this helps.
posted by jaduncan at 8:27 AM on May 28, 2012


That it's necessarily the case that inbreeding produces something that is worse, not better and not the same (whatever those words might mean) than the parents. That's very much not true

Charles II of Spain disagrees with you.
posted by gertzedek at 10:07 AM on May 28, 2012


What part of "not necessarily the case" did you not understand? Again, if it were the case that inbreeding always or almost always results in unwell offspring, then animal breeding would be much different than it actually is. What actually happens is that inbreeding results in the expression of both negative and positive traits that would otherwise not be expressed because they're recessive.

The important point is that the common notion that inbreeding inherently and necessarily results in some (that people is assume is) genetic degradation is false.

All that's happening is that inbreeding increases the expression of recessive traits. Many recessive traits are deleterious because, being recessive, they're not subject to as strong negative selection as are dominant traits. But pretty much all of the positive traits we like in domesticated animals are the result of inbreeding, too. Outbreeding moves toward the mean, inbreeding to the extremes. Some extremes are bad. Some are good.

What's happened is that people have, consciously and unconsciously, taken the modern scientific explanation of recessive illness resulting from inbreeding and used that as a morality tale about incest. When in the past they would have seen the children as marked/damaged in a religious/supernatural sense, today they see them marked/damaged in a scientific sense.

It's no accident that a moral critique of a group of people (a royal family, or a localized population) is often tied to prevalence of illness resulting from inbreeding as if the two were interchangable. It's implicit that the physical illness is the outward sign of an inner, moral illness...which naturally both results from and is caused by the sin of inbreeding.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:19 AM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


chavenet, I do believe you got there first, which means you win a prize. You want it rare or well-done?
posted by localroger at 4:33 PM on May 27 [+] [!]


I like fast food. In this case, if this is the food, I will fast.
posted by chavenet at 3:20 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Japan doesn't have laws against eating human flesh (or in this case offal), and it seems to be holding together as a society - or at least, doing so about as well as most other developed nations.

Speaking of careful reading RoSF, you'll note on review I made no mention of 'law' in the comment you're responding to; my point regarded only social tolerance and cultural acceptance. Unless Japanese culture is broadly accepting of cannibalism, the point stands. Otherwise, this is not a discussion worth this much more of my time.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:55 PM on May 28, 2012


(Meaning, my particular side-line, not the whole thread, to be clear.)
posted by saulgoodman at 3:58 PM on May 28, 2012


Speaking of careful reading RoSF, you'll note on review I made no mention of 'law' in the comment you're responding to; my point regarded only social tolerance and cultural acceptance. Unless Japanese culture is broadly accepting of cannibalism, the point stands. Otherwise, this is not a discussion worth this much more of my time.

I realize that sometimes the urge to score a point is strong. But you've misread your own post, impressively: you didn't say "social tolerance" - merely "tolerance". Societies deal with things they do not tolerate in a number of means, including legislation. If you just meant that cannibalism should be frowned upon - well, I don't know where you live, but around here it already is. So, probably best to refer you back to Scientist's response:

Saulgoodman, I was in the middle of typing a lengthy response to your comment above when I realized how much time I was spending arguing against someone who seems to think that allowing someone to voluntarily have their genitals removed and then allowing willing people to consume said genitals will necessarily lead to widespread fear of being cannibalized by strangers on the street and I just sort of threw my hands up in exasperation.

Your thesis that this interaction between six people is a step towards society developing an insatiable taste for human flesh, to the point where you can't interact with someone without worrying that they are going to try to eat you, is maybe more about your feelings about eating human flesh than those of society as a whole.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:11 PM on May 28, 2012


Saulgoodman, I was in the middle of typing a lengthy response to your comment above when I realized how much time I was spending arguing against someone who seems to think that allowing someone to voluntarily have their genitals removed and then allowing willing people to consume said genitals will necessarily lead to widespread fear of being cannibalized by strangers on the street and I just sort of threw my hands up in exasperation.

I think you underestimate the urge to equality. If you allow that a small number of elect can engage in some activity that we know would otherwise be unacceptable as a social norm writ large, then you invite the interest and create a sense of indignity and injustice or fear and suspicion among everyone who isn't among that elect.

It's a recipe for social instability to imagine we shouldn't continue to endorse this taboo as a taboo, in my opinion. You're free to disagree, scientist, but I believe very much in a very general sense in the categorical imperative (among other ethical principles that may sometimes exist in tension to that commitment): if it's not permissible or sustainable for everyone to engage in a particular culinary practice on a widespread basis, is it ethical for some to be elected to a chosen few, knowing that some must be excluded in order to sustain the practice? I don't believe so, but you're free to disagree.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:42 PM on May 28, 2012


It's a recipe for social instability to imagine we shouldn't continue to endorse this taboo as a taboo, in my opinion. You're free to disagree, scientist, but I believe very much in a very general sense in the categorical imperative (among other ethical principles that may sometimes exist in tension to that commitment): if it's not permissible or sustainable for everyone to engage in a particular culinary practice on a widespread basis, is it ethical for some to be elected to a chosen few, knowing that some must be excluded in order to sustain the practice? I don't believe so, but you're free to disagree.

So, what you're saying is that if we allow people to have their dicks cut off and served to willing patrons, everyone will want to do it, lest they be left out of the dick chopping party?

Do you really not see how crazy that is?

I think you underestimate the urge to equality. If you allow that a small number of elect can engage in some activity that we know would otherwise be unacceptable as a social norm writ large, then you invite the interest and create a sense of indignity and injustice or fear and suspicion among everyone who isn't among that elect.

Congratulations. You are now Anita Bryant.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:56 PM on May 28, 2012


Erm, that is: ...knowing that some most must be excluded in order to sustain the practice?
posted by saulgoodman at 5:56 PM on May 28, 2012


Hold up, saulgoodman - are you saying that you don't eat beef or pork? Only, regular consumption of beef and pork is a privilege enjoyed only by an industrialised west through intensive meat farming, and to the wealthy of other nations. If you think that beef, pork and human flesh should all be abstained from, because we can't sustainably have everyone eating them on a regular basis, that is at least consistent...
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:04 PM on May 28, 2012


Sys Rq: No, I'm saying if we were all to look at this now and discuss it, saying, "hey, that's cool, socially healthy behavior more people should be trying out to broaden their horizons," then that would be a dumb thing to say, and so I am saying the opposite of that. My comments are strictly restricted to social approval, what I think general social attitudes toward this sort of thing ought to be, and whether or not this particular case is really a culturally meaningful or significant thing, BTW. I'm not advocating any books or stones be thrown at anyone here.

I'm just of the view it's a cheap carnival show stunt, not something that resonates with or even remotely touches on the more serious gender identity issues some would like to identify it with. To me, this case doesn't have any broader relevance at all, it's just an isolated freak show occurrence that doesn't have any real political dimension save as a political purity test for a certain stripe of confused political fringe-dwelling

No, I don't eat beef or pork, actually, but that's beside the point.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:09 PM on May 28, 2012


I also don't eat any seafood.

I wouldn't eat chicken or turkey, but dammit, I can't help myself. Compulsions, obviously, aren't moral choices that need defending. But medical issues that need treatment.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:11 PM on May 28, 2012


(So I'm waiting on lab meat to save me from myself. Human lab meat, too, would be wrong, according to the same basic argument, IMO. Sorry. Thank god you've got a mind of your own that you can make up differently and are liberal enough to tolerate a diversity of opinion.)
posted by saulgoodman at 6:13 PM on May 28, 2012


ahem. "...a certain stripe of confused political fringe-dwelling puritan."
posted by saulgoodman at 6:16 PM on May 28, 2012


Man, you do like that "political purity test" phrase. Thing is, I don't think this is a political issue, in particular. Hardcore libertarians would presumably be perfectly happy for Sugiyama to have whatever surgery he could afford, and to do whatever he liked with the offcuts. Many libertarians have some sort of point at which they do want the state to intervene - often around abortion - but in its purest form I can't see why libertarianism would object.

And, really, throwing "puritan" in there is just even more confusing. You do know what puritans are, right?

I think, fundamentally, the issue is this: you seem to believe that human flesh is incredibly tempting, and if we let down our guard for a moment we will all be eating each other all the time. Others see this case as such an outlier that the chance of it having any material effect on the likelihood of anyone in the world eating human flesh, or wanting to eat human flesh, is too minute to be worth calculating. A lot depends, I think, on how exciting the thought of eating human flesh is for the individual. Most people just don't want to eat human flesh, so they don't.

You can tie that into the categorical imperative if you like, but I don't think Kant really thought of it as a dieting tool.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:27 PM on May 28, 2012


Thing is, I don't think this is a political issue, in particular.

I agree. Is it still not clear that's meant to be my point? It's only an issue with political dimensions to a certain kind of "puritan" who holds an absolute commitment to an extremely abstract and unqualified conception of personal freedom. I think where I got this muddled up, for my part, was that I mistakenly took your original comment to be addressing the political dimensions of this story that some previous comments up-thread addressed. Oops.

you seem to believe that human flesh is incredibly tempting, and if we let down our guard for a moment we will all be eating each other all the time.

No, I don't think that. I think that if we go around creating a culture that actively celebrates or normalizes cannibalism, that culture might eventually become self-reinforcing, and yes, I do think even flesh-eating could be made to seem appealing given the right set of cultural conditions. Human flesh is meat like any other, presumably. Whether it's appalling or appealing on a purely sensory level would be up to preparation like any other dish.

It would seem perfectly obvious to me that most "normal" people wouldn't develop a taste for raw fish in the absence of some set of particular cultural or environmental pressures encouraging it, and yet, Japan proves otherwise (although being an island, I guess there's a case for the geography bearing on that practice).

If you're arguing that we're all basically self-generating and immune to having our tastes and appetites shaped by dominant cultural norms, then I think we've parted ways intellectually. As for the extent this story "worries" me about everyone (myself included) suddenly craving that particular forbidden fruit, it doesn't. I'm not completely unfamiliar with the scholarship around social taboos, and I get the manipulative little grace note you're trying to pluck with that offensive implied analogy between homophobia and the social condemnation of cannibalism, but trust me, there aren't many taboos that have a deep, visceral grip on me anymore (maybe a few, but cannibalism isn't among them). My reaction here is driven by certain personal philosophical commitments and ethical reasoning, not blind, un-examined emotional prejudice as you're remarks here lead me to believe you're assuming on my part, although it's only natural you'd assume my reaction was fear-driven, as that's the whole point of ever bringing up cannibalism in the first place, to showcase one's one fearless commitment to rationality above sentiment; but forget all that woolly nonsense about the sacred and the profane and yadda, yadda, yadda. All I am saying, and all I have ever been saying is, either get clinical help or get a life, all parties involved.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:05 PM on May 28, 2012


(...Because, in case it still wasn't clear enough, I think they could all stand the benefits of either one or the other.)
posted by saulgoodman at 7:08 PM on May 28, 2012


I get the manipulative little grace note you're trying to pluck with that offensive implied analogy between homophobia and the social condemnation of cannibalism

This is the weirdest thing you've said so far, which, given that we've wandered off onto the normality of sashimi, is pretty impressive. Homophobia what?

All I am saying, and all I have ever been saying is, either get clinical help or get a life, all parties involved.

Fair enough (although it's clear that Sugiyama did get clinical help - hence the whole situation existing in the first place). But does the same apply to Chris Burden, or Bob Flanagan, or Robert Mapplethorpe, or Chris Burden, or Marina Abramovic, or Yoko Ono? Or, for that matter, Carolee Schneeman, whose interior scroll deals with elements of the abject in a relatable way? Is it possible that you just don't think performance art in general has value?
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:07 PM on May 28, 2012


I really disagree that tolerating this event is any kind of significant blow to the status quo in which people generally don't get their genitals removed and people generallly don't eat human flesh. I don't think there's any need to artificially restrict these practices through the kind of aggressive taboo policing that your categorical imperative seems to be arguing for, as I think that it's sort of self-limiting in that most people want absolutely no part of this stuff. I really am having a hard time conceiving of a plausible scenario in which Sugiyama's actions lead to an epidemic of castration and cannibalism. Suffice it to say that I do not find your arguments at all convincing. I think this very discussion shows that the relevant taboos are working just fine.
posted by Scientist at 10:18 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it ok to be a doctor, given that a society of all doctors wouldn't be sustainable? If we apply the categorical imperative to professions, it would seem the only allowable one is subsistence farmer.
posted by Pyry at 12:02 AM on May 29, 2012


There seems to be some use of "categorical imperative" here that I'm not familiar with, though I think in saulgoodman's original use of it, I can connect the dots.

I do think this is political insofar as anyone is making the claim, as saulgoodman is, that there's some obvious bright-line based upon some obvious political distinction they're defending when they assert "what this guy did was wrong" but then can't really defend that line on any other basis than "it's yucky". Most cultural conservative reasoning against culturally progressive practices amount to "it's yucky" and if your critique of something amounts to that, then you're more like a cultural conservative than not.

True, saulgoodman seems to be making (by invoking the categorical imperative! which is weird if not perverse!) some sort of utilitarian argument here that failing to maintain a taboo against cannibalism will lead to Unspecified Bad Things. But then, that's also exactly how cultural conservatives argue: they start with the "yuck" and then move on to the "hell-in-a-handbasket" rationalization.

And, not coincidentally, I am extremely offended at being implicitly accused of being a useful idiot of cultural conservatives. Mostly, I suppose I'd say that the animosity is mutual. For example, whenever I hear someone saying, "no one in their right mind believes that there's any similarity between gay marriage and polygamy because no one in their right mind would defend the latter" I think to myself, "ah, this is one of those people who would have been arguing back in the civil rights era that no one in their right mind would argue that there's any connection between desegregation and miscegenation and that anyone who argues for the latter in relation to the arguments with the former must be a useful idiot who is undermining the whole cause of civil rights." Because, you know, one thing is an example of enlightened reason and the other is yucky. The difference is obvious to every one who isn't insane.

I don't have a problem with drawing a line somewhere in the face of ambiguity because we usually do have to draw such lines. I don't have a problem with there being, inevitably, some place where a line is drawn that differentiates a culturally progressive position and one that is so outre that it's considered outrageous. That's fine, that's human nature and the inevitable bow to practicality. What annoys the hell out of me is the claim that wherever one draws the line is some sort of necessary, self-evident and supremely rational place to draw the line and everyone who disagrees is a fool, or deluded, or insane, or dishonest. I associate such glib and self-serving reasoning with cultural conservatives and while I know that it's pretty much the reasoning of cultural progressives, too, I don't like to be reminded of that. Because I naively hold on to my wish that progressives were better than this.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:19 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it ok to be a doctor, given that a society of all doctors wouldn't be sustainable? If we apply the categorical imperative to professions, it would seem the only allowable one is subsistence farmer.

To be fair, the categorical imperative is a moral rule, and subsistence farming or doctoring are not moral actions in themselves, so I don't think the CI would state that everyone has to be a subsistence farmer. "I wish to be able to eat, to avoid death" is a hypothetical imperative, as is "I wish to work, to earn money to eat". "I wish to eat, so I will kill this man and steal his money" would be a hypothetical imperative which would violate a categorical imperative about killing.

I think things get trickier depending on how you think this particular act is a moral one, which I think is where saulgoodman is getting into trouble. Many forms of anthropophagy would be morally unjustifiable under the CI - because they would involve hurting or killing another human being. However, to conclude that the categorical imperative is thus "one should never eat human flesh" is a misunderstanding of how categorical imperatives work, I think.

Fundamentally, the categorical imperative ties into Kant's theory of practical reason- that human beings are rational beings, and can apply reason even to earthly matters. Following the categorical imperative requires respecting other rational beings as ends in themselves, not as means to an end. So, killing someone in order to eat their flesh would be treating them as a means (to dinner), not an end in themselves. However, in this case it's much harder to work out what the means and the ends are.

Where saulgoodman gets into trouble, I think, is that he both wants to define this as "an isolated freak show occurrence" - something that will not reoccur in a numerically meaningful way - and define it as the instantiation of an undesirable trend (towards more people eating human flesh) and a violation of a form of rational moral code. He also wants to lock down that there is no possible reason why this happened except for his posit - that it is "a contrived, deliberately provocative for no real purpose thing to do".

(Whether it is intuitive that somebody would remove their own genitals just to get attention is another question.)

That is, ironically, saul is violating a tenet of Kantian morality - to treat other humans as rational entities - and instead sees Sugiyama and the diners as a means to this conclusion, without considering their own rational agency.

So, I think the problem here is that actually the categorical imperative is a bit of a red herring - it doesn't apply here, really - or rather, if it applied in the way saul believes it does, we shouldn't be using computers, or wealthy people shouldn't have expensive cars, or both, depending on where you want to draw that line. The categorical imperative is not a normalizing maxim - if something is not a good thing to do in one instance, no part of it is ever a good thing to do. Rather, it is an attempt to encourage people to consider every case on its rational merits while considering the other parties involved as rational entities. (Thus, both Kantian and Old Testament morality say it is wrong to steal, but the process of why is quite different). However, saul did say that he held to this along with other ideas that were in tension with it.

So, I think the problem is, broadly:

1) the argument as advanced denies rational agency on the part of those involved - it posits that they can only be doing this for attention-seeking reasons (which is interesting - arguably, many people do things for attention - act, sing, release albums, have conversations).
2) That this "freak show" argument is sharing traces, awkwardly, with an argument about the social risks of normalizing the eating of human flesh (which I would say it contradicts - but them I am also aware that, pragmatically, I think that people are unlikely to find themselves in a situation where they have to fear omophagous violence from everyone around them - although it may be a useful metaphor for looking at members of society who do regularly fear violence or aggression on the street, for example young women in urban environments or African Americans in hoodies in suburbia).
3) Because of (1), there can be no reason beyond that stated (attention-seeking, freak show ), and therefore no reason not to condemn it, except to assert a fundamentally invalid (to saulgoodman) form of political liberalism - this is where the repeated phrase "political purity test" comes in - if you don't think this is simultaneously not a big deal because attention-seeking and meaningless, a big deal because normalizing eating people, a violation of a rational imperative and a violation of an irrational taboo which should nonetheless be maintained, you can only be failing to do so in order to assert your liberal credentials. Again, there's a failure to see others as rational beings - they are being treated as an end to a preformed conclusion.

This is where I think the questions of e.g. Chris Burden or Bob Flanagan are interesting - they both had radically different relationships with their bodies than I do, and they used those relationships for artistic purposes. I have a feeling that saulgoodman may see all performance art of this kind as fundamentally attention-seeking, in which case the anthropophagous element here is an aggravating factor, but not the only factor. My next question would probably be whether he sees artworks like, say, Andres Serrano's work with human bodily fluids or Robert Mapplethorpe's BDSM-tinged photography as having other possible motivations other than "attention-seeking" - which gets into the difference between art-I-do-not-like and and not-valid-art-at-all.

I think it's sincerely very hard sometimes to acknowledge that something that has no use or meaning to you actually has use or meaning to others. We used to get this on my old message board all the time, although from the other direction - fans of "real" music arguing that people could not possibly objectively or rationally like pop music or mainstream TV, so must be pretending to in order to gather peer approval or achieve a particular self-image.

Personally, I'd say that this is two separate things. One is about an extreme case of body dysmorphia, where a (utilitarian rather than categorical) clinical judgment was presumably reached that, without a managed medical procedure, Sugiyama would either be a suicide risk due to depression or might cause serious self-damage attempting to achieve the same end using home-made methods. The desire to have no genitalia may not itself be rational, but the procedure is the result of individuals seeking to find rational and ethical responses to that situation. Sugiyama was presumably found to be sufficiently rational about his very unusual issue (and had satisfied whatever statutory requirements around counseling, therapy etc) that it would not be illegal to operate - that is, Sugiyama was treating as an en an sich, rather than a means to get the money by performing an unethical surgery.

The other is about a piece of performance art - which is really a question of aesthetics, rather than ethics. There are certainly ways in which they are connected - if Sugiyama had been seeking state (UK) or health insurance (US) funding for gender realignment surgery, the fetishistic nature of the act would be problematic under the Benjamin protocols. But Sugiyama wouldn't fit the protocols anyway, and is not really transitioning. So, yeah.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:49 AM on May 29, 2012


I think you underestimate the urge to equality. If you allow that a small number of elect can engage in some activity that we know would otherwise be unacceptable as a social norm writ large, then you invite the interest and create a sense of indignity and injustice or fear and suspicion among everyone who isn't among that elect.

Apparently one of the methods to get hoi polloi to eat potatoes in Europe was to forbid them to commoners.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:41 AM on May 29, 2012


Apparently one of the methods to get hoi polloi to eat potatoes in Europe was to forbid them to commoners.

My potatoes remain off the menu.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:21 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


What? No mention of Genesis P-Orridge? He went through extensive surgery along with his wife Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge with the intention of creating a single pandrogynous being: Breyer P-Orridge.

I've got to say I'm also pretty surprised at the number of people here who don't seem to believe in individual sovereignty.
posted by nTeleKy at 12:04 PM on May 30, 2012


I've got to say I'm also pretty surprised at the number of people here who don't seem to believe in individual sovereignty.

I hate to take the obvious bait, but you know this is a strawman. You have to. This isn't a matter of individual sovereignty, this is a matter of whether mental illness can compromise informed consent.
posted by kafziel at 12:31 PM on May 30, 2012


It's a strawman army up in here.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:33 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it weird of me that my only reaction upon reading this is to furrow my brow a bit and wonder, "wait, so how does the guy pee now"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:56 PM on June 20, 2012


wait, so how does the guy pee now?

Presumably sitting down. He's not the first guy in history to have this done, and bladder control isn't affected by removing the nozzle.
posted by localroger at 1:56 PM on June 20, 2012


I think I was thrown by the "smooth" adjective, which to me implies also without an....erm, exit port.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:03 PM on June 20, 2012


Sitting down.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:06 PM on June 20, 2012


Wow - that was weird. I just opened this from Recent Activity, commented immediately, and there was like a 12 minute jump in time. Like I'm blacking out, or there was a glitch in the Matrix or something.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:09 PM on June 20, 2012


Lost time, eh? I'm going with "aliens" on this one.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:18 PM on June 20, 2012


That would explain a lot.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:24 PM on June 20, 2012


I think I was thrown by the "smooth" adjective, which to me implies also without an....erm, exit port.

Yes, keeping the, erm, exit port clear of scar tissue and open is part of the necessary hygiene of being full castrata. There is a rather horrific overview of the ramifications in the first chapter of Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt.
posted by localroger at 3:42 PM on June 20, 2012


I'd been wondering which book that was — this is with the kid being castrated and then on the boat? Or was that another book I read involving castration? There was definitely some book I read that went into great detail about keeping the urethra clear while it healed and a little plug thing to do so.

I don't read many books involving castration, honest.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:38 PM on June 20, 2012


Ivan, it was on the boat that he was castrated, but yes it was the opening scene and despite a bit of first-person apologia on KSR's part horrific. I myself would have gone wthout the apologia and said fuck it, it's not like it's a SAW sequel.
posted by localroger at 6:17 PM on June 20, 2012


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