Yasunari Kawabata and What Can You Do With a Sleeping Girl (and why would you do it?)

Because I don’t sleep for the USA Olympic Insomnia  team and am thinking about going pro, I find myself falling down rabbit holes online at 4:23 a.m. You know how it is. Lately I’ve been lucking out and find myself falling down smaller, less tunneling holes.  The rise of what I like to call “weird shit” YouTube channels are a great source for short-term rabbit holes and one of my favorites is Nick Crowley’s channel. He’s covered some of the more time-intensive Baby’s First Late-Night Google Search topics like Dyatlov Pass, Elisa Lam, and Black Eyed Children, but he also branches out into lesser known weirdness.

For extra nightmare fuel, she’s clutching a humanoid-shaped object covered in blood. You’re welcome.

He earned a permanent place in my heart when he was among the first to share the debunk of the extremely messed-up Seattle Zombie Woman story. I’d long suspected it had something to do with medical current events, but I wasn’t sure because it was, frankly, so well done that I couldn’t immediately rule out that she was a gravely wounded woman who had suffered all kinds of abuse, be it at the hands of a maniac in a torture chamber or a maniac in a medical lab.

I wandered a bit into his back catalog a few months ago and caught his two videos on MrSleepyPeople (first video, second video).  The topic weighed on me for a lot longer than I would have expected. Both videos show the actions specifically of the man who was behind the now banned MrSleepyPeople YouTube channel and, in general, others in that bizarre community. As one so often experiences in these sort of “watch me do something taboo behind the scenes” videos, Nick demonstrated an escalation of grossness within the community.

MrSleepyPeople had a catalog of videos that showed he liked to lick – thoroughly lick – the eyeballs and tear ducts of sleeping women. All of the women he featured in his videos were passed out asleep with their similarly unconscious boyfriends next to them. MrSleepyPeople would pry open the females’ eyes, touch their eyeballs and then begin to lick them. It beggared belief that just alcohol intoxication could render the girls so out of it that they did not react when light and wet pressure were applied to their eyeballs, but I suspect other sedatives were at play. Nick also explained that it’s possible, especially if it occurs during certain stages of sleep, to engage in such intrusive behavior without the victim waking. A couple of times the women stirred a bit when he touched their faces and he quickly retreated, but for the most part he was able to lick the eyes of a variety of women without them reacting.

It seems likely from repetition of backgrounds and a certain amount of context that these women knew MrSleepyPeople in some manner, as he had access to their sleeping spaces, as if they became intoxicated in his home and stayed there overnight. There was never any sign he broke into homes to perform his fetish. I wondered too if these women had given him permission to do it. Perhaps they didn’t care what he did to their eyes when they were sleeping. I also wondered if there was a quid pro quo element, trading access to their sleeping eyes for money, drugs, or just a place to crash for a while. I guess it’s possible that these women had given him permission but it seems unlikely because the creepy subterfuge was very much an element of the fun for MrSleepyEyes, as much of it took place in the dark, with other unconscious people. Permission would have spoiled the fun for him.

It’s equally unlikely that these women were actors. Pretend to be asleep knowing someone plans to pry open your eye and lick it for a prolonged period of time and see how long it is before your voluntary neural control shifts into automatic neural control. You can control when you blink, to a point, but the instinct to force the eye shut when lids are pried open or an object is lowered onto the eye is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to control without a lot of conditioning. I doubt these women were subject to such lengthy pre-video conditioning. There was an unexpectedly robust comment section on these videos, and his watchers urged him to do other things to the women, like play with the unconscious women’s feet, or to put his fingers in their mouths or up their noses.

House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories by Yasunari Kawabata

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories

Author:  Yasunari Kawabata

Why I Consider This Book Odd: I knew it was going to be a helluva ride when I recognized the name of the man who wrote the introduction to the book.   The writer Yukio Mishima in 1970, failed to inspire a revolt in the Japanese military and attempted to commit seppuku, a form of ritual suicide via disemboweling.  He was then given the coup de gras and was decapitated by a friend who took part in the attempted rebellion.  When such a man gives the introduction to a book dealing mainly with thanatos, with a little eros thrown in, you’re dealing with a very odd book.  This may be the most deeply odd and disturbing work ever written by a Nobel Laureate, though heaven knows I find more and more incredibly odd works written by unlikely writers.

Type of Work: Fiction

Availability: Originally published in 1961, the copy I read was reissued in 2004 and is still in print.  You can get a copy here:

Comments: I finished this book weeks ago but the spectre of writing a  review completely stalled me.  I kept telling myself to get over here and write but I could not do it.  I don’t know exactly why but I suspect it is because I found this book enthralling and repellent.  Amazing and disgusting.  I consumed it rapidly and wanted then to vomit it back up.  Seldom has a book so engrossed me while leaving me so unhappy.

This book consists of a novella, “House of the Sleeping Beauties,” and two short stories, “One Arm” and “Of Birds and Beasts.”  Each work is horrific, beautiful, sickening and compelling in its own right.

“House of the Sleeping Beauties”:  Again, I find myself at war with other people’s descriptions of  what comprises literary eros.  Evidently, eros means soulless sex involving eggs, as discovered in Story of the Eye, or it means  a misogynistic look at a boring old man’s past encounters with women.  How can a book be an example of eros and thanatos when it is all death and no passion?  How can it be eros when there is no love, when there is no sex, when there is nothing but the limited emotional range of the protagonist, an aging man who seems to hate all women?  How can it be eros when the protagonist has no emotional depth or even revelation in sensation from a sex act?  These are rhetorical questions, as I understand why, in a sense, this book falls into the eros and thantos category, but my mind rebels against what many modern critics consider eros. (And perhaps the most important question is why did I read this book so raptly, and I am unable to explain that either, but I did and I suspect most readers find themselves similarly engrossed.)

The tale’s protagonist, Eguchi, is 67-years-old and visits the House of the Sleeping Beauties, a sort of brothel wherein the girls, all very young, are drugged insensate at night so that old men can sleep with them.  The word sleep here is literal, because the old men do not have sex with the sleeping girls as they are impotent due to old age. Eguchi hides what he says is his ability to sustain an erection from the Madam in order to be permitted to sleep with the girls (it may all be in Eguchi’s head – one is never sure if Eguchi is really still virile or if it is wishful thinking on his part).

Indeed, the Madam is not concerned at all with Eguchi’s member when she chides him not to do anything disgusting with the girls.  “He was not to put his finger into the mouth of of the sleeping girl…”  That line haunts me for some reason, but it is clear the proprietress of the House of the Sleeping Beauties does not think Eguchi is capable of any greater outrage against the sleeping girls.  And yeah, Eguchi sticks his finger into the mouth of one of the girls.  Of course he does.  That should almost go without saying.  That finger was the only penetration in the story.

Those who visit the house and go to bed with the drugged girls are themselves eventually drugged, but get to spend time with the sleeping girls while they themselves are completely conscious.  Though Eguchi tells himself that he could, theoretically, do whatever he wants to any of the sleeping girls without detection, tellingly, he never does.  Eguchi’s wants to lay next to a virginal, sleeping girl, because actual sex with conscious women causes him to be exposed to their messy, nasty lives, something he cannot bear.

Another verbose review.