Academic Absurdity of the Year: The Socially-Constructed Penis Hoax

Just about every time I post an Academic Absurdity here, commenters rightly think it has to be a hoax, and refer back to the ur-hoax of all time, the Alan Sokal Social Text article of 20 years ago that said even physics was “socially constructed.” A very sensible reaction, but in fact all of the ones I have posted are real.

Now I have a real hoax to report in gender studies, which will prompt the sensible question, “How can you tell?” In this case, only because the authors, like Sokal, have come forward to admit their hoax. Otherwise no one in the gender-bender world would have noticed. After all, it was peer-reviewed!

Here it is, unadorned, from the online but obviously misnamed journal Cogent Social Sciences:

The conceptual penis as a social construct*

Jamie Lindsay and Peter Boyle

Abstract

Anatomical penises may exist, but as pre-operative transgendered women also have anatomical penises, the penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct. We argue that the conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomi- cal organ but as a social construct isomorphic to performative toxic masculinity. Through detailed poststructuralist discursive criticism and the example of climate change, this paper will challenge the prevailing and damaging social trope that penises are best understood as the male sexual organ and reassign it a more tting role as a type of masculine performance.

It is delicious they work in climate change, of course.  Not content to rest with this absurd abstract, the authors double down with these amplifications:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Jamie Lindsay, PhD, and Peter Boyle, EdD, represent a dynamic team of independent researchers working for the Southeast Independent Social Research Group, whose mission is obvious in its name. While neither uses Twitter, both finding the platform overly reductive, they incorporate careful reading of the relevant academic literature with observations made by searching trending hashtags to derive important social truths with high impact. In this case, their particular fascination with penises and the ways in which penises are socially problematic, especially as a social construct known as a conceptual penis, have opened an avenue to a new frontier in gender and masculinities research that can transform our cultural geographies, mitigate climate change, and achieve social justice.

PUBLIC INTEREST STATEMENT

Penises are problematic, and we don’t just mean medical issues like erectile dysfunction and crimes like sexual assault. As a result of our research into the essential concept of the penis and its exchanges with the social and material world, we conclude that penises are not best understood as the male sexual organ, or as a male reproductive organ, but instead as an enacted social construct that is both damaging and problematic for society and future generations. The conceptual penis presents signi cant problems for gender identity and reproductive identity within social and family dynamics, is exclusionary to disenfranchised communities based upon gender or reproductive identity, is an enduring source of abuse for women and other gender-marginalized groups and individuals, is the universal performative source of rape, and is the conceptual driver behind much of climate change.

The authors explain at The Skeptic their simple plan:

The Hoax

The androcentric scientific and meta-scientific evidence that the penis is the male reproductive organ is considered overwhelming and largely uncontroversial.

That’s how we began. We used this preposterous sentence to open a “paper” consisting of 3,000 words of utter nonsense posing as academic scholarship. Then a peer-reviewed academic journal in the social sciences accepted and published it.

This paper should never have been published. Titled, “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct,” our paper “argues” that “The penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct. We argue that the conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a gender-performative, highly fluid social construct.” As if to prove philosopher David Hume’s claim that there is a deep gap between what is and what ought to be, our should-never-have-been-published paper waspublished in the open-access (meaning that articles are freely accessible and not behind a paywall), peer-reviewed journal Cogent Social Sciences. (In case the PDF is removed, we’ve archived it.)

Assuming the pen names “Jamie Lindsay” and “Peter Boyle,” and writing for the fictitious “Southeast Independent Social Research Group,” we wrote an absurd paper loosely composed in the style of post-structuralist discursive gender theory. The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn’t be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions. We made no attempt to find out what “post-structuralist discursive gender theory” actually means. We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal. . .

There’s lots more at the link above, but this is enough to get across the substance of what has taken place here.

Seriously–“socially-constructed” penis? I could work off of this for weeks if I wasn’t so behind on several projects. Supply your own Viagra jokes.

* Heres a backup link (PDF) in case it gets taken down.

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