A peer-reviewed academic journal published on Friday a hoax gender studies paper titled, “The Conceptual Penis As A Social Construct.”
Two academics, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay, used pen names to successfully submit the hoax paper — which argued that “the penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct” — to the peer-reviewed journal Cogent Social Sciences. Boghossian and Lindsay cited 20 sources, none of which they say they read, and five of which are fake papers that were “published” in journals that don’t actually exist.
The paper — which the authors said was “actively written to avoid having any merits whatsoever” — opened by stating, “The androcentric scientific and meta-scientific evidence that the penis is the male reproductive organ is considered overwhelming and largely uncontroversial.” It went downhill from there.
The conclusion stated in part:
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 significant 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.
“You read that right. We argued that climate change is ‘conceptually’ caused by penises,” Boghossian and Lindsay wrote in a celebratory article announcing the success of their hoax.
They supported the argument that penises cause climate change by writing in part:
Toxic hypermasculinity derives its significance directly from the conceptual penis and applies itself to supporting neocapitalist materialism, which is a fundamental driver of climate change, especially in the rampant use of carbon-emitting fossil fuel technologies and careless domination of virgin natural environments. We need not delve deeply into criticisms of dialectic objectivism, or their relationships with masculine tropes like the conceptual penis to make effective criticism of (exclusionary) dialectic objectivism. All perspectives matter.
Some of the article’s paragraphs were just downright nonsensical. Like this one:
Thus, the isomorphism between the conceptual penis and what’s referred to throughout discursive feminist literature as “toxic hypermasculinity,” is one defined upon a vector of male cultural machismo braggadocio, with the conceptual penis playing the roles of subject, object, and verb of action. The result of this trichotomy of roles is to place hypermasculine men both within and outside of competing discourses whose dynamics, as seen via post-structuralist discourse analysis, enact a systematic interplay of power in which hypermasculine men use the conceptual penis to move themselves from powerless subject positions to powerful ones
“No one knows what any of this means because it is complete nonsense,” the authors wrote afterwards of the above paragraph. “Anyone claiming to is pretending. Full stop.”
“The most potent among the human susceptibilities to corruption by fashionable nonsense is the temptation to uncritically endorse morally fashionable nonsense,” the authors wrote afterwards. “That is, we assumed we could publish outright nonsense provided it looked the part and portrayed a moralizing attitude that comported with the editors’ moral convictions.”
The paper, they said, “was rooted in moral and political biases masquerading as rigorous academic theory. Working in a biased environment, we successfully sugarcoated utter nonsense with a combination of fashionable moral sentiments and impenetrable jargon. Cogent Social Sciences happily swallowed the pill. It left utter nonsense easy to disguise.”
“‘The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct’ should not have been published on its merits because it was actively written to avoid having any merits whatsoever,” the authors concluded. “The paper is academically worthless nonsense. The question that now needs to be answered is, ‘How can we restore the reliability of the peer-review process?’