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The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies

Note from the editor: Every once in awhile it is necessary and desirable to expose extreme ideologies for what they are by carrying out their arguments and rhetoric to their logical and absurd conclusion, which is why we are proud to publish this expose of a hoaxed article published in a peer-reviewed journal today. Its ramifications are unknown but one hopes it will help rein in extremism in this and related areas.
—Michael Shermer

“The conceptual penis as a social construct” is a Sokal-style hoax on gender studies. Follow the authors @peterboghossian and @GodDoesnt.

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 was published 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.

Manspreading — a complaint levied against men for sitting with their legs spread wide — is akin to raping the empty space around him.

This already damning characterization of our hoax understates our paper’s lack of fitness for academic publication by orders of magnitude. We didn’t try to make the paper coherent; instead, we stuffed it full of jargon (like “discursive” and “isomorphism”), nonsense (like arguing that hypermasculine men are both inside and outside of certain discourses at the same time), red-flag phrases (like “pre-post-patriarchal society”), lewd references to slang terms for the penis, insulting phrasing regarding men (including referring to some men who choose not to have children as being “unable to coerce a mate”), and allusions to rape (we stated that “manspreading,” a complaint levied against men for sitting with their legs spread wide, is “akin to raping the empty space around him”). After completing the paper, we read it carefully to ensure it didn’t say anything meaningful, and as neither one of us could determine what it is actually about, we deemed it a success.

Consider some examples. Here’s a paragraph from the conclusion, which was held in high regard by both reviewers:

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. How do we defend that assertion? Like this:

Destructive, unsustainable hegemonically male approaches to pressing environmental policy and action are the predictable results of a raping of nature by a male-dominated mindset. This mindset is best captured by recognizing the role of [sic] the conceptual penis holds over masculine psychology. When it is applied to our natural environment, especially virgin environments that can be cheaply despoiled for their material resources and left dilapidated and diminished when our patriarchal approaches to economic gain have stolen their inherent worth, the extrapolation of the rape culture inherent in the conceptual penis becomes clear.

And like this, which we claim follows from the above by means of an algorithmically generated nonsense quotation from a fictitious paper, which we referenced and cited explicitly in the paper:

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.

If you’re having trouble understanding what any of that means, there are two important points to consider. First, we don’t understand it either. Nobody does. This problem should have rendered it unpublishable in all peer-reviewed, academic journals. Second, these examples are remarkably lucid compared to much of the rest of the paper. Consider this final example:

Inasmuch as masculinity is essentially performative, so too is the conceptual penis. The penis, in the words of Judith Butler, “can only be understood through reference to what is barred from the signifier within the domain of corporeal legibility” (Butler, 1993). The penis should not be understood as an honest expression of the performer’s intent should it be presented in a performance of masculinity or hypermasculinity. 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 (confer: Foucault, 1972).

No one knows what any of this means because it is complete nonsense. Anyone claiming to is pretending. Full stop.

It gets worse. Not only is the text ridiculous, so are the references. Most of our references are quotations from papers and figures in the field that barely make sense in the context of the text. Others were obtained by searching keywords and grabbing papers that sounded plausibly connected to words we cited. We read exactly zero of the sources we cited, by intention, as part of the hoax. And it gets still worse…

Some references cite the Postmodern Generator, a website coded in the 1990s by Andrew Bulhak featuring an algorithm, based on NYU physicist Alan Sokal’s method of hoaxing a cultural studies journal called Social Text, that returns a different fake postmodern “paper” every time the page is reloaded. We cited and quoted from the Postmodern Generator liberally; this includes nonsense quotations incorporated in the body of the paper and citing five different “papers” generated in the course of a few minutes.

Five references to fake papers in journals that don’t exist is astonishing on its own, but it’s incredible given that the original paper we submitted had only sixteen references total (it has twenty now, after a reviewer asked for more examples). Nearly a third of our references in the original paper go to fake sources from a website mocking the fact that this kind of thing is brainlessly possible, particularly in “academic” fields corrupted by postmodernism. (More on that later.)

Two of the fake journals cited are Deconstructions from Elsewhere and And/Or Press (taken directly from algorithmically generated fictitious citations on the Postmodern Generator). Another cites the fictitious researcher “S. Q. Scameron,” whose invented name appears in the body of the paper several times. In response, the reviewers noted that our references are “sound,” even after an allegedly careful cross-referencing check done in the final round of editorial approval. No matter the effort put into it, it appears one simply cannot jump Cogent Social Sciences’ shark.

We didn’t originally go looking to hoax Cogent Social Sciences, however. Had we, this story would be only half as interesting and a tenth as apparently damning. Cogent Social Sciences was recommended to us by another journal, NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies, a Taylor and Francis journal. NORMA rejected “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” but thought it a great fit for the Cogent Series, which operates independently under the Taylor and Francis imprimatur. In their rejection letter, the editors of NORMA wrote,

We feel that your manuscript would be well-suited to our Cogent Series, a multidisciplinary, open journal platform for the rapid dissemination of peer-reviewed research across all disciplines.

Transferring your manuscript:

  • Saves you time because there is no need for you to reformat or resubmit your work manually
  • Provides faster publication because previous reviews are transferred with your manuscript.

To ensure all work is open to everyone, the Cogent Series invites a “pay what you want” contribution towards the costs of open access publishing if your article is accepted for publication. This can be paid by you as author or by your institution or research funder. Many institutions and funders now provide financial support for open access publishing.

We took them up on the transfer, and Cogent Social Sciences eventually accepted “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct.” The reviewers were amazingly encouraging, giving us very high marks in nearly every category. For example, one reviewer graded our thesis statement “sound” and praised it thusly, “It capturs [sic] the issue of hypermasculinity through a multi-dimensional and nonlinear process” (which we take to mean that it wanders aimlessly through many layers of jargon and nonsense). The other reviewer marked the thesis, along with the entire paper, “outstanding” in every applicable category.

They didn’t accept the paper outright, however. Cogent Social Sciences’ Reviewer #2 offered us a few relatively easy fixes to make our paper “better.” We effortlessly completed them in about two hours, putting in a little more nonsense about “manspreading” (which we alleged to be a cause of climate change) and “dick-measuring contests.”

The publication of our hoax reveals two problems. One relates to the business model of pay-to-publish, open-access journals. The other lies at the heart of academic fields like gender studies.

The Pay-to-Publish, Open-Access Journal Problem

Cogent Social Sciences is a multidisciplinary open access journal offering high quality peer review across the social sciences: from law to sociology, politics to geography, and sport to communication studies. Connect your research with a global audience for maximum readership and impact.

One of the biggest questions facing peer-reviewed publishing is, “Are pay-to-publish, open-access journals the future of academic publishing?” We seem to have answered that question with a large red, “No!”

There is, however, an asterisk on that “No!” That is, the peer-review process in pay-to-publish, open-access journals cannot achieve quality assurance without extremely stringent safeguards (which will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the debate). There’s nothing necessarily or intrinsically wrong with either open-access or pay-to-publish journals, and they may ultimately prove valuable. However, in the short term, pay-to-publish may be a significant problem because of the inherent tendencies toward conflicts of interest (profits trump academic quality, that is, the profit motive is dangerous because ethics are expensive).

The pay-to-publish mechanism should not affect the quality control standards of the peer-review process. Cogent Open Access claims to address this problem by using a blind review process. Does it work? Perhaps not always, if this case is any indication. Some pay-to-publish journals happily exploit career-minded academicians and will publish anything (cf: the famous Seinfeld hoax paper)1. Is that the case here? Gender studies scholars committed to the integrity of their academic discipline should hope so, and they have reason for suspecting it. For a minimal payment of $625, Cogent Social Sciences was ready to publish, “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct.”2

There seems to be a deeper problem here, however. Suspecting we may be dealing with a predatory pay-to-publish outlet, we were surprised that an otherwise apparently legitimate Taylor and Francis journal directed us to contribute to the Cogent Series. (Authors’ note: we leave it to the reader to decide whether or not NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies constitutes a legitimate journal, but to all appearances it is run by genuine academic experts in the field and is not a predatory money-mill.) The problem, then, may rest not only with pay-to-publish journals, but also with the infrastructure that supports them.

In sum, it’s difficult to place Cogent Social Sciences on a spectrum ranging from a rigorous academic journal in gender studies to predatory pay-to-publish money mill. First, Cogent Social Sciences operates with the legitimizing imprimatur of Taylor and Francis, with which it is clearly closely partnered. Second, it’s held out as a high-quality open-access journal by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), which is intended to be a reliable list of such journals. In fact, it carries several more affiliations with similar credentialing organizations.

These facts cast considerable doubt on the facile defense that Cogent Social Sciences is a sham journal that accepted “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” simply to make money. As a result, wherever Cogent Social Sciences belongs on the spectrum just noted, there are significant reasons to believe that much of the problem lies within the very concept of any journal being a “rigorous academic journal in gender studies.”

Postmodernism, Gender Studies, and the Canon of Knowledge

In 1996, Alan Sokal, a Professor of Physics at NYU, published the bogus paper, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” in the preeminent cultural studies journal Social Text which is in turn published by Duke University Press. The publication of this nonsense paper, in a prestigious journal with a strong postmodernist orientation, delivered a devastating blow to postmodernism’s intellectual legitimacy.

Subsequently, Sokal and the Belgian physicist Jean Bricmont noted in their 1997 book, Fashionable Nonsense, that certain kinds of ideas can become so fashionable that the critical faculties required for the peer-review process are compromised, allowing outright nonsense to be published, so long as it looks or sounds a certain way, or promotes certain values. It was standing upon Sokal’s shoulders that we proceeded with our hoax, though we perceived a slightly different need.

Sokal’s aim was to demonstrate that fashionable linguistic abuses (especially relying upon puns and wordplay related to scientific terms), apparent scientific authority, conformity with certain leftist political norms, and flattery of the academic preconceptions of an editorial board would be sufficient to secure publication and thus expose shoddy academic rigor on the part of postmodernist scholarship and social commentary.

A primary target of Sokal’s hoax was the appropriation of mathematical and scientific terminology that postmodernist “scholars” didn’t understand and didn’t use correctly. (We included “isomorphism” and “vector” in our paper in subtle homage to Sokal.) Fashionable Nonsense pays particular attention to postmodernists’ abuses of mathematical and scientific terminology. That is, Sokal took aim at an academic abuse by postmodernists and hit his target dead-center. His paper could only have been published if the postmodernists who approved it exhibited overwhelming political motivations and a staggering lack of understanding of basic mathematics and physics terminology.

The scientific community was exuberant that Sokal burst the postmodern bubble because they were fed up with postmodernists misusing scientific and mathematical terms to produce jargon-laden nonsense and bizarre social commentary carrying the apparent gravitas of scientific terminology. It appears that Social Text accepted Sokal’s paper specifically because Sokal was a recognized scientist who appeared to have seen the light.

Our hoax was similar, of course, but it aimed to expose a more troubling bias. The most potent among the human susceptibilities to corruption by fashionable nonsense is the temptation to uncritically endorse morally fashionable nonsense. 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. Like any impostor, ours had to dress the part, though we made our disguise as ridiculous and caricatured as possible—not so much affixing an obviously fake mustache to mask its true identity as donning two of them as false eyebrows.

Sokal exposed an infatuation with academic puffery that characterizes the entire project of academic postmodernism. Our aim was smaller yet more pointed. We intended to test the hypothesis that flattery of the academic Left’s moral architecture in general, and of the moral orthodoxy in gender studies in particular, is the overwhelming determiner of publication in an academic journal in the field. That is, we sought to demonstrate that a desire for a certain moral view of the world to be validated could overcome the critical assessment required for legitimate scholarship. Particularly, we suspected that gender studies is crippled academically by an overriding almost-religious belief that maleness is the root of all evil. On the evidence, our suspicion was justified.3

As a matter of deeper concern, there is unfortunately some reason to believe that our hoax will not break the relevant spell. First, Alan Sokal’s hoax, now more than 20 years old, did not prevent the continuation of bizarre postmodernist “scholarship.” In particular, it did not lead to a general tightening of standards that would have blocked our own hoax. Second, people rarely give up on their moral attachments and ideological commitments just because they’re shown to be out of alignment with reality.

In the 1950s, psychologist Leon Festinger revealed the operation of the well-known phenomenon called cognitive dissonance when he infiltrated a small UFO cult known as the “Seekers.” When the apocalyptic beliefs of the Seekers failed to materialize as predicted, Festinger documented that many cultists did not accept the possibility that the facts upended their core beliefs but instead rationalized them. Many Seekers adopted a subsequent belief that they played a role in saving the world with their fidelity; that is, they believed the doomsday-bringing extraterrestrials were so impressed by their faith that they decided not to destroy the world after all!

It is therefore plausible that some gender studies scholars will argue that the “conceptual penis” makes sense as we described it, that men do often suffer from machismo braggadocio, and that there is an isomorphism between these concepts via some personal toxic hypermasculine conception of their penises.

We sincerely hope not.

Conclusion: A Two-Pronged Problem for Academia

There are at least two deeply troublesome diseases damaging the credibility of the peer-review system in fields such as gender studies:

  1. the echo-chamber of morally driven fashionable nonsense coming out of the postmodernist social “sciences” in general, and gender studies departments in particular and
  2. the complex problem of pay-to-publish journals with lax standards that cash in on the ultra-competitive publish-or-perish academic environment. At least one of these sicknesses led to “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” being published as a legitimate piece of academic scholarship, and we can expect proponents of each to lay primary blame upon the other.

“The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” underwent a blind peer-review process and yet was accepted for publication. This needs serious explaining. Part of the fault may fall on the open-access, pay-to-publish model, but the rest falls on the entire academic enterprise collectively referred to as “gender studies.” As we see it, gender studies in its current form needs to do some serious housecleaning.

To repeat a critical point, this paper was published in a social science journal that was recommended to us as reputable by a supposedly reliable academic source. Cogent Social Sciences has the trappings of a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. There is no way around the fact that the publication of this paper in such a journal must point to some problem with the current state of academic publishing. The components of the problem are, it seems, reducible to just two: academic misfeasance arising from pay-to-publish, open-access financial decision-making; and unconscionable pseudo-academic inbreeding contaminating, if not defining, the postmodernist theory-based social sciences.

On the other hand, no one is arguing, nor has any reason to argue, that respectable journals like Nature and countless others have adopted a peer-review process that is fundamentally flawed or in any meaningful way corrupt. Much of the peer-review system remains the gold-standard for the advancement of human knowledge. The problem lies within a nebula of marginal journals, predatory pay-to-publish journals, and, possibly to some degree, open-access journals—although it may largely be discipline-specific, as we had originally hoped to discover. This is, after all, not the first time postmodernist academia has fallen for a hoax.

This hoax, however, 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 publish-or-perish academic environment is its own poison that needs a remedy. It gives rise to predatory profit-driven journals with few or no academic standards that take advantage of legitimate scholars pressured into publishing their work at all costs, even if it is marginal or dubious. Many of these scholars are victims both of a system that is forcing them to publish more papers and to publish them more often, to the detriment of research quality, and of the predatory journals that offer to sell them the illusion of academic prestige. Certainly, we have every reason to suspect that a majority of the other academics who have published in Cogent Social Sciences and other journals in the Cogent Series are genuine scholars who have been cheated by what may be a weak peer-review process with a highly polished edifice. Our question about the fundamental integrity of fields like gender studies seems much more pressing nonetheless.

“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 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?” END

  1. For more here, read about “Dr. Martin Van Nostrand’s” famous hoax paper.
  2. Portland State University has a fund dedicated to paying fees for open access journals, and this particular journal qualified for disbursement. For ethical reasons, however, we did not apply for funding, which in this case was virtually guaranteed. Instead, the article was externally funded by an independent party. We never received an invoice from the journal. We did not pay to have this published.
  3. Our suspicion arose from countless examples documented on the anonymously run Twitter feed @RealPeerReview.
About the Authors

Dr. Peter Boghossian is a full time faculty member in the Department of Philosophy at Portland State University. He has an extensive publication record across multiple domains of thought. He’s the author of A Manual for Creating Atheists and the creator of the Atheos app. Follow him on Twitter @peterboghossian.

James A. Lindsay has a doctorate in math and background in physics. He is the author of four books, most recently Life in Light of Death. Follow him on Twitter @GodDoesnt.

This article was published on May 19, 2017.


261 responses to “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies”

  1. richard says:

    I do agree that this attempt at a hoax is pathetic. It’s likely that this was a low effort attempt at undermining gender studies. But I find the banter in the comment section just as pathetic – assuming “masculinity” and labeling your opponent as “alt right” shows an absolute lack of self awareness to your own lack of skepticism.

    Also, it’s extremely inaccurate to describe Harris or Shermer as “alt right”; it’s a depressing scene to see old-left constantly mislabeled as “alt right” in convenience of a strawman. Shermer’s failure here to achieve proper skepticism is not the same as fitting into a specific set of beliefs.

    Raging Bee brings up a serious concern – your poorly thought out “stunt” is now being used by science deniers to peddle their nonsense. Great care should be taken with these sorts of issues.

    To the authors – try a more heavily researched attempt at a Sokal-like hoax presented to more prominent journals. I would love to see what is there. Don’t just aim for low hanging fruit.

    I personally find these gender theorists counter intuitive towards actually helping achieve “equality”, and therefore they fail at their own purpose. While I can’t speak in regards to gender or race, the work that is generated by “disability advocates” is embarrassing, non-representative and, for lack of better words, absolute fashionable nonsense.

    I think that if we really want to help anyone with these issues, we have to take the pursuit of these hoaxes seriously and not settle for such low hanging fruit.

  2. Ettina says:

    So you paid money to have drivel published in a scam journal? Who are the fools here, again?

  3. Skalmantas says:

    I’m glad that I am now aware of these problems but why so much text for it? A lot of it is redundant and filled with hard to read phrases and obscure vocabulary (although, it is all correctly used as far as I’ve checked). Maybe it would be fine if there was a better conclusion at the end or a suggestion or theory on how we could improve the situation, most of the text is just repeating the problem over and over again.
    Also, the last few paragraphs sound like you are confident that something is very wrong with the current system but the confidence is not argumented that well. Empirically, I can agree but it’s far off from being a fact.

  4. Andrew says:

    Although the publication of this paper exposes the problem of the quality of open-access journals, it does not, in any significant way, establish the main conclusion that gender studies is an illegitimate field of study. Michael Shermer, Peter Boghossian, and James Lindsay appear to either have a huge blind spot when it comes to criticism of fields they think are problematic, or they are simply hoping their audience will.

    I am extremely disappointed with this example of poor argumentation and analysis. It is not worthy of skeptic magazine or of association with skepticism and good thinking more generally.

  5. Brian M says:

    You guys are heroes. Such great heroes. Slayers for truth, defilers of evil. It is such an amazing work that you have wrought; it will be long remembered among the finest efforts of humanity. We are all better that such great heroes live among us! Thousands of words of heroism, and not an ounce of hubris! Heroes such as these put the humility in every man’s bones, and every woman’s; self-improvement is the virtue that every woman and man aspires to in the wake of such heroes. They have so little hubris, nary any at all if we go looking for it. I am grateful to be alive with such great heroes.

  6. Raging Bee says:

    This is the kind of person who is benefitting from your stupid little stunt:

  7. Raging Bee says:

    Great — a climate-change-denialist is using this scam to try to discredit REAL SCIENCE. Great work, “skeptic” guys, you just helped a science-denialist get over on the rest of us. Care to tell us again who is the real scammer, and who got scammed? Looks like the joke’s on you guys, not the gender-studies folks.

  8. A Hermit says:

    Nice try boys, but no cigar…

    Massimo Pigliucci (among others) has pointed out the futility of this hoax, and how it reveals the biases and skeptical failures of the authors themselves…

  9. Raging Bee says:

    In the case of Cogent Social Sciences, the recommended fee is a whopping $1,350…

    It looks to me like the only people who really got scammed here are the crap-artists who had to actually pay a crap journal to publish their crap, just so they could pretend they’ve scammed someone else. That’s f***ing hilarious whatever your opinion of gender studies might be.

  10. Burnest says:

    To the moderators,

    Please discard this message. I am receiving Facebook notifications about replies to my previous comment but I am unable to find them. It is frustrating because I really do enjoy this conversation.

    Thank you

  11. Art Goldman says:

    This is remarkable because:
    1) It is the funniest thing I’ve read this year (so far), and I’ve read a great many student papers since January, and
    2) As a reader of several academic journals, I’m stunned by what passes as acceptable academic discourse.
    Fine job and a very welcome laugh.
    Thank you so much!

  12. P K Vijayan says:

    What this has in common with Sokal’s hoax is that both were written by scientists (and one philosopher in the recent case) – that’s all.
    Sokal’s was not only published in a more established journal, it offered a genuine and timely critique when and where it was much needed: it showed up the unreality of the language being employed by some practitioners of the social sciences, as a substitute for intellectual rigour. But the current case shows a complete lack of genuine engagement with gender studies, its issues and debates, its engagement with some of the most sensitive areas of human experience, etc. Instead, the writers simply set up a straw man – literally – to castrate him. The lack of intellectual – and political – rigour in this case, lies with the pranksters, not with its practitioners in the field.
    This is not to say that all who engage in gender studies are intellectually rigorous, always. There is much mediocrity in this field, as in any field. Gender studies is not privileged to have more mediocrity simply because it is gender studies – unless one is of the opinion that thinking about gender is itself foolhardy. But it seems that is exactly how these two writers would have it: if there has ever been a more obvious attempt to delegitimize the field of gender studies itself, I do not know of it.
    To some extent, the social sciences in general are always going to be vulnerable to such pranks from scientists. Unlike the latter, whose disciplines are premised on the possibility of epistemological certitude, the social sciences are in fact premised on the insubstantiality of such certitude in human and social matters. While there are probably much more comprehensible and lucid ways (than espoused by the votaries of po-stru, pomo, poco, etc) of thinking about, articulating and representing those uncertain social matters, the inarticulacies of those votaries do not the field of social science – or even the discipine of gender studies – make.
    In fact, given the routine reports one hears of plagiarized work and cooked up lab findings, which also find their way into very reputed publications in the ‘natural sciences’, there is perhaps some need for scientists to police their own intellectual fields, instead of wasting time – theirs and the worlds – with farce that is unwarranted. It speaks volumes for the depths of gender prejudices, that all those who are hailing this ‘hoax’, without exception, are men. It only reaffirms the arguments of the field of gender studies, and underlines the urgent need for greater gender sensitization in the sciences (notorious for the lack of it) – which evidently remain committed to frivolous displays of machismo.

    • Handro says:

      There authors of this article illuminated quite clearly how gender studies and social-theory based “science” is not science at all, but in fact philosophical discourse. Social science involves experiments, surveys, research, test subjects, not philosophizing using arcane field-specific neologisms. That this is was done while simultaneously showing some of the cracks in the wall of “peer review” is simply a bonus.

      Hard science does not respect social theory sciences because, well, its not science! It is not a quest for truth via experimental process, but is in fact a workshop for disseminating ideology.

      • richard says:

        While what you’re saying may be true, I think the problem here is that the authors of this did not carefully select their target in a way that was anywhere near as effective as Sokal, which really weakens their argument.

        Based on my experience in the field, there is a serious problem with these sorts of philosophies, but it’s imperative to carefully plan a counter against them. As others have pointed out before, this study has been used against science for global warming deniers, so careful tact is necessary.

    • richard says:

      Excellent criticism. I find this to be no more than a “bootleg sokal attempt”.

  13. Merilyn Jackson says:

    Haha, I must unearth and dust off my 1974 paper called “The Chthonic Vulvagina”: The Vulvagina being the genitalia-in-toto that this woman wishes her organ to be be perceived as, not just the attractive lady parts, in art, religion, politics, comedy, literature AND MORE — a nice sister piece to this glorious penis piece.

  14. Kenneth Almquist says:

    A number of years ago, James Randi tested a dowser who claimed a 100% success rate. Randi agreed to pay the dowser $10,000 if the dowser succeeded in five out of ten tests. After the fifth test, the dowser stated that there was no need to run the remaining tests since he had already gotten five correct, but Randi said to run the remaining tests anyway.

    As it turns out, the dowser scored zero. Asked if this would cause him to revise his claim of 100% success rate, he said it would not. His explaination for the ten failures was: “My power wasn’t working then.”

    Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay set out to demonstrate that something about the field of gender studies which I won’t try to characterize precisely. To test their hypothesis, they write a paper filled with nonsense, and submit it to an academic journal. Their hypothesis is that the the paper will be accepted. Instead, the paper is rejected.

    Here I don’t want to get into the problems with their hypothesis or their test. And I certainly don’t want to get into the merits of gender studies, a field that I know absolutely nothing about. Instead, I want to focus on what they did when their test failed. Rather than admitting failure, they decided to try again with a different journal. It was apparently chosen, not because it made any sense in terms of the hypothesis (since it wasn’t a gender studies journal), but purely because they were given a strong indication that the journal would accept their paper.

    Michael Shermer should be embarrassed that he published this paper. I wouldn’t expect an editor of Skeptic to understand the ins and outs of academic publishing. I would expect him to understand the problem of accepting a test and then ignoring the results when they don’t turn out the way you want.

    • Thomas Lacroix says:

      NORMA automatically transfered this article upon rejection to a pay-to-publish journal. Even when they saw a bogus article full of bullshit that doesn’t make sense, they still transfered it to another journal. While it is just an oversight, the fact they didn’t think of a way to simply reject a paper without any transfer because they deem it unworthy of even existing (which is the case for this paper) is still a faut on their part. Not a major one, but still need correction.

  15. Timothy M. says:

    I liked the part about the penis. :D

  16. whitewool says:

    As insane as gender studies are at many points —> managing to publish a hoax hardly proves anything, and you know it.
    If we assume good intentions but dont understand a text, we give it the benefit of the doubt. We dont just dismiss it as nonesense. That’s actually a good thing.

    What uve done proves that people tend to read and hear things they wanna hear and read. That’s not exactly new, and pretty much the principle of any horoscope. Use vague and complex language, double sided statements and poeple will interpret it in a way that fits them. It’s quite possible that some people are able to interpret something meaning full into your bullshit.
    A randomly generated scentence CAN make sense. It’s just unlikely.

    Trying to turn this into a political thing by accusing “academic political left” (whomever that is supposed to be) of beeing more susceptible to this stuff than others is just stupid. People just generally are. I wouldn’t even consider the genderfield “left” at all. They may define themselves like that, but often the way they argue about everything beeing “constructed” is actually very close to the extreme right. They are “hip” at the moment but thats about it.

  17. Daniel says:

    I agree that this paper being published is more daming to the pay per publish jurnal model then it is on social sciences, but all these people resorting to ad hominem speculation about the authers masculinity, it is infertile ramblings like this that draws the validity of your field into question

  18. Aceofspades25 says:

    And now there is another scathing debunking of this article:

    This article is turning embarrassing for skeptic magazine very quickly. If this magazine has any ounce of credibility, they should print a retraction quickly and apologise for being less skeptical than they should have been.

  19. kenneth s dyson says:

    slow clap….
    congratulations, you managed to perpetrate the same hoax a number of other authors have played on a number of other pay-to-publish journals, thus hammering home the message that peer-review in all sciences is a flawed system. however, your little expose says NOTHING about the field of gender studies. I am not a student of gender studies, i am a neuroscientist and physiologist, so i am not familiar with the relevant literature and cannot speak of the validity of legitimate gender studies papers. But if you think that this hoax proves anything about gender studies then these other hoaxes prove that computer science and theoretical physics are also bogus:

  20. ulf mellström says:

    Statement from Norma!

    The journal that rejected the article!

    On February 17 NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies received a submission entitled ’The conceptual penis as a social construct’ in the manuscript system of our journal. After the routine technical check of the manuscript, the article was assigned to us, the editors. After having reviewed the text we rejected the article as unsuitable on the grounds that the content was incomprehensible. In short, it was nonsense. The reject message was sent to the authors on April 7. All submissions rejected in the editorial manager of Taylor & Francis are part of an auto-generated transfer system which suggests alternative venues for publication. In this case, Cogent Social Sciences was suggested. This is described as a multidisciplinary, open journal platform for the rapid dissemination of peer-reviewed research across all disciplines. It is an open access platform where you pay ’what you want’ for publishing your article. The article was published in Cogent Social Sciences on May 19. We were shocked to see the article online since we, without any doubt whatsoever, had rejected the article.

    Beyond the immoral bogus behaviour of the two authors, Lindsay and Boghossian, we are also seriously concerned about this orchestrated attack on Gender Studies in particular, and Social Sciences and Humanities in general. On investigating the activity of the authors, we note that they appear to regularly retweet quotations from authors and studies taken out of context, as if to discredit them. This behaviour says a lot about the authors but nothing about Gender Studies. We naturally condemn this behaviour, but we are also concerned about the quality control of ‘pay for publish’ platforms. This is probably the core issue which has been highlighted in this hoax scandal.

    Lucas Gottzen and Ulf Mellström, editors of Norma: International Journal for Masculinity Studies

  21. Robin says:

    You paid $625 to get it published?

    I think it was you guys who got hoaxed.

  22. Jerome Busca says:


    You are true geniuses. What you did is a reason to still have faith in the human race, despite the existence of Gender Studies departments. Keep up the good work!

    With admiration,


    • kenneth s dyson says:

      how is this genius? the authors got hosed by a predatory journal! boghossian should know better. he is either wholly incompetent as an academic or he is trying to herd others (who do not know the ins and outs of academic publishing) towards his political agenda. i liked his “manual”, thought it was great work, but this is embarrassing.

  23. Arthur Wohlwill says:

    Perhaps one of the editors of the journal you submitted this to was Anna Szust

  24. Sam Johnson says:

    I am really disappointed in the skeptic magazine for this piece it makes me really question a publication I have had so much respect and love for. This is useful piece in exposing the dangers and problems of “author friendly” pay for publication journals. As another Sokolov study it shows the flaws in this system: auto generated responses, lack of any in-depth expert peer review and a willingness to publish anything that pays them. However similar to privious iterations of this approach this cannot be extrapolated to the validity of a whole field. This would be like saying computer science is all pseudoscience because the “get me off your fucking email list” paper was published. There is no logical inference that can be made as is acknowledged in most Sokolov papers. The journal does not even have an impact factor this is not where any rigorous or important science is done. This could have been another interesting Sokolov study but the clear prejudice of the authors to try and force a non-sequitur political commentary into this piece is shocking and completely in supported by this paper. I am amazing this was published and endorsed in the skeptic magazine, a great publication I respected for sticking to hard facts and logic and removing bias, and I hope the skeptic magazine does better in future

  25. Rubi says:

    Actually this study looks more coherent then your average gender study

  26. Julian says:

    Are you sure that the authors aren’t hoaxing Skeptic magazine here? After all, this was a pay to publish journal wasn’t it? We all know they haven’t got particularly high standards, so it’s no great achievement to have a hoax article in this kind of publication.

  27. Apostate Scientist says:

    In ‘The conceptual penis as a social construct’, Boghossian and Lindsay achieve the supreme postmodernist irony of self-positioning as unconscious expositors of the episteme they undertake to indict. Donning the Skeptic trope of hegemonic triumphalism and the scientistic ideology of objective literalism, they illustrate perfectly the inescapable structures of academic understanding they share with their target. As an appendage of inflatable gristle, the penis is the perfect exemplar of the literalist object. But beyond the object is indeed the experiential reality of the conceptual penis. Phalusist fundamentalist scientistic ideology, operating an epistemology constructed around observable minimalist functionality, makes of the penis a reproductive organ. However, in the Real World, it is the articulations of political discourse that cannot help but dominate. Accordingly, the authors succeed in erecting a stimulus that, among the subsequent comments, spectacularly brings to the fore the perennial battle between the caricature clichés: in the red (pink?) corner Man-Hating, Pussy-Whipping Feminazi and in the blue corner Bollocks-Infested, Prick-Led Testo-Puppet. (Oh, I do like to be beside a cage fight… tra, la).

    I am, nevertheless, spared total despair by the several evidences among the comments of balanced, rational, relevant, humane criticism of this prank.

  28. Seeker of Evidence Based Conclusions says:

    The fact that this article was published in a Skeptical magazine is the *real* disgrace. As others have already eloquently noted, the authors proved absolutely nothing about social studies and in fact went into the enterprise with an extremely *unskeptical* approach. I know it’s all the rage these days for skeptics to be Status Quo Warriors bravely fighting for the poor, downtrodden, White Male, but seriously…this is just such an embarrassment. This is truly the Skeptic version of believing with intense certainty that the Earth is flat.

  29. Rick Jemmett says:

    As others have already noted, this hoax paper draws more legitimate attention to important problems involving modern peer-review mechanisms than it does the field of gender studies. If the goal was to explore the validity of the field, it may have been more useful to let their hoax paper sit published for a year or so, then examine the extent to which their paper was referenced by subsequent gender studies papers.

    One other point… in the following section the authors have misused the word ‘significant’, which in the research world has well defined statistical implications.

    “… wherever Cogent Social Sciences belongs on the spectrum just noted, there are significant reasons to believe that much of the problem lies within the very concept of any journal…”.

    In this context, use of the word ‘important’ in place of ‘significant’ would more accurately convey the intended meaning without adding any potential, and in this case unwarranted, statistical gravitas.

  30. Cogent Social Sciences says:

    As the publisher of this hoax article, we wanted to let you and the readers of this post know about the steps we are taking following its publication. You can read more about this here:

    Although the original intention was to question the field of gender studies, the fact that it was published in one of our journals is disappointing and has led us to conduct a thorough investigation. The authors, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay, have agreed to speak to us and we are currently waiting to hear when they are available to do so. We also appreciate James’ comments on Twitter regarding those who have leapt to label us a “sham vanity journal”, something we categorically are not.

    As you’ll see more fully explained when you follow the link above, we will be using this incident to review our peer review processes, and academic editor and peer reviewer education programs. We hope the many researchers, reviewers, and journal editors we have worked with since our inception will continue to support us as we do this.

    • JSTaylor says:

      “We are reviewing our academic editor and peer reviewer education program to ensure editors and peer reviewers are fully equipped with the skills they need to assess whether a paper is fit for publication.”

      This itself indicates that Cogent is not a real journal. Real journals don’t have “education programs” to equip their reviewers and editors with “the skills they need to assess whether a paper is fit for publication” as they draw on established academics in the appropriate fields. Indeed, that this is needed shows that Cogent’s editors and referees are NOT equipped to assess papers.

  31. Peter Wilhelm says:

    Explanation? – For every credibility gap there’s a gullibility fill!

  32. Terence Blake says:

    The hoax is a real exploit, but an imaginary success. It does not prove what it is said to:

  33. Nadia says:

    I can get a parody published in a predatory journal, therefore gender studies is bullshit? Get this or similar tripe published in one of the journals designated Q1 by Scimago ( ) and you might have an indication that something’s wrong in the field…

  34. Plfe says:

    This entire blog is racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, islamophobic, agoraphobic, and misogynist!

  35. Tectonic says:

    Nice casual sexism there, Hannelore.

  36. JFA says:

    “How can we restore the reliability of the peer-review process?”

    Well, you paid to have your very dumb, misogynist, so-called hoax article to be published only to have it validated by a bunch of idiots. No wonder you’re at a loss to answer your own question.

  37. Ecyle says:

    As a human with a functioning brain, Boghossian’s analytical skills impress me. So happy to see that here in a place where skepticism about open-access journals that lack adequate peer-review gets discussed from a new perspective. It’s entirely surprising that this would be published in a mag where the editors typically buy into right-bashing via untenable conspiracy theories.

  38. Elyce says:

    As a feminist atheist, Boghossian’s anti-feminism disgusts me. So sad to see it here in a place where skepticism about open-access journals that lack adequate peer-review turns into gender studies bashing. Not entirely surprising that this would be published in a mag where the editor buys into left-bashing via untenable conspiracy theories.

  39. hannelore says:

    men… only one time in history you were right. and then you are to stupid to recognize it.

  40. Bridgeburners says:

    This reminds me of my final assignment in an MBA class I took called “Skills for Leadership”. (I didn’t take an MBA, I took another more niche program that has an overlap in courses with the MBA, but in hindsight, that program was BS too.) Not only did I get an A+ on my final assignment, but the lowest and highest scores were actually posted to us in email, and mine was the highest in a class of roughly 30.

    From what I gathered through my peers, they all took this class (and the assignment) seriously. I, on the other hand, bullshitted like I never bullshitted before. I didn’t have the patience to learn the ad hoc and completely non-rigorous “methods” they taught us in the class as metaphorical means of “framing a problem” so I simply made up my own methods. I devised tools like the “ladder of opportunistic progress” or “social management cycle” that illustrated steps to be taken in a pseudo-psychological take of internal conflict. (I have no background in psychology.)

    I ended up with the best grade in the class. This is a respected class that is mandatory for MBA students.

  41. Csgo boosting says:

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  42. Mark Landes says:

    This is very disturbing that the “Skeptic” magazine is “proud” to publish this article. Please read this article

    This article actual contains the following quote from Sokal “From the mere fact of publication of my parody I think that not much can be deduced. It doesn’t prove that the whole field of cultural studies, or cultural studies of science — much less sociology of science — is nonsense. Nor does it prove that the intellectual standards in these fields are generally lax. (This might be the case, but it would have to be established on other grounds.) It proves only that the editors of one rather marginal journal were derelict in their intellectual duty”

    But Lindsey, Shermer, and Boghossian try to claim that getting their hoax article in a pay-for-print journal after being turned down with by a journal with a ZERO influence score disproves the entire Gender Studies discipline.

    Other links:

    I have lost all respect for Michael Shermer, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsey. Not to mention the Skeptic Society and Skeptic Magazine and any other skeptic/atheist leader that promoted this as nothing other than a publicity stunt by two “academics” spouting a political agenda as extremist as what they are failing to attack.

    I agree with other readers who would rather have them write an actual GS studies article disputing the claims of GS rather than clearly failing to produce a hoax article that could not get published in any truly respected journal.


    • fliktronegalic says:

      As Mark Landes puts down, neither NORMA nor Cogent Social Sciences is an indexed journal, it means they have “zero” weight in the scientific community. The authors would prove something if they had managed to get published at the relevant high-impact factored scientific outlets.

    • Elyce says:

      Thank you, Mark. This is a superb reply and I so agree.

  43. david mccallum says:

    You show the stupidity of those who lay claim to a university education, and the perceived value of the peer review process. There is value there, but only if the work is done.

    Just wait till common core takes hold, and those children grow up to participate. It’s hard enough even now, to straighten out a grade school student, let alone those who pay to sit in front of professors that were taught by other professors with a weaker foundation of understanding, if you will.

    Case in point; An entire generation of geologists, who actually believed for many years, that oil is a fossil fuel. That dead animals and plant matter generates it, so it has a finite supply, and producers can therefore justify ever increasing prices for it, as it becomes harder to deliver to markets of increasing consumption.
    It’s complete scientific nonsense of course, but once you gather a relatively young and uneducated group, and place them in front of a few who claim knowledge, you can spread this nonsense to an entire generation of youth, and hide the real science until a bright mind or improved technology emerges to challenge the status quo.

    Fact is, the PHD gains a mere 4%, of the total knowledge available in any field of study. The rest is by invitation only.
    Interference in education as far as I can determine, began about 1920, when for example we find quote “give me liberty or give me death”, was found in far fewer history books written after that year.

    This is one aspect of those in power, which were in the publishing business, for the express purpose of “dumbing down” education.
    This process continues of course, and has shown itself successful as a strategy.
    Fewer students seek knowledge from the best books and sources. Not to let the philosophies and falsehoods of much of mankind throwing them off balance or off their course.
    Fewer seem to sift and discern error as they study and seek the truth.

    The purpose is to cause as many as they will to believe lies, that an illusion is complete. This then is combined by other forms of illusion creation, like advertising etc…

    Lenin said” Give me a child for eight years, and it will be a Bolchevic forever”. He said the soundest strategy in war, is to postpone operations, until the moral disintegration of the enemy renders the mortal blow possible, and easy.
    What we find today is a parallel in the west, to the time of the fall of Rome. Ignoring history, the west is already in decline. I believe this will continue, and few will emerge from the ashes.

    False educational ideas, are a serious threat. Fortunately I only had a limited exposure to higher learning to overcome, and to go back to the departure from truth to start again. I had half my education in trades schools, and then military intelligence. I am a veteran of ten years. Yes… military and intelligence are definitely mutually exclusive words. I never had to un mess myself up too much. since the only institutions of learning I attended after that were the few I was invited to speak at.

  44. K bradders says:

    The paper was rejected by ‘respectable’ journals for the gibberish it is. It was published in a junk journal with no impact factor where you pay to get published. That proves literally nothing.

    No one rejects the entire field of immunology just because Wakefield was published in the Lancet. More rigour needed to draw your conclusions! I learnt that in the social sciences.

  45. Hank Roberts says:

    > manspreading

    I consider that a diagnostic indicator that a guy is suffering from a severe case of jock itch.

  46. Al Ki says:

    The sad truth is that garbage studies like this one have effectively eviscerated the rule of law with respect to arrest and prosecution for “domestic violence”. Here’s food for deep skepticism:

  47. Urdel Komansanski says:

    What is Gender? What is a Study? Put it together and you get Gender Studies which is the study of how being a man sucks so bad. All men are evil and I think the penis should be chopped off and be replaced with a bratwurst like my friend Boris said.

  48. miguel quiros garcia says:

    ridiculous dements can’t read more than 10 words and I go to the toilet

  49. Boris Yamahcusiak says:

    When I look at my own thing as a social construct, I whip it out when talking to women. Just showing the thing inside my pants can cause the environment and climate to change. For you see nobody can ignore my big proverbial enormous Trouser Snake hidden in the depths of my pants. The Earth as a whole reacts sending a tidal wave and hurricanes when the light shines from within. As a result, the entire ecosystem and structure of the food chain is changed forever. Instead of using a penis, society can use hot dog wieners or the ever popular Bratwurst so women are not offended.

    I don’t want the Penis to become another social deconstruction of a nation.

  50. Robert Jennings says:


    I actually agree with you about how many liberals preemptively dismiss Trump voters and their genuine pain–economic, cultural, whatever. You should understand that this liberal dismissal comes from a state of shock and humiliation after a period of hubris while we were winning the culture wars, as well as a very real and legitimate fear for our rights under a president who is highly authoritarian in his worldview. The “deplorables” comment by Clinton is indicative of a toxic attitude against those who don’t think like us that is far too common in the liberal bubble.

    There are liberals out there who are aware of this. Many of them are often afraid to speak in their own social circles for fear of being publicly flogged. I happen to think that both Clinton and Sanders were problematic in many ways (she was too cynical, he was too naive, both were too politically correct). But from my perspective–that is, my economic interests, my moral convictions, my concerns about human rights and authoritarianism–Trump is just unacceptable. Nobody’s perfect, but there’s no excuse for this guy.

    That said, liberals did a lot of things let him win, and you’re absolutely right about that. A few liberal pundits, intellectuals, and journalists are increasingly willing to admit it publicly:

    Lastly, please don’t call me a “white knight,” whatever the fuck that means. I’m not virtue signaling; I’m trying to see if it’s possible to have a non-toxic political discussion on deeply divisive issues. The fact that you’re inclined to doubt that I could possibly be doing this in good faith is part of the problem. We have a broken political culture. It starts with individuals like like you and me trying to find out why we disagree, and assume good faith until proven otherwise.

    • Robert Jennings says:

      Also this one from Van Jones:

      There is SOME self-criticism on the left, if you’re willing to look. The point is that those of us who care about making life better for everyone, including skeptics, should encourage healthy self-criticism within our own factions and communities. It’s not enough to have a self-correcting research method (although that’s certainly a good thing). It’s necessary to also have the ability to be self-critical as individuals and as groups–and to also listen to criticism from others, including members of groups we might consider to be “political enemies.”

  51. Brad R. Torgersen says:

    Sascha Schuenemann says: “If you want to criticise social sciences or gender studies in particular, please look at the many real issues instead of focusing on such BS.”

    The problem is that the social sciences often operate as if they are beyond criticism. No theory is too loaded with junk, to be bounced. Rejecting a theory as garbage merely gets critics accused of moral crimes: racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, cisnormativism, and on and on. These accusations are academic death sentences, for careers. Nobody wants to put her job on the chopping block. So the garbage theories get passed along as gospel, with precious little challenge.

    In the hard sciences, garbage theory eventually gets exposed and scuttled (over time) because the theory fails to match observable data. Too many people can discover (independently!) that the theory doesn’t work, fails to reflect reality, et cetera.

    In the gender/ethnicity/sexual wing of social science, EVERYTHING is a matter of assertion. Get enough people to go along with a theory, whether the theory is loaded with junk or not, and the theory becomes doctrine. Not fact. DOCTRINE.

    As with the Sokal Hoax, Boghossian and Lindsay have succeeded in deliberately writing a piece of trash which was accepted by “peer review” and published for one and only one reason: the trash appeared to support and flatter the doctrine—as agreed upon by the cognoscenti (cough, church elders, cough) in the field. Everyone “knows” men are problematic, therefore male anatomy is problematic, therefore a garbage article that promoted and expounded upon this conventional wisdom—even though it was completely bogus—was readily accepted.

    “Real issues” are not helped by academics failing to do their due diligence, or (worse yet) actively supporting and promoting concepts which are anti-Enlightenment.

  52. Peter Hopstrausen says:

    I would like to use this paper when writing my future thesis for Gender Studies. I want to take a look how the rolling hills relates to the mountain tops of a woman. To what effect does it have on the masses such as a gay person or someone that is trans gendered. Your paper has inspired me to look at something differently.

  53. The Truth says:

    Most of the commenters here are clueless. They probably see themselves as “skeptics” but don’t even realize they are just feeding their own confirmation biases.

    “skeptics, like their opponents, are less a conclave of ice-minded Bayesian ratiocinators than a sports team or political faction looking to win. This means that (like all of us) they are (a) inclined to clutch at anything that has a superficial resemblance to evidence supporting their beliefs, and (b) not to want to let go of it, even when it becomes clear that it isn’t evidence at all, both because of various forms of anchoring bias, and because they don’t want to hand an advantage to their opponents by admitting they were wrong.”

    • adnan baktir says:

      So happy there are at least some critical thinkers here. People should read the link.

  54. Desik says:

    I’d say the most astonishing thing is that your comment appears to be serious.
    “Two white guys wrote about something… see everyone! That proves it.”

    Hold on, let me translate my comment into gender-studies cult speak gibberish for you:

    You need to educate yourself!! Your comment betrays a deep ignorance of bilateral, critical deconstructive, logical fiduciary theorems within the grounding of pre-neo, sub-human, post-colonial framework. It’s quite obvious you don’t understand the works already well established by Foucault and Deridda vis-a-vis the dichotomy of proof and non proof, that is to say that your aPriori assumptions made post hoc with regards to the non-binary structural and systemic delineations at play within this blog post are so far out of the realm of sensibility that they can only be described as, well – stupid.

  55. Brad R. Torgersen says:

    “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” — G. Orwell

    It’s a shame (but but not a surprise) that Sokal’s warning went unheeded in the halls of academia. I remember very well when the Sokal Hoax “scandal” broke, mostly because the permeation of society by increasingly specious theories (all fixated on matters of ethnicity, gender, and sexuality; especially as they relate to economics) was really starting to ramp up. Something needed to be done, before the idiocy got out of contro.

    I hoped (in vain) that Sokal’s attempt to wake up the larger academic community, would be successful.

    Alas, the “church” that masquerades as rigorous scholarship, within the cloister of Social Science, largely ignored Sokal. Now, two decades later, the “church” is more powerful than ever. With a substantial army of enablers and allies within the academic community, the entertainment community, the media, and even government.

    I use the word church, because I am not sure what else to call a body of fairly same-minded moral zealots who have an entirely faith-based and fanatical reliance on ideas and concepts which cannot be proven, nor verified, beyond the minds of the clergy and parishioners.

    That this church happily masquerades beneath the banner of science, and co-opts the language and gravitas of science (while brow-beating skeptics who dare to criticize the nonsense) is an active threat to the edifices of law, and scholarship.

    Precisely because the zealots actively attack our (society’s) freedom to question, to examine, and to point out that gibberish is gibberish.

    That we (via tax dollars) continue to fund and foster this anti-Enlightenment madness, is a stupendously sick joke.

    Defund, defund, defund. Faster, please.

  56. dreamgirl says:

    Two men ridicule “gender studies” as an academic discipline. Well, I’ve never seen men ridicule gender studies, before. How novel.

    • Jj2105 says:

      A gender studies degree and $200,000 of your parents’ money will get you a great job at Starbuck’s.

  57. Omega says:

    The most astonishing thing is that two white men from developed countries putting this hoax together is the proof-of-concept of the conceptual penis.

  58. jj2105 says:

    “a rigorous academic journal in gender studies”

    Is that part of the gag?

  59. Agnostic Parent says:

    This hilarious hoax highlights a problem both with current models of journal publishing (but not with Open Access as such) and with political and moral biases in gender studies. The authors far from dismiss the whole field; but they are spot on when they draw parallels to a cult. Cognitive dissonance might well explain why the reviewers accepted this paper.
    I did a little fun experiment of my own and asked my 8-year-old (curious about gender issues, as-yet relatively free of political biases, raised to be a thinker) to review the paper – or at least the gist of the paper. I didn’t tell her it was a hoax. I told her the paper was reviewed, accepted and published (she is familiar with the process).
    You can see the results here

  60. Robert Jennings says:

    Ok a few things:

    1) Yes, gender studies and other “soft” social sciences are rife with this postmodern bullshit. I know this from personal experience, since I was constantly engaging with it as a graduate student in anthropology.

    2) This does not mean gender studies offers nothing of value. I’ve read some very clear, very good work in the field–Allison Wiley’s work on gender biases in archaeological interpretation, and “Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category” are two examples. However, the former is committed to grounding her theorization of gender biases in empirical reality, and the latter is an ethnography based on reporting what real people (mostly poor black people) actually say about themselves, so they reveal a reality which is (predictably) nothing like what the postmodern theorists say.

    3) Gender studies as an institution (as opposed to gender studies insights as applied to other fields) undermines itself by being dominated by a very vocal extreme-left anti-science strand. There are legitimate (even brilliant) arguments to be found in what Judith Butler writes, for example, but you have to cut through so much bullshit to find them that few people who aren’t committed to doing so are going to take the trouble.

    4) Unfortunately, this particular study was done in bad faith, and the trolls got trolled. If you know anything about the academic publishing industry, it’s clear from what they write that when their original paper was rejected by the original journal, and referred to “Cogent Social Sciences,” this was basically a polite “fuck you” by the publishers.

    The “Cogent” series is obviously a money-making scam which will take money from anyone who is willing to pay to get published. The authors do focus on this a bit, but unfortunately choose to blame gender studies and postmodernism as to why their paper got published. In this, they succumbed to their own confirmation bias. Had they chosen to focus more on the perverse incentives of pay-to-publish open source–and on the even more perverse fact that respected publishing houses are directing their rejected papers to such scam journals, lending those journals an aura of legitimacy they don’t deserve–it would have been a much better paper.

    5) This study will, unfortunately, just create more unnecessary bad blood between feminists and skeptics. As someone who identifies as both, this pisses me off, as I know I will be alienating a portion of my friends and colleagues on either side of the barricades simply by insisting on being both. Yes, it IS possible to be a fan of both Sam Harris and Sam Bee, and I refuse to take seriously anyone who tells me otherwise.

    6) For a much better critique of the toxic consequences of hard-left moral panic in gender studies, see “This is what a Modern-Day Witch Hunt Looks Like” by Jesse Singal:

    7) In conclusion, fuck binary thinking. Those who insist we must choose sides in this infantile flame war between the extreme left and the extreme reaction to it are both wrong. Each and every claim must be evaluated on its merits, and that includes qualitative data (such as recounted personal experiences and even traumas) which cannot be subject to controlled experiments.

    8) And–here’s something of value I learned from gender studies–those of us doing the evaluations need to understand that sometimes, identity matters when doing research. As a Jew (an atheist Jew, but still a Jew), I understand anti-Semitism better than non-Jews do. Full stop. Any non-Jew who tries “goysplain” to me why Hamas is not a bunch of antisemitic theocrats, but simply “an anticolonial resistance movement” (yes, I’ve actually had people say this to me) can go fuck themselves. They may well be an anticolonial resistance movement, but they are also antisemitic theocrats, and the latter cancels out any value I might see in the former. End of discussion.

    Likewise, the same principle implies that I as a man cannot truly understand sexism–not at the level of experience. So when women talk to me about sexism, it is my responsibility to listen to what they have to say. This does not mean that I have a duty to let this principle infringe upon my other principles–intersectionality taken to its extremes results in the theater of the absurd that we call Twitter–but I don’t simply ignore it either. I do the best I can to be a feminist without also violating my other moral commitments (such as rationalism, atheism, and secular liberalism).

    This is called “making complex moral choices in a complicated world.” This is how most people behave most of the time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit very well into 240 characters.

    9) My hunch is that much of what the authors, and many of the commenters, are characterizing as “the left,” “feminism,” and “gender studies” are a mental caricature they have encountered from the most ridiculous self-parodies which, unfortunately, are amplified by the system of incentives in both contemporary academia and on the vitriol of the internet and social media. Talk to these people in real life, and you will find the public persona drops and a complex human being emerges.

    10) I would also urge feminists to consider doing the same for the authors of the article. It’s tempting to dismiss them as “science bros” and move on. Not so. Michael Shermer helped introduce me skepticism as a kid, and I’ll always appreciate that. And as poor the generalizations these guys are making (and as poorly-done the experiment), had I taken a slightly different career path I could easily have made those same generalizations, and fallen for the same experiment. So it’s not like I don’t understand the place where they’re coming from.

    11) Consider this very long comment a plea. A plea for dialogue and civility. On the internet. In the age of Trump.

    “When they go low, you​ go high.” That may sound incredibly naive given that we lost the election, but in the long run, that’s the only way humanity is going to survive as a species.

    • jj2105 says:

      All Trump had to do was jump over the incredibly low bar of moral and ethical standards set by the Clinton Foundation, and endorsed by the people who picked her as a candidate and voted for her. So climb down off your virtue broadcasting White Stallion.

      “9) My hunch is that much of what the authors, and many of the commenters, are characterizing as “the left,” “feminism,” and “gender studies” are a mental caricature they have encountered from the most ridiculous self-parodies which, unfortunately, are amplified by the system of incentives in both contemporary academia and on the vitriol of the internet and social media. Talk to these people in real life, and you will find the public persona drops and a complex human being emerges.”

      The same applies to the “deplorables”, friend.

      • Robert Jennings says:


        I actually agree with you about how many liberals preemptively dismiss Trump voters and their genuine pain–economic, cultural, whatever. You should understand that this liberal dismissal comes from a state of shock and humiliation after a period of hubris while we were winning the culture wars, as well as a very real and legitimate fear for our rights under a president who is highly authoritarian in his worldview. The “deplorables” comment by Clinton is indicative of a toxic attitude against those who don’t think like us that is far too common in the liberal bubble.

        There are liberals out there who are aware of this. Many of them are often afraid to speak in their own social circles for fear of being publicly flogged. I happen to think that both Clinton and Sanders were problematic in many ways (she was too cynical, he was too naive, both were too politically correct). But from my perspective–that is, my economic interests, my moral convictions, my concerns about human rights and authoritarianism–Trump is just unacceptable. Nobody’s perfect, but there’s no excuse for this guy.

        That said, liberals did a lot of things let him win, and you’re absolutely right about that. A few liberal pundits, intellectuals, and journalists are increasingly willing to admit it publicly:

        Lastly, please don’t call me a “white knight,” whatever the fuck that means. I’m not virtue signaling; I’m trying to see if it’s possible to have a non-toxic political discussion on deeply divisive issues. The fact that you’re inclined to doubt that I could possibly be doing this in good faith is part of the problem. We have a broken political culture. It starts with individuals like like you and me trying to find out why we disagree, and assume good faith until proven otherwise.

        • Robert Jennings says:

          Also this one from Van Jones:

          There is SOME self-criticism on the left, if you’re willing to look. The point is that those of us who care about making life better for everyone, including skeptics, should encourage healthy self-criticism within our own factions and communities. It’s not enough to have a self-correcting research method (although that’s certainly a good thing). It’s necessary to also have the ability to be self-critical as individuals and as groups–and to also listen to criticism from others, including members of groups we might consider to be “political enemies.”

  61. Nathaniel E. says:

    Even leaving aside questions about the authors’ experimental method (which some of the other commenters have already addressed), as someone who considers himself a postmodern thinker, I’m of the opinion that this article is, in some ways, missing the point. It points out, quite rightly, that postmodernism really has no business involving itself in science, and that to refer to any postmodern work as scientific is misleading. However, I would argue that the scientific mode of understanding is not the only applicable one, and that in some areas it is in fact quite useless. Scientific thought is an appropriate tool—indeed, the only appropriate tool—for approaching mechanistic and quantifiable problems, but outside of that sphere, it quickly becomes next to useless. For example, if I asked a scientist why I enjoy the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films, they could tell me a great deal about the function of dopamine in my brain, my reaction to various stimuli, and how certain evolutionary factors condition my response to Kiera Knightley in a lacy shift. Moving beyond the purely phenomenological, however, into questions such as why, for example, I continue to love the franchise when many other well-educated people consider it pulpish garbage, the scientist is forced to rely on increasingly thin and untestable hypotheses and not, in fact, on science at all. That is the appropriate territory of postmodernism as a school of critical thought, where science simply cannot go. At that point, concept and understanding become more important than fact, because there are no stable facts. Meaning arises not only from the text, but from the reader. The ideal postmodern text resembles a Zen Koan as much as it does a thesis, and tells a reader less about the subject of the criticism than it does about how the reader is actually engaging with that subject. Indeed, with meaning understood to arise in the relation of the text and the reader rather than the author and the text, it is no longer necessary that the author understand or even intend the text. It is no longer necessary that there be an author at all.

    One could argue, of course, that such an exercise is meaningless and valueless. I cannot easily refute that charge, for, as I have written, the proper domain of the postmodern is that which cannot be quantified. All I can say is that I believe there is value in self-evaluation and improvement, and in encouraging others to those same ends, even if that value is not apparent in any quantifiable fashion.

  62. uh...clem says:

    As an undergraduate I did a well-controlled experiment about 58 years ago which showed beyond any reasonable doubt that you can affect the growth rate of baby chicks by prayer, in either a positive or negative direction. When I told one of my professors (Experimental Psychology) about this experiment a few years later, he advised me that I should not publish the study for fear of never getting a career in academe. Is it too late to publish my results now? How about in the Journal of Experimental Studies of Prayer? Or maybe I should just publish my study as a book and call it: Prayer Can Change Your Chickens. Any advice?

  63. Derrida says:

    Meanwhile, the postmodernists keep indoctrinating students and silencing criticism.
    These hoaxes may reach curious people, but the postmodernists are in an ideological holy war.

  64. Michael says:

    I have a BA in Theater Arts from UC Santa Cruz and an MA in Education from Chapman University. I also have a degree in a scientific field. During both my undergraduate and graduate education, I must have read thousands of pages that sounded exactly like “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct.” Honestly, I find it easier to understand literature written in Old English than understand half of the postmodernist writing I was assigned in Ed. School.

  65. PM says:

    Never heard of this journal; and that it says that it is peer-reviewed doesn’t mean anything (even though open-source does say much, and that’s not good). Next, these authors would publish in some journal called Cosmic News–and claim that a natural-science journal has fallen for their hoax! These authors are too stupid to try hoaxes. The Sokal hoax was real; this one is a third-rate imitation–and there have been so many good ones in-between, including outside the social sciences.
    Not impressed at all! In fact, it exposes these authors as quite clueless.

  66. clamboy says:

    Boghossian and Lindsay are the equivalent of upper middle class white boys in high school, writing naughty words on bathroom walls with a Sharpie. They probably went home to listen to Green Day, or, no, wait! The Offspring (their first album was pretty darned good).

    Mr. Boghossian and Mr. Lindsay, what you have done is not even interesting, and your assumed conclusions make it clear that skepticism is not your forte. Better luck next time.

    (Still, I heard a great interview with Mr. Boghossian on Cognitive Dissonance a few years ago. This present silliness makes me think of the “Repo Man” quote: “I remember when I used to like these guys.”)

  67. Arthur O'Keefe says:

    Just to play devl’s advocate, here is a response to the hoax article:

    I wonder, can the authors present any examples of published, “non-hoax” articles that, in their view, should never have made it through peer review for the same reasons that the “conceptual penis” paper shouldn’t have?

  68. Tom says:

    I’m not holding my breath waiting for a serious research paper to be published that explains that the only reason the penis/patriarchy/natural resource-rape paradigm exists is because women are hardwired to go after the richest man they can snag to father their babies. It’s about time vaginas took their share of the blame.

  69. Empiricism and Argumentation says:

    As noted above, I share the authors’ criticisms of gender (and other similar) studies. However, it is also true that no strong conclusions about anything can be drawn from this exercise.

    However, it seems that many people here do not understand what open access academic journals are. Open access journals make articles free to the public by charging the authors to publish, and there are many legitimate open access journals (often affiliated with traditional publishing outlets like Taylor and Francis, Elsevier, Wiley, Nature Publishing Group, etc.) that reject many papers based on the recommendations of independent reviewers. The fact that the authors paid the journal to publish their article does not imply that the journal would publish anything given that they receive payment. Traditional journals tend to charge around $40.00 just to download an article, and most individuals that don’t work at an institution with a subscription will simply not read articles published in those journals for that very reason. Unfortunately, traditional journals still can and do sometimes publish garbage. Open access journals provide a solution to the paywall problem, and they are frequently used by many high-profile academics who wish to make their work freely available. In summary, there are problems with both traditional and open-access publication models, and the simple fact that a journal is open access (and charges authors to publish) does not mean that it is of lower quality than traditional journals or a predatory outlet. Part of what makes most predatory outlets predatory is that they don’t actually have formal peer review, and literally will publish anything submitted to them. These outlets are also typically (but not always) unaffiliated with any major traditional publisher. While nearly all predatory journals are open access, not all open access journals are predatory. Please do not get the idea that open access journals = pay-to-play predatory journals.

    • leo says:

      This is one of the very view reasonable comments in this topic. I am not shure if that is the only intention of the authors of this “study” (aside skepsis for gender science or certain flavors of humanities) – nevertheless:
      Paper quality correlates with reviewer quality. This is a problem for many journals – not only open source. Reviewers that are really highly qualified (see also Kruger and Dunnig, 1999) AND willing to work for free (anonymous, profound and fast) are hard to find – no matter what kind of business model a paper has.

  70. Eric says:

    Im not quite getting something here….isnt the site the “paper” was published on a pay to publish site? That means you could write anything and they will publish it? How is that an indictment of academia? Its not a true peer review site, its just a site where they take your money and they publish whatever you want. I honestly dont get where you guys are going here.

  71. JohnB says:

    Here is a suggestion: try the experiment again, but this time, instead of flattering “the academic Left’s moral architecture,” denigrate it. If the paper still gets published that will help you decide between the competing hypotheses of predatory pay-to-publish and fashionable nonsense.

  72. CosmicRay says:

    To all those who say that all this hoax did is expose a weak “pay for play” journal, and not expose a problem in Gender Studies, is the Journal “Women’s Studies International Forum” a well-regarded journal? It seems to be from everything I see. Not pay for play, been around since 1978, middle of the pack in Impact Factor – a mainstream journal for the field. Here is the abstract from a paper published in that journal:

    “Don’t be so feminist”: Exploring student resistance to feminist approaches in a Canadian university.

    This paper explores student resistance to feminist course content in social science courses cross-listed with women’s studies as an example of social reproduction at work. Drawing on both interviews and anonymous student course evaluations, student resistance to feminism is examined from the layered perspectives of faculty, teaching assistants and students in these courses. The author argues that a regime of rationality still operates in the academy and is made evident when feminist course content is met with continual dismissal or disavowal

    Three points:
    1. Not a hoax, but could be given the last sentence of the abstract.
    2. The last sentence of the abstract is true.
    3. The rot runs deep in Gender Studies.

    It is a disgrace that even a single student goes into non-discharable debt to pursue a degree in the field. Unless they are one of the lucky few who land a spot in the Gender Studies Perpetuation Machine, they are screwed since they have no skills. Most of what they “know” is not true and they have weak (at best) critical thinking skills, because, as the cited paper makes clear, rational thinking causes the thinker to reject what passes for knowledge in Gender Studies.

  73. Richard Rider says:

    “Oppression theology” majors — women’s studies, black studies, gender studies, LGBT studies, etc. — prepare students for one occupation — TEACHING this stuff.

    No sane employer should hire these graduates for meaningful work, given their inculcated hyper-sensitivity to every nuance in everyday workplace interactions. These grads are legal liabilities poised to flower into a lawsuit (or federal investigation) at the earliest opportunity.

    The irony is that the resulting hiring “discrimination” by the wiser employers will be viewed by these misguided graduates as proof that their “oppression” professors were right!

    The entire field of Oppression Theology is the REAL hoax in academia.

    • Diogenes of Sinope says:

      The entire field of Oppression Theology is a hoax because you just made it up. Congratulations.

      But I’m wondering if you’d like a job? The birds were really at my crops last season and you’re so good at building strawmen, would you like to come over and make a few scarecrows for me?

  74. Buck Field says:

    The authors repeatedly claim that the article is nonsense or complete nonsense.

    As far as I can tell the only evidence in favor of this is their personal feeling that they deemed it so.

    Because my understanding of sensibility and meaning is one of readers’ interpretation or inability to do so, I’m skeptical than words on a page alone can technically be said to be meaningful or not on their own.

    The author chose to take the term “climate change”, remove it from the context of the sentence in which it is found, and then substitute the general cultural idea of climate change comma insert it back into the sentence and use that new and different meaning as an example of ridiculousness.

    This doesn’t strike me as a fair move. When I was reading it I interpreted climate change to reflect to general perception within an area of study by the relevant community. This seemed appropriate for the context, and I’m not sure that criticism based on these sorts of moves is entirely legit, but would be interested to see a defense of such a standard… especially one that can completely adhere to its own guidelines.

  75. Richard Rider says:

    Oh my! I just couldn’t stop laughing.

    I’m a “sharing” person. I’ll “share” this WONDERFUL hoax with over 20 Facebook groups I hang with — with the URL to this article and full attribution, of course.

    Plus Twitter, my blog and a couple other bigger blogs.

    Well done!! This might do more for REAL science than any of the usual complaints emanating from the “vast right wing conspiracy.”

    The number ONE characteristic one should bring to Internet browsing (and ingesting MSM offerings) is SKEPTICISM. It seems to be a trait in short supply regardless of one’s political leanings.

    BTW, for me it’s the most important characteristic to consider when voting for politicians. Perhaps because real skepticism (non-tribal based skepticism) is all but nonexistent in this gullible group.

  76. David says:

    A bit of a shame that falls for a hoax like this. Did the authors pay to get published here, too?

  77. Brian Charles Fleming says:

    I’m amused by all the serious comments making it all the more funny! Keep ’em coming!

  78. John Q says:

    Hoax or not … You’ve probably just inadvertently opened up a new branch of gender studies “science”.

    Don’t be shocked when the “conceptualized penis” becomes part of the “narrative” of those fighting against the marginalization of the oppressed …

  79. RazvanM says:

    There is no difference between this gibberish and the one readily available on leftist/Marxist websites. The whole communist manifesto is based on gibberish. The whole idea of community organizing by professionals is based on gibberish. There are a lot of money around and a lot of suckers ready to pay it for gibberish-ridden causes.

    • Diogenes of Sinope says:

      Have you read Marx and Engels? Or did you just learn about Marxism from Reddit?

  80. Mr. E says:

    Feminism is a hate group. Everything they do is about hating men and tearing down masculinity. Feminists are hateful people.

    • Diogenes of Sinope says:

      Yes, I too find those who demand to be treated equally to be filled with hate. How dare they!

  81. John Menzies says:

    Dearest Jeremy

    I write in relation to your revelatory research on the male penises. Outstanding work. This is as essential to social science and gender studies as Albert Einstein was to physics or Richard Feynman was to Quantum Electro Dynamics. Indeed such a great leap forward as to be compared with Newton or as Neil Armstrong would have said “One small penis for Man but one great erection for humankind”.

    Thank you.

  82. Noah says:

    Not super impressive. The fact these guys try to put their work on par with Sokal’s hoax is unfortunate. It’s a little facile to even call this a hoax. I could write a junk poem and submit it to a predatory poetry journal that makes me pay to get it published and then say I’m a published poet. Look how easy it was! Poetry is a scam.

    The authors worry that gender studies folk will believe that, “…men do often suffer from machismo braggadocio, and that there is an isomorphism between these concepts via some personal toxic hypermasculine conception of their penises.” But I don’t really see why a gender studies academic wouldn’t believe this… This is NOT a case of cognitive dissonance.

    Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy pointing out the hypocrisy of the left as much as the next guy. But as much as the authors like to pretend like they have “no idea” what they are talking about, they clearly do. They are taking existing gender study ideas and just turning up the volume and adding more jargon. I almost wish they were saying even less with more to prove a point.

    The author’s biases are on their sleeve. Their arguments are about as effective as a Men’s Rights Activist on Reddit. By using a backhanded approach in an attempt to give a coup de grace to gender studies academaniacs, all they’ve done is blow $625 and “exposed” the already well known issue of pay-to-play. If they wanted to make an actual case against the “feminazis” writ large, I suggest they “man” up and actually make a real argument rather than show a bunch of fancy words can fool some people.

  83. Chris says:

    Absolutely excellent. Both funny and saddening. Thank you.

  84. GRW3 says:

    To test this from the opposite direction, write a completely serious paper about women attacking aspect of SJW/PC culture. See if it can even be published for pay.

  85. Jasmine Hall says:

    The place where the article was published, “Cogent Social Sciences,” mentions that they charge approximately $1350 to authors wanting to publish their articles. I’m a very small potatoes academic, but I have had articles published. I never had to pay the journal. Was the article submitted to any academic journals that don’t require payment for publication?

  86. Eric says:

    You realize that this paper not only got published, but will, in the future, be regarded as the most important social science paper of the early 21st century. Like Einstein’s 1905 paper on special relativity, it will launch entire new fields of study that fund the careers of thousands and change the way the human race thinks about reality for ever. Statues of Peter Boyle and Jamie Lindsay will be erected (strike that) will be BUILT (yeah… much better) on every major college campus in the country, and buildings, parks and safe spaces will be named after them.

    Thanks, guys.

  87. Diogenes of Sinope says:

    You’re REALLLY easy on the vanity press angle here while displaying the same sort of hysterical “postmodernphoboa” that has existed and persisted since the 80s. *Yawn.* Try being original next time if you want to try be clever.

    Pay for play is a problem, but it’s not linked to the conditions of a “publish or perish” environment. Rather, it smacks of the exploitative conditions of a system that values capital and property rights over the advancement of knowledge. And the apoligism for the corporate/predatory nature of the publishing racket here is reprehensible.

    Mediocrity *should* be weeded out, and academics *should* produce legitimate research publications relative to their field, or else make room for more deserving individuals. We shouldn’t encorage the existence of a system that tolerates/rewards dead wood intellectuals to squat over tenured positions while more capable and ambitious individuals are forced into an exploitative adjunct system.

    And while I would agree that the “social sciences” are ersatz sciences, the phallogocentric elevation of science itself to the level of a master discourse smacks of uncritical religiosity. This type of “holier than thou” attitude is as childish as it is churlish.

  88. Jennifer Davis says:

    I think that this hoax elucidates the problems with the open access journal publication process, rather than any overarching ideological problems concerning postmodernism. Simply claiming, over and over, that a subject is ‘nonsense’ does not make it nonsense. It just means that the person shouting “this is nonsense” thinks it is so. For example, the authors of this article really just showed that they know surface level terms and ideas regarding the field of gender studies and postmodernism. The theory of the “conceptual penis” is not an original idea; it is essentially performativity theory with a specific focus on embodiment theory (applied to one aspect of the body). These authors are just construing the ideas of Judith Butler (in an extremely abridged and vague way that demonizes men– something that Butler does not aim to do in her revolutionary work). This could be why the peer-reviewers thought the conceptual penis was indeed enlightening- because it was based off of the ideas of Butler. The link to climate change is a satire of eco-feminism, a division of feminist thought that describes the intersectionality between patriarchy and environmental issues. One could do essentially the same thing in reverse (just read any article written by The Onion). What I gleamed from this article is that one could use these absurd (non-academic) open access journals to publish a satire hidden in flowery academic lingo. I might be more concerned if this was a research funded project or masters thesis, but it’s really just laughable rather than anything ideologically concerning.

  89. Alex says:

    Absolutely love what was done here. Amazing and, I must admit, hilarious means of exposing a section of academia in serious need of internal reform.

    Just curious…did you ever receive a response from ‘Cogent Social Sciences’ after publishing your article? When did they realize the true nature of your article? Would be very interested to read their response.

  90. Ernesto says:

    It would have been a little more honest to accept that they failed in their main and first objective: that that journal NORMA approve their article and denunciation of pay-to-publish only came after that failure.

  91. Mark says:

    Why pick gender studies specifically to skewer with your really impressive conceptual penises? While your point that reputation and peer review is lacking in some quarters appears well grounded, I question your conclusion that the professionalism of the field of gender studies per se is called into question by your result. I do not defend the field; I simply note you have failed to present convincing evidence to back up your claims about it. Your entire body of evidence relevant to this contention consists of your conclusion that the guilty journal is reputable. You base this conclusion upon the single fact that an individual from a supposedly reputable journal referred you to it. In effect, you have posited a transitive property of reputability of an absolute nature. There have to be better criteria for making a finding of reputability than that. Further, you have reached a global conclusion based upon a single data point. Put it back in your pants, fellows. You’re embarrassing yourselves.

    • Mark says:

      Or, perhaps this was a cleverly designed ploy to see how many readers of were skeptical and how many uncritically swallowed your critique of an entire field of inquiry based upon the data you presented? And if critiques in the comments caused the comments to deviate over time? Now, that would be clever.

      • hansen says:

        Mark, it is not the first time this happens, and it won’t be the last. How many bites of a cheese do you need to take to know it is bad?

  92. Bart Grossman says:

    This sort of thing needs to be done continually to expose the intellectually barren and preposterous stuff that goes on in the various grandchildren of sociology. Students are learning meaningless concepts and non-empirical “theories” in order to justify the appointment of closed-minded “scholars,” who argue that actually performing research would be enacting a paternalistic paradigm designed to oppress women and people of color. We worry about attacks on science from the right while often ignoring the crap that is accepted as science on the left. Cheers.

  93. Howard Cohen says:

    I still can’t stop laughing at your “wonderful article.” Integrating it into climate change was priceless. When I was in graduate school in the 1970s we were all studying Critical Theory from the Frankfurt School — Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, etc. It was deep going because of the Hegelian/Marxist overlay best represented by journals such as TELOS. BUT IT FORCED USE TO READ THE GIANTS OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, SOCIOLOGY, AND ECONOMICS. Gender studies appears to be almost total nonsense with a vocabulary that is completely unintelligible. Unfortunately, the entire field of gender and sexual studies appears to be a HOAX.

  94. Mayday says:

    The authors, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay, failed to disclose their study was sponsored by a grant from Vandelay Industries (authorized by George Castanza).

    Vandelay Industries makers of latex condoms.

  95. Mosheh Wolf says:

    Ummm… As scientists you should know better than to reach conclusions from a single data point. You have a single gibberish article accepted into a marginal journal. To actually support your claim that it was accepted because of the catch-phrases it uses, you need to produce at least 20-30 gibberish articles with these catch-phrases, as well as another 20-30 without the catch-phrases, but which are otherwise no different. If the 20-30 articles with the catch phrases are accepted at a significantly higher rate than those without the catch phrases, then, and only then, you can make a claim as to a positive relationship between presence of catch phrases and acceptance. At this point, all you have is an anecdote.

    I recommend that the authors take a refresher course in Experimental Design.

  96. Rebecca says:

    If you have to pay someone to publish your paper, it actually is not a prominent journal. This hoax seems to be on the authors who paid money, but I’m fairly astonished by the number of people who think this journal is prominent. Nobody working in the field of gender and sexuality studies has ever heard of it. People publish in these academic journal scams when they don’t know anything or any better. . . so what does that say about the authors?

  97. semiliterate says:

    You essentially submitted a paper claiming that the phallus is a valid concept.

    Since there are hundreds of papers showing that it is, it was published.

    Sorry, where is the hoax? Is it that you think your paper is meaningless, like Sokal’s was? It’s not. It’s a really uncontroversial claim that you appear to have no ability to assess because you have no background in gender studies. For example, one of the claims you believe should have resulted in rejection is that your paper rejects simple notions of “biological male”, but these have been discredited in gender studies for so long that they have been discredited in endocrinology as well – the case that the term “male reproductive organ” or similar terms refers to a simple biological one-to-one relationship would have been difficult to make in the 19th century, and yet your paper only works as a rhetorical device if that simple penis=male statement is absolutely true.

    • Flack says:

      “they have been discredited in endocrinology as well”

      semiliterate, where did you get that nonsense? Have you picked up any recent texts? Tried your hand at finding the use of the term “male,” or even female for that matter, in endocrinology papers? Taken even an introductory class on the topic? Probably not because what you said suggests you’re either a liar or embarrassingly misinformed.

  98. Jack Person says:

    Lol at the author handing that $625 over. Not bad for an afternoon’s work, for those reviewers.

  99. BerndLauert says:

    I am not a fan of ‘gender studies’, but this hoax is more than lame.

  100. Marc Rosaaen says:

    I haven’t read the article yet but wanted to comment on the intro:

    “its” rather than “it’s”

    “rein” rather than “reign”

  101. JacobK. says:

    Thank you for bringing out two things I myself deal with in my own work: The insistence of the “echo-chamber” topics being INCLUDED in my work (even if they don’t FIT), and 2. The willingness of people to “get the word out” for those postmodern social topics in vogue presently without regard for accuracy. The low information (or low-level of willingness to research on their own) folks will drink this like the Kool-Aid and no one will know any better. Thank you for doing this. It was absolutely necessary.

  102. Gary D. says:

    We have to remember that university positions, especially professor-type positions, are quite lucrative.

    In other words, the people who write gibberish like this have found a cash cow and they’re milking it for all it’s worth.

    As the Bible says, the LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil. That includes the evil of passing off gibberish as intelligence.

    By the way, years ago, MAD magazine had one of those gibberish generators, that is, randomly creating a sentence from columns of words.

  103. CosmicRay says:

    What a hoot! The original post was spot on about gender studies. If there are students hoodwinked enough to pursue the field (and take out loans to do it!), I pity them. It is a bunch of pseudo intellectual nonsense. The lucky grads (the Brahmins) will find a teaching position and encourage more fools to major in a worthless subject. How worthless is discovered by the majority of grads, those not lucky enough to get the cushy teaching position or NGO job. The have no real skills or critical faculties. Developing the latter would cause gender studies departments to impose since students with real skills of logic and inquiry would see through the BS.

    I’m enjoying the comments, particularly those trying to defend gender studies. Pretty difficult job to defend a field where radical politics is everything and any straying from the party line is condemned, no matter what the intellectual justification. I say close all those departments and give the positions to physics and math. The University will improve measurably.

    • Diogenes of Sinope says:

      News Flash: humanities departments are currently being underfunded compared to science departments and we’re all the worse off for it.

      Or would you rather have a system like the Chinese do that turns out legions of drone technicians who lack the writing skills to effectively convey their findings, or the critical thinking skills to form a rational hypothesis (or argument against a flawed one)?

      But we already have the best higher education system in the world, no need to dismantle it unless you want to pack it all up and concede to being second best (or worse). It’s not a zero sum game between the arts and the sciences.

  104. Gareth P says:

    I think this hoax is hilarious and confirms my view that there is a lot of complete nonsense written in some disciplines.

    That said, it occurs to me that there is no control i.e. some sort of nonsense paper submitted to a physics or chemistry journal. If I were playing devil’s advocate, could I not claim that this hoax only proves that some journals will publish nonsense, rather than it is a problem with a specific discipline. I doubt that a serious science journal would publish nonsense, but it should be tested; and I wouldn’t be surprised if fake references could get past reviewers at a good science journal.

    The authors say that nobody is arguing, or has reason to argue, that reputable journals such as Nature have a fundamentally flawed or corrupt review process. That may be true, but there are people arguing that there is a fundamental problem with the way statistics are used in many serious journals and the conclusions which are drawn from those statistics.

  105. Shauna H. says:

    I have to say, this article got quite a few chuckles out of this feminist. I enjoy making a little fun of anyone who takes themselves too seriously.

    I am reminded of the small ads I use to see in my teen girl magazines, offering to publish your best poem in a book….all you had to do was buy the book for 20 bucks! Even this 15 year old could spot a scam when I saw one.

    It is unfortunate that such things still occur, but I doubt many academics can’t see through the ruse. The only readers of Cogent Social Sciences are likely only the people published in it, and a few unfortunate people around them that they are trying to impress, as being “published” authors.

    It is telling that the target chosen was Gender Studies, as opposed to many other possibilities from the liberal arts and “soft science” fields. I know we are finally making real progress because the males are getting uncomfortable.

    First, they laugh at you; then they denounce you; then they accept it as truth. We have progressed to step 2!

    • macmarine says:

      “First, they laugh at you; then they denounce you; then they accept it as truth. We have progressed to step 2!”

      Yeah, in your collective wet dreams, hon! In the real world you’re doomed to never escape stage 1

  106. Mark says:

    Watch out Gender Studies! We paid a scam journal money to publish a scam article and they did! Score one for physics!

  107. Dipshyt says:

    In this article, two suburban rappers crow about how hot their mixtape is after getting someone to give them money for their mix tape by shoving the mix tape in the mark’s hand and harassing him for money.

  108. Ben Galinksy says:

    Or take this example — other nonsensical papers published in physics journals.

    • hansen says:

      The Bogdanov brothers were exposed by people in the field, not gender people. That’s one important difference. When gender people do the same to scams in their field there may be a basis for trust. But what we see happen now is a scramble to defend all and every nonsense published in the field. Go into denial all you like, but don’t expect scientists to take you serious then.

  109. Mike H says:

    Dr. Boghossian – I wish you good luck at PSU. I expect the mob will soon be braying for your academic head.

  110. Ben Galinksy says:

    I’m not a big fan of gender studies, but the exact same thing has happened repeatedly in physics, engineering, and other “hard sciences”; it’s silly to single out gender studies:

  111. Empiricism and Argumentation says:

    Based on my encounters with the social studies literature and my attempted discussions with individuals who place high value on its implications, I legitimately wonder if responses of the form:

    “While the Reviewer suggested that we provide additional background information to justify the assertions made in the text, we would like to emphasize that it is not the Authors’ job to educate the Reviewer. Furthermore, responding to their criticisms is very emotionally draining. Therefore, we suggest that the Reviewer properly educate themselves and then re-read our manuscript until they understand it or simply accept it. The Reviewer should understand that to reject our manuscript would be to wield their position of privilege so as to erase our already-marginalized viewpoint, exclude us from the academic discourse, and enact violence against our collective sense of self-worth.”

    would be considered valid and/or convincing in the social studies.

    As the authors of this piece note, much of the “work” in these fields appears to simply consist of unjustified assertions that are presented from a presumed enlightened moral authority and cloaked in incoherent jargon. I often wonder how seemingly intelligent individuals buy into this sort of trash masquerading as scholarship. I am happy to see that there are others who recognize the intellectual emptiness that is at the heart of these fields.

  112. EJ says:

    The “it’s” in Shermer’s editorial note preceding the article should be “its.”

  113. Old_ones says:


    “The feminist glaciology piece is a well known article and was meant to be provocative. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t make it bullshit….”

    Oh look, its one of the standard tropes of religious apologists, the “it’s not ridiculous, you just don’t get it” defense. Just because it was “meant to be provocative” doesn’t mean it isn’t stupid. I’m quite capable of parsing philosophical jargon, thanks.

    • Matthew says:

      Did you read it, though, or just see the phrase “feminist glaciology” and think, gee, must be silly?

  114. JLS says:

    All this article shows is that neither the authors, nor the editors of Skeptic, know how humanities scholars evaluate predatory journals. And they didn’t even bother to ASK any humanities scholars about it. Incredibly embarrassing.

    I can’t wait for the next big reveal from Skeptic: “How I duped a Nigerian prince into believing I could be trusted to hold onto his inheritance, for only $3,000”

    • JLS says:

      And in case any STEM majors out there are wondering why this journal was recommended in the rejection letter from the other one… it was a polite way of saying “why don’t you send this article to the dump, where it belongs”.

      In the humanities, the onus is on the prospective researcher to understand the aptness of any journal that might get recommended in a rejection letter, and if they are unsure, they talk it out with their advisor. This week, I was even at a talk for both STEM+humanities grads on how to get papers published, and the presenter actually discussed this. So who on earth are these Ph.D.s who don’t know about this? What’s more, I have no idea how the Skeptic editors missed how clueless these authors are. As I said, incredibly embarrassing.

      • Michael says:

        With spin skills like these, perhaps the Trump administration should look to you in case Sean Spicer quits or is fired.

  115. CWGross says:

    In a discipline based on politics rather than scholarship, not what IS but what OUGHT, there is no standard of truth. There’s just what you can convince people of. Not that this at all excuses how they were able to just MAKE UP references and things. It’s easier to get a paper published in a political journal than to get a decent grade on a term paper.

    But, as people have pointed out here, these sorts of hoaxes have been played on scholarly journals too. The biggest takeaway, to me, is that you can apparently get anything published as long as it plays to the prejudices of the editorial board. That is a good thing to keep in mind for anyone in any discipline, even ‘zines like Skeptic. Just tell people what they want to hear.

  116. Matthew says:

    Cogent Social Science isn’t a respectable journal, so no one cares. You should try reading some of the stuff that gets published in equivalent natural sciences journals, especially the pay to play ones, and see if their “standards” are any higher…

    Tldr: stupid article, stupid experiment, stupid blogpost, stupid bloggers

    • Michael says:

      So proclaims a *highly credible* internet commenter without any note of wounded defensiveness whatsoever.

      The people leaping all over this post to condemn it (and the hoax article) are demonstrating everything that is wrong with academia right now. Congrats on playing into the hands of the ascendant right wing…

  117. Old_ones says:

    “I imagine what I’d think if this happened in real science. If it was a one off, I think I’d dismiss it as BS and not an indictment of a whole field.”

    It’s not a one-off. Your point about the limited conclusions you can draw from this is worth considering, but you can find other papers like this one that have not been retracted.

    For instance:

    Feminist Glaciology, which was not a joke and is in a real geography journal. We know why this kind of junk gets published and where these kinds of ideas came from. Its a reflection of the influence of postmodernism that some academics believe good scholarship is inscrutable and useless. I read this hoax more as an expose than a scientific experiment – the point was to call attention to a problem rather than prove it exists. Maybe Boghossian and Lindsay are planning a follow up similar to Fashionable Nonsense in the aftermath.

    • Matthew says:

      The feminist glaciology piece is a well known article and was meant to be provocative. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t make it bullshit….

  118. John says:

    I can only repeat alex’s perfect summary of the situation…

    ” Nobody is saying that the field is useless because it published this paper. We’re saying that it published this paper because it is useless.”

    • Scott Kobieta says:

      Which means the hard sciences are also useless, since Science and Nature have both published completely fabricated articles. Not to mention the half a dozen other examples listed above.

    • Ema M. Arredondo M. says:

      It wasn’t the *field* what published the article. It was the *magazine*.

  119. Tc says:

    I’ll pull out the ‘no true Scotsman’ here. ‘No true skeptic’ would actually think this hoax achieved anything like what it claims, if they were being truely skeptical. When a result such as this conforms to your already held position, then you should, at the very least, apply some small amount skepticism, if not to the same level as you would if a result was the opposite of what you already believe.

    If gender studies is BS, just like say homeopathy is BS, then argue about its specific claims. Getting a paper like this published demonstrates nothing other than it’s possible to get a paper like this published.

    I imagine what I’d think if this happened in real science. If it was a one off, I think I’d dismiss it as BS and not an indictment of a whole field. But then again, maybe if the authors had just googled:

    – Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers
    – Nonsense paper written by iOS autocomplete accepted for conference

    • hansen says:

      The 120 paper retracted were for compromised peer review, I think. Not really gibberish.
      And trust me, you will have more of those. But if you want to find complete gibberish you need to go to popular science a la the Bogdanov brothers or to gender studies. Remember the genus trompet? Research project funded by the Swedish research council to the tune of MSEK (order of magnitude).

    • macmarine says:


      I’m really glad you made a clear distinction between postmodern bullshit studies and “real science”!

  120. Smiling fox says:

    Next article,
    “The contractual vagina, and the paradigm of growing dominance in societial normality.”

    As a social construct. The ultra feminists proably will be quoting your paper. And god knows i love woman. But i think the target rich extremists love this kinda talk.

    Great paper. Just proves the old saying. “Dazzel them with brilliance or baffle them with bullshit. ”

  121. Samuel says:

    Ah, such rigorous skepticism! Your main point was disproven when NORMA rejected you out of hand, but you went ahead and wrote the same article you would have otherwise. Apparently getting published by an obscure, pay-for-publication, vanity journal with no connection to gender studies somehow proves that “the echo-chamber of morally driven fashionable nonsense coming out of the postmodernist social ‘sciences’ in general, and gender studies departments in particular.” It’s almost as if this blog was morally driven and speaking into an echo chamber. An idea for your next article: yell something into a paper bag and declare victory over critical race studies.

    • Patrick says:

      Of course you’re saying that. Of bloody course. I mean, I understand and all… what other choice do you really have? Odd though, isn’t it, that Mia Liinason, a Senior Lecturer in Gender Studies at the University of Gothenburg chose this laughably disreputable outlet to publish her work very recently. But no, you’re right. After all, what would the Swedes know about feminism and gender theory…

      • psanon says:

        what makes you think some random faculty member from an unknown university in sweden is a top, well-respected scholar?? the lengths you people go to to hold onto your beliefs is incredible.

    • Hans Nesse says:

      Absolutely. These “hoaxers” are simply doing terrible science. An experimentalist can not simply run their experiment under progressively less stringent conditions until they get their desired result. This hoax typifies the inversion of science, where people have unchanging conclusions and seek only to find experimental support for them.

      They had a hypothesis, they did an experiment, the experiment did not support the hypothesis. Science and scientific skepticism is, at its core, having the courage to let evidence change your view. From that, we can conclude these hoaxers are not doing science.

  122. Donkey Teeth says:

    “Part of the fault may fall on the open-access, pay-to-publish model”

    ALL of the fault falls on the open-access, pay-to-publish model, you idiots. Call me the next time a mathematics journal publishes another paper generated by autocomplete.

  123. Fritz says:

    And guess what … the article is STILL on their website!
    Bravo, gentlemen!

  124. Martin says:

    Journals in on other fields and traditional publishers have also published non-sense papers, e.g. a computer-generated nonsense paper [1] was published in the Elsevier journal Applied Mathematics and Computation. Should we now raise questions about the fundamental integrity of fields such as mathematics? Also considering the fake Elsevier journals, the STAP scandal, etc. it is obvious that the failure to detect basic issues with peer review is not limited to open-access pay-to-publish models.


  125. Luke says:

    Using politics to critique the academic spaces of the marginalized is disgusting, but this is much worse – it’s lying through omission and obfuscation of context, through the suggestion of impropriety on the behalf of an entire field of legitimate study. That’s not moral or ethical, it’s shameful. Smoke, but no fire. The rot you’re revealing is not the rot you think it is, and any good this article could do will be drowned out by the insane harm it will assuredly do. Maybe your real penises don’t match your conceptual ones?

  126. Paul says:

    I don’t think drawing the conclusions that you do about postmodern scholarship and gender studies are justified based on your experiences publishing something in an open-access, pay-to-play journal. Get this published in a more respectable place and then you might have something to talk about. It is also interesting to note that both authors work in fields that are very masculine and they happen to be fields where men often feel most threatened when gender inequality is raised. Perhaps we are dealing with some fragile masculinities here? These “mighty oaks” should check out Connell’s “Masculintities.”

    • hansen says:

      Standard reply from feminists: you feel threatened, you are insecure, read this-or-that book, google the subject to understand.
      Implicitly: Then you will learn that your penis-size is your problem.

  127. Aaron says:

    I think a more serious attempt should be made to publish credible sounding nonsense in respectable journals. It would take the effort to read a few articles, but if gender-studies majors can write this crap then any average chimp can do it. The ridiculousness shines bright in the best of their journals, no need to waste time playing with their worst.
    That being said, kudos for pulling this one off!

    • Diogenes of Sinope says:

      Or one could actually take the academic approach and take on specific pieces in the field head on with the candor and rigor befitting of an academic. Spamming and shitposting is for the internet, let’s not degrade our legitimate institutions as well as our own legitimacy as academics by becoming fourth-rate trolls. If you want to take the low road just start a subReddit.

  128. Chrysippo says:

    What I think ‘ought’ to be is the reality and those who seek to know what ‘is’ actually the case are morally suspect.

    So Christian joins the ranks of Trump, Putin, creationists, dictators, and those suffering white middle-class guilt whose ad hominem retort to all who question the emperor’s new clothes is basically: ‘you’ are awful therefore I don’t need to listen to your arguments – an ethical bankruptcy.

  129. Jill dillon says:


  130. TC says:

    I’ll pull out the ‘no true Scotsman’ here. ‘No true skeptic’ would actually think this hoax achieved anything like what it claims, if they were being truely skeptical. When a result such as this conforms to your already held position, then you should, at the very least, apply some small amount skepticism, if not to the same level as you would if a result was the opposite of what you already believe.

    If gender studies is BS, just like say homeopathy is BS, then argue about its specific claims. Getting a paper like this published demonstrates nothing other than it’s possible to get a paper like this published.

    I imagine what I’d think if this happened in real science. If it was a one off, I think I’d dismiss it as BS and not an indictment of a whole field. But then again…

  131. Rex Duvet says:

    Any chance of sharing the referee reports?

  132. Dyfrig Jones says:

    This paper should clearly have never been published. However, there is a key difference between what you have done here, and what Sokal did. Sokal’s paper on quantum gravity was pure, unadulterated nonsense. What you have done is take a concept that is fundamentally sound – the conceptual penis – and dressed it up in nonsense. We often refer to male sexual organs in a conceptual, figurative sense. When a man is tough and daring, he has huge balls. When a middle-aged man buys a sports car, we describe it as a penis substitute. A swaggering, confident male is described as a big swinging dick. We do conceptualise the penis; contrary to your assertion that your paper “didn’t say anything meaningful”, I think that there is a small kernel of meaning in amongst the thousands of words of jibberish.

    • Alex says:

      Pishposh. The concept of quantum gravity is every bit as “sound” as your conceptual penis.

    • Joe says:

      “Sokal’s paper on quantum gravity was pure, unadulterated nonsense. What you have done is take a concept that is fundamentally sound – the conceptual penis – and dressed it up in nonsense.”

      In other words, the Emperor is too wearing clothes, you traitor!

  133. Maurizio says:

    Absolutely brilliant! However…are you really sure that your fake paper will not fuel unwanted “institutional” nonsense via the web maze? I mean, Alan Sokal submitted his paper about quantum gravity social implications in 1996, then uncovered his hoax after a while…well, here in Italy, 2017, after years there are many lunatics boasting the miracles of “quantum thinking”!

  134. Thomas says:

    Watch Your Citation Intex ! ;)

  135. Matty C says:

    As is typically the case, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. What these authors MAY have stumbled upon is a smoking gun that is problematic in the field. That one (frankly terrible) journal published it isn’t all that surprising. As the journaling world goes, authors know to submit their work to subsequently less-prestigious journals to be published in. This is a crap journal but…

    A meta-analysis of multiple papers of it’s ilk (and some way of “rating” a journal’s prestige with a blind study on the side among academics) could be a potentially amazing story if it hasn’t already been done. This feels strangely like something John Oliver covered…

  136. Carrie Thanton says:

    Whoever criticizes the left is now labeled “alt-right”. The great bogeyman of our age. Wait, strike that. I meant to say the great “bogeyperson”… nearly offended 8 or 9 people there. Crisis averted.

    Anyway, the alt-right, sure yeah. Makes a lot of sense too. I mean, think about it. Who else would question the deranged dogma coming from the safe space cult?
    It could only be those wacky caricatures known as the alt-right!

    Because as you know, no one disagrees with the left except the right.
    Independants? No such thing.
    Only (alt)left and (alt)right.

    Oops. I said alt-right more than three times in this post. Doesn’t that summon evil spirits or something? I think I read an article that said it does, so it’s pretty much a fact now.

  137. Jair says:

    I don’t know the field well enough to judge how good this journal is. But if it is a C- or D-grade paper mill journal, as others commenters have indicated, this proves less than nothing and is a waste of time. If it is in fact a very respected and influential publication – then congrats!

  138. Rob McGee says:

    I just want to point out that the term “penis” IS a social construct in a very limited sense — in that it can be used to refer to a variety of sperm-transferring organs that evolved independently of each other and are structurally very different from one another. So biologists will describe male ostriches and ducks as having a “penis,” but the female spotted hyena has a “pseudo-phallus” or a “greatly enlarged clitoris.” In some ways, the lady hyena’s junk is much more “penis like” than a gentleman ostrich’s junk, but in the case of the ostrich, the organ’s main function is to channel sperm, which is not the case for the hyena.

  139. Christian says:

    Congrats; you proved that a tiny journal meant to published C-grade papers for profit, in a completely broken publishing system, will have errors. You proved they’re also probably politically inclined, and you did so in such a way to betray your own inclination. You went all this length to attack the field of gender studies in a tortured way and now we need gender studies to explain why you were motivated to do it. Absolutely super congrats to you both, The Big Boys of Rational Thinking, a thousand standing ovations to everybody involved.

    A field that’s been gutted from funding but which young people want to study in large numbers has been proven to have a political agenda. You did this by publishing in a journal that isn’t in the field, but a profit mechanism for a publishing house. Meanwhile, all the big fans of your hoax are – oh, surprise – on the anti-feminist alt-right and the diminished-reputation rationalists of the Dawkins/Harris brand of hectoring.

    Big boy high fives to you and your fans.

    • Alex says:

      “and now we need gender studies to explain …”

      The only rational end to that sentence is “absolutely nothing”.

    • Paul137 says:

      Thanks, Christian! It’s always great to hear about the view from Mt. Olympus.

    • Jennifer says:

      I agree with Christian that the “big accomplishment” is nothing more than getting the article placed in a vanity press.

      And is it *really* that absurd to compare overconfident men to penises?

      • Alex says:

        “And is it *really* that absurd to compare overconfident men to penises?”

        Not absurd, just cunt-y.

  140. bloke says:

    Hard science has a longstanding,rigorous peer review process borne out of hundreds of years of testing hypotheses,using appropriate methodology yielding empirically derived evidence to support or disprove a hypothesis.
    Gender studies has its ideological narrative aggressively promulgated by those with a political agenda,and fails to even conceal its biases.
    Consequently any resultant research resembles a horse before cart approach.
    Flood the publishing houses with faux articles like this one to prove the point.

    • thaniell says:

      And there’s also rubbish journals with fucked up reviewing – if reviewing takes place at all – in the hard sciences. The question that this single experiment cannot answer is whether this is an endemic problem particularly in the field or just a bad journal.
      If you ask 10 renowned gender studies profs about the 10 best journal in their field and this one comes up repeatedly, then this indicates a problem.
      If you get similar papers accepted at multiple journals named as top-journals of the field, then there is a serious problem.
      If a majority of renowned gender studies academics defends this paper, then we have a problem.

      • Hugo Lindum says:

        @thaniel You use the term “renowned gender studies academics” – very amusing.

    • Diogenes of Sinope says:

      “Flood the publishing houses with faux articles like this one to prove the point.”

      Sounds rather unscientific now doesn’t it?

    • random guy says:

      and yet science journals have posted papers created using auto-complete…should we not take science seriously then?

  141. Sascha Schuenemann says:

    Come on, nonsense paper, even some created by an algorithm using random text AND graphs, got accepted in a wide variety of scientific fields.

    All this proves is that the review mechanism is broken / not existent for some journals, but it does not say anything about the field itself covered by these journals.

    If you want to criticise social sciences or gender studies in particular, please look at the many real issues instead of focusing on such BS

    • Noah says:

      I agree.

      The authors worry that gender studies folk will believe that, “…men do often suffer from machismo braggadocio, and that there is an isomorphism between these concepts via some personal toxic hypermasculine conception of their penises.” But I don’t really see why a gender studies academic wouldn’t believe this… This is NOT a case of cognitive dissonance.

      As much as the authors like to pretend like they have “no idea” what they are talking about, they clearly do. They are taking existing gender study ideas and just turning up the volume and adding more jargon. As if this proves a point against the field.

      The author’s biases are on their sleeve. Their arguments are about as effective as a Men’s Rights Activist on Reddit. By using a backhanded approach in an attempt to give a coup de grace to gender studies academaniacs, all they’ve done is blow $625 and “exposed” the already well known issue of pay-to-play. If they wanted to make an actual case against the “feminazis” writ large, I suggest they “man” up and actually make a real argument rather than show a bunch of fancy words can fool some people.

    • joe says:

      You’re just upset because your nonsensical, leftist, progressive worldview is exposed as ridiculous with each passing day. Maybe the mechanism for publishing these articles is broken, or maybe it was published because it was another “study” that can be used to perpetuate more leftist narratives, lies and misinformation under the guise of “academic enrichment” and “education”. As long as mindless people continue to believe and obey, the left couldn’t care less about academic integrity.

  142. MacCruiskeen says:

    Who got hoaxed here? It looks like the respectable journal sniffed out that your stuff was stinky and decided you could be fleeced for a few bucks in a vanity publication.

    • Adam says:

      So they’re trying to ruin their own reputation as a respectable journal?

      • JLS says:

        Explain your logic?

        Subtle misdirection in rejection letters will “ruin the reputation” of a journal?

    • Clayton Cramer says:

      In what sense is this a “respectable” action?

  143. Charles Garth Masters says:

    “Assuming the pen names “Jamie Lindsay” and “Peter Boyle,” and writing for the fictitious “Southeast Independent Social Research Group”
    Peter Boyle is the “name” of a prolific child pornographer who operated in former Soviet states. So named because he had a very distinctive lesion on his penis.

  144. Scott Kobieta says:

    Even Sokol explicitly said that the actions of a couple of reviewers and editors should not lead anyone to condemn an entire field. ( Why so much more strident here?

    By the authors’ logic, physics should be considered worthless nonsense because Jan Hendrik Schon had papers published in Science and Nature. ( And yet they consider that peer review system to be beyond reproach. I wonder why the different standards? Why does making up the contents of an article that is accepted for publication only reflect badly on non-scientific disciplines?

    To be sure, that the authors’ spoof paper was accepted is a problem for many reasons. But the leap of logic to dismiss an entire field as being useless, something Sokol specifically warned against, is an equally big problem.

    • Alex says:

      You seem confused. Nobody is saying that the field is useless because it published this paper. We’re saying that it published this paper because it is useless.

      • Scott Kobieta says:

        And yet the hard sciences remain beyond reproach even though their highest-ranked journals also publish fictitious articles. You’re right, it is confusing.

        • Clayton Cramer says:

          Not beyond reproach. Fraud is at least verifiable there by experiment.

      • Ema says:

        It wasn’t the field what published the paper. It was the magazine.

    • rocketride says:

      Nothing worthwhile needs the protective layers of flummery and one-from-column-A,-one-from-column-B,-one-from-column-C, interchangeable jargon.

      If it’s not falsifiable, it’s not science. If it has no fixed meaning (and therefore no fixed predictions can be made using it), it’s not falsifiable. (Do you see where I’m going with this?)

  145. Ray Madison says:

    It’s of course fairly easy for someone who claims to be a trusted academic to fairly easily violate that trust. Which is what these self proclaimed liars did, and they weren’t even all that good at lying.

    • HadENuff says:

      Ray Madison: Butthurt much?

    • DJEB says:

      “they weren’t even all that good at lying.”

      Which only serves to show, Ray Madison, just how vacuous the discipline is.

    • Clayton Cramer says:

      I hate to disappoint you but outright fraud is widespread in even well respected peer-reviewed journals. Go read about Michael Bellesiles. He was tenured professor at Emory. Now he tends bar. For once, a fraudster was given enough attention to get caught. I am sure many others who have not enjoyed my attention have gotten away with it.

    • rocketride says:

      That’s entirely the point. They were deliberately being bad at lying, delivering a deliberately worthless product, and still they got a taker.

  146. Joe says:

    Lol, nicely done.

  147. CLWhite says:

    Other typo: Its ramifications, not it’s

  148. DJEB says:

    Doing Logos’s work. Well done.

  149. Nina Wouk says:

    The brief quote from Judith Butler shows her capable of packing more incomprehensibility into fewer words than you-all did despite your best efforts. The mind continues to boggle.

  150. Dolan Dolany says:

    1. Reviewers often only skim through the articles.
    2. Nobody, and I meany NOBODY, reads journals like the one you’ve published in.
    3. Your article got rejected once and then transferred to a journal meant for publishing waste papers.
    4. It took you more time to prepare this blog post than editors managing 5 issues of that journal. If you spend your time denouncing BS you’re on par with the BS itself.

  151. Dr. Sidethink says:

    Anyone wondering if One wonders who is trolling whom really here is actually trolling too.

    Anyone wondering if Anyone wondering if One wonders who is trolling whom really here is actually trolling too. is actually trolling too.

    Anyone wondering if Anyone wondering if Anyone wondering if One wonders who is trolling whom really here is actually trolling too. is actually trolling too. is actually trolling too.
    this is known as a Mad Magazine level three cascade
    anyone actually typing such a thing needs to figure out how to actually ( split infinitive ) use other ways !!!!

    Also note that the previous sentence is a candidate for a cascade..

    I think that the record over 10 or so issues was several pages

    Dr.Sidethink Hp. D

    • Dana Tierney says:

      A superb example of why it’s high time to end the never-particularly worthwhile proscription against the splitting of the infinitive. Slavish adherence to this out-dated rule has often ruined many a fine sentence and the flow of the thought itself.

  152. Farmer Joe says:

    Thing is, departments like Gender Studies or African-American Studies, and the like were always intended to be political rather than scholarly. The establishment of such departments was often prompted by the protests/riots/occupations of the 60s. So expecting these disciplines to have any standard of truth (which is just, you know, a western, eurocentric cis-patriarchal – not to mention white supremacist – construct anyway) is kind of tilting at windmills.

    • Dr. Sidethink says:

      In the early ’70’s At a prestigious State University, my brother was informed that any
      “Caucasian” person taking the course called something like ” African American Roots” would be given a MAXIMUM grade of “C”.

      • Shauna H. says:

        Dr. Sidethink: Oh my God, totally! My second cousins ex-husband once knew a guy who’s brother was falsely accused of rape!

        Amazing how gullible people can be at the political extremes on both sides.

    • Ash says:

      Except that these “political” departments now claim to be the discovers of scientific truths, and that their “political” theories are actively used to filter and indoctrinate.

      If the demand to be held to account in the real world, why shouldn’t taxpayers ask how they are held to account in the academic world?

  153. Farmer Joe says:

    This should be in the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

  154. Ash says:

    You limit your critique to publishing, but I think there is an even more troubling problem in academia itself.

    The hard sciences may be self-correcting, so yes, one day continental drift and plate tectonics surmount a fixed geosynclinal earth.

    But what is the self-correcting influence in gender studies, or many university departments?

    Is it so wrong for taxpayers funding public schools to inquire about how the doctors heal themselves, or is all of that a violation of academic freedom?

    • Clayton Cramer says:

      Asking much of the humanities departments to demonstrate value or even scholarship definitely violates the right to be paid for doing nothing useful.

      • Dana Tierney says:


      • random guy says:

        Yeah we should just get rid of anything that isn’t hard science, screw literature, film, philosophy, journalism, art…because people should be told what to study by control freak science majors.

    • rocketride says:

      There is none, and that’s one reason (perhaps even the biggest) that none of that {excrement} is science.

  155. Kurt says:

    Typo in the quote from Shermer: “reign” should be “rein.”

  156. Bertram Wooster says:

    One wonders who is trolling whom really here..

    • jamsilver says:

      “One wonders who is trolling whom really here..”
      Yes, the bit about “hey try that other journal over there” does make me wonder if this is an insanely brilliant double-troll.

      I am fast losing the ability to interpret internet-reality. Trolling, meta-trolling, meta-meta-trolling.

      Chaos. =p

    • JimJ says:

      They played themselves.

  157. man overboord says:

    Next what you need to do is call a publishing mill every now and then, make clear who you are, and utter the mortifying words: “God no.. You fell for it again”

    Have them withdraw random studies! Chaos! Mayhem! Revolution!

  158. Sean says:

    Typo in the article. The second sentence in the second item in the list at the beginning of the Conclusion looks like it should be after the list. That is:

    “the complex problem of pay-to-publish journals with lax standards that cash in on the ultra-competitive publish-or-perish academic environment. At least one of these sicknesses led to “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” being published as a legitimate piece of academic scholarship, and we can expect proponents of each to lay primary blame upon the other. ”

    Should be:
    “the complex problem of pay-to-publish journals with lax standards that cash in on the ultra-competitive publish-or-perish academic environment.

    At least one of these sicknesses led to “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” being published as a legitimate piece of academic scholarship, and we can expect proponents of each to lay primary blame upon the other. “

    • Philip Mullen says:

      Hi! I appreciate your response.
      The article is full of comments about ‘liberal’ causes for acceptance of this phony article. Not mentioned is the pay for using someones else’s work which is very conservative.
      I think the authors had biases of their own.

      • J. Greer says:

        Philip Mullen you are “ate up” and represent the point of this hoax paper submission. Always avoid the topic (and reality) by blaming some social injustice – I get it. Unfortunately I get it.

      • Clayton Cramer says:

        “pay for using someones else’s work which is very conservative.” So using someone else’s work without paying for it (which sounds like theft) is therefore progressive?

        • J. Greer says:

          I’m certain you are trying to make a point Clayton Cramer but somehow I’m missing it. The submission of a hoax and having it published is using the work of someone else without paying for it? Either way, in response to your question of “theft” being a progressive vs. conservative trait (a ridiculous premise to ponder), perhaps you should look to the fact that more than 98% of all prison inhabitants in the United States are staunch supporters of progressives, when surveyed. Many residing in prison because of theft convictions (and murder, and rape, and various other unfathomable actions). Extrapolate the facts surrounding “theft” and “conservatives” and “progressives” yourself……which group of political supporters are truly deplorable?

        • rocketride says:

          Exactly. “What’s ours is ours and what’s yours is ours.” has always been the ‘progressive way’.

    • Melkat says:

      Sean, my inner Word Nerd detected two errors just in the last sentence of Shermer’s brief introduction:
      “it’s” should be “its” and “reign in” should be “rein in”.

      Regrettably, both of these errors have become all too common in published works these days. I suggest Mr. S. contact the folks at Prairie Home Companion and get them to put him in touch with P.O.E.M., “the Professional Organization of English Majors”. Everybody needs an editor. :)

      • Brian Bailey says:

        I suspect the errors are attributable to the evils of spellcheck and autocorrect, two plagues unleashed upon humankind by computer nerds. Both features are arrogant and predatory. How often have you typed a perfectly good and correct word and then find (after you hit ‘send’) it had been changed to something else by a system that is programmed to “think” it knows better than you?

        • S. Mor says:

          I suspect, since you poked fun at software engineers, by calling them “nerds,” that you prefer to separate yourself from that group. Perhaps your lack of computer knowledge is the reason for poking fun at this group of people. Regardless, it is clear that you don’t know how to turn auto correct off.

        • T. Roll says:

          Clearly another wrong released upon humankind by the social construct of the conceptual penis. Nonlinearity.

  159. Omar says:

    Awesome! This is an epic achievement. Unfortunately, it will not derail gender studies or any other nonsense field, but the rest of humanity can still benefit (or at least, laugh). Thank you!

    • rocketride says:

      And the best part is that the postmodern social-sciences types have not a clue why we’re pointing at them and laughing.

  160. Saxi Fraga says:

    I loved reading and writing such papers/concepts/manifestos during school for my arts class. Teachers in the arts department love that silly stuff! rofl

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