Hoax Paper on “The Conceptual Penis” Published in Prominent Social Science Journal

Bullshido tends to steer clear of Social Science issues. This is partly because our mission is focused on things that are simultaneously both indisputable bullshit and popularly believed, partly because many of the topics are so emotionally charged that there’s no productive discussion to be had, and partly because frankly, some people are doing a much better job of it than we can at the moment¹.

But there are growing concerns about academic integrity within the Social Sciences, with the rise of a seemingly authoritarian implementation of accepted and taboo narratives. And in some cases there is outright physical hostility in order to shut down discussion of ideas that conflict with what certain people want to believe is true whether or not the data actually demonstrates it. And that’s where we come in. Because we exist to remind even smart, educated people, that facts don’t give a shit one way or another about what you feel is “socially just”. If you have to resort to bullshit to impose your views on other people, you might want to dispassionately re-examine whether or not those views are actually worth supporting.

Anywho, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay set out to spotlight the problem by getting a paper of buzzword-filled nonsense accepted into a major journal of the social sciences. And boy did they succeed. We wanted to share some excerpts from “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct”, published in the not-quite-so-prestigious-any-more journal “Cogent Cognitive Sciences”:

Here’s a chunk of deliberately jargonized gibberish from the paper that sailed by the reviewers:

Still, even as a social construct, the conceptual penis is hopelessly dominated by recalcitrant social constructions that favor hypermasculine interpretations of the penis as a notion unjustly associated with high male value (Schwalbe & Wolkomir, 2001). Many cisgendered hypermasculine males, for instance, seem to identify those aspects of their masculinity upon which they most obviously depend with the notion that they carry their penis as a symbol of male power, domination, control, capability, desirability, and aggression (The National Coalition for Men “compile[d] a list of synonyms for the word penis [sic],” these include the terms “beaver basher,” “cranny axe,” “custard launcher,” “dagger,” “heat-seeking moisture missile,” “mayo shooting hotdog gun,” “pork sword,” and “yogurt shotgun” [2011]).

We can’t decide which euphemism is our favorite. Let us know yours in the comments.

And here’s another good bit:

Nowhere more does this problematic construction compare than with the “hegemonic masculinity and cultural construction” presented in the “essence of the hard-on” (Potts, 2000). Potts (2000) illustrates that the functioning (or lack thereof) of the [conceptual] penis “demonstrates the inscription on individual male bodies of a coital imperative: the surface of the male body interfuses with culture to produce the ‘fiction’ of a dysfunctional nonpenetrative male (hetero)sexuality.” This is clear power-dynamical repositioning to alleviate the internal psychological struggle of weakness via hypermasculinity and an essential fear of weakness that characterizes hypermasculinity itself.

But this is the absolute best:

2.2. Climate change and the conceptual penis

Nowhere are the consequences of hypermasculine machismo braggadocio isomorphic identification with the conceptual penis more problematic than concerning the issue of climate change. Climate change is driven by nothing more than it is by certain damaging themes in hypermasculinity that can be best understood via the dominant rapacious approach to climate ecology identifiable with the conceptual penis. Our planet is rapidly approaching the much-warned-about 2°C climate change threshold, and due to patriarchal power dynamics that maintain present capitalist structures, especially with regard to the fossil fuel industry, the connection between hypermasculine dominance of scientific, political, and economic discourses and the irreparable damage to our ecosystem is made clear.

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 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. At best, climate change is genuinely an example of hyper-patriarchal society metaphorically manspreading into the global ecosystem.

That’s right folks, dicks–real and conceptual–cause Climate Change.

It should go without saying that this paper has upset a significant number of people, but only after it was revealed to be a hoax. Nobody likes to look foolish, least of all those who’ve spent their entire careers building up their credibility in a field.

But that’s the problem: creating an environment in which an open exchange of ideas is hampered by notions of which ideas are emotionally acceptable, rather than which are supported by evidence, only ensures that you eventually will look foolish when reality comes knocking on your door. Or put it this way: you can’t build a house of cards in the park and expect it to stay standing just because you think wind is racist.

Read more at Skeptic.com’s write-up of the hoax.

¹. But we’re always on the lookout for anyone who’s qualified and willing to step into the fray to hurt people’s feelings with facts, so let us know if you want to help.

I don't write articles for people who read the New York Times or Nature, I write articles for people who read microwave pizza instructions more than once but are significantly more dangerous as a group. Head Knuckle at Bullshido.
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  1. It seems that actually the paper was turned down by the academic journal it was sent to, but the “hoaxers” then got an offer from a “pay to publish” academic journal, and then claimed victory.

    I get this information from a blog:


    that cites this information:

    “The first journal that Bognossian and Lindsay submitted their hoax paper to, and that rejected it, was NORMA: The International Journal for Masculinity Studies. This journal doesn’t even hit the top 115 journals in Gender Studies. So, what happened here was that they submitted a hoax paper to an unranked journal, which summarily rejected it. They then received an auto-generated response directing them to a pay-to-publish vanity journal. They submitted the paper there, and it was published.”