As I lay soaking in my bath last night, my reverie, as is the norm, started to wander off into forbidden territory. I knew there was something grand and dormant lying beneath the suds, but having not acknowledged its presence for at least ten minutes, I started to form a plan for how my evening’s entertainment might pan out. Yes, you are well ahead of me there. In that moment I decided that I would forgo the washing of my hair so that I could get straight onto the internet to investigate what the size of the male appendage has to do with climate change.

As has always been the case with my seriously scientific research, I knew to be careful not to leave anything incriminating in my search engine’s history. Consequently, I eschewed the rather too obvious “Big willies and climate change”, preferring instead to restrict myself to the correct scientific terminology – which I believe is ‘penis’. Furthermore, suspecting that discretion would be the better part of discretion, I decided to leave matters of size out of it. So, in the finest traditions of Climate Change Only Connect, I typed in ‘the penis and climate change’ before sitting back to carefully sift through the fruits of my enquiry.

And lo and behold, what fruit should sprout first but:

“Greta Thunberg mocks climate change deniers by citing ‘penis shrinking’ research.”

I will readily admit that the idea of a Swedish schoolgirl mocking the size of my penis was already a familiar cliché in my world of sexual fantasy, so I was quick to rub out that image before proceeding to the serious scientific stuff. Despite The Independent making the link to climate change denial, it turns out that the story had nothing at all to do with climate change. The research to which the sniggering Greta had alluded in her infamous tweet was a book written by ‘leading epidemiologist and environmental scientist’, Dr Shanna Swan, titled Count Down. It is a serious work that investigates various aspects of human fertility and the effects that pollution is having. However, the shrinking of the penis seems to have captured the attention of the wider public, and the temptation to erroneously link it to the warming of the planet was just too much of a temptation for The Independent and Greta to resist. Hence her supposedly hilarious quip, “See you all at the next climate strike”.

Her point, had it escaped you, is that care for the planet is presumed to be a peculiarly feminine preoccupation and the average planet-trashing toxic male needs a substantial reduction in his pecker size before he can be expected to join the party. A classic eco-feminist take on this subject can be found here, for example.

Well, it’s funny that you should mention penis size (just to remind you, I deliberately hadn’t in my search string) because not far below all the Greta stuff, my search results also included this:

“The conceptual penis as a social construct”

This paper, written by Jamie Lindsay and Peter Boyle, appeared in the journal Cogent Social Sciences back in 2017, and it starts with:

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

That’s quite an introduction but, apparently, it was the paper’s conclusion that most impressed the paper’s team of peer 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.”

The authors have since conceded that they are indeed being quite explicit here in arguing that “climate change is ‘conceptually’ caused by penises”. In fact, the paper defends that assertion thus:

“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.”

This is, of course, a load of rubbish. And, as it happens, I have it on good authority that it is so, because the authors of the paper have admitted as much. The paper is, in fact, a Sokal-style hoax perpetrated by Peter Boghossian, EdD (aka Peter Boyle, EdD) and James Lindsay, PhD (aka, Jamie Lindsay, PhD).

Unsurprisingly, this less than cogent paper has since been retracted by Cogent Social Sciences. No retraction statement is offered, but that matters not because the hoaxers have plenty to say:

“This paper should never have been published…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… 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.”

But does it get worse?

“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.”

The hoaxers continue to explain how a Postmodern Generator algorithm was used to produce much of the text and how many of the references were actually to non-existent papers. This latter fact was of particular note:

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).”

So there you have it. One simple search, and two misleading items immediately pop to the top. The first, peddled by The Independent (linking climate change denial to shrunken dicks) has to this day stood un-retracted by the lame-brained journalists that put it out there. But it has served a useful purpose by inspiring much infantile mocking of the average climate change ‘denier’. The other (alluding to the supposed toxic masculinity behind climate change and its denial) was a hoax immediately confessed to by those responsible and has been retracted by the journal concerned. But it has served its purpose by demonstrating that the academic underpinning for the genital-based criticism of climate change deniers is, in fact, to be judged in the name of all that is faecal.

But what about the question that was to provide my zetetic bath-time with its eureka moment? Is there a link between the size of male genitalia and climate change? Well, judging by the best that science has to offer, and the worst on offer from eco-feminism, the link seems to be as follows: If you are well-endowed, then you are to blame for it all, and if you are not, then you are probably a victim.

I suspect this is not the best time for me to be playing the victim card, so it has to be a case of mea culpa. In fact, I am as guilty as a donkey, would you believe?

22 Comments

  1. John, thank you for brightening a wet, dull morning. However, I must point out that I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

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  2. John, alas the “conceptual penis” hoax contributed to Boghossian’s demise at Portland State University.

    https://quillette.com/tag/podcast/

    (scroll down to 13th September).

    Boghossian (I may have mentioned this in Open Mic) was censured by his administration for experimenting on the journal’s editors without their consent.

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  3. Jit: “censured by his administration for experimenting on the journal’s editors without their consent”. That is one of the great lines of the current decade. Thanks for the reminder.

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  4. John, Was about to compose a reply complaining about the unnecessary density of the technical prose you have cited, when I discovered upon further reading that 1. But it was a hoax and 2. an algorithm was involved. My sacred prose withered and died, as did…. So engrossed did I become that I never discovered if there was a link between overly endowed males and their denierism and I wasn’t going to delve again into your pornfest to find out.

    If their is such a link then Cliscep should consider adopting the humble barnacle as its emblematic animal.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Alan,

    Pornfest? I doth protest. There is nothing smutty in this article that isn’t already in the reader’s mind. I am making a serious point about the ideological corruption of science. Okay, so I through in a few knob jokes to raise my viewing figures, but what is a struggling blogger gonna do?

    Like

  6. I like this that I found on Wikipedia regarding Boghossian:

    “Consequently, he was banned from doing research until he had ‘completed training and could demonstrate that he understood how to protect the rights of human subjects'”.

    No wonder he resigned. Have you ever watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. John. So now you’re a mind reader. You doth protest too much. It was you with your stray thoughts in the bath. Showers don’t have the same effect, especially if they are on the cool side. No chance of denierism during a cold shower. I commend this course of action.

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  8. Gosh zezetics, had to go to Wikipedia and plow through info about a Ukrainian band before finding that they named themselves upon a now almost redundant Greco-Roman word for those “seeking to know the truth”. Henceforth will became a highly favoured word, but will need to train my evil spellchecker to accept it.

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  9. I hate to pour cold water on your bath time musings, but I’m afraid this article is going to confirm our reputation as elderly white persons with pendulant pudenda searching for intellectual stimulus to take their minds off other things. Alas, Professor Lewandowsky has already been there. Back in 2010 he was recommending anyone interested in sex to search the subject on Google Scholar. If Elsevier knew how many people are getting off on their product they’d probably raise their already extortionate prices.

    Taking up Alan’s suggestion, should we redefine our army of denialists as Donkeys led by Barnacles?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Alan,

    Now I truly am rumbled. This article is nought but a flimsy pretext for vivifying a word that has for too long been egregiously overlooked. Now that my true purpose has been exposed, I can reveal that, henceforth, I wish to self-identify not as a denier, but as a ‘climate change zetetic’, and I will no longer respond unless referred to as ‘My Most Exalted Zetetic Ridgway’.

    Geoff,

    >“…but I’m afraid this article is going to confirm our reputation as elderly white persons with pendulant pudenda searching for intellectual stimulus to take their minds off other things.”

    Maybe so, but I would hope that, by appreciating the importance I placed in self-parody to the delivery of my message, folk will not jump to that conclusion. As for the ‘donkey led by barnacle’ suggestion, please see above.

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  11. Just to put things straight: This is a hoax article written to introduce readers to a hoax paper. It is, as it were, a drama based upon a true story in which some scenes have been invented for dramatic purposes. There was no bath time and, hence, there was no eureka moment. I never did an internet search seeking to find a link between penis size and climate change. I do not think about masturbation every 10 minutes and I am not overly concerned with the size of my member, one way or the other. However, these are the clichés that accompany many feminist discourses of the male mind-set. For example, the punchline regarding the donkey plays into the prejudiced assumption that most men would rather admit to trashing the earth than to having a small dick. As with the Boghossian hoax paper, this is all nonsense. But, as he says, if you write anything that assumes that maleness is intrinsically bad, you will enjoy a receptive audience.

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  12. John, has Cliscep accepted your claim to “High Exaltitudiness”? I note that WordPress is still allowing us to see the wild utterances of the person using the moniker “John Ridgway”. Of course if you maintain your insistence upon exaltitudiness, you will not lower yourself to answer and I will remain in ignorance. Ah well! Bliss?

    Like

  13. Alan,

    John is dead. But Most Exalted Zetetic wishes you to know that WordPress is pants.

    Like

  14. Most Exalted Zetetic (aka John) my detailed researches into your latest fetish has discovered a problem. Do you mean “zetitic” sensu Truzzi, an alternative word for scientific scepticism, or sensu Tykociński-Tykociner a word for the links between science and the arts (especially film music perhaps?)

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  15. Silence Earthling! Dare ye not to sully His existence with a label.

    The Most Exalted Zetetic is not ‘a he’. The Most Exalted Zetetic is not ‘a she’. The Most Exalted Zetetic is merely ‘a’.

    In fact, if you must know, the Most Exalted Zetetic had meant ‘scientific sceptic’.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. John,

    Thank you for introducing me to a new word. I’m ashamed to admit that I did not know what “zetetic” meant, and I had to look it up. Now that I have done so, I am pleased with it as a word, and shall try to remember it.

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  17. John, thanks for connecting the dots, after you were triggered by Greta. Perhaps her insight came from seeing the drooping ice upon the Antarctica peninsula, located just above the West Antarctica junk.

    Like

  18. Mark,

    There is no shame in never having heard of the word. It has to be one of the most obscure words possible, although it seems perfect for our purposes.

    Like

  19. ‘For example, the punchline regarding the donkey plays into the prejudiced assumption that most men would rather admit to trashing the earth than to having a small dick.’

    That view is unhelpfully simplistic. Actual biological penises, big or otherwise, don’t really have much to do with the phallic boast that is the Anthropocene. The better sort of man can choose not to be a snool*, whatever the size of his dick.

    The biological penis is attached, embodied, fertile and far more flower than tower. The detached, permanently hard, penetrating (but impenetrable) and implicitly white phallus of the Anthropocene is the emblem of white, male superiority and of the values of civilization rather than of nature. This is shown by the words and images used by its proponents. The Anthropocene is, they say, ‘potent’ and ‘overwhelming’. They illustrate their articles with photos of overtly phallic skyscrapers.

    Nuff said?

    No. Our voices *will* be heard, thank you.

    The oppressive dynamic is not only steeped in normative gender, but also in sexualized violence. An intersectional feminist critique recognizes what is basically a sex–murder dynamic underlying the practices and ideologies of the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene sneers at the Earth Mother, projecting her as enfeebled, as replaceable by a synthetic, controlled object, and as the ultimate victim of their phallic interference. But this is so wrong. However much the Anthropocenic culture tries to ‘fuck’ the Mother to death, it is not capable of this – though it can do enormous amounts of damage to other beings and ultimately may take out all of humanity as well. But Earth/Nature is no passive victim, unable to resist. Indeed, Earth herself is the ultimate ‘Muthafucka’.

    (The above is from the first half of Jane Caputi’s interminably baffling chapter in _Systemic Crises of Global Climate Change: Intersections of Race, Class and Gender_, published by Routledge in 2016. Last year, Professor Caputi elaborated on her thoughts about phallic motherfuckery and so on in a book published by Oxford University Press called _Call Your “Mutha”: A Deliberately Dirty-Minded Manifesto for the Earth Mother in the Anthropocene_. £64 for the hardback. (Is that word allowed?))

    ===
    *Caputi on snools:

    Snoolish – that’s actually a word Mary Daly made up, to mean – because if you just say men all the time, or males, none of us mean to imply – well, some people imply, but I don’t mean to imply that anybody’s guilty by birth. I think that men can declare disloyalty to traditional masculinity, to the kind of rapist model of masculinity, the warhead model of masculinity that patriarchy promotes, just as whites can declare disloyalty to racism, etcetera. A snool is someone who declares loyalty to those values, and who grovels in the typical sadomasochistic – he combines sadism and masochism within himself, as any hierarchy demands. You know, whenever you’re beating somebody down, somebody else is beating you. So that’s what a snool is, and yes, I believe that we need to use these words. English doesn’t give us the words to adequately describe either the horrors that are taking place or the new reality we want to evoke.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Is the Most Exalted Zetetic in any way related to Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci?

    Like

  21. Bill,

    You’re the second person to mention that band. Honestly, I’d never heard of them before today.

    Like

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