Peer review in the social sciences?

21 May 2017 12:00 - 21 May 2017 12:04 #284719 by Loudzoo
There's little doubt that this most recent example of a Sokal type hoax is, at least slightly, mean spirited, but it is another example of the problems with peer review in current academic literature.

A physicist and a mathematician wrote a hoax paper called "The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct" (source: which included lines such as the following:

“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.”

"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."

It was published in Cogent Social Sciences Journal and rated 'outstanding' by one of the peer-reviewers - despite being a hoax, and written in part with the infamous Post-modern Generator - an algo which uses technobabble to create impressive sounding, but meaningless, content. You can 'write' your own papers here ( - its quite fun!

For more info - see here:

What's interesting is that although the paper intends to be meaningless I actually buy into the analogy of anthropogenic ecosystem degradation as rape of the
environment. Is it complete rubbish, as the authors suggest, or does the paper's argument actually make some sense?

Have I been brainwashed by postmodern philosophy or does this 'meaningless paper' actually contain a meaningful message?

Be safe people - its confusing out there!!

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Last edit: 21 May 2017 12:04 by Loudzoo.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Alexandre Orion, Kobos

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21 May 2017 12:17 #284721 by
I will have to read it when i have a lot more time , but this already made me laugh out loud ..

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

If its full of this sort of nonsense it should make quite the entertaining read ...

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21 May 2017 12:49 #284722 by Gisteron
Let's put it like this. to the extent that a "deep profound message" is indistinguishable from a random assembly of words, we are unable to say that it is one and not the other. This sort of "academia" has at any rate been going for a while now, increasing in severity as the decades passed. Needless to say that departments where any rigor exists and that can show actual results for themselves are growing increasingly salty, both because of how openly anti-scientific some of the disciplines in question are occasionally being in both their methods and their assertions, but especially because of how much funding is cut i their favour and away from important research and for no substantial produce to replace it with, not even any that can be distinguished from... well, randomly generated gibberish articles...

Better to leave questions unanswered than answers unquestioned

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21 May 2017 21:35 #284758 by Adder
It can read funny can't it!!

Noting this is not in the humour section, and that rape has a common and legal meaning as a type of sexual assault, and ignoring that the Introduction seems to miss the point that the penis spends by far most of its time being a spongy urethra and not a reproductive organ...

I guess the concept of the 'conceptual penis' has some value perhaps as being a representation of the relationship between subconscious and conscious minds within a society... BUT it sounds a bit rough on the phalus, as rape is not synonymous with penis.

If the penis were just a concept then I might buy the association - but since its an actual organ specific to about only 50% of the population the connection seems a bit incoherent, misleading and just inaccurate. Unless if course they are going to suggest the clitoris is a penis as well, but now its getting confusing. It might just be better to represent it as some form of pattern in psychology concepts. With accuracy comes utility.

But I can see how its easy lazy to associate a unique attribute of the historically dominant sub-set to blame for the problems of the entire set of population.......... but it's too wide a brush to sell in hardware stores, IMO, and even if some members of that historically dominant sub-group use it in that way.

So if we drop the penis for a second, and just focus on the 'rape' concept for selfish human behaviour, then AFAIK rape is not just lust driven but also about selfish abuse of power.... but rape I think requires that sexual component, so the whole thing seems to lean on the above two issues as a connection - which seems like drivel to me. As there are plenty of types of selfish abuse of power by all sexes and genders, both related and unrelated to lust.

I think it has more to do with generic 'consumption' of self, of others, and of society.... ya know, sugar and spice and everything nice. LOL, so yea if I had interest I might have made a comparison between the nursery rhyme and the study for fun, because I didn't get much out of it.

What did I miss though, as gender is a unusual topic and I"m not social scientist.

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22 May 2017 05:31 #284786 by
Hi. I'm halfway to a degree in psychology so this is the sort of thing I like. I hope I'm not being too overbearing
Okay, I read the entire paper, admittedly stumbling over the, at times nonstop, esoteric and often extraneous wording.
I thought it had a point. There's a correlation of "ideal" male genitalia with success, strength, power, etc. Since there are those that might not fit the criteria and that there's such a strong association with force and success, the phallus can be harmful. This is clearly not the physical phallus, unless it is. That's the problem. The phallus is a thing. It doesn't in and of itself have much to do with success, force or any of the things it's correlated with. Despite this, people will associate the body part itself with success or power if they don't engage in critical thinking. At least, this is how it plays out in popular culture.
The idea that sexual prowess and sexual equipment tie in with force is undoubtedly damaging as it ties into the rape culture which has roots in the idea that men express their masculinity through certain behaviors and that those behaviors are, if not justified, understandable. This is a simplification but I believe it's still relevant.

That a man spreading his legs in public is "Raping the air" doesn't feel like an accurate observation. Taking space for one's genitalia is something that could suggest dominant behavior but I don't feel like rape is at all accurate.

Now, onto your concerns. The paper points to expressing masculinity as a reason that some engage in unwise and damaging practices towards the planet and vulnerable peoples. This is a stretch. Perhaps some people wish to express masculinity (dominance and success) and do so through damaging the environment, but arrogance and a lack of interest in exploring the consequences is a more clear cause. Also, money.

Everybody gets greedy and lack of foresight shouldn't be blamed on only those with something to prove. Even though women don't possess male equipment they're still capable of engaging in unwise environmental practices and a lack of hyper-masculinity doesn't preclude such practices either. Associating "masculine" men with damaging practices and those that aren't masculine, aren't men or don't wish to identify, with the opposite, is putting everyone in a box.

That a man's man can't think of consequences may be a stereotype but there are so many other reasons why people destroy things. That someone with "womanly" traits is nurturing is also a thing but that at least is often viewed with skepticism nowadays.

Oh, and the wording is biased. Avoiding words that have cultural baggage would be more appropriate.

This is just my opinion, though. Unbiased thinking isn't guarantied no matter how much I try. Also, I've missed the point I'd be happy to realize my mistake and reevaluate my thoughts. I do sometimes miss the point. Thanks for the reading material. :)

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