“The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct”: Sokal-Like Hoax Returns to Test Academic Left’s Moral (Architecture + Orthodox Gender Studies) and Cripples It.


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…….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.

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.

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.

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.

Why did Boghossian and Lindsay do this?

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.

In the words of Graham Harman,

We kind of deserve it. There is still far too much empty jargon of this sort in the humanities and social sciences fields. Quite aside from whether or not you find the jargon off-putting, it leads to very bad writing, and when writing sounds bad it’s a much more serious sign of bad thinking than most people realize. (Nietzsche was on to this a long time ago, when he said that the only way to improve you writing is to improve your thoughts. Methodologically, I find the converse to be true as well. It is through trying to make your thoughts more readable that you make them better thoughts.) And again, I was one of the few people in the environs of continental philosophy who deeply enjoyed the original Sokal hoax. Until we stop writing (and thinking) like this, we will be repeatedly targeted by such hoaxes, and they will continue to sneak through. We ought to be embarrassed by this, and ought to ask ourselves some tough questions about our disciplinary norms, rather than pretending to be outraged at the “unethical behavior” of the hoax authors.

Endless turf war….

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. Ah!, but far from being a meta-analytical multiplier of defense, quantum homeomorphism slithers through the conceptual penis!

Deleuzo-Foucauldian Ontological Overview From the Machine to the Archive. Thought of the Day 26.0

In his book on Foucault first published in 1986, Deleuze drew a diagram in the last chapter, Foldings, that depicts in overview the Outside as abstract machine, defined by the line of the outside (1), which separates the unformed interplay of forces and resistance from the strategies and strata that filter the affects of power relations to become “the world of knowledge”.


The central Fold of subjectification, of ‘Life’ is “hollowed out” and ignored by the forces of the outside as they are realized in the strata fulfilling the obligation of the diagram to “come to fruition in the archive.” This is dual process of integration and differentiation. The residual dust of the affective relations produced by force upon force, integrate into the strata even as they differentiate to forms of realization – visible or articulable. The ‘empty’ fissure/fold attracts and repels these moving curvilinear strategies as they differentiate and ”hop over” it. Ostensibly, the Fold of subjectification effectuates change as both continuously topological, and as discontinuously catastrophic (as in leaping over). So, the process of crystallization from informal to formal paradoxically integrates as it differentiates. Deleuze’s somewhat paradoxical description follows:

The informal relations between forces differentiate from one another by creating heterogeneous curves which pass through the neighborhood of particular features (statements) and that of the scenes which distribute them into figures of light (visibilities). And at the same time the relations between forces became integrated, precisely in the formal relations between the two, from one side to the other of differentiation. This is because the relations between forces ignored the fissure within the strata, which begins only below them. They are apt to hollow out the fissure by being actualized in the strata, but also to hop over it in both senses of the term by becoming differentiated even as they become integrated. Gilles Deleuze, Sean Hand-Foucault

So this “pineal gland” figure of the Fold is the “center of the cyclone”, where life is lived “par excellence” as a “slow Being”.

As clarifying as Deleuze’s diagram is in summarizing the layered dimensionality of the Foucauldian/Deleuzian hybrid, some modifications will be drawn off to alternatively express the realizations of the play of informal forces as this diagram takes on the particular features of a Research Creation praxis. True to the originating wax tablet diagramma, the relations are drawn and redrawn, in recognition, after Bergson’s notion of recognition as the intensive point where memory meets action of the contemporary social field that situates it. The shifts from the 19C to 20C disciplinary diagram of Foucault’s focus modulates with the late 20C society of control diagram formulated by Deleuze. The shorthand for the force field relevant to the research creation diagram of practice-led arts research today is a transdisciplinary diagram, the gamespace of just-in-time capitalism, which necessarily elicits mutations in the Foucault/Deleuze model. Generating the power-resistance relations in this outside qua gamespace are, among others, the revitalized forces of the military-academic-entertainment complex that fuel economic models such as the Creative Industries that pervade the conditions of play in artistic research. McKenzie Wark concludes his book GAMER THEORY, with prescient comments on the black hole quality of a topology of the outside qua contemporary “gamespace” from Deleuze and Guattari (ATP) and Guy Debord. “Only by going further and further into gamespace might one come out the other side of it, to realize a topology beyond the limiting forms of the game. Deleuze and Guattari: “… one can never go far enough in the direction of [topology]: you haven’t seen anything yet — an irreversible process. And when we consider what there is of a profoundly artificial nature […] we cry out, ‘More perversion! More artifice!’ — to a point where the earth becomes so artificial that the movement of [topology] creates of necessity and by itself a new earth.”

Glue Code + Pipeline Jungles. Thought of the Day 25.0


Machine learning researchers tend to develop general purpose solutions as self-contained packages. A wide variety of these are available as open-source packages at places like mloss.org, or from in-house code, proprietary packages, and cloud-based platforms. Using self-contained solutions often results in a glue code system design pattern, in which a massive amount of supporting code is written to get data into and out of general-purpose packages.

This glue code design pattern can be costly in the long term, as it tends to freeze a system to the peculiarities of a specific package. General purpose solutions often have different design goals: they seek to provide one learning system to solve many problems, but many practical software systems are highly engineered to apply to one large-scale problem, for which many experimental solutions are sought. While generic systems might make it possible to interchange optimization algorithms, it is quite often refactoring of the construction of the problem space which yields the most benefit to mature systems. The glue code pattern implicitly embeds this construction in supporting code instead of in principally designed components. As a result, the glue code pattern often makes experimentation with other machine learning approaches prohibitively expensive, resulting in an ongoing tax on innovation.

Glue code can be reduced by choosing to re-implement specific algorithms within the broader system architecture. At first, this may seem like a high cost to pay – reimplementing a machine learning package in C++ or Java that is already available in R or matlab, for example, may appear to be a waste of effort. But the resulting system may require dramatically less glue code to integrate in the overall system, be easier to test, be easier to maintain, and be better designed to allow alternate approaches to be plugged in and empirically tested. Problem-specific machine learning code can also be tweaked with problem-specific knowledge that is hard to support in general packages.

As a special case of glue code, pipeline jungles often appear in data preparation. These can evolve organically, as new signals are identified and new information sources added. Without care, the resulting system for preparing data in an ML-friendly format may become a jungle of scrapes, joins, and sampling steps, often with intermediate files output. Managing these pipelines, detecting errors and recovering from failures are all difficult and costly. Testing such pipelines often requires expensive end-to-end integration tests. All of this adds to technical debt of a system and makes further innovation more costly. It’s worth noting that glue code and pipeline jungles are symptomatic of integration issues that may have a root cause in overly separated “research” and “engineering” roles. When machine learning packages are developed in an ivory-tower setting, the resulting packages may appear to be more like black boxes to the teams that actually employ them in practice.