Imagine a group of Flat-Earthers who are astonished and a bit annoyed that anyone would think the world is approximately an oblate spheroid. They hatch a plan to embarrass these “round-Earthers:” they’ll sneak scientific papers that provide evidence the Earth is an oblate spheroid into “round-Earther” journals. When some of them get published, they reveal the true authorship and keel over laughing that the “round-Earthers” could take those papers seriously.
To everyone but those Flat-Earthers, they look completely out to lunch. “The moon is made of green cheese” is not absurd per-se, it is absurd because of the premises it rests on and the consequences that follow. As long as humans have existed, we’ve realised the moon is a giant object some distance away; how would you get enough milk to make something that large? How would you get enough coagulant? I doubt you put much thought into those absurdities, because once society has reached a consensus there’s no need to rehash what everyone knows. The corollary is that if you view all those underlying premises as plausible and the logic connecting them as without obvious defect, then a statement like that cannot be absurd.
[CONTENT WARNING: Uncensored sex talk.]
Going in Through the Back Door: Challenging Straight Male Homohysteria and Transphobia through Receptive Penetrative Sex Toy Use
Purpose: That journals will accept ludicrous arguments if they support (unfalsifiable) claims that common (and harmless) sexual choices made by straight men are actually homophobic, transphobic, and anti-feminist.
Boghossian and friends, or PB&J as I prefer call them, assert in their methodology that there is no way to falsify the claim that the sexual preferences of straight men can be influenced by homo- or trans-phobia. Yet in the paper, they describe a way to falsify that claim!
In conducting this study, I interviewed eight straight, two bisexual, and three gay men about their experience with receptive anal eroticism, sex toys, history of and openness to (anal) sex toy use, and topics relevant to other factors under consideration. Though the subject of the study is straight-male attitudes, gay and bisexual men were included to obtain diverse insights from the perspectives of those with other orientations. […] Most interviews lasted ninety minutes to two hours and were based upon fifteen core questions, though subjects were encouraged to wander naturally through the processes of conversation.
6. Do you feel that if a man inserts a dildo into his own anus, or has one used on him as such by a partner (e.g., pegging), it robs him of or otherwise damages his masculinity? Does it enhance his masculinity? Or is it unrelated to masculinity? (cf. Allan 2016b; Anderson 2009; Branfman and Ekberg-Stiritz 2012; Connell 1995)
15. Would your willingness to date and/or have sex with a trans woman, especially one with a penis, increase if you were more comfortable with receptive penetrative anal eroticism? (cf. Glickman and Emirzian 2013; Weinberg and Williams 2010)
The paper spends eight pages linking to existing research which makes that claim plausible, in fact.
Even after advances in “inclusive” masculinities (Anderson 2009), receptive anal eroticism primarily conjures themes from hegemonic masculinity theory, including concerns of “being gay” and co-constituent affective associations that run counter to straight masculinities (Kimmel 2001). While heteronormativity and even homophobia serve as the major underpinnings for these responses (e.g., Allan 2016a; Pronger 1998, 1999), anxieties rooted in Anderson’s more refined concept, “homosexualization” (2008), apply more thoroughly. Under homosexualization, “certain activities are coded as ‘gay’ and hence can throw a man’s heterosexual identity and reputation into question” (Branfman et al. 2017, 4). This includes receptive anal eroticism, which accompanies “the cultural belief that straight men who stimulate their own anus, or willingly allow another to stimulate it, must really be gay” (p. 4).
You can see their intent was to craft a paper proposing this link, believing the base assumptions to be so absurd that we’d all recognise it immediately. Yet they cite four legit researchers who think the base assumptions are sound, proving that we have no shared consensus.
Nor is it hard to make a lay case for what they consider “absurd.” If you’ve ever seen researchers collect sperm from animals, you’ve probably seen them do a prostate massage to short-circuit sexual arousal. Human beings are no different, those of us with full prostate glands have compared a prostate massage to stimulating the G-spot. Surveys have suggested that, in private anyway, a lot of men desire it and get a helluva lot of satisfaction from it. Prostate massage isn’t a casual bedroom manoeuvre, but if you prepare for it and exercise caution it’s quite safe.
Yet in public, the majority of men will disavow any interest in being anally penetrated. Why would they deny themselves a potentially mind-blowing source of pleasure? Because there’s a common belief among them that sex is solely about penetration, and that there’s a fundamental power imbalance between the penetrator and penetrated. Hence why these men can disavow any interest in being penetrated yet obsess about having anal sex with women. Most women have a Skene gland instead of a prostate, and don’t get much pleasure out of penetration alone, so if you thought sex was primarily about pleasure then begging women to accept anal sex makes no sense. If this was a form of, or at least informed by, a desire for dominance over another human being, then all that hypocrisy makes sense.
There’s a deep psychological thing for guys because their anus is the source of enormous pleasure for them, with the prostate located there (in the rectum). Men may not have experimented with that, but in their psyche they’ll know that part of the body is capable of giving great pleasure. Because of lingering homophobia in our culture – even though homosexuality is normalised, good and healthy – there’s still this internalised idea, “If I enjoy having something up my arse that means I’m gay, and I am not gay.” So men displace their own desires to experience pleasure in that part of the body, and put them onto women.
And from that hypocrisy, it’s easy to see the link to homophobia, trans-phobia, and sexism. People who are penetrated are “lesser” or “submissive” relative to those who aren’t, hence women are “lesser” and “submissive.” Trans women and gay men either fall into this category, or are considered “men”/men who desire to penetrate any man they’d partner with (and as usual, trans men are ignored). It’s also easy to see a way to break the link: point out the hypocrisy to men and ask that they consider playing with anal sex toys. First-hand exposure to this sort of pleasure, in a safe and non-threatening environment, challenges their assumptions and may lead to a reduction in their homophobia/transphobia/sexism.
“Harmless,” my ass. Snappy punchlines aside, you don’t need an advanced degree to see PB&J’s “absurd” idea is instead plausible, making them the Flat-Earthers snickering in the corner.