Gerbilling Reconsidered: Comparing Talk of Foodways and Sexways

Gerbilling Reconsidered: Comparing Talk of Foodways and Sexways

Christopher Lewis
The Ohio State University

This paper considers the gerbilling legend of the early 1990s. The author contends that, by re-envisioning gay sex as gerbilling specifically rather than anal sex generally, heterosexual tellers of the legend grant themselves permission to participate in anal sex without participating in gay sex—a necessary function at the beginning of the AIDS pandemic. He also contends that reading it against rumors and legends of ethnic foodways more conclusively reveals that the gerbilling legend primarily stigmatizes the gerbil as a sex partner, not the act of rectal insertion, and that therefore the legend is not necessarily anti-anal sex. Meanwhile, it appears to remain anti-homosexual because of how tellers separate themselves from same-sex desire even while embracing traditional homosexual sexways. The paper concludes with a queer approach to the story that reconsiders gerbilling as an acceptable sexual act.
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From the Editor

Dear Reader,

Folklore Forum is pleased to be debuting a new feature. In the fall of 2007, the folklore graduate students of Indiana University and The Ohio State University proposed to combine the graduate student conferences that each school had been hosting annually. The first of these combined IU/OSU conferences took place on the Ohio State campus in May of 2008 organized around the theme “Translation/Transformation”.  Participants came from Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin for two days of informative exchange on subjects of interest to students who are up and coming in the discipline. The proceedings included a keynote address by Alan Govenar on the process of working in the public sector and issues related to non-profit management and the development of documentary films, audio recordings, radio programming, touring exhibitions, and interactive media. The weekend ended with a roundtable discussion about the issues raised by the conference proceedings led by Jason Jackson, Teri Klassen, Amy Shuman, and Kirsi Haenninen followed by closing remarks from Dorothy Noyes.

This journal, having as part of its mission statement that it shall be “a space where up-and-coming scholars can interrogate existing paradigms and cultivate a rich intellectual landscape,” wanted to highlight some of the excellent work being done by students today that might not otherwise be given an audience beyond the attendees at the IU/OSU conference. To that end we offer here a selection of work showing the breadth of topics and the level of scholarship that were on display at the 2008 conference.

The conference was judged to be highly successful and has generated interest in increased participation from students in programs at Wisconsin, Missouri, and elsewhere in the Midwest. As folklore students create a more defined space for the presentation of their varied research results through the development of this graduate student conference, Folklore Forum intends to help open that space to a wider audience.

In order to reach that wider audience, Forum plans to make an issue of materials from this conference, in whatever form it may take in future, an annual feature. This year’s iteration of the conference, organized around the theme “Public and Private” will be taking place in Bloomington, Indiana on the 27th and 28th of March, and Forum will be pleased to bring you a selection of papers from this meeting, including the keynote address by Jim Leary, later on this year.

It is our hope that this window into student academic activity is illuminating to our readership, generates discussion and debate in our comments section, and inspires future work.

Monica Foote
Editor, Folklore Forum