Roland Boer’s struggle against censorship

Recently, Roland Boer has been engaged in an experiment, submitting very explicitly sexual papers to various venues for biblical studies. A recent example is his SBL paper entitled “Too Many Dicks at the Writing Desk, or How to Organise a Prophetic Sausage-Fest.” Much to his delight, he’s been asked to change the title — and bizarrely, the request is only to change the term “sausage-fest,” while leaving “dicks” unmolested. This has led to a series of posts over the controversy, culminating in a post in which Roland copies over a letter from the executive director of the SBL chastising him for making this private and courteous discussion public — and above all, for violating SBL culture, which apparently consists in “discussion not argumentation.”

Now on the one hand, Roland’s project here is almost tautological — he knows that the biblical studies establishment is prudish in certain ways and he’s intentionally submitting papers that trigger that prudishness, so that they can be rejected, thereby demonstrating the prudishness we all knew was there to begin with. What’s startling to me, though, is that the paper was initially accepted at all — if there was a time to quash it, it was surely at the stage where there was the plausible deniability of “a high volume of submissions.”

Once it was accepted, though, it’s hard to believe that anyone seriously thought that a person who would submit a paper with the term “sausage-fest” in the first place would respond to a request to change it with something like “Oh, wow — I had no idea people would react negatively to my title! Of course I’ll change it!” Now it appears that the only play left is to represent Roland as a terribly rude person who blew this all out of proportion, such that it’s best for the SBL if he’s not allowed to present and further disrupt the warm collegiality that we’ve all come to expect, etc., thereby making the classic move of pretending a substantive disagreement is really a procedural issue and giving people who were uncomfortable with the term “sausage-fest” (and yet, I repeat, apparently fine with the term “dicks” — who exactly are these people with these super-precise sensitivities?!) a seemingly more principled ground for objection.

6 thoughts on “Roland Boer’s struggle against censorship

  1. This is ridiculously entertaining! I am told that John Cavadini gave a paper on Augustine and sexuality in which he repeatedly used the term “fucking,” though it was not in the title (the title is “Feeling Right: Augustine on the Passions and Sexual Desire”.)

  2. Adam, to clarify one point in your second paragraph: this paper originally was the odd one out, for it was actually invited for the session at SBL. Upon invitation, I sent in the title quite some time ago, and then wrote the paper specifically for that session – which is concerned with prophetic masculinities. Dreadfully good PR for the session, I must admit, so much so that in a more devious world I can well imagine the chair of the session setting the whole thing up.

  3. “Dreadfully good PR for the session, I must admit, so much so that in a more devious world I can well imagine the chair of the session setting the whole thing up.”

    Seriously. That session is going to be packed out. (And hopefully the t-shirt thing will actually move from graphic to shirt-front, so there’s a whole crowd of sausage-wearing listeners. Maybe it will be like a political rally, where every time you make a good point everybody cheers and claps, except on this occasion it will happen every time you mention any word related to genitalia.)

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