March 20, 2013

Advice: Savage Love

Gerbils? Again?

DEAR READERS: I’m off this week. To tide all your kinky asses over, here’s a column I wrote 15 years ago. Some newer readers might’ve missed this when it originally appeared — some of you who were still in grade school, diapers or amniotic sacs in 1998 — so I’m rerunning it because I still get questions about “gerbiling” daily.

Q: We were having a little office debate about “gerbiling.” How does it work? Do all gay men do this? Does Richard Gere? Does the animal get shoved up the anus with a toilet-paper roll only to suffocate seconds later? Can’t this cause serious damage?
Curious Coworkers

A: Every day, my mail contains at least three questions about “gerbiling.” I have never addressed the gerbil issue, but now, this week only, I am breaking my silence. Save this column, for I will never discuss gerbils again. To begin, I would like to make a controversial statement: I have never had a gerbil in my ass.

This statement is not controversial for the reasons one would hope: It isn’t controversial in the “Hey! That’s uncalled for!” sense, like, say, a woman at a dinner party announcing she doesn’t have a hedgehog in her vagina. That would be uncalled for, because no one would suspect her of concealing a hedgehog. But being a gay man or Richard Gere in America means always having to reassure people you don’t have a gerbil in your ass — at dinner parties, during family reunions, at funerals, wherever! For while gay men and, I assume, Richard Gere don’t put gerbils in their asses, not a day goes by that someone — usually a straight 13-year-old boy — doesn’t try to shove one in, figuratively speaking.

Some background: Gerbil-stuffing is a sexual practice straight teenage boys in general, and Howard Stern in particular, suspect gay men in general, and Richard Gere (who is not gay) in particular, of engaging in. It works like this: Hold gerbil in left hand. Take a cardboard paper-towel roll, grease it up, insert into rectum. Tie a string to the gerbil’s tail. Nudge the gerbil into the outside end of paper-towel roll. The gerbil scampers up the wet paper towel roll. When the gerbil drops into the anal cavity, remove wet paper-towel roll, leaving the string tied to the gerbil’s tail hanging out of ass. The gerbil, now trapped inside anal cavity, thrashes around. It is this thrashing that provides pleasurable sensations. Once gerbil is dead, remove by pulling on string.

OK, three things:

1) The type of straight person who believes gay men engage in “gerbiling” is likely to believe other gay stereotypes: We’re all prissy little swishes, for instance, with clean apartments and collections of original Broadway recordings. Yet the same person who believes gay men are prim sissies also believes we’re capable of stuffing a struggling rodent up our butts — hardly a prim pastime. This is known as cognitive dissonance.

2) There is nothing intrinsically “gay” about gerbil-stuffing. You don’t need two penises or an original Broadway cast recording. All you need is one doomed gerbil and one willing butthole.

3) Inserting a wet cardboard paper-towel roll into your ass is not possible, as anyone who’s ever put anything in their ass can tell you.

I feel I can write with some authority that no one has ever stuffed a gerbil up their butt, perhaps with more authority than I can write that God and angels do not exist. I’ve had conversations with hundreds of outrageously kinky people, gay and straight, who’ve told me the craziest shit. Thousands of guys have admitted to doing the most out-there, dangerous, stupid stuff. But not once has anyone ever told me he, or anyone he knows, has ever put a gerbil in his ass. It is an urban legend.

If gay men and Richard Gere stuffed gerbils in their butts, well, then the pet stores that serve the gay and Richard Gere communities would stock gerbils, right? But guess what? In San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, gay ground zero, the pet store Petpourri sells only pet supplies — no gerbils. Animal Farm in West Hollywood, also very gay, sells only dogs and cats. And guess what? Not only do pet stores in California not sell gerbils, but it’s illegal for them to do so.

According to Marshall Meyers, an attorney at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in Washington, D.C.: “California law prohibits the sale of gerbils because of desert conditions in that state. Gerbils were once a desert mammal, and the state was concerned that gerbils could escape and establish themselves in the wild. It is a form of animal control.” It’s not because gay men stick them in their asses? “No, it’s strictly an ecosystem issue.”