A. The Charge. Homosexuals are anally fixated. They derive pleasure from inserting foreign objects into the rectal cavity, including dildos, vegetables, and - most notoriously - the small animals known as gerbils.
In terms of Freudian psychoanalysis, such activities constitute a regression to the anal stage of human psychic development. Mature individuals have no need to avail themselves of such dangerous gratification.
B. Background. Gerbiling, also known as gerbil stuffing or gerbil shooting, is an urban legend designating a supposed sexual practice of inserting small live animals (usually gerbils but also mice, hamsters, rats and various other rodents) into the human rectum to obtain stimulation. Some variations of the legend suggest that the practitioner might be inclined to douse the rodent with a narcotic substance such as cocaine prior to the insertion.
An urban legend (also known as an urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend) is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true. As with all folklore and mythology, the designation makes no judgment regarding the story's veracity, but merely attests that it is in circulation, shows variation over time, and carries some significance that induces the community to preserve and propagate it.
Despite the name, an urban legend does not necessarily originate in an urban area. Rather, the term is used to differentiate modern legends from the body of traditional folklore stemming from preindustrial times.
Urban legends sometimes appear in news stories and, in recent years, they have circulated via e-mail and the social media. Those who repeat them commonly allege that such occurrences happened to a "friend of a friend"- so often, in fact, that "friend of a friend" ("FOAF") has become a common designation for such narratives.
Some hardy urban legends have passed through the years with only minor changes to suit regional conditions. One example is the bizarre tale of a woman killed by spiders nesting in her elaborate hairdo. More recent legends tend to reflect modern circumstances, including the story of victims ambushed, anesthetized, and waking up minus one kidney, which was surgically removed for sale as a transplant (a story folklorists refer to as "The Kidney Heist").
With regard to gay men, the gerbiling legend derives some surface plausibility because of the practice of some individuals of inserting inanimate objects, such as dildos and various fruits and vegetables, into the rectum. More dangerous are small bottles and light bulbs. As early as 1857 the French physician Ambroise Tardieu cited a number of medical reports of small bottles and drinking glasses that had been recovered from the rectal cavities of those seeking gratification in this way (Etude Médico-Légale sur les Attentats aux Mœurs, first ed., Paris, 1857).
This practice is a form of autoeroticism, usually performed solo, though not always. The behavior occurs among all sorts of people, not just gay men. Tardieu mentioned, for example, a case of a French husband who had inserted a bottle in the anus of his wife.
The inserted objects noted above are the usual ones. It is quite another matter, however, to suggest that this practice involves living creatures. One case, of uncertain authenticity, reputedly involved an eel.
According to folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand, accounts of gerbiling were first recorded in 1984, and initially were said to involve a mouse and an unidentified man. In subsequent versions of the story, the animal was a gerbil and the story was ascribed to several male celebrities.
For some reason, the most popular victim of this unsubstantiated gossip has been the actor Richard Gere. The legend has clung to Gere's name since at least the mid-1980s, when he was still married to Cindy Crawford. Supposedly the star was admitted for an emergency "gerbilectomy" at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. An anonymous source helped spread the Gere gerbil myth with fake press releases supposedly issued by the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, claiming that the actor had abused the small creature.
C. Response. All indications point to the conclusion that gerbiling is simply an unverified and persistent urban legend - that is, it is pure fiction.
Mike Walker, a journalist working with the National Enquirer, devoted months of effort in seeking to verify the gerbiling rumors about a celebrity. "I've never worked harder on a story in my life," Walker told the Palm Beach Post in 1995. After much hard work, he was unable to find any evidence that a gerbilling incident ever happened: "I'm convinced that it's nothing more than an urban legend."
Urban legends proliferate about celebrities, especially gay ones. A fairly innocuous example is the rumor that Rock Hudson, the movie star, and Jim Nabors, a television personality, were married in a ceremony in San Francisco. This story emerged in the 1970s, and has persisted ever since. There is no truth in it - except for the fact that both Hudson and Nabors were gay, though both were closeted at the time. Now at last in 2013 Nabors has gotten gaymarried, but to another man, his Hawaii companion of thirty-eight years standing.
Some stories of this kind are hoaxes, meant as exercises as humor. An example is the November 2012 claim that a 47-year-old gay man was arrested at San Francisco International Airport after ejaculating while being patted down by a male TSA agent. “Percy Cummings, an interior designer from San Francisco,” was held without bail after the alleged incident, “charged with sexually assaulting a Federal agent.”
“According to Cummings’ partner, Sergio Armani, Cummings has ‘multiple piercings on his manhood’ which were detected during a full body scan. As a result, Cummings was pulled aside for a pat-down. Armani stated that the unidentified TSA agent spent ‘an inordinate amount of time groping’ Cummings, who had apparently become sexually aroused. Cummings, who has a history of sexual dysfunction, ejaculated while the TSA agent’s hand was feeling the piercings. The TSA agent, according to several witnesses, promptly called for back up. Cummings was thrown to the ground and handcuffed.”
The use of names, such as Cummings and Armani, lends a spurious air of authenticity to such accounts. Still, this “report” was merely a spoof.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. Jan Harold Brunvand, Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, enlarged edition, Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2012.