If you’ve been paying attention to the gossip mill in recent years, you might have heard a story about gay men stuffing gerbils up their asses. This is known as gerbiling, or “gerbiling.” The story goes like this: Sometime in the early 80s (a time when Richard Gere was at the height of his hotness) an unidentified man was admitted to Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles with rectal bleeding. The patient provided no history other than to say that he had a gerbil stuck up his anal orifice.
The gerbil was removed from the patient’s anal canal through cardboard tubing that had been cut from a paper towel roll and greased up. A string was tied to the gerbil’s tail so it could be nudged into the open end of the paper-towel tube. As the gerbil was being pulled out, it thrashed around.
The gerbil died from suffocation because there was no breathable oxygen being supplied to the rodent through that portion of the anal canal. The gerbil’s claws and nails had scratched and scraped the inside of the anal canal, which in turn caused bloody scat and swelling. The patient needed a couple of days in the hospital for treatment. The gerbiling story became one of the most famous in sexual urban legends and it continues to be spread by word of mouth to this day. It’s a classic example of the way in which these stories are used to stigmatize groups that are different, including homosexuals, by fixing a line between “normal” and pathological sexuality.