Journal of Controversial Ideas

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What's here that's new? What's here that I couldn't read elsewhere? Unless I've got a radically incorrect understanding of the state of the current literature in philosophy, cultural history, and (sigh) gender critical feminism none of these ideas are beyond the pale of what is currently out there in mainstream thought. Certainly you might expect pushback on some of these ideas – but as an academic you would expect some pushback on pretty much any idea you put forward. Such is the nature of academia.
—David Kernohan, before (spoiler!) the journal's pro-bestiality article[1]

The Journal of Controversial Ideas (JCI) can perhaps be uncharitably summarized as "4chan: the academic journal", in light of its use of pseudonyms and its willingness to publish, shall we say, a wide range of positions.[2] Although, its publications cite valid (or valid-looking) sources more often than 4chan, and its contents are more frequently written by people with some kind of credentials. As the name would suggest, its quirk is that it publishes papers that are anticipated to be controversial. Sometimes these ideas are controversial for very good reasons.


The basis for the journal seems to have stemmed from death threats two of its founders received for their publications. One argued in favor of "after-birth abortion";Wikipedia the other argued for euthanizing severely-ill infants.[3] According to Vox, actually all three of the journal's founders/editors (Francesca Minerva, Jeff McMahan,Wikipedia and Peter Singer[4]) are "notorious for defending the morality of infanticide in some circumstances".[5] One founder cited backlash to pro-colonialism and pro-"transracialism" articles as supporting the need for the journal.[5]


According to one of the journal's founders (McMahan), speaking prior to the journal's launch, they would theoretically even publish a pro-eugenics article, as long as it was well-reasoned.[5][6] It isn't at all clear what this standard even means — many controversial ideas contradict each other, can they all be well-reasoned? Concerning the journal's peer-review process, another founder (Singer) stated: "We send articles submitted to us out for peer review, and if the reviewers consider that the article contains controversial ideas that are defended by argument of a sufficiently high standard to warrant publication, we publish the article."[7] Is it possible for committee approval to square the circle?

Initially, it might have been assumed that this journal was just going to end up as a de facto vehicle for papers written against "wokeness", or else from a discriminatory viewpoint.[3] By its third volume, it proved this wrong: yes, it would publish (many) papers such as that, but it would also publish a paper defending bestiality (termed "zoophilia") as "morally defensible".[8] That paper also stated that bestiality was a sexual orientation "along with e.g. necrophilia or pedophilia".[8] One of the journal's editors, Peter Singer, simply complimented this article as "thought-provoking."[note 1][9] Singer himself had argued similar positions as far back as 2001: then, in Prospect, he stated that sex with animals was not necessarily cruel and that sex with dogs in particular is "occasionally mutually satisfying" for some people (and, well, some dogs).[10] Commenting on the 2023 Journal of Controversial Ideas paper, Richard Hanania said: "A brave position. Not my cup of tea but the marketplace of ideas needs this."[11] In correspondence with Hanania, Anatoly Karlin argued that bestiality is acceptable if non-human animals can give consent to having sex with humans using future AI technology, and had previously argued "there's no legitimate liberal argument against [bestiality]" in this scenario.[12][13]

Some other early papers (i.e. within the journal's first three volumes): one argues there is a religious/moral dilemma in Christian anti-abortion positions,[14] a couple argue that blackface should be acceptable,[15][16] at least thirteen separate articles have transgender people and/or the definition of man/woman as a major focus,[17] multiple papers are clearly about the fact that the word "nigger" is taboo (although they're both slightly cagey about this; one of them even bizarrely substitutes it with the word "joker" throughout the paper[note 2]),[18][19] one compares vaccine mandates to sexual harassment,[20] one compares anti-racialism to young Earth creationism,[21][1] and one written by a pedophile argues that non-offending pedophiles should be better-respected (this paper also defines pedophilia as a sexual orientation).[22]

Well, then, you can't say the journal is necessarily fostering accuracy (for instance, necrophilia is most certainly a paraphilic disorder rather than a sexual orientation[note 3]), but at least its position is somewhat consistent: "if you shock, we will stock". There does seem to be somewhat of a bias in its stock towards discriminatory ideas, but this could be explained if people holding those ideas tended to be the sort to submit papers in the first place. Though, the journal rejected a submitted manuscript in 2022 arguing for misanthropic anti-natalism[23] — join the club, buddy.[1]

Rather unhelpfully, the journal's digital object identifiersWikipedia were listed completely out of appropriate order by volume three, issue two.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. In his post about the article, he also attached AI-generated art of someone... err... "embracing" (?) a dog. The added visual was necessary, certainly.
  2. This may or may not be a reference to a family of Internet memes around DC Comics' "Joker" character, some of which portrayed him as a video gamer who spews racial slurs; however, these mostly proliferated around 2017–2020 or so, while the paper was published in 2022.
  3. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 and subsequently DSM-5-TR) groups it under "Other specified paraphilic disorder", which also contains zoophilia, incidentally.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 David Kernohan (April 27, 2021). "I read every paper in the first issue of the Journal of Controversial Ideas". Wonkhe.
  2. Annabelle Timsit (November 13, 2018). "The Journal of Controversial Ideas promises anonymity to academics with unpopular opinions". Quartz.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Scotty Hendricks (November 30, 2018). "Is “The Journal of Controversial Ideas” dangerous?". Big Think.
  4. Patrick Stokes (April 21, 2021). " Safe space or shirking accountability? A new Journal of Controversial Ideas will allow academics to write under pseudonyms". The Conversation.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Dylan Matthews (November 19, 2018). "The Journal of Controversial Ideas is already, well, controversial. Here’s a founder’s defense." Vox.
  6. Colleen Flaherty (November 12, 2018). "A Very Controversial Idea". Inside Higher Ed.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Bensto (pseudonym), Fira (2023-10-31). "Zoophilia Is Morally Permissible" (in en). Journal of Controversial Ideas 3 (2): 1. doiWikipedia:10.35995/jci03020006. ISSN 2694-5991. 
  9. Peter Singer (November 9, 2023). "Another thought-provoking article is "Zoophilia Is Morally Permissible" by Fira Bensto (pseudonym), which is just out in the current issue of @JConIdeas." Twitter.
  10. Peter Singer (April 19, 2001). "Heavy petting". Prospect.
  11. Richard Hanania (November 9, 2023). "A brave position. Not my cup of tea but the marketplace of ideas needs this." Twitter.
  12. Anatoly Karlin (November 9, 2023). "I'm against legalizing bestiality because the animal consent problem hasn't been solved, but probably actually will be quite soon thanks to AI (at least for the higher animals with complex languages). So why not wait a few more years." Twitter.
  13. Anatoly Karlin (September 17, 2023). There might be some progress on the animal consent problem pending AI making animal language more interpretable. If a cognitively complex, sexually mature animal (or alien species) genuinely wants to have sex with a human, there's no legitimate liberal argument against it." Twitter.
  14. Kerring, Marlowe (2022-10-31). "The Afterlife Dilemma: A Problem for the Christian Pro-Life Movement" (in en). Journal of Controversial Ideas 2 (2): 1. doiWikipedia:10.35995/jci02020003. ISSN 2694-5991. 
  15. de Vries, Bouke (2023-04-28). "Why Shouldn’t Race Be a Costume?―A (Qualified) Defense of Wearing Cross-Racial Make-Up During Halloween" (in en). Journal of Controversial Ideas 3 (1): 1. doiWikipedia:10.35995/jci03010006. ISSN 2694-5991. 
  16. De Vries, Bouke (2021-04-25). "Black Pete, King Balthasar, and the New Orleans Zulus: Can Black Make-Up Traditions Ever Be Justified?" (in en). Journal of Controversial Ideas 1 (1): 1. doiWikipedia:10.35995/jci01010008. ISSN 2694-5991. 
  17. "Who Is a Woman: Sex, Gender and Policy Making" (Daphna Joel and Cordelia Fine), "'Men' and 'Women' in Everyday English" (Edward Jarvis), "Sex Categories in Healthcare Contexts" (Susanna Flavia Boxall and Becky Cox-White), "Queer Theory and the Transition from Sex to Gender in English Prisons" (Michael Biggs — a SEGM advisor), "Politics Aside, Healthcare Considerations Motivate More Caution before Medical Intervention for Trans-Identifying Youth" (Jay Cohn — SEGM again, as the paper notes), "Feminist Separatism Revisited" (Kate M. Phelan and Holly Lawford-Smith), "The Female of the Species: Reply to Heartsilver" (Alex Byrne), "Gender Muddle: Reply to Dembroff" (Alex Byrne), "Pronoun Problems" (Alex Byrne), "The Limits of Identity: Running Tuvel's Argument the Other Way" (pseudonymous author), "Against the Harm Argument for Censorship: On the Abuse of Psychology and the Dismissal of Rights" (Uwe Steinhoff), "Sex and Sexual Orientation, Gender and Sexual Preference" (Raja Halwani), "Deflating Byrne’s 'Are Women Adult Human Females?'" (pseudonymous author), and "Discounting Females, Denying Sex, and Disregarding Dangers from Self-ID—A Reply and a Defense of Open Debate" (Callie H. Burt).
  18. Burgess-Jackson, Keith (2022-04-29). "Philosophical Reflections on “the Filthiest, Dirtiest, Nastiest Word in the English Language”" (in en). Journal of Controversial Ideas 2 (1): 1. doiWikipedia:10.35995/jci0201004. ISSN 2694-5991. 
  19. Caughie, Pamela L. (2023-10-31). "The Word That Dare Not Speak Its Name" (in en). Journal of Controversial Ideas 3 (2): 1. doiWikipedia:10.35995/jci03020002. ISSN 2694-5991. 
  20. Capraru, Mihnea D. I. (2023-04-28). "Non-Consensual Vaccination and Medical Harassment: Giving Vaccine Refusers Their Due" (in en). Journal of Controversial Ideas 3 (1): 1. doiWikipedia:10.35995/jci03010008. ISSN 2694-5991. 
  21. Tezuka, Shuichi (pseudonym) (2021-04-25). "Cognitive Creationism Compared to Young-Earth Creationism" (in en). Journal of Controversial Ideas 1 (1): 1. doiWikipedia:10.35995/jci01010003. ISSN 2694-5991. 
  22. Vaerwaeter (pseudonym), Brecht (2022-04-29). "The Pedophile as a Human Being: An Autoethnography for the Recognition of a Marginalized Sexual Orientation" (in en). Journal of Controversial Ideas 2 (1): 1. doiWikipedia:10.35995/jci02010003. ISSN 2694-5991.