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About that Thing with Richard Gere and the Gerbil ...

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Richard Gere

Richard Gere

Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

Several years ago, "they" say, actor Richard Gere was admitted into the emergency room of a Los Angeles hospital with a foreign object lodged in his rectum: a gerbil.

I DON'T mean to sound cranky, but all too often when folks find out I debunk urban legends for a living, the first question that pops out of their mouths is, "What about that thing with Richard Gere and the gerbil? Is that true?"

You learn a lot about human nature in this racket. Or should I say, a lot of your worst suspicions about human nature are confirmed time and time again.

Like, people everywhere are suckers for gossip about sex. Weird sex. The-weirder-the-better sex. We're obsessed with it, in fact, and that obsession can short-circuit our capacity for rational thought.

Gerbilling: a definition

How many here already know what "gerbilling" is? Raise your hands.

Now, how many of you actually believe that anyone really does this sort of thing on a regular basis? Raise your hands.

I see. Shame on you.

For those of you who are still in the dark, here's a definition: gerbilling (sometimes referred to as gerbil stuffing) is the practice, most often attributed to gay men, of inserting a live rodent into one's rectum (or that of a partner) for erotic pleasure.

And what are the known facts about gerbilling? In reality, it's not a "practice" of any group of people, gay or otherwise. And while the activity, dangerous as it may be (gerbils have claws!), has surely been tried by someone, somewhere, sometime — maybe even more than once — it is not, if I may repeat myself, a common erotic pastime in any known culture or subculture, gay, straight, or otherwise.

The burden of proof is on those who claim otherwise.

Richard Gere and the gerbil

The specific rumor we're here to address goes something like this:

Several years ago, "they" say, Richard Gere was admitted into the emergency room of a Los Angeles hospital with a foreign object lodged in his rectum. Some say Gere was alone when he arrived, others say he was accompanied by a friend (e.g., former love interest Cindy Crawford). In any case, an x-ray was taken and it was determined that the foreign object was a gerbil (either alive or dead, depending on who tells the story). Mr. Gere was rushed to surgery, where it took an entire team of doctors to extract the animal from his behind. Some variants say the gerbil was found to have been shaven and declawed; others claim the animal had been placed in a special plastic pouch. Still others insist the poor creature was Gere's own beloved pet (appropriately named "Tibet" in this variant). In any event, when the gerbilectomy was done the medical team was sworn to secrecy — unsuccessfully, we must conclude — and Gere went on his merry way, suffering no permanent harm other than to his reputation.

"Is it true?" you ask.

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