Nav: Home

Sexist and anti-gay jokes: It's all about men feeling threatened

April 20, 2017

Why do some men crack sexist and anti-gay jokes or find them funny, while others do not? According to Emma O'Connor of the Western Carolina University in the US, such disparaging jokes are a way for some men to reaffirm their shaky sense of self, especially when they feel their masculinity is being threatened. Interestingly, in such situations men do not revert to neutral jokes or ones containing anti-Muslim sentiments, comments O'Connor, lead author of a study in Springer's journal Sex Roles.

Disparaging humour is often about enhancing one's own social identity by positively distinguishing one's in-group from a disparaged out-group. To understand how this plays out in the context of sexist and anti-gay jokes, the research team conducted two experiments involving 387 heterosexual men. Participants completed online questionnaires designed to test their social attitudes and personalities, and their prejudice levels and antagonism against gay men and women. The types of humour they preferred were tested, and whether the men believed their take on humour would help others form a more accurate impression about them.

The findings suggest that sexist and anti-gay jokes provide self-affirmation to men who possess more precarious manhood beliefs. This is especially the case when they feel that their masculinity, as defined by the typical gender norms assigned to men, is being challenged or threatened.

"Men higher in precarious manhood beliefs expressed amusement with sexist and anti-gay humour in response to a masculinity threat because they believe it reaffirms an accurate, more masculine impression of them. It appears that by showing amusement with sexist and anti-gay humour, such men can distance themselves from the traits they want to disconfirm," explains O'Connor.

The researchers hope the findings will help create a better understanding about the kinds of situations in which sexist and anti-gay jokes occur, and ultimately prevent this from being used, for instance, in the workplace.

"Work settings where women occupy positions of authority might inherently trigger masculinity threats for men higher in precarious manhood beliefs and thus sexist joking," says O'Connor, who points out that sexist jokes and teasing are the most common forms of sexual harassment that women experience in the workplace.

"Given the social protection afforded to humour as a medium for communicating disparagement, it is possible that men use sexist humour in the workplace as a 'safe' way to reaffirm their threatened masculinity," explains O'Connor.

She says that managers who understand how and why this happens are able to more effectively handle and even prevent incidences of sexist humour: "For instance, they might more closely monitor workplace settings that could trigger masculinity threats and subsequent sexist joking, or they might attempt to reduce the extent to which men perceive masculinity threats in those settings in the first place."
-end-
Reference: O'Connor, E.C. et al (2017). Restoring Threatened Masculinity: The Appeal of Sexist and Anti-gay Humor, Sex Roles, DOI: 10.1007/s11199-017-0761-z

Springer

Related Masculinity Articles:

Toxic masculinity is unsafe...for men
The belief that ''real men'' must be strong, tough and independent may be a detriment to their social needs later in life.
Strict adherence to traditional masculinity associated with more severe PTSD in vets
To help service members perform better in the field, military training emphasizes the importance of certain traits associated with traditional masculinity, including suppression of emotion and self-reliance.
From as young as 4, children see males as more powerful than females
As early as 4 years old, children associate power and masculinity, even in countries considered to be more egalitarian like Norway.
Husbands' stress increases if wives earn more than 40 per cent of household income
Husbands are least stressed when their wives earn up to 40% of household income but they become increasingly uncomfortable as their spouse's wages rise beyond that point.
Is facial cosmetic surgery associated with perception changes for attractiveness, masculinity, personality traits in men?
Photographs of 24 men before and after facial cosmetic surgery were part of this survey study to examine whether surgery was associated with perceived changes in attractiveness, masculinity and a variety of personality traits.
Facial plastic surgery in men enhances perception of attractiveness, trustworthiness
In the first of a kind study, plastic surgeons at Georgetown University found that when a man chose to have facial plastic surgery, it significantly increased perceptions of attractiveness, likeability, social skills, or trustworthiness.
What influences how parents and their gay adolescent sons discuss sexual health at home?
Parent-child discussions about sexual health are complicated, particularly with a male teen who identifies as gay, bisexual, or queer.
Sex sells: how masculinity is used as currency to buy sperm donors' time
Sperm banks in the United Kingdom and Australia use images and phrases associated with masculinity to attract donors because laws prohibit them from paying for sperm.
The feminization of men leads to a rise in homophobia
Before the feminist revolution, men built their masculinity on traits that opposed those assigned to women.
Why you should be concerned about Oprah Winfrey when introducing an innovation
New research by Bocconi University's Paola Cillo and Gaia Rubera with Texas A&M's David Griffith asserts that the reaction of large individual investors to innovation is an important component of stock returns, their reaction to innovation depends on their national culture, and there is a way to segment large individual investors and pitch innovation to them accordingly.
More Masculinity News and Masculinity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.