We have all seen the profiles that state that they have a great sense of humour (GSOH) and that they appreciate a GSOH. Sadly, often without anything in that profile to back up that claim. I have always felt that what men mean by that and what women understand that to mean are two different things. Well the research has been done and has shown that we tend to find men who can make jokes and women who can appreciate them more sexually attractive both for one-night stands and for slightly longer entanglements (Bressler 2006, Lundy 2008). A “GSOH” means different things to different people. To a man, it means, “will you laugh at my jokes?” not “are you hysterically funny?”
At one point, I was a funny female, a stand-up comic. And for those of you who were wondering yes, funny, intelligent, male comedians do have their choice of many more sexual partners from the audience than they would if they hadn’t been on stage. Female comedians not quite so much. Luckily, there are other comedians and tech crew and bar staff and....
I know, as a woman I am not alone in experiencing the demand to have a sense of humour about derogatory and degrading “humour” it is something that diverse genders and sexualities experience.
Some people complain that we have become too PC and that people should lighten up, “it’s just a joke”. There is one rule in comedy that is important to remember and it will keep your jokes funny, relevant and much less offensive. Always “punch up”. Always make the joke about those who are more powerful than you, that way you aren’t being sexist, racist, ableist, or generally a fuck stick. Whether you can manage to be funny is subjective but at least you are not being derogatory to those less privileged than you and you won’t need to tell someone to get a sense of humour.
And if someone doesn’t find your joke funny, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a sense of humour, it is just different to yours. And it certainly doesn’t mean they are not sexy or attractive or that they are “insert your go to insult here” because they didn’t think it was funny when you made a derogatory comment about their body or how they expressed themselves online.
Why we need to be careful is that humour can normalise an idea or a behaviour. Sexist jokes that normalise the idea that women are just sexual objects for the taking; those jokes prop up misogyny and attitudes that disrespect women. Trans jokes are a particular problem that is changing as we all gain more understanding. What is acceptable to laugh at is changing as society progresses and we need to be aware that being sexist, racist, or ableist is not only not funny, it is not sexy and it continues to normalise out of date wrongheaded attitudes.
Think about it in the context of prison rape jokes. These are ubiquitous. Prison rape is a terrifying reality for 1 in 4 men who go to jail. But every sitcom you watch will happily make a rape joke whenever jail time is mentioned. You have probably made jokes about someone you know (or yourself) being “too pretty” to go to jail. I know I have. It is a habit. It is not because we think being brutally, sexually assaulted in a permanently damaging way is hilarious.
I think that sex itself is funny and there are a lot of great jokes and laughs to be had around the sex act and our ever-changing values, knowledge and morals. I think it is important not to take it all too seriously and to have a laugh in bed (or outdoors, wherever you prefer, no judgement). If you are looking for an insightful and at times, laugh out loud book try “Doing It” Amongst the great collection of stories there are some about funny sexual experiences, and inappropriate things said. For instance Clem Bastow’s line as she mounted a slightly reluctant guy whilst menstruating “but you like Cronenberg films don’t you” has stuck in my head for better or worse.
I love making inappropriate sexual jokes and shocking jokes and in inappropriate places but I don’t expect everyone to laugh. Someone doesn’t become less valuable as a sexual partner just because they have a different sense of humour or more sensitivity to problematic humour than I do. Or because they do not wish to be laughed at by someone else. They might be less attractive to me if they don’t laugh at my jokes but that is my problem not theirs. Although I am, of course, hilarious in the sack.