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Why a sexist joke is no laughing matter

Friends

Heard the one about the men who find sexist jokes hilarious?

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File photo: For a man feeling insecure, he needs to signal that he is macho, and jokes that make fun of women help him to do that. Picture: Max Pixel

It turns out it’s no laughing matter – not least because scientists say it shows they are highly insecure in their masculinity.

Researchers found those who found sexist jokes funniest were the men who felt their manliness was most under threat. Their theory is that some men see manhood as a precarious state that can be lost by doing something traditionally seen as "unmanly" – such as childcare, washing up or watching a romantic comedy.

For a man feeling insecure, he needs to signal that he is macho, and jokes that make fun of women help him to do that.

Researchers carried out two experiments on 387 heterosexual men. Their personalities and attitudes were tested, as well as levels of prejudice against women and gay men.

They were then told jokes that were sexist, anti-gay, neutral and anti-Muslim to see which ones they found funniest.

An example of a neutral joke was: "What do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef," while one sexist joke was: "Why has no woman been to the moon? Because it doesn’t need cleaning yet." Men were then asked to evaluate jokes after falsely being given feedback that questionnaires had shown them to be high in "feminine personality and humour style".

The Western Carolina University researchers said jokes mocking women and gay people were found to be funniest to the men who felt most threatened.

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