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Anatomy of Sexual Humor (and Yes, You Can Touch Those Bits Down There)

Anatomy of Sexual Humor (and Yes, You Can Touch Those Bits Down There)
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We’ve been laughing at sex for as long as we’ve been having it – for reasons puritanical, repressive, regressive, or the fact that we just like laughing at our own naughty bits.

  And What, May I Ask, Is So Amusing?

“I can’t think of anything worse after a night of drinking than waking up next to someone and not being able to remember their name, or how you met, or why they’re dead.”
- Laura Kightlinger


No emotional response is as particular and personal as laughter. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re happy. It can come from a massive attack of nerves, a profound sense of relief, or it could be that last sign that you’ve completely lost it and boarded that one way train to Loopsiedoodle. With humor, it’s anybody’s guess as to what’ll provoke the laugh response. The sense of humor is the most subjective component of our psyche; some folks genuinely seem to be devoid of one. As funny as Dick Cheney’s name is, Mr. Go Fuck Yourself never rated very highly on the funnyometer. Unless you think shooting hunting buddies in the face is a riot.

Naturally, every last member of the Humorless will insist that they’ve got a terrific sense of humor. It’s the part of our mental makeup that’s the most treasured. Peruse the Craigslist personals if you don’t believe me. As for subjectivity, reeling off “So these two baby seals walk into a club…” will have some laughing uproariously, some politely chuckling, some deeply offended, and still others staring blankly into space. It’s that last bunch that we want to avoid. They’ve flunked the Are the Synapses Firing? litmus test.

And even with the variables of personal taste and sensitivity factored in, we can still dissect this beast called Humor. In a benign, vegan, and eco-friendly manner, of course. We can still get a feel for how the stuff that makes us laugh works its magic. We’ve got Humor firmly strapped to the table and we’re ready to proceed. Hope you’re wearing some old clothes; there may be some spray when we make the initial incision. Not to worry. That’s not ichor, it’s just irony.

  Laugh and the World Looks At You Funny. It’s Still Good For You, Though

“I'm such a good lover because I practice a lot on my own.”
- Woody Allen


Laughter has immeasurable value as a tension reliever; there’s literally nothing that can reduce stress as quickly and effectively. It lowers your blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and improves immune system functions. This is all true. Doctors found out. By, you know, cutting open people who were laughing. So laughter is indeed the best medicine. The next time you’re laughing your ass off at that incredibly goofy face your partner makes during their orgasm, tell them that. They’ll appreciate your health consciousness and wellness-oriented attitude.

Lord knows that the sexual arena is fraught with anxiety and tension at a level of intensity that can reduce even the most stout hearted among us into a quivering pile of protoplasmic goo. That degree of tension begs for release. So when you watch Jason Biggs exploring his sensuality with the assistance of that apple pie, that big laugh comes chiefly from identification with the poor kid. We’ve all had moments of supreme sexual mortification, regardless of our gender or orientation. At least that why we hope you can relate. Not because you make a habit of performing unnatural acts with tasty dessert treats. You sick fuck. Anyway, it comes from the buildup of tension followed by the release and that eases our stresses and lightens our proverbial load.

The laugh reflex is also a marvelous defense mechanism, helping us to roll with the punches delivered by fear, embarrassment, and other painful emotional experiences. When we joke about these moments, it takes some of the ouch out of the episode.

By way of illustration, we proudly present the noble dick joke.

While vacationing in the islands, Brad decided to get his sweetheart’s name tattooed on his penis to demonstrate his undying devotion. “Wendy” was clearly visible when his member was erect, but when flaccid, only the “Wy” was readable.

Changing into his swim trunks in a locker room, he noticed a local who also had a “Wy” tattoo.

“You’ve got a girlfriend named Wendy, too?”

“No, mon. Mine says, ‘Welcome to the beautiful island paradise of Jamaica. Hope you enjoy your stay.’”

Anxiety over penis size is a common, if not universal, sexual anxiety among men, and the dick joke lets them articulate this primordial terror while cutting it down to size (so to speak) by laughing at it. For men in particular, it’s easier to address something that emotionally charged through humor than via a soul baring heart-to-heart conversation.

  The Neener-Neener Factor

“My sister was with two men in one night. She could hardly walk after that. Can you imagine? Two dinners!”
- Sarah Silverman


You can also put the comedic defense mechanism in gear by telling a joke that’ll give you a feeling of superiority to the joke’s target. Nothing new here; all humor derives its laughs at somebody’s expense. This helps to explain the popularity and longevity of the blonde joke. Blondes have long been objectified in our society as the aesthetic ideal; the pinnacle of sexual desirability. These creatures can be the source of utterly fearsome intimidation. So if you’ve spent the night flirting with that cute guy in the club only to experience the dejection of watching him leave with an uberperky blonde hanging onto his arm, the blonde joke can help take the edge off of the pain.

How do you know if a blonde’s been in your office?

Your monitor’s drenched with white out.

The classic blonde joke reinforces the stereotype that blondes are dumber than potted plants, so there’s that one quality in which you’ll always be able to claim some sense of superiority over them. It’s enshrined in our folklore, dontcha know. So that ripped, bronze Adonis who had the atrocious taste to choose her over you is obviously shallow and probably doesn’t have much in the way of candlepower, either. It’s his loss; you’re coming out ahead in this turn of events, after all.

  Have We Always Been Such Vulgarians? You Betcha!

“I never fucked a ten, but one night, I fucked five twos.”
- George Carlin


As long as we’ve had language to describe sex, we’ve been goofing on it. It’s just hardwired into us; that holds true across all cultures and classes. Behold! The first recorded sex joke dating to roughly 2600 B.C.E.:

How do you entertain a bored pharaoh?

Sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge him to catch a fish.

Let’s hope that one lost something in translation. Still, it demonstrates that we were joking about sex from the get-go, and even authoritarian derision of humor from the early years of the Catholic Church through the Victorian era, wouldn’t derail the masses’ proclivity toward mirth. For much of its history, the Church derided frivolity and humor, deeming it unseemly in chaste and sober followers of Christ. It was such a repressive situation that Sean Connery had to kick ass and take names in The Name of the Rose. Sigh. Didn’t like sex. Didn’t like laughter. You just couldn’t win with the Church.

You can’t keep a good serf down, though, and ultimately, the impulse for laughter won out, evidenced by the following bit of Medieval humor:

What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole it’s often poked before?

A key.

Again, not a laugh riot, but they were keeping the torch of laughter from sputtering out. And they needed it. Just imagine that you’re a serf. Your life expectancy is about thirty-five and your reward for spending that entire lifetime toiling in mud and shit while enduring disease, famine, and war doesn’t come until after you die and you’re off to the Kingdom of Heaven as part of the Afterlife Attaboy package. Yeah, this sounded dodgy to them, too, but they were scared silly of The Lake Of Fire, so they got with the program. In the meantime, they took what comfort and joy they could snag and hoped that St. Peter would turn a blind eye on the drunken nights spent trading limericks in the tavern.

There was some thaw in the authoritarian disapproval of laughter in the Victorian era when pioneering psychologists, Sigmund Freud pre-eminent among them, couched humor in therapeutic terms. Freud was kind enough to tie sex and laughter together when he postulated that humor was a means of satisfying the Pleasure Principle. We all chase pleasure, but our superego constrains us from pursuing it down avenues that would incur social sanction. It’s just not good form to dry hump your object of desire in public, especially if they don’t know you. However, in joking about sex, your desires, your hang-ups, you release these tensions in a fashion that won’t have proper society raking your sorry ass over the coals; and the laughter that accompanies it gives some satisfaction to your own Pleasure Principle. Not that Freud’s ideas gained universal acceptance during his lifetime (or even posthumously), but he did a damned good job articulating and disseminating them and they were influential enough to spark re-evaluation of the merits of humor. (Hilary Clinton coulda given him a good schooling in how terminally messed up that penis envy stuff was). I know that one might be charged – the idea was to choose a woman who’s tough, smart, and really fucking powerful plus somebody who has nothing to do with comedy.

  What Price Funny?

I went to my doctor and told him ‘my penis is burning.’ He said, "That means somebody is talking about it."
- Garry Shandling


We dig the comfort and catharsis that sexual humor brings us, but there’s a flip side. Every joke has its butt. We get our laughs at the expense of the poor sap who’s on the receiving end. So where’s the line drawn between having good fun and just being fucking cruel?

There’s no blinking neon light to mark that divide. What you think is hilarious might offend the piss out of someone else. Still, most of us tend to recoil when humor becomes a valve for releasing feelings of rage and hatred instead of illuminating truths about our anxieties and insecurities. Rage and hatred are the stomping grounds of the demagogue, and while humor that’s denigrating to racial, sexual, and ethnic groups still exists in our society, it’s not nearly as public and pervasive as it once was. The cultural marketplace of ideas will filter out the modes of expression that the majority of society’s members find repugnant and the people in that society who use those forms of expression will become marginalized.

Racist, misogynistic, and homophobic humor remains lively on the fringes of our culture because it genuinely resonates with disaffected, angry people who achieve their catharsis with it. That’ll hold true until our species is extinct. There’s a dark streak in human nature that compels some to hate anyone they view as “not one of us” and humor’s a potent vehicle to channel that hatred. Best we can do is to give the assholes who never rose above the mentality of a playground bully a wide berth and keep ‘em socially quarantined.

  Thank You, and Good Night

“Last night, it was so cold; the flashers in New York were only describing themselves.”
- Johnny Carson


Sex is great. Laughter is great. It’s no accident that they’re two great tastes that taste great together like a big ol’ peanut butter cup drenched in come. Erm. Well, just take it on faith that it’s a union BOTH beautiful and natural.

Aside from being yanked shrieking from the womb and being laid in the grave, sex is the experience shared by most everyone shuffling around on this mortal coil. The anxieties that accompany sex scare us almost as much as the fears that go along with death. Pursuit d’amour is a high risk, high reward venture. Ecstasy or dejection await – often simultaneously. If it didn’t make your knees rubbery from time to time, WE’D wonder about you. Sexual humor’s our comfort food in this arena. It eases the bumps and the universal truths it shares reassure us that we’re not alone in having our awkward and anxious moments. Everybody’s been there, we all understand, and it’s all good. We’ll buy the ticket, take the ride, and have a good laugh over it at the dimming of the day. Besides, if things just don’t work out at your local Date ‘N’ Mate that night, that Orgasmotron 7000 gathering dust in your basement should swing it for now.

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nice

03/11/2012

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