Gender Differences in the use of Humor

The tastes of men and women seem to differ in just about every area of entertainment. The audience at a Slayer concert probably won’t be filled with women, and it is rare to see Sex and the City in a man’s Netflix queue. Whether it is the actual use of comedy, or patronage of certain types of comedies and comedians, the male/female taste difference is glaringly apparent. Most women have to put in actual physical effort to stop their head from exploding when they hear the so-called “C-bomb,” while for men, it is routinely in the set-up and punch line of their jokes. The underlying reason for this difference in men and women’s senses of humor, and their dissimilar tastes in general, is their seemingly polar opposite notions of propriety.

There are obviously exceptions to this paradigm, but in general, women tend to be more nurturing than men. This tendency on the part of women to be more encouraging than their male counterparts is, in large part, what makes them stray from the use of humor that might hurt or offend someone. Everyone has been driving in the car or at the dinner table and heard a child innocently comment on grandpa’s “really weird shaped head.” The mother will lovingly explain to her child that it isn’t nice to make fun of people. The father’s face will be stop sign red from stifled laughter.

This is not to say that men are callous and do not care about other people’s feelings. Men use insults lovingly, as if to say, “I’m your friend despite the fact that you’re balding and a little tubby.” This is something with which women usually cannot identify. They are more of the school of thought that you don’t point out the flaws of someone you love. The most interesting difference in the use of humor between men and women is that men tend to give women a pass on their more safe sense of humor, while women express disgust when they hear a joke or humorous comment they find objectionable.

The reason for the difference in men and women’s senses of propriety, and the more nurturing nature of women can be traced back to traditional societal gender roles. Women are not supposed to make crass jokes, it wouldn’t be lady like. Men, on the other hand, are supposed to be a bit rough around the edges. Again, there are exceptions to this rule; comediennes Sarah Silverman and Lisa Lampanelli tell jokes that most women find are in incredibly bad taste. For the men, a comedian like Brian Reagan wouldn’t dream of telling a joke that might hurt someone’s feelings. The most important thing to remember is that no one should enforce their particular limits with regard to humor on others. If you happen to be offended by “dirty jokes,” do not surround yourself with those that might tell them. Conversely, if you’re a fan of toilet humor, you shouldn’t subject the person next to you on a cross-country airplane ride to a string of jokes about the flight attendant’s cleavage. In short, know your audience.