Sexual jokes

Sexual Jokes      


It would be interesting, but fruitless, in the context of this essay, to list all the different types of jokes in respect of the modes and systems that are brought into conflict, but sexual jokes are a special case and deserve comment. We can only describe neurological events in "story" terms, as words are unable to convey the reality of processes that entail thousands of serial electromagnetic events taking place in various areas of the brain. We can intellectually analyze jokes and give explanations in terms of content and mechanism, and it is in the area of mechanisms that sexual jokes differ from other kinds of joke. Consider the following sexual joke.

Letter to the Agony Aunt of a women's magazine.

Dear Aunt Martha,

I have a problem. It concerns my husband, who demands I have sex with him at all times of the day, often at the most inappropriate moments. I have talked to him about his lack of consideration, but to no avail. Have you any advice on how I could break him of this distressing habit.

Thank you.
Bessie Brown.

PS. Please excuse the wobbly writing.

As with many sexual jokes, we can discern an allusive aspect that conjures up the sexual act, but having implanted an image in the reader's/listener's brain, with what does this conflict? Why do we laugh at sexual jokes? We cannot get anywhere by stopping at a link with embarrassment, as sexual embarrassment is unique to human beings, and we should ask the question: Why are we embarrassed by sex ? We can only answer this question by putting together, as best we can, an evolution of sexual behavior in primates, guided by the few clues history has left us.

The first two questions to be answered are: why does such a cerebral creature as man think about sex so often, and why does the human male have a sexual organ which is relatively much larger than the other apes ? Sex may well have been the central controlling factor in the organization of early hominid troops, and before language (verbal symbolism) genito-anal symbolism aided the coordination of the social group. The sexual control of stress in the Bonobo (pygmy chimp) (Stanford, C 1998), adds weight to the theory, but other than the large male penis, what evidence is there that genito-anal symbolism was involved in the control of early hominid behavior? The behavior of present day primates suggests that so-called perversions (homosexuality, coprophilia, sado-masochism, flashing etc.) have a long biological history. It is generally accepted that there is a large power component in the motivation to rape (McCabe and Wauchope 2005) and the genital displays of primates (Guthrie 1976) are mirrored by the flasher's vain attempt to demonstrate his dominance. Although we regard faeces, urine, saliva and even blood with distaste, some of the world's hunter-gatherers consider anything that comes from the body as having special powers. It is possible to view the naked, faeces smearing displays of powerless individuals in prison as a desperate last ditch expression of bodily power.

The life and sexual exploits of the Marquis de Sade (de Beauvoir 1951) suggest he was a man who had rediscovered in himself the seat of bodily power, and it is significant that he rejected the unemotional, abstract, concept based power of the church and state. Sado-masochistic practices also suggest a history of sexually based power within a changing hierarchical social structure. As the frontal lobes of hominids increased in size, and language evolved, the nature of communication and power shifted - genito-anal symbolism gave way to verbal symbolism and power gained an intellectual component.

Defecation, urination and sex are activities we have been unable to civilize and we never really get beyond our childhood assessment that love-making is the slapping together of smelly genitals. Yeats highlights the troubling state of being both human and animal in his poem Crazy Jane Talks With The Bishop, with the words "Love has pitched his mansion/ in the place of excrement." and Swift, in his Cassinus and Peter: A Tragical Elegy, has the young student, Cassinus, who has just found out his beloved is not the goddess he thought she was, exclaiming, "Nor wonder how I lost my wits; / Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits."

Sexual jokes, on the whole, lack the format to produce conflict directly. They depend very much on an allusive aspect, as demonstrated by the Dear Aunt Martha joke. Like most jokes they elicit the greatest volume of laughter when narrated rather than read. It is difficult to separate the reasons for this. A number of possibilities are: as laughter is a communicative phenomenon, it is more likely to take place in a group setting; being social creatures, our emotive systems are particularly active in group situations; some of the laughter is of the non-Duchenne type, resulting from the reluctance on the part of listeners to cause the narrator embarrassment; the relaxing atmosphere of the joke telling context facilitates the release of stress; and probably the most important aspect of narrating a sexual joke, the presence of other individuals when a particularly private aspect of human life is the center of attention. Children do not require embarrassing topics to be packaged as jokes to make them laugh and will often giggle at the mere mention of sex or bodily functions. There are sexual jokes in which there is no inherent conflict or allusive mechanism at all; none is required, as our very existence comprises a functional duality, and we vacillate between the organismal and the cultural - between the ape and the angel.

Below is one of the few sexual jokes I have found that does not depend on allusion, has no internal mechanism to cause conflict, and gives the full description of what is happening.

A woman finds that her sexuality is waning, and seeing an advert in a magazine for a pleasure boosting sex kit, she writes off for it. It duly arrives, and when she opens the box, she finds a list of instructions, two small bells and a tennis ball on a string. The instructions read : Place a bell on each nipple and suspend the tennis ball from your neck so it hangs at groin level - then, ring the bell, ring the bell, bounce the ball twice, ring the bell, ring...... If you find this works you might like to send off for our advanced kit. The woman practiced the movements, and finding that she and her husband are obtaining much more enjoyment from their sexual encounters, she sends off for the advanced kit. The new kit contained the same objects as the first one, but in addition a small blackboard and piece of chalk. The instructions read: Place a bell on each nipple and suspend the tennis ball from your neck so it hangs at groin level and put the piece of chalk between your buttocks. Ring the bell, ring the bell, bounce the ball twice, ring the bell, ring the bell, bounce the ball twice, then write 39 C(ents) on the blackboard !

One can almost feel the movement of the pelvis - the brain conjures up memories of such movements and you relive the experience of a very exciting and private moment in the presence of other individuals.
The fact that we laugh at sexual jokes strengthens my conviction that there is something deeper than a purely cultural opposition to an open acknowledgement of our animal nature, and I find it significant that even in the oldest human group, the !Kung San of Africa, the men only introduce the topic of sex with women and children in a joking manner. ( Janssen 2006)