New research has found that straight men tell homophobic and sexist jokes to mask their own insecurities.
The study, carried out by Western Carolina University
, found that "disparaging jokes are a way for some men to reaffirm their shaky sense of self, especially when they feel their masculinity is being threatened."
This isn't really news to anyone who has been on the receiving end of these kinds of jokes, but it's nice to see it backed up with some scientific research.
The research was conducted by asking a group of heterosexual men to fill in an online questionnaire which was "designed to test their social attitudes and personalities, and their prejudice levels and antagonism against gay men and women."
The study found that straight men find "self-affirmation" from these jokes. Emma O'Connor, who conducted the research, explained "Men higher in precarious manhood beliefs expressed amusement with sexist and anti-gay humour in response to a masculinity threat because they believe it reaffirms an accurate, more masculine impression of them.
"It appears that by showing amusement with sexist and anti-gay humour, such men can distance themselves from the traits they want to disconfirm."
O'Connor found that instances of sexist humour were particularly prevalent in workplaces where women are in positions of authority. "Work settings where women occupy positions of authority might inherently trigger masculinity threats for men higher in precarious manhood beliefs and thus sexist joking," she said.
"Given the social protection afforded to humour as a medium for communicating disparagement, it is possible that men use sexist humour in the workplace as a 'safe' way to reaffirm their threatened masculinity."