Sex Roles

, Volume 77, Issue 9–10, pp 567–580 | Cite as

Restoring Threatened Masculinity: The Appeal of Sexist and Anti-Gay Humor

  • Emma C. O’Connor
  • Thomas E. Ford
  • Noely C. Banos
Original Article

Abstract

We propose that men scoring higher in precarious manhood beliefs (PMB) express amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor (but not other forms of humor) in response to masculinity threat in order to reaffirm their masculinity. Accordingly, Experiment 1 (166 heterosexual men in the United States recruited through Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk) supported the hypothesis that men higher in PMB express greater amusement with sexist and anti-gay jokes after experiencing a threat to their masculinity but not in the absence of masculinity threat. Also, the significant positive relationship between PMB and amusement following a masculinity threat was unique to the sexist and anti-gay jokes; it did not emerge for anti-Muslim and neutral jokes. Experiment 2 (221 heterosexual men in the United States recruited through Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk) extended the findings of Experiment 1, supporting the hypothesis that, following a masculinity threat, men higher in PMB express amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor because they believe it reaffirms their masculinity. Thus, our findings suggest that sexist and anti-gay humor serve a self-affirming function for men who possess higher PMB in situations that threaten one’s masculinity. By uncovering a novel psychological function of sexist and anti-gay humor in social settings, we hope the present research will lead to better understandings of the kinds of situations that foster its occurrence and ultimately to strategies for preventing it.

Keywords

Masculinity Sexual prejudice Humor Precarious manhood Gender identity Humor 

In February 2016 a male professor emeritus of geography posted a joke on the Listserv, PLANET, setting off a firestorm of controversy and debate with many forum members condemning the joke as sexist and offensive whereas others defended it. In the end, over 100 professors quit the forum (Jaschik 2016). In that same year, Comedian Ralphie May’s mockery of Native Americans on a homemade YouTube video sparked similar controversy that resulted in the cancellation of his show in Bemidji, Minnesota. And in 2011, comedian Tracy Morgan issued a public apology after receiving such strong backlash for making fun of homosexuality in a stand-up comedy routine. As incidents like these attest, humor that disparages or demeans social groups has come under harsh public scrutiny as society has become increasingly sensitive to expressions of prejudice and other forms of offensive speech.

Although it is controversial, disparagement humor—such as sexist, racist, and anti-gay humor—remains pervasive, particularly in informal settings (Barker 1994). Perhaps the pervasiveness of disparagement humor is indicative of the social psychological functions it serves. Previous research has shown that people initiate and enjoy disparagement humor, in part, because it reaffirms threatened social identities (Tajfel and Turner 1986). That is, it distinguishes one’s in-group as superior to relevant out-groups (Abrams et al. 2015; Ferguson and Ford 2008). In the present research, we further investigated the self-affirming functions of disparagement humor by exploring the possibility that certain men express amusement with two types of disparagement humor (sexist and anti-gay humor) as a way to reaffirm their masculinity.

Precarious Manhood Theory

Novelist Norman Mailer (1966, p. 201) once observed, “Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor.” Vandello et al.’s (2008) precarious manhood theory reflects Mailer’s insight, proposing that masculinity is defined in terms of a man’s behavior and conformity to traditional male gender roles. Thus, rather than being a fixed, innate, biologically determined quality, masculinity is tenuous and susceptible to loss (Levant 2011). From this fluid, dynamic view of masculinity, men and boys become vigilant in guarding against masculinity threats and learn ways to reaffirm masculinity in response to threats (Vandello et al. 2008).

Gender norms create pressure for men to behave in gender-consistent ways. Moreover, when men violate gender norms, they experience stress and anxiety described as gender-role discrepancy strain (Pleck 1981, 1995). In order to alleviate this gender-based anxiety, men attempt to demonstrate, and thus restore, their masculinity not only to themselves, but to others as well (Bosson et al. 2005; Kalish and Kimmel 2010). Bosson et al. (2005), for instance, found that men experienced discomfort and fear of being misclassified as gay after imagining performing a stereotypically female task (e.g., dancing in a ballet class, styling someone’s hair). They alleviated this gender-based discomfort by publicly declaring their heterosexuality, thus correcting the possible misclassification.

Precarious manhood theory further proposes that men differ in the degree to which they hold precarious manhood beliefs (PMB). That is, men differ in their sensitivity and responsiveness to masculinity threats. Threats to masculinity provoke greater gender-based anxiety insofar as men score higher in PMB. And, men higher in PMB are especially apt to respond in ways that defend and restore their threatened masculinity.

Masculinity Threat and Prejudice

Women and gay men symbolize femininity, the antithesis of masculinity. Thus, by expressing disdain or prejudice against women and gay men, men higher in PMB can distance themselves from the traits they want to disconfirm in themselves. Discrimination against women and gay men, therefore, can function as a means of protecting and reaffirming one’s masculinity (Glick et al. 2007; Maas et al. 2003).

Dahl et al. (2015) found that upon experiencing a masculinity threat, men reported greater endorsement of ideological beliefs that legitimize or justify men’s power over women. The expression of beliefs allowed them to feel a restored sense of masculinity. It appears that women in positions of power or authority particularly threaten men higher in PMB by making them feel inferior to a member of the “weaker sex” (Dahl et al. 2015; Netchaeva et al. 2015). Netchaeva et al. (2015) asked men and women to participate in a role-play exercise in which they imagined themselves as a job applicant who was offered a position by either a male or female manager. Participants had the opportunity to negotiate their salary and were told that the manager would respond with counter-offers. When men negotiated with a female versus a male manager, they responded with more symbolic aggression by negotiating their salary more assertively. A second study revealed that men responded more assertively to a female manager in an attempt to restore threatened masculinity. Maas et al. (2003) similarly found that men sexually harassed women in response to masculinity threats. This effect was accentuated among men who identified more strongly as masculine.

Men also discriminate against gay men in an attempt to protect and reaffirm their masculinity, particularly effeminate gay men (Glick et al. 2007). Weaver and Vescio (2015), for instance, found that men who had a stronger masculine identity tolerated discrimination against gay men and minimized the severity of discriminatory acts perpetrated against gay men. Kroeper et al. (2014) similarly found that men higher in PMB showed greater tolerance of discrimination against a gay man and less willingness to intervene on behalf of a gay man experiencing discrimination. It appears that men who possess higher levels of PMB or a stronger masculine identity discriminate against gay men to avoid the threat to their masculinity resulting from being misclassified as gay (Kroeper et al. 2014; Weaver and Vescio 2015).

Functions of Disparagement Humor

Disparagement humor represents a paradox because it simultaneously communicates two conflicting messages. It communicates both an explicit message of denigration of a target, along with an implicit message that the denigration is free of prejudicial motives or malicious intentions—it’s “just a joke” meant to amuse and not to be taken seriously (Attardo 1993; Gray and Ford 2013; Hodson and MacInnis 2016; Zillmann 1983). Humor thus provides a cover story of social acceptability for expressions of prejudice and malice that allows it to avert the standard challenges or opposition that non-humorous disparagement likely would incur (Bill and Naus 1992; Johnson 1990).

Although expressed under the cover of social acceptability, disparagement humor represents a subtle expression of prejudice; it communicates shared stereotypes and antagonistic attitudes toward a social group (Husband 1977; Montemurro 2003; Montemurro and Benfield 2015). Indeed, in order to “get” a disparaging joke, one has to share knowledge of certain demeaning stereotypes with the joke teller. It clarifies for people that demeaning stereotypes and prejudiced attitudes are collectively shared within a given culture. Hodson and MacInnis (2016) argued that disparagement humor delegitimizes social groups by declaring them socially acceptable targets for denigration.

Social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner 1986) offers a framework for understanding the psychological mechanisms by which expressions of prejudice through disparagement humor serve self-affirmation motives (Abrams et al. 2015; Ferguson and Ford 2008; Thomae and Pina 2015). Social identity refers to the part of an individual’s self-concept that is based on social group membership (Tajfel and Turner 1986). One’s social identity becomes salient in intergroup settings where people categorize themselves and others according to salient social group memberships. A central tenet of social identity theory is that, in intergroup settings, people are motivated to achieve or maintain a positive social identity, that is, to feel pride in belonging to the in-group (Tajfel and Turner 1986). Consequently, people try to distinguish their in-group as superior to relevant out-groups. Disparagement humor provides such a positive distinction. Bourhis et al. (1977, p. 261) proposed that “anti-out-group humour can, through out-group devaluation and denigration, be a creative and potent way of asserting in-group pride and distinctiveness from a dominant out-group.”

Disparagement humor, then, is amusing because it makes people feel better about their groups; that is, it enhances their social identity (Abrams et al. 2015; Bourhis et al. 1977; Ferguson and Ford 2008; Thomae and Pina 2015). Consequently, people initiate and enjoy disparagement humor more when they experience a threat to their social identity (Angelone et al. 2005; Siebler et al. 2008). Relevant to the present research, Kehily and Nayak (1997) found that young men in a boarding school affirmed masculine social identities and established masculine group norms by exchanging sexist humor.

The Present Research

Men scoring higher in PMB respond to masculinity threats by expressing prejudice against women and gay men—two groups that symbolize the antithesis of masculinity—in order to reaffirm their masculinity. Also, sexist and anti-gay humor each represent subtle, socially safe ways of expressing that prejudice. Thus, we propose that men higher in PMB express amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor (but not other forms of humor) in response to masculinity threat in order to reaffirm their masculinity. Therefore, in Experiment 1 we tested the hypothesis that men higher in PMB would rate sexist and anti-gay humor (but not other forms of disparagement humor or non-disparaging neutral humor) funnier after experiencing a threat to their masculinity.

Experiment 2 provided a replication and extension of Experiment 1, testing the hypothesis that, following a masculinity threat, men higher in PMB would rate sexist and anti-gay humor funnier because they believe it restores an accurate impression of them (i.e., reaffirms their masculinity).

We conducted both experiments using Mechanical Turk, a web service sponsored by amazon.com that allows people to complete studies posted online. Our sample was limited to residents of the United States. Mechanical Turk has been shown to be as reliable as other sampling methods for collecting survey data (Buhrmester et al. 2011).

Experiment 1

Male participants completed Vandello et al.’s (2008) Precarious Manhood Beliefs Scale under the guise of a “social attitudes” survey. Then, they completed an allegedly unrelated role-play exercise in which they imagined themselves as a new employee at an online comedy streaming company that compiles personal comedy databases for subscribers. In order to manipulate masculinity threat, participants completed a personality inventory that allegedly assessed the degree to which they possess a masculine or a feminine personality. In the Threat condition, we provided feedback that they possessed a highly feminine personality. In the No-Threat condition, we provided no feedback about their score on the personality inventory. Participants then rated the funniness of sexist, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, and neutral jokes. Importantly, sexist and anti-gay jokes target groups that symbolize the antithesis of masculinity; anti-Muslim jokes, although also disparaging, do not. Based on our hypothesis, we expected to find a stronger positive relationship between PMB and humor ratings for sexist and anti-gay jokes in the Threat condition than in the No-Threat condition. We did not predict this pattern of results for the anti-Muslim and neutral jokes.

Method

Participants and Design

We analyzed data from 166 heterosexual male residents of the United States who participated via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk in exchange for $.40 each. Participants’ age ranged from 18 to 67 years-old, with a median of 32 and a mean of 35.57 (SD = 12.41). There were 110 (66%) Whites, 19 (11%) African-Americans, 11 (7%) Hispanics, 20 (12%) Asians, 3 (2%) Native American and 3 (2%) people who self-identified as “other.” Participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions in a 4 (type of joke: sexist, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, neutral) × 2 (masculinity threat: threat, no-threat) mixed-model design, with type of joke serving as a within-subjects factor and masculinity threat serving as a between-subjects factor.

Procedure

Participants accessed a link to the study through Mechanical Turk. After providing informed consent, they completed two allegedly separate and unrelated studies. The first consisted of questionnaires designed to assess “social attitudes.” Accordingly, participants completed a 7-item measure of prejudice adapted from Cottrell and Neuberg (2005) designed to assess negative affective disposition toward gay men. Using scales ranging from 1 (not at all) to 9 (extremely), participants reported the extent to which they felt a general negative sentiment toward gay men (dislike, antipathy, hostility, aversion, and negative) as well as more specific negative emotions (fear and disgust). Scores were averaged across items to yield an overall measure of attitudes toward gay men for which higher scores indicated more negative attitudes. Cronbach’s alpha was .95.

Next, participants completed the 11-item hostile sexism subscale of Glick and Fiske’s (1996) Ambivalent Sexism Inventory to assess the degree to which they held antagonistic attitudes toward women (e.g., “Women seek to gain power by getting control over men”; “Once a woman gets a man to commit to her, she usually tries to put him on a tight leash.”). Finally, participants completed Vandello et al.’s (2008) 7-item Precarious Manhood Beliefs Scale (e.g., “It is fairly easy for a man to lose his status as a man”; “Some boys do not become men, no matter how old they get.”). For both measures, participants responded on scales ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree), and item scores were averaged to yield overall scores wherein higher scores indicate stronger endorsement of hostile sexism or precarious manhood beliefs Cronbach’s alpha was .87 for the hostile sexism scale and .83 for the PMB measure.

Participants then completed a second and unrelated study regarding personality and humor preferences. Participants first read the following instructions:

This study requires you to immerse yourself in a role-play scenario. Please imagine you have just been hired to be part of a comedy streaming company that helps to generate customized comedy databases for subscribers.

All new employees at the company complete two questionnaires when they are first hired. The first is a personality inventory; the second is a comedy impression survey.

Your new manager, John, will use your responses to determine the degree to which you are more suited to generate comedy databases for subscribers who prefer either more masculine (male-oriented) forms of comedy or more feminine (female-oriented) forms of comedy. Please complete the following questionnaires while imagining yourself in this setting.

Next, participants completed the personality inventory, which was an adaptation of Bem’s (1974) Sex Role Inventory. Specifically, participants rated themselves on 20 personality dimensions (e.g., self-reliant, cheerful, athletic, understanding, compassionate, tender) using a scale ranging from 1 (never true or almost never true) to 7 (always true or almost always true). We did not compute scores for the Sex Role Inventory; we included it only as a way to manipulate the masculinity threat variable.

We manipulated masculinity threat following a similar procedure as Glick et al. (2007). Specifically, upon completing the personality inventory, participants were presented with the statement: “Scores on the personality inventory range from 0–50 with lower scores indicating greater femininity and higher scores indicating more masculinity.” Then, participants in the threat condition were informed that their score on the personality inventory had been tabulated, and that, “Your score on the inventory was 18, which is close to the female average.” Then, they were given the following feedback from their manager:

Your score on the personality inventory is very close to the average score for women suggesting that you might have a more “feminine” personality and humor style.

However, the personality inventory provides only a preliminary indication of whether you would work better with subscribers who prefer masculine or feminine forms of comedy. Please complete the comedy rating form so I can make a more complete and accurate assessment of whether you are suited to generate more masculine (male-oriented) or more feminine (female-oriented) comedy databases.

Participants in the no-threat condition did not receive feedback about their personalities.

Next, all participants completed the “comedy rating” form; they rated the funniness of a series of 20 jokes: five sexist jokes (Q: Why haven’t any women ever gone to the moon? A: It doesn’t need cleaning yet), five anti-gay jokes (Q: How can you tell if a novel is homosexual? A: The hero always gets his man at the end), five anti-Muslim jokes (Q: What do you call a drunk Muslim? A: Mohammered), and five neutral (non-disparaging) jokes (Q: What do you a call a cow with no legs? A: Ground beef). Participants rated each joke using two 7-point scales ranging from 1 (not at all funny) to 7 (very funny) and 1 (not at all amusing) to 7 (very amusing). We averaged the funniness and amusement ratings for each joke and then averaged that aggregate rating across the five jokes of each type to form humor ratings for each type of joke. Finally, participants were prompted to write a sentence or two describing their reactions to the studies. The responses from six participants indicated suspicion of the true purpose of the study or failure to take the study seriously. Responses from those participants were excluded from the analyses. Also, it is noteworthy that we included a “required response” for each measure of the study so that participants could not complete the study and receive payment unless they provided a response for every question for each measure in the study. Consequently, we did not have any missing data.

Results

We hypothesized that men higher in PMB would rate sexist and anti-gay humor (but not other forms of disparagement humor or neutral humor) more humorous after experiencing a threat to their masculinity. Thus, in the context of Experiment 1 we expected to find a stronger positive relationship between PMB and humor ratings for sexist and anti-gay jokes in the Threat condition than in the No-Threat condition, and we did not predict this pattern of results for the anti-Muslim and neutral jokes. We first present descriptive statistics for each of our measures as a function of experimental condition. Then, we present a test of our hypothesis in a series of regression analyses conducted on the humor ratings for each of the four types of jokes.

Descriptive Statistics

Table 1 presents descriptive statistics for PMB, hostile sexism, anti-gay prejudice, sexist joke ratings, anti-gay joke ratings, anti-Muslim joke ratings, and neutral joke ratings. A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed no significant differences on any of the measures across the Threat and No-Threat conditions. This finding suggests that participants found the four sets of jokes similarly funny.
Table 1

Descriptive statistics for threat and no threat conditions across study variables, experiment 1

 

Threat

(n = 81)

No threat

(n = 85)

Correlations

Measure

M (SD)

M (SD)

PMB

HS

AGP

SJ

AGJ

AMJ

NJ

Precarious manhood beliefs (PMB)

3.61 (1.38)

3.79 (1.21)

--

      

Hostile sexism (HS)

3.60 (1.15)

3.79 (1.28)

.46**

--

     

Anti-gay prejudice (AGP)

2.55 (2.27)

2.57 (2.26)

.25**

.35**

--

    

Humor ratings for:

 Sexist jokes (SJ)

2.93 (1.70)

2.90 (1.58)

.26**

.33**

.26**

--

   

 Anti-gay jokes (AGJ)

2.95 (1.48)

3.02 (1.50)

.24**

.24**

.09

.76**

--

  

 Anti-muslim jokes (AMJ)

2.93 (1.52)

2.77 (1.52)

.21**

.24**

.19*

.71**

.71**

--

 

 Neutral jokes (NJ)

3.47 (1.19)

3.41 (1.32)

.02

-.002

.05

.41**

.58**

.40**

--

*p < .05. **p < .01

Overview of Regression Analyses

We tested our hypothesis by conducting a series of separate regression analyses for each of the four types of jokes. First, we effect-coded the masculinity threat variable; the Threat condition was coded as 1 and the No-Threat condition was coded as −1. Next, we computed interaction terms by multiplying the standardized PMB scores by the effect-coded variable. Then we regressed the humor ratings onto the standardized PMB scores, the effect-coded masculinity threat variable, and the interaction term. Because PMB has been associated with prejudice and discrimination against women and gay men, we examined the relationship between PMB and humor ratings for sexist and anti-gay jokes while controlling for sexist and anti-gay attitudes. That is, we included standardized scores on the hostile sexism scale and the anti-gay prejudice measure as predictors in our regression equations for sexist and anti-gay jokes respectively.

Sexist Jokes

The regression analysis on the humor ratings for sexist jokes revealed a significant effect of hostile sexism, β = .30, SE = .14, t = 3.75, p < .001, 95% CI = [.24, .77]; participants rated sexist jokes as funnier to the extent they scored higher in hostile sexism. Supporting our hypothesis, there was a significant PMB x Masculinity Threat interaction effect, β = .24, SE = .13, t = 3.27, p = .001, 95% CI = [.17, .30], indicating that the relationship between PMB and humor ratings for sexist jokes differed across the masculinity threat conditions. Illustrating this interaction effect, Fig. 1a presents the predicted means for the humor ratings for the sexist jokes at one standard deviation above and below the mean standardized PMB score for each condition. Simple slope analyses further support our hypothesis indicating that there was a significant positive relationship between PMB and humor ratings for the sexist jokes in the Threat condition, β = .46, SE = .17, t = 4.59, p < .001, 95% CI = [.45, 1.15], but not in the No-Threat condition, β = .04, SE = .20, t = .36, p = .72, 95% CI = [−.32, .47]. The higher men scored in precarious manhood beliefs, the funnier they found sexist jokes when they experienced a threat to their masculinity but not in the absence of masculinity threat (see Fig. 1a).
Fig. 1

The relationships between precarious manhood beliefs and humor ratings (a) for the sexist jokes and (b) for the anti-gay jokes in the threat and no-threat conditions, experiment 1

Anti-Gay Jokes

The regression analysis on the humor ratings for anti-gay jokes revealed a significant main effect of PMB, β = .22, SE = .13, t = 2.74, p = .007, 95% CI = [.10, .60]; participants reported greater amusement for anti-gay jokes to the extent they scored higher in PMB. Supporting our hypothesis, the PMB x Masculinity Threat interaction effect was significant, β = .15, SE = .12, t = 2.00, p = .048, 95% CI = [.003, .49]. Figure 1b displays this interaction effect, depicting the predicted means for the humor ratings for the anti-gay jokes at one standard deviation above and below the mean standardized PMB score for each condition.

As predicted, simple slope analyses revealed a significant positive relationship between PMB and humor ratings for the anti-gay jokes in the Threat condition, β = .40, SE = .16, t = 3.84, p < .001, 95% CI = [.29, .92], but not in the No-Threat condition, β = .07, SE = .19, t = .68, p = .50, 95% CI = [−.25, .50]. In sum, when men experienced a threat to their masculinity, the higher they scored in precarious manhood beliefs, the funnier they thought disparaging anti-gay jokes were. Again, this relationship between PMB and amusement was not found among non-threatened men (see Fig. 1b).

Anti-Muslim and Neutral Jokes

The regression analyses on the anti-Muslim and neutral jokes revealed no significant main effects or interaction effects. Supporting our hypothesis, the PMB x Masculinity Threat interaction effect was not significant for the anti-Muslim jokes, β = −.05, SE = .13, t = −.66, p = .51, 95% CI = [−.33, .17] or for the neutral jokes, β = .03, SE = .10, t = .43, p = .07, 95% CI = [−.02, .41].

Discussion

The findings of Experiment 1 support our hypothesis that men higher in PMB express greater amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor but not other forms of disparagement humor (e.g., anti-Muslim) or neutral humor, after experiencing a threat to their masculinity. Specifically, Experiment 1 revealed a significant positive relationship between PMB and men’s reported amusement with the sexist and anti-gay jokes in the Threat condition but not in the No-Threat condition. That is, the higher men scored on the PMB measure, the funnier they rated sexist and anti-gay jokes after experiencing a threat to their masculinity but not in the absence of masculinity threat. Also, the significant positive relationship between PMB and amusement following a masculinity threat was unique to the sexist and anti-gay jokes; it did not emerge for anti-Muslim and neutral jokes.

In sum, our findings suggest that the expression of amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor uniquely served a restorative function for men higher in PMB following a masculinity threat. However, Experiment 1 did not directly measure whether men believe expressions of amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor serve a restorative function for threatened masculinity. Experiment 2 more fully examined this possibility.

Experiment 2

In Experiment 2 we attempted to replicate the findings of Experiment 1 by testing the hypothesis that men higher in PMB will express greater amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor after experiencing a threat to their masculinity. We also extended Experiment 1 by including a new dependent variable—participants’ belief their humor ratings would help another person form an accurate impression of themselves. We hypothesized that following a masculinity threat, men higher in PMB would rate sexist and anti-gay jokes as funnier when they believe it restores an accurate impression of them (i.e., reaffirms their masculinity).

Participants completed the role-play exercise described in Experiment 1; they imagined they were new employees at an online comedy streaming company that generates customized comedy databases for subscribers. Also in Experiment 2, we manipulated masculinity threat following the same procedures described in Experiment 1. Participants received feedback from a personality inventory saying that they possessed a feminine personality (Threat condition) or they received no feedback at all (No-Threat condition). Participants then rated their amusement with six sexist, anti-gay, anti-Muslim or neutral jokes. As in Experiment 1, participants believed their manager would use their amusement ratings, along with their responses from the personality inventory, to determine whether they were suited to generate male-oriented or female-oriented comedy databases. Next, participants completed the new dependent measure, rating the extent to which they believed their joke ratings would help their manager form an accurate impression of them in light of the feedback they received on the personality inventory.

As in Experiment 1, we predicted that in the Threat condition, PMB would positively correlate with humor ratings for the sexist and anti-gay jokes but not anti-Muslim or neutral jokes (Hypothesis 1). Second, PMB should relate more strongly to humor ratings for sexist and anti-gay jokes in the Threat condition than in the No-threat condition (Hypothesis 2). Third, in the Threat condition, men scoring higher in PMB should believe that their humor ratings would help their manager form a more accurate impression of them in the Sexist and Anti-Gay Joke conditions but not in the Anti-Muslim and Neutral Joke conditions (Hypothesis 3). Fourth, PMB should relate more strongly to the impression accuracy measure in the Threat condition than in the No-threat condition (Hypothesis 4). Fifth, in the Threat condition, there should exist an indirect relationship between PMB and humor ratings mediated by the impression accuracy measure. Furthermore, the type of joke manipulation should moderate this indirect relationship; it should occur for the sexist and anti-gay jokes but not for the anti-Muslim and neutral jokes. That is, in the Threat condition, men higher in PMB should rate sexist and anti-gay jokes funnier because they believe it helps their manager form a more accurate impression of them (Hypothesis 5).

Method

Participants and Design

We analyzed data from 221 heterosexual male residents of the United States who participated via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk in exchange for $.40 each. Participants’ age ranged from 18 to 75 years old, with a median of 31 and a mean of 34.69 (SD = 12.30). There were 174 (79%) Whites, 16 (7%) African-Americans, 10 (5%) Hispanics, 19 (9%) Asians, and 3 (1%) people who self-identified as “other.”

We conducted our experiment using an incomplete factorial design to test our hypotheses. We presented participants with each of the four types of jokes (Sexist, Anti-Gay, Anti-Muslim, and Neutral) following masculinity threat (Threat condition). Because we make predictions about the effect of masculinity threat (Threat versus No-Threat) only for the sexist and anti-gay joke conditions, we crossed just the Sexist and Anti-Gay Joke conditions with a manipulation of masculinity threat. Thus, we randomly assigned participants to one of six conditions in a 4 (Type of Joke: Sexist, Anti-Gay, Anti-Muslim, Neutral) × 2 (Masculinity Threat: Threat, No-Threat) between-subjects design, which excluded the threat/anti-Muslim and threat/neutral cells.

Procedure

Participants accessed the study through a link in Mechanical Turk. After providing informed consent, participants completed the same two allegedly separate and unrelated studies as in Experiment 1. In the first study designed to assess “social attitudes,” however, we only administered Vandello et al.’s (2008) Precarious Manhood Beliefs Scale; we did not administer Glick and Fiske’s (1996) Ambivalent Sexism Inventory or the measures of prejudice against gay men because of a programming error.

Next, participants completed the second study on personality and humor preferences following exactly the same procedures as in Experiment 1. We used the same role-play exercise, masculinity threat manipulation, and jokes as in Experiment 1. The only exception was that in Experiment 2 we treated Type of Humor (Sexist Jokes, Anti-Gay Jokes, Anti-Muslim Jokes, and Neutral Jokes) as a between-subjects variable rather than as a within-subjects variable. Participants completed the two items used in Experiment 1 to assess overall amusement with the jokes. Then, to measure the new dependent variable, participants’ belief that their humor ratings would help another person form an accurate impression of themselves, participants answered the following question: “To what extent do you think your responses on the comedy rating form were important in helping your manager form an accurate impression of you?” Participants responded using a scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very). Finally, as in Experiment 1, participants were prompted to write a sentence or two describing their reactions to the studies. Seven participants indicated suspicion of the true purpose of the study or failure to take the study seriously. Responses from those participants were excluded from the analyses.

Results

In the following, we first present descriptive statistics for each of our measures as a function of experimental condition. Then, we present a test of each of our five predictions in a series of regression analyses conducted on the amusement and impression accuracy ratings.

Descriptive Statistics

Table 2 presents descriptive statistics for PMB, amusement ratings, and impression accuracy ratings for each condition. Participants read each of the four types of jokes (Sexist, Anti-Gay, Anti-Muslim and Neutral) in the Threat condition. A one-way ANOVA revealed no significant differences on PMB, the amusement ratings, or the impression accuracy ratings as a function of Type of Joke in the Threat condition.
Table 2

Descriptive statistics for study variables, experiment 2

 

Type of joke

 

Sexist jokes

Anti-gay jokes

Anti-Muslim jokes

Neutral jokes

Variables

M (SD)

M (SD)

M (SD)

M (SD)

(a) Masculinity threat

 PMB

3.48 (1.18)

4.00 (1.22)

3.95(.95)

3.54 (1.08)

 Amusement

2.78 (1.83)

3.03 (1.66)

2.49 (1.61)

3.52 (1.31)

 Impression accuracy

3.82 (1.69)

3.94 (1.71)

4.03 (1.76)

3.67 (1.69)

 

n = 39

n = 33

n = 33

n = 36

(b) No-threat

 PMB

3.94 (.90)

3.87 (1.18)

  

 Amusement

3.05 (1.46)

3.21 (1.43)

  

 Impression accuracy

4.10 (1.64)

3.08 (1.79)

  
 

n = 40

n = 40

  

Also, for the Sexist and Anti-Gay Joke conditions, which were crossed with a manipulation of masculinity threat, we conducted a 2 (Type of Joke: Sexist, Anti-Gay) × 2 (Masculinity Threat: Threat, No-Threat) ANOVA. There were no main or interaction effects on PMB or on the amusement ratings. There was however, a Type of Joke x Masculinity Threat interaction effect on the impression accuracy measure, F (1, 220) = 4.90, p = .028, ηp2 = .03. Simple effects tests revealed that participants believed their ratings of sexist jokes would help their manager form an accurate impression of them equally in the Threat condition (M = 3.82, SD = 1.76) and the No-Threat condition (M = 4.10, SD = 1.65), t (77) = −.73, p = .47, 95% CI = [−1.04, .48]. However, they believed their ratings of the anti-gay jokes would help their manager form a more accurate impression of them in the Threat condition (M = 4.03, SD = 1.65) than in the No-Threat condition (M = 3.08, SD = 1.79), t (71) = 2.35, p = .02, 95% CI = [.15, 1.76].

Overview of Regression Analyses

The relationship between PMB and amusement was the same for sexist and anti-gay jokes in Experiment 1 and, related to our new hypothesis, humor ratings of both sexist and anti-gay jokes should be equally affirming for men high in PMB following a threat to their masculinity. Also, we did not predict differences between the anti-Muslim and Neutral Joke conditions on either dependent measure. Therefore, we tested our hypotheses by contrasting the Sexist and Anti-Gay Joke conditions together to the Anti-Muslim and Neutral Joke conditions together.

For each dependent measure we conducted a regression analysis in the Threat condition that included, as predictors, Type of Joke (Sexist and Anti-Gay, effect-coded as 1 versus Anti-Muslim and Neutral, effect-coded as −1), standardized PMB scores, and the PMB x Type of Joke interaction effect. We conducted a second analysis just for the Sexist and Anti-Gay Joke conditions that included, as predictors, Masculinity Threat (Threat, effect-coded as 1 versus No-Threat, effect coded as −1), standardized PMB scores, and the PMB x Masculinity Threat interaction effect.

Hypothesis 1

In the Threat condition, PMB should positively correlate with amusement ratings of the sexist and anti-gay jokes but with not anti-Muslim or neutral jokes. The regression analysis on amusement ratings in the Threat condition revealed a significant main effect of PMB, β = .18, SE = .13, t = 2.30, p = .023, 95% CI = [.04, .57], indicating that overall participants higher in PMB reported greater amusement with both types of jokes. In support of Hypothesis 1, this main effect was qualified by a significant PMB x Type of Joke interaction, β = .30, SE = .13, t = 3.81, p < .001, 95% CI = [.25, .78]. Figure 2a displays this interaction showing the predicted amusement ratings for the sexist and anti-gay jokes, as well as for the Muslim and neutral jokes, at one standard deviation above and below the mean standardized PMB scores. Replicating the findings of Experiment 1, simple slope analyses revealed that PMB positively related to humor ratings of sexist and anti-gay jokes, β = .45, SE = .19, t = 4.28, p < .001, 95% CI = [.44, 1.20], but not to anti-Muslim and neutral jokes, β = −.13, SE = .19, t = −1.08, p = .28, 95% CI = [−.58, .72]. Overall, when men experienced a threat to their masculinity, the higher they scored in precarious manhood beliefs, the funnier they rated sexist and anti-gay jokes, but not anti-Muslim jokes or non-disparaging neutral jokes.
Fig. 2

The relationship between precarious manhood beliefs and (a) humor ratings and (b) the degree to which participants believed their manager would form an accurate impression of them after providing humor ratings for sexist and anti-gay jokes (combined) or anti-Muslim and neutral jokes (combined) in the threat condition, experiment 2

Hypothesis 2

PMB should relate more strongly to amusement with sexist and anti-gay jokes in the Threat condition than in the No-threat condition where participants did not experience masculinity threat. Accordingly, we conducted a second regression analysis on the amusement measure with just the sexist and anti-gay jokes as a function of Masculinity Threat. There was a significant main effect of PMB, β = .20, SE = .13, t = 2.69, p = .009, 95% CI = [.09, .60]. Overall, participants enjoyed the sexist and anti-gay jokes to the extent they scored higher in PMB. As predicted, this main effect was qualified by a significant PMB x Masculinity Threat interaction, β = .25, SE = .13, t = 3.26, p < .001, 95% CI = [.17, .69]. Figure 3a displays this interaction. Further replicating the findings from Experiment 1, simple slope analyses revealed that PMB positively related to amusement with the sexist and anti-gay jokes in the Threat condition, β = .46, SE = .18, t = 4.29, p < .001, 95% CI = [.41, 1.13], but not in the No-Threat condition, β = −.05, SE = .19, t = −.43, p = .67, 95% CI = [−.46, .30]. The higher men scored in precarious manhood beliefs, the more amusing they found sexist and anti-gay jokes when they experienced a threat to their masculinity, but not when they did not experience a threat to their masculinity (see Fig. 3a).
Fig. 3

The relationship between precarious manhood beliefs and (a) humor ratings and (b) the degree to which participants believed their manager would form an accurate impression of them after providing humor ratings for sexist and anti-gay jokes (combined) as a function of masculinity threat, experiment 2

Hypothesis 3

In the Threat condition, men scoring higher in PMB should believe that their humor ratings would help their manager form a more accurate impression of them in the Sexist and Anti-Gay Joke conditions but not in the Anti-Muslim and Neutral Joke conditions. We tested this prediction in a regression analysis on the impression accuracy measure in the Threat condition. The analysis revealed a significant main effect of PMB, β = .18, SE = .14, t = 2.29, p = .023, 95% CI = [.05, .60], that was qualified by a significant PMB x Type of Joke interaction effect, β = .30, SE = .14, t = 3.78, p < .001, 95% CI = [.25, .81]. As shown in Fig. 2b, there was a strong, positive relationship between PMB and participants’ belief that their joke ratings contributed to an accurate impression of them in the Sexist and Anti-Gay Joke conditions, β = .48, SE = .19, t = 4.56, p < .001, 95% CI = [.48, 1.23], but not in the Anti-Muslim and Neutral Joke conditions, β = −.12, SE = .21, t = −.99, p = .33, 95% CI = [−.63, .21]. When men who scored higher in precarious manhood beliefs experienced a threat to their masculinity, they believed their ratings of sexist and anti-gay jokes, but not anti-Muslim jokes or non-disparaging neutral jokes, would help their hypothetical manager form a more accurate impression of them (see Fig. 2b).

Hypothesis 4

PMB should relate more strongly to the impression accuracy measure in the Threat condition than in the No-threat condition. Thus, we conducted a second regression analysis on the impression accuracy measure in the Sexist and Anti-Gay Joke conditions as a function of Masculinity Threat. There was a significant main effect of PMB, β = .19, SE = .15, t = 2.51, p = .01, 95% CI = [.08, .65], that was qualified by a significant PMB x Masculinity Threat interaction, β = .23, SE = .15, t = 2.91, p = .004, 95% CI = [.14, .71]. As shown in Fig. 3b, there was a strong, positive relationship between PMB and participants’ belief that their ratings of sexist and anti-gay jokes contributed to an accurate impression of them in the Threat condition, β = .48, SE = .17, t = 4.54, p < .001, 95% CI = [.44, 1.13], but not in the No-Threat condition, β = −.03, SE = .23, t = −.25, p = .81, 95% CI = [−.52, .41]. The higher men scored in precarious manhood beliefs, the more they believed their ratings of sexist and anti-gay jokes would help their manager form a more accurate impression of them when they experienced a threat to their masculinity but not when they did not experience a threat to their masculinity (see Fig. 3b).

Hypothesis 5

There should exist an indirect relationship between PMB and humor ratings mediated by the impression accuracy measure. Furthermore, the Type of Joke manipulation should moderate this indirect relationship; it should occur for the sexist and anti-gay jokes but not for the anti-Muslim and neutral jokes. We tested this hypothesis using Hayes’ PROCESS macro for SPSS to conduct a moderated mediation analysis (Hayes 2012, model 7). We conducted a bootstrapping analysis to test whether the relationship between PMB and humor ratings in the Threat condition was mediated by the impression accuracy measure and whether the Type of Joke manipulation moderated this indirect relationship.

The bootstrapping analysis tests whether the indirect effect (i.e., the path from PMB to humor ratings through impression accuracy) is different from zero at each level of the Type of Joke variable (Sexist and Anti-Gay versus Anti-Muslim and Neutral) by providing a 95% confidence interval for the population value of the indirect effect (Preacher and Hayes 2004). If zero is not in the 95% confidence interval, the indirect effect is significant at p < .05.

We computed bias-corrected 95% confidence intervals for 5000 samples with replacement, and we found that the indirect effect was significant in the Sexist and Anti-Gay Joke conditions, as indicated by a confidence interval that did not include zero (95% CI [.06, .42]). It was not significant, however, in the Anti-Muslim and Neutral Joke conditions (95% CI [−.22, .06]). These findings support our prediction showing that the relationship between PMB and humor ratings for the sexist and anti-gay jokes, but not the anti-Muslim and neutral jokes, was mediated by participants’ belief that their manager in the scenario would form a more accurate impression of them following the feedback that threatened their masculinity.

Discussion

The results of Experiment 2 replicated the findings of Experiment 1; men higher in PMB expressed more amusement with sexist and anti-gay jokes (combined) but not anti-Muslim or neutral jokes (combined) after experiencing a masculinity threat. In addition, the results of Experiment 2 extended the findings of Experiment 1 showing that men higher in PMB believed their amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor would reaffirm their threatened masculinity. Specifically, they believed their amusement ratings of the sexist and anti-gay jokes (but not anti-Muslim or neutral jokes) would help their hypothetical manager form more accurate impressions of them in light of the threatening feedback from the personality inventory. The mediation analyses further suggest that men higher in PMB expressed amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor in response to a masculinity threat because they believed it would restore an accurate impression of them (i.e., it would reaffirm their masculinity). Finally, by including a No-Threat condition, Experiment 2 provided additional evidence that amusement with the sexist and anti-gay jokes served a restorative function in response to masculinity threat. Participants higher in PMB did not believe their humor ratings of the sexist and anti-gay jokes would help their manager form a more accurate impression of them in the No-Threat condition.

General Discussion

Two experiments converge to make the novel discovery that men higher in PMB express amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor (but not other forms of humor) in response to masculinity threat in an attempt to reaffirm their masculinity. We found, in Experiment 1, that men scoring higher in PMB expressed greater amusement with sexist and anti-gay jokes after experiencing a threat to their masculinity but not in the absence of masculinity threat. Furthermore, the significant positive relationship between PMB and amusement following a masculinity threat was unique to the sexist and anti-gay jokes; it did not emerge for anti-Muslim and neutral jokes. In addition, the results of Experiment 2 provided evidence that expressed amusement with sexist and anti-gay jokes uniquely served a restorative function in response to masculinity threat. Men higher in PMB expressed amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor in response to a masculinity threat because they believed it would reaffirm an accurate (more masculine) impression of them. It appears that showing amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor, men higher in PMB can distance themselves from the traits they want to disconfirm in themselves.

It is noteworthy that we did not find a significant main effect of masculinity threat on the dependent measures in either experiment, whereas other studies have shown that men, in general, exhibit defensive reactions in response to masculinity threats (Dahl et al. 2015; Glick et al. 2007; Maas et al. 2003; Netchaeva et al. 2015). However, the absence of a main effect of masculinity threat is not necessarily inconsistent with previous findings. Previous research has shown that men, in general, respond to masculinity threats in a particularly defensive or discriminatory manner against feminists (Maas et al. 2003) and women in positions of power (Dahl et al. 2015; Netchaeva et al. 2015), as well as effeminate but not masculine gay men (Glick et al. 2007). Perhaps, for men lower in PMB, a masculinity threat triggers discriminatory reactions against only particular sub-groups of women (e.g., feminists, women in power) and gay men (e.g., effeminate gay men) that most strongly violate traditional gender roles. Our sexist jokes did not specifically target feminists or women in positions of power, and our anti-gay jokes did not specifically target effeminate gay men. As a result, neither the sexist jokes nor the anti-gay jokes might have elicited defensive reactions of amusement for men lower in PMB, which in turn nullified a main effect of the masculinity threat manipulation.

The present research contributes to the literature on disparagement humor by identifying PMB as a new variable that contributes to amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor, as well as by identifying masculinity affirmation as the psychological mechanism by which it does. Until now, research has identified prejudice as the critical variable related to amusement with disparagement humor (Wicker et al. 1980; Zillmann and Cantor 1976/1996). Men report amusement with sexist humor, for instance, to the extent they are high in hostile sexism (Ford 2000; Greenwood and Isbell 2002; Thomas and Esses 2004). Experiment 1 expands upon the current literature by demonstrating that under conditions of masculinity threat, men higher in precarious manhood beliefs expressed amusement with sexist humor independent of their level of hostile sexism. Furthermore, Experiment 2 provides an explanation for this effect; expressed amusement with sexist (and anti-gay) humor reaffirms one’s threatened masculinity. Together the current findings contribute to the existing literature showing that men higher in precarious manhood beliefs express amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor because it serves a unique self-enhancing function for them.

The present research also contributes to the literature on masculinity, and precarious manhood theory in particular, by newly identifying expressions of amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor as a strategy that men might use to reaffirm their threatened masculinity. The expression of amusement with disparagement humor is unique among masculinity reaffirmation strategies discovered thus far. Unlike other strategies such as overt aggression (Maas et al. 2003) or blatant expressions of prejudice (Dahl et al. 2015; Kroeper et al. 2014), expressions of amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor shield one from assumed sexism or anti-gay prejudice (Mallett et al. 2016). Thus, men scoring higher in PMB can reaffirm their threatened masculinity by initiating or enjoying sexist or anti-gay humor under the protective guise of “It’s just a joke.” Moreover, expressing amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor can foster the acceptance and perpetration of other forms of discrimination against women and gay men (Ford et al. 2008; Ford et al. 2014). Thus, the expression of amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor might have unique deleterious social consequences among masculinity reaffirmation strategies.

Finally, the current research has implications for an emerging literature on social contagion. Social contagion concerns represent people’s fear of being misclassified as a member of a stigmatized out-group (Cascio and Plant 2016). Research has shown that concerns of being misclassified as gay or lesbian prompt heterosexual people to react defensively by avoiding or derogating gay men and lesbians in an attempt to defend or reaffirm their heterosexuality (Buck et al. 2013). Precarious manhood theory suggests that men high in PMB might be particularly vulnerable to social contagion concerns over sexual orientation. Our research further suggests that those high in PMB might react to fears of such misclassification by showing amusement with disparagement humor that targets gay men because they are stereotypically associated with the traits they wish to disconfirm in themselves (Glick et al. 2007; Govorun et al. 2006).

Practice Implications

The discovery that men might respond to threats to their masculinity by expressing amusement with sexist and anti-gay jokes carries more than theoretical importance. Indeed, our findings have practical implications for understanding social relations in everyday life where men might perceive a threat to their masculinity. For instance, work settings where women occupy positions of authority might inherently trigger masculinity threat for men higher in PMB (Netchaeva et al. 2015) and thus sexist joking. Indeed, sexist jokes and teasing are the most commonly experienced types of sexual harassment that women experience in the workplace (Gruber and Bjorn 1986; Pryor 1995), and men are far more likely than women are to tell sexist jokes at work (Hemmasi et al. 1994). Given the social protection afforded to humor as a medium for communicating disparagement, it is possible that men use sexist humor in the workplace as a “safe” way to reaffirm their threatened masculinity. By understanding men’s need to affirm masculinity as a motive for engaging in sexist humor, managers could more effectively respond to incidents of sexist humor as they occur, and possibly even prevent it. For instance, they might more closely monitor workplace settings that could trigger masculinity threats and subsequent sexist joking, or they might attempt to reduce the extent to which men perceive masculinity threats in those settings in the first place.

Limitations and Future Research

Although the findings of our experiments make important contributions, they do have limitations. Perhaps most notably, the experience of masculinity threat and the dependent measures were limited to imaginary social settings. Thus, future research could extend our findings by considering how men higher in PMB use sexist and anti-gay humor in real-life social settings to reaffirm threatened masculinity. Future research also could examine the emotional consequences of initiating and responding to sexist humor following a masculinity threat. Pleck (1981, 1995) proposed that masculinity threats create anxiety called gender-role strain. Thus, it is possible that by reaffirming one’s masculinity, expressing amusement with sexist or anti-gay humor might relieve the emotional distress of gender role strain.

Conclusion

People enjoy and initiate disparagement humor, in part, because it serves self-enhancement motives. For instance, disparagement humor enhances one’s social identity by positively distinguishing one’s in-group from the disparaged out-group (Bourhis et al. 1977). The present research contributes to the literature on disparagement humor by identifying PMB as a new variable that contributes to amusement with sexist and anti-gay humor, as well as by identifying masculinity affirmation as the psychological mechanism by which it does. It appears that men higher in PMB show enjoyment of sexist and anti-gay humor when they perceive their masculinity has been threatened because they believe it uniquely reaffirms their masculinity.

By making a novel discovery of the psychological functions of sexist and anti-gay humor in social settings, we hope the present research will lead to better understandings of the kinds of situations that foster its occurrence and ultimately to strategies for preventing it.

References

  1. Abrams, J. R., Bippus, A. M., & McGaughey, K. J. (2015). Gender disparaging jokes: An investigation of sexist-nonstereotypical jokes on funniness, typicality, and the moderating role of ingroup identification. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research, 28(2), 311–326. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2015.1131583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Angelone, D. J., Hirschman, R., Suniga, S., Armey, M., & Armelie, A. (2005). The influence of peer interactions on sexually oriented joke telling. Sex Roles, 52(3–4), 187–199. doi:10.1007/s11199-005-1294-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Attardo, S. (1993). Violation of conversational maxims and cooperation: The case of jokes. Journal of Pragmatics, 19, 537–558. doi:10.1016/0378-2166(93)90111-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barker, K. (1994). To be PC or not to be? A social psychological inquiry into political correctness. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 9, 271–281.Google Scholar
  5. Bem, S. L. (1974). Measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 155–162. doi:10.1037/h0036215.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bill, B., & Naus, P. (1992). The role of humor in the interpretation of sexist incidents. Sex Roles, 27, 645–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bosson, J., Prewitt-Freilino, J., & Taylor, J. (2005). Role rigidity: A problem of identity misclassification? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 552–565. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.89.4.552.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bourhis, R. Y., Gadfield, N. J., Giles, H., & Tajfel, H. (1977). Context and ethnic humour in intergroup relations. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.), It’s a funny thing, humor (pp. 261–265). Elmsford: Pergamon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buck, D., Plant, E. A., Ratcliff, J., Zielaskowski, K., & Boerner, P. (2013). Concern over the misidentification of sexual orientation: Social contagion and the avoidance of sexual minorities. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105, 941–960. doi:10.1037/a0034145.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Buhrmester, M., Kwang, T., & Gosling, S. D. (2011). Amazon’s mechanical Turk: A new source of inexpensive, yet high-quality, data? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(1), 3–5. doi:10.1177/1745691610393980.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Cascio, J., & Plant, E. A. (2016). Judged by the company you keep? Exposure to nonprejudiced norms reduces concerns about being misidentified as gay/lesbian. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42, 1164–1176. doi:10.1177/0146167216652858.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Cottrell, C. A., & Neuberg, S. L. (2005). Different emotional reactions to different groups: A sociofunctional threat-based approach to “prejudice.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 770–789. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.88.5.770 .
  13. Dahl, J. L., Vescio, T. K., & Weaver, K. S. (2015). How threats to masculinity sequentially cause public discomfort, anger and ideological dominance over women. Social Psychology, 46(4), 242–254. doi:10.1027/1864-9335/a000248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ferguson, M. A., & Ford, T. E. (2008). Disparagement humor: A theoretical and empirical review of psychoanalytic, superiority, and social identity theories. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research, 21(3), 283–312. doi:10.1515/HUMOR.2008.014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ford, T. E. (2000). Effects of sexist humor on tolerance of sexist events. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 1094–1107. doi:10.1177/01461672002611006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ford, T. E., Boxer, C., Armstrong, J., & Edel, J. (2008). More than “just a joke”: The prejudice- releasing function of sexist humor. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(2), 159–170. doi:10.1177/0146167207310022.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Ford, T. E., Woodzicka, J. A., Triplett, S. R., Kochersberger, A. O., & Holden, C. J. (2014). Not all groups are equal: Differential vulnerability of social groups to the prejudice-releasing effects of disparagement humor. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 17(2), 178–199. doi:10.1177/1368430213502558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1996). The ambivalent sexism inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 491–512. doi:10.1037/0022–3514.70.3.491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Glick, P., Gangl, C., Gibb, S., Klumpner, S., & Weinberg, E. (2007). Defensive reactions to masculinity threat: More negative affect toward effeminate (but not masculine) gay men. Sex Roles, 57, 55–59. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9195-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Govorun, O., Fuegen, K., & Payne, B. K. (2006). Stereotypes focus defensive projection. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(6), 781–793. doi:10.1177/0146167205285556.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Gray, J. A., & Ford, T. E. (2013). The role of social context in the interpretation of sexist humor. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research, 26(2), 277–293. doi:10.1515/humor-2013-0017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Greenwood, D., & Isbell, L. M. (2002). Ambivalent sexism and the dumb blonde: Men’s and women’s reactions to sexist jokes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26, 341–350. doi:10.1111/1471-6402.t01-2-00073.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gruber, J. E., & Bjorn, L. (1986). Women’s responses to sexual harassment: An analysis of sociocultural, organizational, and personal resource models. Social Science Quarterly, 67, 814–826.Google Scholar
  24. Hayes, A. F. (2012). PROCESS: A versatile computational tool for observed variable mediation, moderation, and conditional process modeling [White paper] . Retrieved from http://www.afhayes.com/public/process2012.pdf. Accessed 1 Aug 2016.
  25. Hemmasi, M., Graf, L. A., & Russ, G. S. (1994). Gender related jokes in the workplace: Sexual humor or sexual harassment? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 1114–1128. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1994.tb02376.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hodson, G., & MacInnis, C. C. (2016). Derogating humor as a delegitimization strategy in intergroup contexts. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 2, 63–74. doi:10.1037/tps0000052.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Husband, C. (1977). The mass media and the functions of ethnic humor in a racist society. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.), It's a funny thing, humor (pp. 267–272). Oxford: Pergamon. doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-021376-7.50051-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jaschik, S. (2016, February 29). When a joke isn’t funny: Online group of scholars of planning and geography divided over one professor’s sexist humor – And how others reacted to it. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/29/sexist-joke-leads-debate-and-118-resignations-academic-listserv-planning-and. Accessed 15 July 2016.
  29. Johnson, A. M. (1990). The “only joking” defense: Attribution bias or impression management? Psychological Reports, 67, 1051–1056. doi:10.2466/PR0.67.7.1051-1056.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kalish, R., & Kimmel, M. (2010). Suicide by mass murder: Masculinity, aggrieved entitlement, and rampage school shootings. Health Sociological Review, 19, 451–464. doi:10.5172/hesr.2010.19.4.451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kehily, M. J., & Nayak, A. (1997). Lads and laughter: Humor and the production of heterosexual hierarchies. Gender and Education, 9, 69–87. doi:10.1080/09540259721466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kroeper, K., Sanchez, D., & Himmelstein, M. (2014). Heterosexual men’s confrontation of sexual prejudice: The role of precarious manhood. Sex Roles, 70, 1–13. doi:10.1007/s11199-013-0306-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Levant, R. (2011). Research in the psychology of men and masculinity using the gender role strain paradigm as a framework. American Psychology, 66(8), 765–776. doi:10.1037/a0025034.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maas, A., Cadinu, M., Guarnieri, G., & Grasselli, A. (2003). Sexual harassment under social identity threat: The computer harassment paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 853–870. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.85.5.853.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mailer, N. (1966). Cannibals and Christians. New York: The Dial Press.Google Scholar
  36. Mallett, R. K., Ford, T. E., & Woodzicka, J. A. (2016). What did he mean by that? Humor decreases attributions of sexism and confrontation of sexist jokes. Sex Roles, 75, 272–284. doi:10.1007/s11199-016-0605-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Montemurro, B. (2003). Not a laughing matter sexual harassment as “material” on workplace-based situation comedies. Sex Roles, 48(9–10), 443–445. doi:10.1023/A:1023578528629.Google Scholar
  38. Montemurro, B., & Benfield, J. A. (2015). Hung out to dry: Use and consequences of disparagement humor on American idol. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research, 28(2), 229–252. doi:10.1515/humor-2015-0022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Netchaeva, E., Kouchaki, M., & Sheppard, D. (2015). A man’s (precarious) place: Men’s experienced threat and self-assertive reactions to female superiors. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(9), 1247–1259. doi:10.1177/0146167215593491.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Pleck, J. H. (1981). The myth of masculinity. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  41. Pleck, J. H. (1995). The gender role strain paradigm: An update. In R. F. Levant & W. S. Pollack (Eds.), A new psychology of men (pp. 11–32). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  42. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 36, 717–731. doi:10.3758/BF03206553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pryor, J. B. (1995). The phenomenology of sexual harassment: Why does sexual behavior bother people in the workplace? Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 47, 160–168. doi:10.1037/1061-4087.47.3.160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Siebler, F., Sabelus, S., & Bohner, G. (2008). A refined computer harassment paradigm: Validation, and test of hypotheses about target characteristics. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32(1), 22–35. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2007.00404.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In W. G. Austin & S. Worchel (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 7–24). Chicago: Nelson-Hall.Google Scholar
  46. Thomae, M., & Pina, A. (2015). Sexist humour and social identity: The role of sexist humour in men’s ingroup cohesion, sexual harassment, rape proclivity and victim blame. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research, 28(2), 187–204. doi:10.1515/humor-2015-0023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Thomas, C. A., & Esses, V. M. (2004). Individual differences in reactions to sexist humor. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 7, 89–100. doi:10.1177/1368430204039975.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Vandello, J. A., Bosson, J. K., Cohen, D., Burnaford, R. M., & Weaver, J. R. (2008). Precarious manhood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1325–1339. doi:10.1037/a0012453.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Weaver, K., & Vescio, T. (2015). The justification of social inequality in response to masculinity threats. Sex Roles, 72, 521–535. doi:10.1007/s11199-015-0484-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wicker, F. W., Barron III, W. L., & Willis, A. C. (1980). Disparagement humor: Dispositions and resolutions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 701–709. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.39.4.701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zillmann, D. (1983). Disparagement humor. In P. E. McGhee & J. H. Goldstein (Eds.), Handbook of humor research: Basic issues (Vol. 1, pp. 85–107). New York: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zillmann, D., & Cantor, J. R. (1996). A disposition theory of humor and mirth. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.), Humor and laughter: Theory, research and applications (pp. 93–116). New York: Wiley & Sons (Original work published 1976).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emma C. O’Connor
    • 1
  • Thomas E. Ford
    • 1
  • Noely C. Banos
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWestern Carolina UniversityCullowheeUSA

Personalised recommendations