When Humor Hurts

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Dear Bitter Single Guy: I need your advice and some perspective. This came up with the boyfriend last year and it was never really resolved. It came up again the other day. I’m educated, open-minded, don’t get too easily offended and have been known to laugh at a tasteless (ie, Helen Keller, dead baby) joke. So I’m not that faint of heart, and can handle gross stuff.

There are quite a few guy terms that I’m sure you’ve heard. The first one I heard was the “dirty sanchez”, another is the “Tony Danza”, and most recently we were watching a movie and the term “angry dragon” was mentioned. I asked him what it meant and he explained, pretty directly without laughing…but also without apology. It describes an act where a woman is pleasuring a man and she’s physically hurt and demeaned. Most of these terms are just that…where a girl is performing a sexual act on a guy and he hits her or does some other crappy thing to her to either give himself a physical rush or just for the sheer entertainment.

Since he explained it to me the other day, I’ve had a visceral response, feel repulsed, and I can’t get it out of my mind. My boyfriend is gentle and is actually pretty shy in bed so there is absolutely no abuse going on here, nor do I have a history of any. I told him how it affected me, and he said he was sorry to have offended me.

And somehow that wasn’t enough. I said it wasn’t just a matter of being “offended,” it was a physical revulsion I felt when he said it. He said it’s just that guys have weird senses of humor. I asked how it could possibly be found funny in any context…the idea of your woman trying to make you feel good and inflicting pain and humiliation on her while she’s doing it. He said the same way many of us find racist jokes or Helen Keller jokes funny.

This is probably where I made a mistake…I wanted him to *feel* what I felt, so he could understand where I was coming from…how severe my response was. I tried to put him in the position of the woman, for him to imagine that being done to him, and he said he “guesses” he understands. That was last night, and it didn’t end well. We’ve been together for years, and I don’t think this is going to make or break things. But I still feel nauseous that he would find it funny. I’m not a big feminist either, but I wracked my brain trying to find a male counterpart to these jokes/terms, and there are none. Is there a better way to handle this? Any suggestions on how to resolve this or talk about it without putting him on the defensive–if I should talk about it at all? ~Don’t Get the Joke~

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Dear DGJ: The Bitter Single Guy usually tries to keep things light, believing that relationship advice is more fun when it’s…well…fun. But he had to respond here.

DGJ it’s not you and it’s not “guy humor”. In the BSG’s opinion, jokes that are about victimizing, demeaning, humiliating or hurting other people aren’t funny and in fact are a major contributing factor to racism, homophobia, misogyny and all the other names for elevating ourselves at someone else’s expense. Again, this is just the BSG’s opinion, but he feels strongly about it. By the way, it’s possible the BSG is out of touch, but he hasn’t heard of any of these “jokes”.

That said, don’t hold your gentle boyfriend completely responsible for not having the same level of visceral response that you do. Many guys (and some women) don’t have as direct a connection between their thoughts and their feelings as you are describing. This isn’t a bad thing, but it means that when you think of something like these jokes, you have a real emotional response. Probably your boyfriend has a more intellectual response…knowing that the activities in those jokes are wrong, but not having an emotional response.

This is the slippery slope with humor, DGJ. It’s easy to make jokes at someone else’s expense, but until you’ve been the butt of the joke, you may not understand the pain they can cause. ~BSG~

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