Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Theology of the Bawdy Poll Results

Dear me! Colour me surprised, girls and tiny minority of boys, but I was not expecting these results. Evidently those Seraphic Singles readers who like to vote are a clean-speaking, clean-listening bunch!

Now, I forgot to vote, so we had 179 voters. A whopping 165 were women, and 14 were men.

Of the women, 28 thought it was okay to make bawdy jokes (e.g. "One more drink and I'll be under...") in mixed company. Only one woman thought it was okay to tell these jokes to all-male groups (but not women). But 63 women ruled that it was okay to tell bawdy jokes only to groups of women. And then--to my amazement--73 women (40% of all voters, male and female) did not think it okay to tell bawdy jokes in public at all.

Of the men, four thought it okay for women to tell bawdy jokes in mixed groups. None thought it okay for lone women to make these jokes to groups of men. However, four thought it okay for the lassies to say these things to other lassies. But six did not think it okay for women to make such jokes in public ever.

I do not know what to make of these numbers. They would certain startle a pollster: "44% of women nix saucy jokes for women." And they in no way reflect American, British and Canadian entertainment media, that is for sure. They might not even reflect Shakespeare's plays, though I suspect such bawdy jokes as told by women are left up to characters like Juliet's Nurse.

I suppose one conclusion we could make is that it is a very bad idea to channel Dorothy Parker at coffee-after-Mass. Possibly we all know that, though. The danger zone isn't coffee-after-Mass but drinks-after-lunch-after-coffee-after-Mass when a girl thinks she can let down her hair, roll up her sleeves and tell one or two hot ones to keep the party spirit following. This is particularly true when the jokes are flying thick and fast--at least amongst the men--and you want to join in the fun yourself.

Sometimes this works beautifully, but sometimes the equivalent of the "gold standard" dinner party sketch occurs. (Alas, I cannot access youtube, so if you haven't seen the "gold standard" sketch ["Women, Know Your Limits!"], off you go to look at it.) The male recipient of your witty sally does not laugh but instead looks at your with dark, puzzled eyes, like a confused pug dog. The female recipient gets a horrible frozen expression, and swings her shoulder in your direction--like a door in your face--and makes a remark to someone else.

Tonight I am going to an Important Cocktail Party, so I have to go to the hairdresser and have no more time to blog. So please, dear readers, especially the 179 voting readers, feel free to discuss the results in the combox. Are you prim, or are you proper? Do women entertain or disgust when we acknowledge the sexual realm in our jokes? Is it inherently unfeminine to channel Oscar Wilde? Is it simply un-Catholic? Is it a sin? And--a very important issue to many readers--does it make men think we aren't wife material? What role does context play? Please get the ball rolling below.

14 comments:

Kate said...

I was one of the ones who voted that it is okay to tell bawdy jokes to groups of women, but after I voted, I realized that there's a little clarification needed. When I'm among my Catholic girlfriends and we've had a few glasses (or bottles) of wine, the risque humour does indeed come out. I have no problem with this. However, my secular girlfriends think I'm a prude because I won't let them tell bawdy jokes around me.

I think part of it stems from the fact that my Catholic friends and I are indeed joking, whereas the dirty jokes that my other friends tell are generally part of a bigger story that's often true. And I don't need to know about that.

[That being said, "that's what she said" escapes from me at rare moments, in mixed company, and it shocks everyone around me. It's a bad habit - perfect timing is too much of a temptation for me.]

RMVB said...

Oh, the "perfect timing" Bawdy joke! Those are my downfalls too....
I voted that women should only say scandalous things in front of other women and not in front of men - but I realize that I let my suggestive jokes slip forth in front of my dearest, "we will always be platonic" male friends too. And usually because they laugh the hardest, and THAT because the thing I'm saying is so unexpected from a NCG. But in general, I think it puts men's mind on the wrong train of thought when they don't have that "strictly platonic" relationship with the woman who bawds.....any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I agree with both of you, it is so very hard to resist the perfect timing joke, especially if you're not usually the wit of the conversation, it's always nice (if not a boost to the ego, not such a good thing) to get a laugh.
One does have to be careful around men though, whether they have platonic relationships with the women or not, it can lead their minds to places no-one wants them to go. Bawdy jokes=always a possible occasion of sin

Lucy

Maggie said...

Kate, that's a good clarification! I feel the same way. But no way, no way, no way do I feel okay making sassy remarks around men of any kind- platonic, flirtatious, gay, or straight. It is tempting, especially when the set-up is so easy, but... no.

Clare said...

A funny joke is a funny joke. I think there's an important distinction between witty and risque, and broad and vulgar. The latter certainly may make one appear unfeminine or poor wife material, but I don't think I'd very much like to be married to a man who had a problem with me quoting/channeling Oscar Wilde or Dorothy Parker every so often.

As to an occasion of sin-I think when we're talking about non-explicit, suggestive humor (because most of the humor comes from the discretion and innuendo) that's not something I'm going to worry about in normal situations. I very much pity any man or woman who is inflamed by the type of humor commonly found in the Marx brothers movies or 1930's screwball comedy; that must be a terrible cross to carry. However, to me this seems similar to men who are aroused by anything shorter than an ankle length skirt; while I can commiserate, the fact that these individuals exist is not going to dictate my behavior.

Bernadette said...

I'm with RMVB - the temptation to just let that hilarious thing going through your mind come out your mouth is sometimes overwhelming, especially since after about one beer *everything* sounds like a That's What She Said joke to me. Of course, that's about when I pull one of my female friends off to the side and whisper it in her ear. Unfortunately, that leads to us giggling madly and then being unable to share the joke, which can lead to awkwardness.

Very, very occasionally I find myself unable to resist sharing the joke with a male friend, usually when there is no female friend anywhere around to share with. But usually they're of the trusted-long-term-platonic sort.

Christine said...

Kate - I agree - with my NCG (or NGs of good will) I can make subtle innuendo jokes more freely, because we know it is just a joke and that no anecdotes or further sass will come of it.

Clare - Good point - I see the differentiation between broad jokes that make subtle innuendos/double entendres, vs. jokes that are explicit or tasteless.

No matter if I'm in the company of men, women, or a mix, I feel very offended when people make crass, explicit jokes or tell sexual anecdotes (even with my close secular friends).

fifi said...

I am one of those who does not mind a sassy joke between female friends. I too would clarify that there is a big difference between sassy and downright dirty, and also that I wouldn't necessarily make such a joke to my coworkers or to the ladies locker room at large, just to close friends and sisters. I am not comfortable with really explicit or vulgar conversation at any time. But wicked humor and double entendres... I can't resist. But I think there's a different standard of modesty for women when they are among close friends and no men are present. Such people also get to see me in pjs and without makeup, and that is a privilege not allowed to men either.

sciencegirl said...

I grew up in a generation that learned the clinical details of sex before they learned to understand innuendo. This led to an inability to recognize racy scenes in novels for what they were. "Then Scarlett and Rex had sex" doesn't appear in "Gone With the Wind," yet apparently, they do.

I can't remember if I said it was alright in mixed company or in women-only crowds because so much depends on the people and on the joke.

I fully agree with the "perfect timing" thing.

I think one reason I, as a NCG, started cracking wise in my early twenties was because I had spent my even earlier twenties accidentally doing the setup.

It went like this:

Me: (innocent comment that could be misconstrued)

More Worldly Others (men or women): (anything from knowing laugh, raised eyebrow, to Screwball Comedy Quip.

Me: (failure to understand joke for three days. Sudden realization. Blush.)

Repeat this like 20 times and I finally caught on to the whole "adult humor" thing and decided to make it work for me. Now, when I accidentally said something risque, I was one of the knowing eyebrow raisers / amusing quippers. I found it useful to do this, in addition to the joy of making people laugh, because it let everyone else know the humor wasn't going over my head. At last, I was in the inner circle of grown-ups, who knew the Facts Of Life and could laugh at them.

This was all good fun until I became the Mae West-lite of our NC group. I didn't offend my friends, but I got tired of the easy set ups. I don't like to be put in a box, and one of the marks of a good comedienne is continuous development. The risque became too predictable, and was too much of a crutch.

This of course, is purely in reference to the spontaneous Freudian slip one-liner.

I am always, always appalled that anyone would share the intimate details of the bedroom with anyone else, particularly for the sake of humor. I think it is not just "inappropriate" it is a violation of trust between lovers.

Kate P said...

I wound up not voting, because I couldn't find quite the right option. I'll make the occasional risque' joke among friends (mixed company or just women, depending on the joke) and close relatives only if I'm sure it'll go over all right. Never among strangers.

I work in a Catholic school and today an e-mail came from an administrator with a subject line that could have come off as a total Freudian slip. . . but I just couldn't bring myself to point it out to any of my co-workers. It's just not the place and I've been there only since September, anyway. (I'm still itching to tell someone, however, so I went home and e-mailed my sister about it.)

Anonymous said...

Long time no chime from me :)
To begin with, I do not find sexual jokes that funny...I only find things funny if they are really clever/witty, or ridiculous & unexpected (for example - see what I was up to at the Canadian Swing Championships this weekend in the jacuzzi - nothing questionable, just ridiculous: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDHsXOrEmcw)
Since my circle of friends is almost entirely secular, I find constant sexual jokes tiring but that's usually because they are downright vulgar and violate the sense of sacredness and privacy of sex.
I personally next to never have the inclination to tell bawdy jokes...possible exception: if I feel that I'm being made fun of or condescended to because of my perceived naivete on the subject, and I have the opportunity to one up someone, I'll do it once just to make a point, get a good laugh but then leave it alone. It has way more impact if you only do it occasionally: more shock value. In general, I find vulgar jokes, especially easy ones, make people seem very unattractive, but light innuendo or comments that are open to interpretation are fine - esp because you have a way out by feigning innocence - and leave them wondering if that too, is part of the joke :)
Alisha

Seraphic said...

This is certainly an interesting discussion! I often make "great timing" jokes around my very best girl friends in Toronto, but don't around girl friends in Edinburgh (whom I don't know as well yet). It seems natural to say certain things to 3 or 4 great friends that I normally wouldn't say to anyone else.

If someone reminds me on some level of my best friends, however, then out comes a quip before I know what has happened!

Notburga said...

Me: (innocent comment that could be misconstrued)
More Worldly Others (men or women): (anything from knowing laugh, raised eyebrow, to Screwball Comedy Quip.
Me: (failure to understand joke for three days. Sudden realization. Blush.)


That's me even now, but I guess I am O.K. with it. In fact, my problem with innuendo is that life must become very tedious if you start seeing it everywhere. There are some absolutely commonplace words and phrases that have become spoiled for me through realizing how they can be constructed as having double meanings.
If some joke is really clever/witty/ridiculous and (accidently to me) also is somewhat risque, I am fine with it, but just something being risque does not make it funny to me.
For certain jokes, I would also find it decisive who says it: if an Oscar-Wilde hero said something on the lines of "One more glass and I will be lying...", I'd be amused; I wouldn't if a friend of mine did. And incidentally, I'don't care that much if it is men or women making explicit jokes; or rather, I am more O.K. with them coming from women than from men.

bolyongok said...

Hi Auntie Seraphic! I am totally behind on your blog but for a very good reason- the same one that has me not in any of the categories you listed for the most recent poll.

On the bawdy poll I was one of those who voted that telling a joke or making remarks amongst the girls is okay.

On the most recent poll please count me as a write in with 'unable to get to Mass for a legitimate reason' ;) but if I could have gotten to mass it would have been English. I've met two chaplains who say a Latin Mass, but neither of them are out here. :(
Must say, one of the good things about infrequent internet is I get to read a lot of your posts at once!