No, No, I Am Indeed Laughing at You

by Anna

Karl: Not funny ‘ha-ha’, funny queer.
Vaughan Cunningham: Well that’s a very offensive way to put it. You shouldn’t say that. You were taught that, weren’t you?
-Slingblade (1996)

"That's hi-LAR-ious! I don't do anything like that." (yeah, right)

One of the ways in which alternative sexual practices get marginalized is to make them the butt of jokes, to create the kind of laughing around them that separates and  others and says ‘that’s definitely NOT me’!  I’m a hearty fan of laughing about sex.  Sex is hilarious, and most people look kind of silly when having it. Some hot action and a leg cramp in front of a mirror taught me that lesson.
The problem is when the laughter is judgmental instead of connecting. Laughter is a great tool for connecting but it is also a means by which people humiliate each other.  How can we be  critical consumers and creators of sex humor without becoming overly-sensitive sticks -in-the-mud?

How do we recognize the hilarity of sex, while respecting the part that fantasy plays in our lives?

About 6 weeks ago, I almost wrote a nasty note to Helen Killer of Regretsy fame.  I love Regretsy and I really don’t like to be a ’nuffer, but it seemed like she was making a habit of using products that were connected to people’s fetishes as objects of ridicule.  Mind you, the products in question were not tacky or badly-made in and of themselves, but they were supposed to be ‘funny’ because the fetish was supposed to be ‘funny.’  The only reason why I didn’t write was because of the comments – so many were in protest, and plenty of others found the entries to be kind of hot.  That’s definitely how I felt about this one.  For the latest offense, HK remarked that she only posted the entry because it was so ‘obviously different’ and she wanted to see the response. I’m not so sure about the sincerity there, but I love that Regretsy readers sent the general message that laughing down peoples sexual desire is not ok.
Then I began to feel a bit guilty.  Another blog that I love is Lurid Digs.  The bloggers at LD russel up images from personal ads that involve nude pictures of gay men, with hideous interiors in the background. While the blog has a generally well-enforced policy for both comments and posts, that snark is to be aimed solely at the interior, and not the person, it’s clear that some of the images were chosen for the humor/shock value that cock-and-ball torture and latex play would provide.  At the same time . . . oh, I’m not going to try to defend that.
Sex is funny, as are the  kinks that go along with it.  But in a world where sex beyond the norm is systematically punished and shamed, how do we find and share the humor inherent in being the silly, sexy people we are without just reinforcing  the idea that we should all be ‘normal’? How do we get to the kind of laughter that’s about identification, and not marginalization, especially when sexual minorities are involved?

These two block figures are yukking it up about all the safe, sane and consensual things they like to do.

[Note:  The middle image is a drawing entitled Got me a Gal by my new favorite artist Nicole Eisenman.  You can find more of her work here.]


  1. We laugh because we are uncomfortable and don’t know how to respond. It’s always easier to laugh at and put down someone else, rather than admit the world would be awfully boring if we all liked the same things.
    I find sex humor to be funny- as long as it isn’t putting anyone else down. You draw the line pretty clearly in your post- let’s keep the jokes “above the belt” and we can all laugh, especially at ourselves.

  2. The primate in me points out that laughter is a simple and instinctual way for us to signal “there’s no threat here”. Unfortunately, in an effort to minimize the sense of threat (oh noes, scary BDSM is out to get you), people often minimize or denigrate the issue at hand. This post is a good reminder that we can share laughter of delight, not just of dismissal.

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