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Men use anti-gay jokes to reaffirm their masculinity, according to a new study

New research has found that men who crack anti-gay and sexist jokes, or find them funny, do so when they feel like their masculinity is being threatened.

The results have come from two experiments involving 387 heterosexual men, conducted by Emma O’Connor of the Western Carolina University in the US.

Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire which was specifically designed to test their personalities and social attitudes.

But more importantly, it was also used to test their prejudice levels and antagonism against gay men and women.

At the core of this test were questions to determine the type of humour they preferred.

The results found that men use anti-gay jokes when their masculinity, as defined by the typical gender norms assigned to men, is being challenged or threatened.

“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,” Emma O’Connor explained.

“It appears that by showing amusement with sexist and anti-gay humour, such men can distance themselves from the traits they want to disconfirm.”

Emma and her research team hope that by understanding this type of behaviour, the results can be used to prevent this humour being used in the workplace.

“Work settings where women occupy positions of authority might inherently trigger masculinity threats for men higher in precarious manhood beliefs and thus sexist joking,” O’Connor 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.”

She added that the data could help managers effectively handle sexist and anti-gay humour in in a working environment moving forward.

“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,” she said.

Related: If you ‘sound gay’ you’re more likely to miss out on top jobs, new research says

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