Don't laugh it off: Gender differences in perceptions of women's responses to men's use of sexist humor

Donald A. Saucier, Megan L. Strain, Conor J. O'Dea, Melissa Sanborn, Amanda L. Martens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Across two studies, we examined how the reaction of a woman who was targeted by potentially disparaging sexist jokes by a male joke-teller affected men's and women's perceptions of the jokes, the woman who was told the jokes, and the male joke-teller. Participants viewed videos in which a man told sexist jokes to a woman who responded with amusement, offense, ambiguity, or nonverbal disapproval. We found that the woman's reaction to the sexist humor affected the perceptions of both the male joke-teller and the woman. Our results suggest that expressing nonverbal disapproval may be an effective way to produce negative perceptions of a man telling sexist jokes (Study 1) and may increase positive perceptions of a woman who confronts them (Study 2). Further, expressing verbal offense may be an increasingly acceptable way of confronting sexist jokes, perhaps due to recent cultural shifts in perceptions of confronting sexism more generally (Study 2). Our findings offer reason to be optimistic about changing norms with regard to confronting sexist humor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-264
Number of pages26
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • confrontation
  • disparaging humor
  • sexist humor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Psychology(all)


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