Humor defuses anxieties toward sex

Reporter and Reporter

Sex is a funny thing these days. Many shows and songs feature jokes and skits with a very sexual nature.

While sex may simply be considered funny to some, the reason behind this seemingly endless flow of jokes may have more to do with our society, said Marissa Wagner Oehlhof, an instructor in the Psychology Department.

“We use sex to sell a lot of products,” she said. “People are exposed to sex in television commercials, in movies and even the music they listen to. We are overwhelmed with messages about sex and many of them are not positive.”

These many messages can have an impact on college students and pressure them into thinking a certain way, Oehlhof said. That can led to confusion, or fear about discussing the topic openly with a significant other or someone who needs to hear it.

Comedy is a way to with the stress and confusion that media’s portrayal of sex can lead to.

“Comedy is about dealing with things that cause anxiety,” said Jeremy Wallach, associate professor in the Popular Culture Department. “Both mature and immature people can feel nervous about sex and comedy can help with that.”

This is true for college students especially, who receive a lot of different mixed messages about big topics like sex and adult life, Wallach said.

“College kids have a number of understandable anxieties, especially about sex,” he said. “Comedy helps them deal with the tensions of having to make decisions with real consequences for the first time. Humor is a way to negotiate between the mixed messages.”

One mixed message that can make students anxious is the different views about sex, Wallach said. The massive amount of sex in the media says one thing while the puritan influence of our society says that sex is something to be quiet about. These two messages are what can lead to students trying to understand and discuss sex with humor.

“Joking is a way to defuse discomfort,” Oehlhof said. “If you talk about something that is taboo, then the conversation is taboo. But if it is brought up in a joke, then it is not as scary. People have grown up in a society where you just don’t talk about those things. The only time it is acceptable is when you are joking.”

Joking can also serve as a way to test the water, she said. A person can gauge someone’s interest in talking about the subject.

Another cause of this anxiety may be the new found freedom that college students get to experience, said sophomore Diamond Clemons.

“They don’t have any type of supervision from their parents,” she said “What we see on media such as music videos, television and movies are what college students adapt to doing and saying. They say ‘college is supposed to be the time of our lives,’ so people don’t take things like this seriously.”

But the open discussion about sex that humor can bring about can be helpful and healthy for students, Clemons said.

“People don’t realize the risks that are involved with sex such as transmitted diseases, and pregnancies,” she said. “They assume that those consequences won’t ever happen to them.”

The purpose of sexual comedy may be to promote conversation, and that may be a way to bring people together and lead to learning, according to Wallach.

“Sex has universal appeal,” he said. “It crosses all boundaries from religion and country, to even cultural differences.”