I love it that the second lesson plan in Older, Wiser, Sexually Smarter is all about sexual humor. Humans turn to humor so often when we feel unsettled, uncomfortable, or unsure about how we should be approaching something. And so our extravagant repertoire of sexual jokes has no shortage of jokes about sexuality and aging. In addition to moderating discomfort, jokes often provide useful insight into cultural perspectives about what something is or should be.
WHAT’S SO FUNNY?
Laughing at Ourselves – What Jokes Tell Us about Sex Over 50
- Have fun!
- Examine jokes about sexuality and aging to discover stereotypes and expectations regarding sexuality in the later years.
- Reflect on whether jokes reinforce negative images or help people understand the changes that are common in the sexual experiences of people as they age.
As those of us with e-mail know, sex jokes — especially those making fun of older people — are popular on the Internet. We laugh. Why? Because there is some truth to the stereotypes the jokes reinforce. This session gives participants a chance to laugh and also to examine the impact of the stereotypes of sexuality and aging that the jokes are based upon.
Note: We recommend using one or two jokes at the beginning of other sessions — they do wonders for creating a relaxed and ready-to-learn atmosphere.
The lesson plan consists of appropriate mood setting and then a handout with sixteen elaborate jokes. The group discusses the jokes with the following questions:
- Did you laugh? If so, why? If not, why not?
- What assumption or stereotype about sexuality and aging makes this joke funny?
- Is a man or a woman the butt of the joke?
- Does the joke point out any real changes that happen in sexuality as we age?
Deconstructing humor that is poking at a serious and emotional issue in this way is a useful way to come to terms with the impact of the joke, how seriously to take it, and how to talk about your concerns about the content (if you have any). The jokes that are included range from realistic to insulting. Some of them assume older sexuality as a healthy part of life, others portray it as a something surprising or a little bit gross. Given such rich fodder, the participants will have much to talk about.
This lesson plan, while designed for older adult participants, has utility regardless of participants’ ages. Examining our assumptions about what it means to be sexual and older in our culture is critical to picking apart the negative associations and overcoming theoretical barriers that restrict sexual expression.