Belfast Telegraph

Laddish crass humour really is no laughing matter

By Harriet Walker

Where did people make their hideous gaffes and idiotic faux pas before social media? Were there fewer, or did they just happen in the privacy of one's own home and no one ever found out? No wonder some tabloids had to resort to hacking phones.

Thankfully, these days you can monitor online every single meandering thought from any boob who signs up (I include myself in that), from those who will bore you to sobs, to others who will make you grit your teeth in fury.

My favourite "I'm-so-slow-my-thoughts-couldn't-catch-up-with-my-typing-fingers" tweet this week comes from US Esquire: "How to get a better bl**job than #DSK", whanged up on the world's biggest noticeboard the same day that Dominique Strauss-Kahn's accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, was breaking her silence. Cute.

The link supplied by the magazine alongside this twaddle took us to an article debating the etiquette of receiving the said sexual act - not something I would naturally have read, but equally not something I'm going to be priggish about or offended by. Some men need to read things like that; many women will be glad those men did.

No, what I'm going to get priggish about and offended by is the follow-up, after many people had registered their distaste: "Sometimes our sense of humour doesn't come out the way we intend. Sorry if we offended anyone."

The classically absent apology, like someone with a clothes peg on their nose handing you a stinkbomb, and normally uttered by sulky teenagers or bitey shop assistants. It means this: "I'm sorry that you have found some silly little issue with this thing that I think matters not a jot. How boring you are." As a wise man once said, sorry seems to be the hardest word.

But the easiest way to deal with this, thought Esquire, is to blame it on our lovably cheeky persona. "Oops! We offended some people because we're such sparkly-eyed little mischief-makers." Oh please. Are we supposed to be charmed? It was like tagging an article about an all-new gas chamber with: "How Hitler could have been more efficient." And the curt little retort is a cross between belligerence and bravura, the same heady combination you get for ignoring the advances of some horny little genome-void in the pub.

The lads' mag era is over. Gone are the days of lairy bombast and charmless slickers; most normal men now treat women with respect. And if they joke about rape, they sure as hell don't do it in front of 60,000 people or under the aegis of an international publication known to be fond of scantily-clad women. We've been hit over the head with the men's mag moral dichotomy for so long - yes, they're full of boobs but yes, they also promote gender equality - that we almost believed it.

This episode is proof enough of the sort of attitudes rampant at these magazines. So let's lampoon the myth of cheeky chappies and winking rascals, rather than playing up to them with gutter culture designed to titillate morons. I'm all for gags that blur the boundaries between humour and harsh humanity. There's something warm and soothing about serious matters being treated in a light-hearted way: it reduces them to things we can grapple with.

But people have started giving up meat to try and clear the atmosphere of excess methane - if only half the men who thought they were funny stopped making crass jokes, there'd be far less guff around and we could celebrate with a burger.

And before you say it: yes, I can take a joke - just look at my byline picture.


From Belfast Telegraph