Thursday, November 18, 2010

No penis jokes please, we're Mormons

When one joins a new group or organization, one has to learn its norms and culture. This is especially true when one joins an organization like the Mormon Church that plays an all-encompassing role in its members' lives.

Not long after I joined the church, I was in a group conversation with five or six Mormon men. One of them, who was an even newer convert than I was, told the following joke:

"What do Japanese men do when they have an erection?
They vote!"

I didn't laugh at the joke because a) it's kind of vaguely racist, b) it's about a million years old and I'd already heard it about a million times, and c) it's pretty cheesy anyway. I was prepared to chuckle politely if everyone else laughed, however.

But I'd never heard anyone tell a dick joke to a group of Mormons before, so I was curious to see how my new Mormon friends would react. What would they do? Would they laugh? Chuckle politely? Tell him he was "inappropriate"? Command him to repent?

Well, what happened was... nothing. No one laughed. No one said anything. Everyone just looked at him.

It seemed like they stared at him for a really long time while the expectant smile faded from his face as it dawned on him that he'd committed a faux pas. I suppose this actually only took a couple of seconds (though I'm sure it seemed even longer to him than it did to me). Then the conversation just moved on as if he'd never said anything "inappropriate."

So I think he and I both learned something that day: Don't tell dick jokes to Mormons.

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4 comments:

  1. I'm going to actually go out on a limb here and defend the Mormons...having been one all my life up until 5 years ago. Imagining to put that Mormon hat back on, I'd have to say that it's the xenophobic tone of the joke that would have bothered me more than the reference to a penis. Perhaps one of them served a mission to Japan. I lived in Japan but not as a missionary and I find it a simplistic joke.

    That, and the fact that you mentioned...it's very cliche and not all that clever. I still think I would have managed a very polite chuckle like you were prepared to do. There's definitely a dichotomy between Mormons who have a sense of humor and those who don't. You were in the company of the latter obviously

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  2. They were some Very Serious Mormons. I think there's actually three kinds of Mormons when it comes to (funny) dick jokes:

    1. The kind who will never think any dick joke is funny
    2. The kind who will laugh at a funny dick joke
    3. The kind who will want to laugh at a funny dick joke but will try not to because they think they're not supposed to think it's funny

    I don't have much use for the first kind anymore, but I think the third kind is kind of cute. They try so hard, but they just can't help being human.

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  3. I remember one time I said to my friend who was going home after church "I love you~ but not in a lesbian romantic kind of waaay~" as a joke once, and one of the parents said "Um, I think we all KNEW that." I wanted to turn to her and say Hey lady, some of us are struggling with our sexuality. But I though she probably wouldn't think that was a joke and take me to the bishop to keep me from going to hell or something.

    I never understood that part about mormonism. They never really talk to you about what to do if you think you're gay or something. Or what to do if you do drugs. They kind of hint at it, by saying, "well, if you do something REALLY bad. You should talk to someone." I guess they're just really awkward about everything? I dunno.

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  4. I think sexuality can be pretty hard to talk about seriously throughout our culture, not just among Mormons. But it doesn't help that they're so delicate and timid about speaking openly without using euphemisms like "sacred powers of creation" instead of just saying "sex" and so on. And that they use archaic terms like "necking and petting" that no one under the age of 40 knows the meaning of anyway.

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What do you think?