If you frequently find yourself telling women on the Internet to go back to the kitchen and/or make you a sandwich, you may want to consider: a) burning all your WiFi-enabled devices and disappearing into the woods forever, or b) taking a long, hard look at your understanding of what it means to be a man. 

We say this because a new study has confirmed what most astute (and exhausted) people have known for a very, very long time: that men who make sexist or homophobic jokes are more than likely doing so because they’re insecure about their masculinity. 

In the first of two experiments conducted on 387 heterosexual men by Western Carolina University researchers, participants were tasked with completing a series of online tests to assess their personalities, social attitudes and prejudice levels against women and gay men.

The men were asked how much they agreed with various statements, including: “Women seek to gain power by getting control over men” and “Once a woman gets a man to commit to her, she usually tries to put him on a tight leash.” The questionnaires also assessed participants’ senses of humor, along with whether they believed their humor would help others form accurate impressions of them.

The findings revealed that men with shakier beliefs about masculinity are more likely to make sexist or homophobic jokes in the interest of self-affirmation – particularly when they feel their masculinity (as defined by stereotypical gender norms) is being confronted.

“Men higher in precarious manhood beliefs expressed amusement with sexist and anti-gay humour in response to a masculinity threat because they believe it reaffirms an accurate, more masculine impression of them,” said lead study author Emma O’Connor.

“It appears that by showing amusement with sexist and anti-gay humour, such men can distance themselves from the traits they want to disconfirm.”

Researchers hope the results of the study will help curb the use of such humor, especially in the workplace.

“Work settings where women occupy positions of authority might inherently trigger masculinity threats for men higher in precarious manhood beliefs and thus sexist joking,” said O'Connor, adding that sexist jokes and teasing are some of the most common kinds of sexual harassment faced by women in the workplace.

“Given the social protection afforded to humour as a medium for communicating disparagement, it is possible that men use sexist humour in the workplace as a 'safe' way to reaffirm their threatened masculinity.”

It’s O’Connor’s hope that once managers understand how and why such harassment takes places, they’ll be able to step in and deal with it properly.

“For instance, they might more closely monitor workplace settings that could trigger masculinity threats and subsequent sexist joking, or they might attempt to reduce the extent to which men perceive masculinity threats in those settings in the first place.”

h/t The Independent