Neuroses of the anus are perhaps the most common and socially encouraged bodily anxiety—the disposal of waste is pretty universally accepted as gross, and no one wants to talk about it much. At what point though, do manners become cumbersome and rarefied, robbing us of our rightful earthly amusements? Certainly, a good fart joke is a pleasure most often denied the “fairer sex”!
Luckily, sociologists Martin Weinberg and Colin Williams (two trailblazing researchers from my alma mater of Indiana University—go Hoosiers!) are doing the dirty work—so to speak. In their article “Fecal Matters: Habitus, Embodiments, and Deviance” (seriously, that title was published by Oxford University Press), the two address not only the embarrassment surrounding passing gas and defecation, but the gendered manifestations of shame itself! Their abstract:
This article examines fecal matters—namely, the social concerns that can accompany defecation and flatulence. Researching 172 university students, we show how aspects of the socio-cultural context as “embodied” in four groups of participants (heterosexual women and men and non-heterosexual women and men) mediate the operation of the “fecal habitus”—that part of culture that interprets and organizes fecal events (Inglis 2000). The study finds that the heterosexual women and the non-heterosexual men show the greatest commitment to the habitus and the heterosexual men the least. It provides some evidence that the non-heterosexual women also show a decreased commitment. Theoretical contributions show how the concept of embodiment can highlight everyday “social problems prevention work” by paying attention to the role of the different senses, the emotional components involved in bodily mishaps, gender discrimination and the privileging of male status, and the elaboration of stigma theory.
Yes! Finally, the social sciences are dealing in the shame gap between the sexes! See below for edifying tables—some predictable, some of which may surprise you! (Lesbians posed a particular conundrum for the researchers: Although as a group, lesbians were the least likely to think others would find farts funny, conversely our sapphic sisters come in second only to heterosexual brahs in farting on purpose to get a laugh. Go figure… and gay guys are the least likely to fart intentionally. Who knew?)
Via Sociological Images, Thanks to Gerard Di Trolio