science of us

People Who Can Laugh at Themselves Might Have Better Sex

Photo: FPG/Getty Images

In my experience, truly shameful stories take at least a year to incubate before becoming tellable, but according to new research, I should perhaps shorten that timeframe.

A small study out of Germany, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, suggests that one’s comfort with being teased and laughed at — and telling self-deprecating stories — is associated with higher relationship and sexual satisfaction, at least among heterosexual couples. This was especially true for the study’s female participants.

The study sorted people into three categories: gelotophobes (people afraid of being laughed at — apparently around 10 percent of the population), gelotophiles (people who like to be laughed at and seek it out by telling stories about “shameful or embarrassing experiences,” among other approaches), and katagelasticists (people who love to laugh at others, even as they “accept that the laughter may be hurtful to the target” because they “follow the eye-for-an-eye principle and think that the targets could and should fight back if they do not want to be ridiculed”).

[Nervous laughter]

If you’re wondering what sort of nightmarish situations might allow for sorting people into these three categories, you’ll be glad to know that participants were given just a brief written quiz, in which they were asked to agree or disagree with statements such as “When [others] laugh in my presence, I get suspicious,” “I enjoy it if other people laugh at me,” and “I enjoy exposing others, and I am happy when they get laughed at.”

The researchers’ upbeat finding is that we all gravitate toward partners who share our same feelings about laughter and (gentle) ridicule, whatever those might be, although the more gelotophilic women — the ones most comfortable with laughing at themselves and being teased — reported higher levels of attraction to and fascination with their partners, as well as higher reports of sexual satisfaction.

Meanwhile, men who enjoyed laughing at others reported lower reports of sexual satisfaction.

If anyone wants some practice sharing embarrassing stories, the comments section is always open. I’ll go first and say that this story originally had a joke about “Italian ice cream” in it. … Because of gelato … Anyway, something to think about.

People Who Can Laugh at Themselves Might Have Better Sex