Here’s Why Sexist Jokes Make Men Think Sexism Is Normal

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Photo: Erik Dreyer/Getty Images

During an election marked by overt sexism, many of us have wondered why this sort of behavior is believed to be appropriate to some people. As it turns out, sexist jokes may be playing a role in normalizing sexism, according to new research.

Scientists in the U.K. found that certain publications (such as Zoo and FHM) that use sexist humor make their readers feel less hostile toward sexist behavior. In a series of studies, the researchers found that if a man is ambivalent toward sexism, he’s more likely to read these publications. They also determined that young men found sexist jokes to be considered acceptable in the context of those magazines. However, on the plus side, when shown evidence of how hostile these publications can be, young men viewed the magazines as less legitimate.

“These latest studies demonstrate how a concrete source of social influence [men’s magazines] can shape the expression of a prejudice that is generally considered unacceptable in an egalitarian society,” lead study author Dr. Peter Hegarty said in a statement.

In other words: Magazines that degrade women can actually make men think it’s okay to degrade women. In the words of a certain presidential candidate: “not good.”