You know, I'm still thinking about the discussion that emerged in this thread about whether it's OK to jokily remark to a female colleague and friend, among friends, that a man who talked to her about her research was really interested in something else.
I share the reaction of another female commenter that it would be demeaning and, for me, humiliating, and I want to try to explain why.
First, though, I have to say that I find odd the whole idea that this reaction on my part shows my humorlessness and is somehow an infringement on men's right to tell jokes. What we find funny is always personal and situational. Are there contexts that produce this reaction outside of jokes that call to mind, to oppressed people, their oppression?
Like, let's say my mom is seriously mentally ill and I don't appreciate friends joking about it. If you were my friend, would you think that was a frustrating limitation in my humor? Maybe, but... I kind of doubt it. So how come when oppressed people let us know that certain jokes make things hard for them, the immediate reaction is to discount them? Why couldn't the commentator who got this response think about how it shows his own calibration of how his humor might affect some of his female friends in philosophy might be off, instead of reacting in frustration to the woman who told him this?
That said, here's why this would hurt me if I were his friend. Every day that I do my intellectual work, I rely on the useful fiction that no one in that work sexualizes me. Realistically, from a position of remove, I'm sure that that's not the case, because that's just not how sex works. And from a remove, that's OK with me. (I have a sex drive and a fantasy life too!) But up close, it really isn't.
I don't think the men insisting in this thread that women lighten up and accept their sense of humor have any concept of this. When you have to genuinely wonder whether apparent interest in your ideas is really about your ideas, or instead is about you as a sexual object, it instantly removes every external basis you might have for feeling confident. You no longer have any ability to assess where your ideas stand. Every indication of intellectual worth you've received is suddenly in question. Think about that. Women have to deal with that in some way or other. I deal with it by obstinately blocking it out. The joke would hurt me because it would puncture a strategy I need in order to do my work.
By the way, to the commenter who asked about telling this joke to a male friend about a female questioner: If I overheard that I would be hurt in the same way. The person being demeaned wouldn't be your male friend; it would be the woman whose question was assumed to be unserious.
That implicit accusation -- that the person isn't an intellectual agent, just a sexual one -- just doesn't carry the same meaning when applied to a man most of the time as it does to a woman most of the time. (I imagine, though, that some men of color in philosophy might have something to say here.) Just like, return to my example, a "yo momma's crazy" joke means something different to someone whose mother is mentally ill. Why is this so obvious in so much of normal life, but so hard for some people to grasp when the issue is oppression?