Saturday, April 22, 2006

Why Do Women Do That?

Always the social psychologist, there is one thing about women that has always puzzled me more than any of the thousand other mysteries of femalehood. It's the "cover your mouth when laughing or surprised" reflex, witnessed especially in public. You know what I'm talking about, that involuntary thing women do with their hands when something amusing, embarrassing or shocking crosses their minds in the company of others. Just ask a female to say "oops", and you'll notice the arm beginning to twitch as it decides whether or not to bring the hand up to the face.

I have yet to see a man do it, even the most effeminate. And since it seems to be cross-cultural in scope, I think we can dispense with behaviourist notions of social conditioning.

It also appears to have nothing to do with being seen having mouth agape - my God! if keeping their mouths shut were somehow to give an evolutionary advantage to females, we men would be living in relatively blissful state free from endless nattering about cramps and the doings of men.

So I have two questions today for you, dear readers: why do women do this? and do men have a gender-specific reflexive response to social stimuli?


Blogger Tea and Books, etc said...

Nanuk, I hope your wife reads that second to last paragraph and gives you what-for. :-)

My best guess, if your question is serious (ask Seb. I have a tendency to give serious answers when the questions weren't meant seriously, so I'm just making sure), is that this behaviour is a carryover from when women weren't allowed (by society's dictates) to do more than titter or giggle somewhat.

Anything that was considered obscene, embarrassing, shocking was to be ignored, and something that required a more robust expression of humour (such as outright laughter or guffaws) would have been deemed unlady-like and doomed the poor female to being called 'fast', or 'improper' or somesuch.

Me, I would be called quite shocking as when I laugh, really laugh, I can be quite loud and uninhibited. In fact, my entire life I've shocked friends, family and strangers alike with my bursts of hilarity when reading or seeing something I find very amusing.

I've always known I am more than a bit odd.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Tea and Books, etc said...

Good grief! The image you posted wouldn't load, so I tried to get the picture to show, but now I'm confronted, nay, bombarded, with a flashing orange and yellow image that calls me an image thief! And I still have no idea what the original image was!


I've been labelled a cheat (Seb) and now a thief!

1:20 PM  
Blogger The Wrath of Dawn said...

Dmd iv i knwwwww.

/takes hand away from mouth

Damned if I know. It shall have to remain one of those charming mysteries that makes us women the delightful enigmas we are.

Of course men have a gender-specific reflexive response to social stimuli. Or sometimes, no stimuli at all. And we women thank God for it, we do.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Eternally Curious said...

Naww, I didn't take it that way Tea - but could be I'm a bit thick. I'm seeing the same flashing "image thief" message, but my take on it is that someone at is calling Nanuk an image thief!! Some folks are just more territorial than others I suppose. Seems pretty silly to me...

Anyhoo, my take on Nanuk's question (and yes I, too, am assuming it's a serious question):

I think the reason for the laughter-only-behind-hands behavior is the same phenomenon that prevents (most) of us women from passing gas in public, or belching, or ... well, you get the idea. For a long time now I've been convinced that most of us women, even those of us who have managed to break free, are not only blessed with an extra chromosome, we are also cursed with a "repressive" gene (or some such thing). The repressive behavior is not taught to us (not always anyway), but it's there and only in us. If this theory of mine is right, it might also explain why gay men are immune to the laughter-only-behind-hands phenomenon. Just as gay men can not bear children, neither can they possibly do this behavior. It's just not in them...

But then again, perhaps I just need more Scotch...

3:51 PM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

I think women are more worried about having something stuck in their teeth.

Watch a mans eyes closely when a woman starts talking and you'll see him drift off. That is an involuntary reflex action to ward off things we don't want to hear.

Another male reflex is to track hot young women with our eyes, even in the presence of the significant other, which leads to a good shot to the arm. We can't help it - really!!

4:33 PM  
Blogger Fuff said...

T and EC are right. Social stigmas of days past are to blame. I don't, unless I start to laugh at something that I shouldn't, in front of people who are not.
One male reflex - When seeing a man receiving a thump in the groin, they almost always move their hand to their own.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Mr. Fabulous said...

Do women do that?

Damn. I am oblivious.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Nunya said...

I was gonna' ask what was up with that image?! Nanuk are you an image thief?! Shame on you! heh

9:40 PM  
Blogger SC said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:51 PM  
Blogger SC said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:52 PM  
Blogger SC said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:53 PM  
Blogger SC said...

Nanuk, you've just delivered a master class in promoting audience participation and increased readership. I'm green with envy. (That's a cross-gender reflex, by the way.)

I think women do it cos it's feminine and unbearably cute. I bet girl tigers probably do it too. 'Tee hee hee'. Boy tigers, on the other hand, laugh their heads off very loudly, in order to look masculine, as you may have seen on some nature programmes. It's just a girl-boy thing. Helps nature take its course.

9:53 PM  
Blogger nanuk said...

T&B,etc: Concerning it being a hold over from days gone by, I would agree with you, but I've seen it in too many other cultures to ascribe it this. Up here, women are rather, hmmm . . . how should I put this . . . "uninhibited", and I still see it. BTW, I usually use Firefox for a browser, but when I switched this afternoon to Internet Explorer, I too was accused of theft of intellectual property. Here is the URL of what you are missing:
I don't want to start checking out my blog in different browsers after posting, but let me know if more of you experience the same thing. But in the meantime I'm going to take it off. Fucking Bill Gates!

WoD: LOL. I was hoping, however, for something a trifle less genital.

Eternally Curious: nice theory! But what happens if a repressive gene becomes regressive as well? I guess it can go a long way to explain George Bush.

TPK: Been there, brother, have I ever been there. Just as some women start to salivate at the very notion of chocolate, we men cannot help but keep our eyes on attractive women. I've even been told that to fight this basic instinct will lead to bi-polar disorder or some other type of syndrome. At least that's what I tell my missus.

Fuff: Strange you should say that. I for one cannot watch the unappropriately titled America's Funniest Home Videos (I'm sure there must be a UK variant) because I can feel, by some weird sort of physical sympathy, any guy's pain after taking one to the gonads. Very unfunny.

Mr. Fab: where obliviousness is bliss, 'tis folly to be observant.

10:02 PM  
Blogger nanuk said...

Nunya: Check out the URL I left on response the T&B, etc. Tell my if this rates on the same par as stealing "The Scream" from that museum in Oslo. It's like those assholes who tried to sue Dan Brown of DaVinci Code fame. (You see I put myself in good company).

Seb: It does look cute, I'll grant you that. But methinks your tiger analogy is just plain wrong - male tigers never laugh out loud lest nearby elephants think they are the butt of some tiger joke and stomp them. And that's why lady tigers put paws to snout when telling off-colour jokes.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Eternally Curious said...

ROFLMAO, Nanuk!!! This was (is) my response to your "I guess it can go a long way to explain George Bush."

Still laughing...

10:32 PM  
Blogger The Wrath of Dawn said...

Don't blame me for your genital-obsessed mind!

/giggles behind hand

11:00 PM  
Blogger fairscape said...

We laugh that way so the men won't hear us and won't ask us what we're laughing at because we are laughing at them.

Men raise their arms in the air and yell "yeah" when their team does well. They do this in unison when they watch sports together and they do it alone when they are alone. It has been noted in the literature that they also do it after sex, but, luckily, I have never encountered that behavior in person.

8:44 AM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

Right, forgot the "shot to the junk" response. You might experience that reflex if the young hottie you are eyeing up takes umbrage or if the wife decides you have crossed the line one too many times.

12:35 PM  
Blogger L said...

I think it might have something to do with the cultural stereotype that a "Lady" (who is supposed to be passive) should not expose herself to or acknowledge anything shocking or naughty. And everyone knows that the best jokes are naughty

8:41 PM  
Blogger SC said...

Is it learned behaviour, or natural behaviour? Do lesbians do it? If not, does this make them 'unnatural'? Ok, that's enough about tigers. What about humans?

1:31 AM  

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