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Between the Missionaries' Positions and the Missionary Position: Mexican Dirty Jokes and the Public (Sub) Version of Sexuality

Critical Matrix; Princeton Vol. 5, Iss. 2,  (Jun 30, 1990): 1.

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Between the Missionaries' Positions and the Missionary Position: Mexican. Dirty Jokes and the Public (Sub) Version of Sexuality

Sex education - despite its association with well-meaning but embarrassed biology teachers who pass yellowing diaphragms around American seventh-grade health classes - applies to a much larger realm of experience. Sexuality education is the tremendously complex and culturally relative process which turns an infant into an adult who is conscious of and to varying degrees compliant with the expectations of his or her culture. As an educational process, it refers to a variety of systems which communicate (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) messages about sexuality.

The family and the church spring readily to mind as two institutions formally invested in sexuality education, but there are others. Language, for example, also speaks to desire. Through what is said and what is unsaid, through both the content of communication and the logic within which words are understood, language teaches us about the separation between the permitted and the unspeakable. All these systems of sexuality education contribute to the murmur of voices - sometimes cacophonous, sometimes harmonious - which introduce us to the tabooed and the tolerated.

One system of sexuality education noteworthy for its popular production is humor. No less of an institution for its lack of walls, no less powerful for its lack of a leader, humor is an avenue through which other, more hierarchical forms of education can be challenged. Not everyone can pass a law, make a movie, or decree a papal bull, but everyone can make up a joke. Or maybe not. Mexican sexual humor can be understood as a potential tool with which to challenge the accepted sexual order, but it is also a popular expression of that same order. In comparison with other systems which educate about sex, this popular...