Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Humor: International Journal of Humor Research








This paper explores how humor reveals shared aspects of a culture of lesbian communities in the US. For lesbians, jokes and other forms of humor are an active, narrative means of self-construction and community imagining that help lesbians negotiate their positions both inside and outside mainstream culture. Whether consciously or unconsciously, much of lesbian humor challenges the dominant culture by rejecting its definitions of and presuppositions about lesbians, and by making lesbian experience central to its understanding of normalcy. Whereas the term "lesbian joke" usually activates a sex frame for the dominant culture, much humor created by and for lesbians is based on a switch from a sex frame to a non-sex frame. When lesbian jokes "are" about sex, they affirm the right not only to private sex, but also to public representation. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of lesbian humor is what it does not include. For the most part there are no references to heterosexuality, to harassment or to oppression, but many references to a self-empowering, self-conscious community based on cooperative principles.

Original Publication Citation

Bing, Janet, and Dana Heller. "How Many Lesbians does it Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?" Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 16.2 (2003): 157-82.