Originally posted on Just Kidding: Humor and Our World
When arriving at the dating age, I remember asking friends and relatives how I should act while on this date and common responses were usually “don’t hold back,” and/or “just be yourself,” “act natural.” But I already knew better than to literally take them at their word—particularly when it came down to expressing vital bodily functions. In the top clip from Sex and the City, Carrie lets one accidentally slip while in bed with Big during the early stages of their relationship, and her embarrassment, much to his delight, is palpable and lasting. In the bottom clip, the young woman is at first put-off when her boyfriend shamelessly farts. However, following his suggestion, she then comes to “act natural,” and indeed, to repetitively embrace the act—much to his chagrin.
While the bottom clip humorously indicates the normative double-standard, it can also function as an illustration of a breaching experiment. Harold Garfinkel’s ethnomethodological perspective emphasizes understanding social reality as humanly constructed and hinged on unspoken social norms. The significant power of such norms is revealed by first deliberately violating or “breaching” them and then observing how others react in turn (see Garfinkel, 1967).
Kim Bryant is a graduate student at the University of Texas, San Antonio and is currently majoring in Sociology. Besides going to school full-time, she works as a teacher's assistant and in the United States Air Force Reserve Corps.