“The Demise of Guys”

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Remember the “War on Drugs”?  Many of you probably do, but if you don’t, when I was a kid, there was a huge push to fight drug usage.  By the end of high school, most of us realized “doing drugs” was a really stupid thing.

My husband and I have compared the rise in pornography usage and its harmful effects to drug usage.  We’re hoping that people will realize how bad pornography is and do something to stop it — just like they did with fighting drugs.  It seems obvious to us that pornography is bad, but for some reason many people don’t.  Perhaps this is because some of the scientific evidence is inconclusive as to whether or not it’s really bad; perhaps some people really believe it only affects the user; perhaps others just like being users and don’t worry about what it can do?

Yesterday, CNN Health ran “The Demise of Guys: How video games and porn are ruining a generation” by Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Dunkan (Zimbardo is the psychologist famous for the Stanford prison experiment).  Here’s the premise:

Is the overuse of video games and pervasiveness of online porn causing the demise of guys?

Increasingly, researchers say yes, as young men become hooked on arousal, sacrificing their schoolwork and relationships in the pursuit of getting a tech-based buzz.

Additionally, I liked these:

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “regular porn users are more likely to report depression and poor physical health than nonusers are. … The reason is that porn may start a cycle of isolation. … Porn may become a substitute for healthy face-to-face interactions, social or sexual.”

Young men — who play video games and use porn the most — are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety.

Such new brains are also totally out of sync in traditional school classes, which are analog, static and interactively passive. Academics are based on applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play and on long-term goal-setting.

[Emphasis added.]

As one with a background in education, I find that last one interesting because I’ve seen education methods being modified to cater to those with these brains that want a quick fix (make it more fun, put it on the computer, give instant rewards).  I wasn’t so sure it was a good idea to change education to fit brains that couldn’t focus; I thought we should get the kids to focus and embrace the education.  Of course, you want interactive education, but you don’t want to have to change a complete educational paradigm.

Lastly,

Guys are also totally out of sync in romantic relationships, which tend to build gradually and subtly, and require interaction, sharing, developing trust and suppression of lust at least until “the time is right.”

So, it’s nice to see research specifically pointing out what pornography does (and video games can do) to the brain.  I’m sure we’ll see more and more evidence like this in the future.

For more info: Check out Zimbardo’s 2011 TEDTalk on “The Demise of Guys” (March 2011).

-Em