Tracking the demise of guys | Observers: Video games, online porn have created social isolation, poor healthThe U.S. male has been in a state of almost perpetual decline since the species – Dudas americanis – was brought forth upon the land, and immediately refused to come out of his room.
By: Bruce Newman, San Jose Mercury News, INFORUM
The U.S. male has been in a state of almost perpetual decline since the species – Dudas americanis – was brought forth upon the land, and immediately refused to come out of his room.
Lamentations over the fall of man reached a crescendo recently with the publication of a celebrated Stanford University psychologist’s e-book, which suggests that guys may be doomed by their addiction to Xbox video games and X-rated video dames. Among author Philip Zimbardo’s more startling conclusions in “The Demise of Guys,” co-authored by Nikita Duncan: “Video games and online pornography could kill you.”
As Zimbardo, 79, warns of the possible annihilation of the species – apparently all because certain people can’t be bothered to make their beds – he is clad in black from head to toe. In the townhouse Zimbardo has lived in for 40 years just off San Francisco’s Crookedest Street, he and his 25-year-old co-author zigzag through their case for the coming guypocalypse. “The demise of guys is a disaster in the making,” Zimbardo says.
Of course, people have been predicting the demise of guys all the way back to the Old Testament. It’s always something.
In the 1957 Broadway hit “The Music Man,” salesman Harold Hill notes the disastrous effect of a pool table on the boys he’s trying to turn into a band in “Ya Got Trouble.” Yet somehow boys muddled through long enough to bring us to the current crisis.
“Every generation thinks kids are going to hell in a handbasket,” says Elaine Brady, a certified sex addiction therapist in San Jose, Calif. “The big difference here is these kids’ brains are being rewired. These compulsive behaviors and poor impulse control do lifelong damage that is not easily going to be repaired.”
For all the hand-wringing by parents and social scientists, there is little research linking the consumption of online sex and violent video games with the national crime rate, which has been going down as those two seemingly corrosive forms of entertainment have become more readily available. Certainly, there is more hard-core pornography available to any guy with access to a smartphone or computer than ever before, but if virtual sex is preventing males from forming lasting relationships with real women, the evidence at this point is more anecdotal than conclusive.
But Zimbardo is convinced the damage is already being done. He refers to the same “rewiring,” and points to research connecting the dots between a 40-year low in boys’ SAT scores, a National Center for Education Statistics study that reported boys four to five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and 30 percent more likely to drop out of high school and college.
“Guys are now spending a huge percentage of every day in a digital world,” Zimbardo says. “Playing video games, watching porn, doing YouTube, texting, watching sports – most of it alone.”
“There’s no doubt that males in our society – whether out of sheer boredom or lack of coping skills in how to deal with stress – are numbing down in these ways,” counters Donna Lera, a California family therapist. “But is it inhibiting them from entering college? I don’t know. These are brazen statements to me.”
Zimbardo’s 2011 TED talk has been viewed more than 1 million times at TED.com, the progressive think-and-talk incubator, but his argument that video games and porn are the cause of a generation of zombiefied male misfits has been met with something far short of unanimity.
“Watching sports and porn is causing the ‘demise’ of guys? Sounds like pretty standard guy behavior to me,” says Luke Plunkett, associate editor of the video game website Kotaku, via email from Australia. “Demise” co-author Duncan says that guys hanging around with other guys to play fast-twitch shooter games isn’t helping them with women. She recently tried to make a connection with a man who sent her his phone number on Match.com. She suggested they talk that night. “And he’s like, ‘I don’t call. I don’t talk on the phone. I only text. If you don’t text, it’s a deal-breaker,’” Duncan recalls. “And I’m looking at this message, going, ‘This is how you want a relationship to start?’”
It’s the sort of not-so-wiseguy anecdote Zimbardo sprinkles liberally through the book. “They’re growing up without the need to be a social animal,” he says fretfully, “and they’re certainly not having contact with girls.”