The future generations of men in our lives are regressing rather than progressing forward in life. Whilst the modern girl has her fair share of obstacles to overcome, particularly related to equality and violent attitudes towards women, many are excelling academically, physically and socially. At the same time, many boys seem to be left behind with lower grades at school and dysfunctional social skills. Philip Zimbardo at a recent TEDx talk, explained that “boys are 30% more likely than girls to drop out of school and are 5 times more likely to have ADHD.” Their school academic skills, mental health and emotional state are just the tip of the iceberg.
Relationships and Pornography
The “Gentleman” or the “Romantic Man” is a rare species to come by in 2015, with young men having an increasing fear of intimacy. Intimacy is described by Zimbardo as “a physical and emotional connection with somebody else, usually of the opposite sex”. The key in that definition is “somebody else”. Men today are perfectly comfortable in their own company or in a group participating in some kind of male bonding ritual…usually involving beer and a ball…however they are lacking the skills for one on one opposite sex interaction.
Zimbardo explained that men struggle with the basic skills of face contact, the verbal and non-verbal language that allows you to interact with someone else.
Why? Let’s start with the excessive digital playground that they surround themselves in whether it is social media, video games or porn.
Social Media: Only connecting with people online, spending countless hours on social sites ‘talking’ with others about common interests.
Video Games: Linking up with other gamers to participate in a fantasy world of escapism where they are able to be someone they are not.
Porn: The ability to access arousing material with the click of a button, for free, which begins to warp their sense of reality when it comes to sexuality.
Each of these areas become extremely addictive and a core element of addiction is the need for more regular and often more intense doses each time.
With the average boy watching roughly 50 clips of porn a week (where do they find the time?!), it is no wonder that curiosity can easily turn into an addictive behaviour.
“Andrew” spoke to The Sunday Times Perth about his experiences with porn and relationships. He explained that he went out of his way to avoid intimacy and sexual encounters with real women, as he is scared he won’t be able to perform as well as the men he watches in porn. This gives another dimension to the implications of porn on a real sexual relationship. It isn’t just men having false expectations of women due to the women they see in porn, but also false expectations of what a man’s role is in sex due to porn.
Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality explained that if we continue the way we are in terms of access to pornography, we risk letting it damage a whole generation of males which in turn will have a negative effect on that same generation of females.
Pornography and the detrimental effects it is having on men was a common topic at Tedx 2015 with Jack Fischer looking at the biological aspects. He explains that it is a completely natural and human experience to have a sex drive but pornography, which is commonly aimed at men, is hijacking our sexuality in a way that our brains were not made to handle. Essentially what Fischer was trying to emphasise is that pornography and its addictive potential is not natural, nor healthy for the everyday human brain and its connection to sexuality. Fischer additionally described how biologically, male arousal is dominated by the idea of the ‘new, exciting and novelty’ rather than sex in general. This means that when men have access to ever increasing hard-core porn, they are physically going to respond to it more than a real life, in the flesh human woman that they might have been having sex with for quite some time.
Masculine gender roles discussed by Sleath and Bull (2009) include independence, assertiveness, dominance and competition in both social and sexual environments. Having a healthy and functioning sex life is something that many men believe makes up their masculinity. “Andrew” from The Sunday Times Perth admitted that he feels his addiction to porn has resulted in the loss of his masculinity as well as his sex life. Porn might be fun and exciting for the mean time for many men, however it is the long-term effects on their self worth and masculinity that so many are beginning to question whether the porn has been worth it.
Schrock and Schwalbe (2009) discussed that societies conditioning of young males to control their emotions, regulate their masculinity and to not allow themselves to be emasculated has resulted in a lack of men seeking help for their addictions. You could say it is a double edged sword for some: they know their porn consumption has impacted on their sexual social life, but they are too nervous to speak up about it…so the fear of speaking up about their concerns results in them becoming more reliant on pornography to satisfy their sexual needs. Sexual needs that society has conditioned young men to want, to prove their masculinity.
There is no doubt that many boys and men in our lives are struggling with their masculinity, their self worth and the quality of their sexuality. They are not benefitting from online sexual relationships; in fact, it is damaging their ability to have real life relationships and blurs their expectations of women and themselves. However we can see why they do turn to the virtual world: fear of rejection, comfort, pleasure and addiction. Cindy Gallop puts it plainly “guys don’t know the difference between making love and doing porn” and this is only going to become worse. Whose responsibility is it? Mothers, Fathers, teachers, wives, or the individual? Perhaps it needs to be a combination of them all. One thing is for sure – our young men need help to defrag masculinity and it’s not going to happen all on its own.