Heard of TED talks? These wildly popular short seminars can be found online and make scientific topics engaging, punchy and entertaining. They are a science teacher's dream.
Recently, I saw one TED video entitled "The Demise of Guys" featuring Philip Zimbardo. It asked the question: Why are young men "flaming out" compared to their female counterparts? Why are so many young men "out of sync" in the classroom, in relationships with girls, in life?
In a different video, entitled the "Great Porn Experiment," Gary Wilson picks up from Zimbardo and introduces us to something researchers are now calling "arousal addiction." With the advent of high-speed technology, scientists are noticing that, unlike the porn of yesteryear, it isn't nudity but novelty that skyrockets male arousal. Every click, every new image keeps the brain chemicals flowing. As Wilson quips, today you can see more hot babes in 10 minutes than your ancestors could see in several lifetimes. While this may seem more like an opportunity than a problem to some, scientists are showing through brain scans that we are literally rewiring our brains, through novelty, excitement and constant arousal.
While most don't have an MRI to check out our brains, they may be more familiar with the patterns of binging and craving that give telltale evidence that something is going on chemically in their noggin. Scientists are now asking, many for the first time, if the explosion of male ADHD, social anxiety, depression and OCD etc. are in fact a secondary result of our Internet activities rather than medical problems in themselves that need to be medicated. To clarify, there are genuine medical problems not related arousal addiction, but scientists are saying this link needs to be increasingly factored into figuring out what is going on with many guys.
Now if you asked many men if their Internet porn usage is causing them a problem, most would say, "Gee I don't think so." But since many men have been using porn for years, Wilson says that is a little like asking a fish what he thinks about the water he's swimming in. In other words, he isn't overly self aware.
There is, however, something that is starting to get male's attention. Like most addictions, arousal addiction leads over time to a numbed pleasure response. The rest of life just starts to feel dull and boring in comparison to the excitement found online. More specifically, researchers have been starting to notice how Internet porn is killing young men's sexual performance. Yes, you got it, erectile dysfunction in younger men. When it comes to sexuality, to quote Wilson, "men's numb brains are sending weaker and weaker signals to their bananas."(Wilson's words, not mine). What is even more alarming, especially if you are young, is that it actually takes younger people longer than us older guys to see this reversed. This has to do with the neuroplasticity of younger brains like wet cement).
Is there any good news in this? One natural result of this research is that more and more guys are listening to the scientists and looking at their lifestyles. More and more guys are reporting the dramatic positive changes in their lives when they unhook from the activities surrounding arousal addiction. Don't take my word for it, check out the previously mentioned videos online. Sometimes the best sermon is a good TED talk! ? Vern Tompke leads a support group for men and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.