Porn & video games have caused boys’ sexual identity crisis says Zimbardo

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“I’M here to alarm,” said renowned Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo in an interview with New Scientist this weekend. His latest study, fully deconstructed in his new book Man (Dis)connected, is an exploration into Zimbardo’s concerning claim that technology is ‘sabotaging what it means to be a male.’

Media coverage is proclaiming this new study to have brought forward a male ‘sexual identity crisis’, and came to this conclusion through the in-depth look into the lives of 20,000 young people (75% male) and their relationships with video games and pornography. It is these two specific types of activity which Zimbardo is concentrating on throughout his study.

Philip Zimbardo is well known for his creation of the Stanford Prison Experiment, carried out in America in 1971. Zimbardo set up a jail-like scenario, where students were made into either prisoners or prison guards. This psycho-social experiment was called off after it had declined to a result of physical torture of prisoners (which pretty much summed up the hypothesis altogether!)

This study into the technological sabotage of the ‘man’, carried out by Zimbardo himself and Nikita D Coulombe, explored the relationship and behaviour which connects young men to video games and pornography, and the effect this is having on them as an individual in various life areas, such as education and relationships. Zimbardo & Coulombe concentrated on the individuals who were spending time in social isolation with access to both video games and pornography, undertaking both in ‘excess’.

“Our focus is on young men who play video games to excess, and do it in social isolation – they are alone in their room.
“Now, with freely available pornography, which is unique in history, they are combining playing video games, and as a break, watching on average, two hours of pornography a week.”

There has been lengthy arguments put forth by others in the field of psychology regarding the addictive nature of these such activities, and Zimbardo indeed believes that these ‘addictions’ to pornography or video games ‘begins to change brain function. It begins to change the reward centre of the brain, and produces a kind of excitement and addiction.’

“What I’m saying is- boys brains are becoming digitally rewired.”

The problem with video games
This masculinity crisis is, as the BBC says, leaving [them] bored at school, disinterested in human contact, and opting out of society. Having said this however, evidence from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), who studied the computer use of 15-year-olds in relation to their school performance, demonstrated gaming can be effective cognitive training tools.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operations and Development (OECD) has said however that frequent gaming can replace other important educational activities such as homework. Interestingly, the PISA research showed that:

“If a teenager plays a single-player video game between once a month and almost every day, they have been found to perform better on average in maths, science, reading and problem solving than children who play single-player games every day, and even those who rarely or never play video games at all.”

When interviewed by the BBC, a valid point was raised to Zimbardo, asking his opinion on the decreasingly levels of alcohol & drug use in young men, not to mention lower levels of aggression, which was once a main concern of video gaming. His reply was that these behaviours were on the decrease because the young men are instead alone in their rooms, without actual face-to-face communication and drinking ‘more Coca-Cola’; which he linked to the increasing levels of obesity.

Pornography addiction as real as substance addiction?
Pornography cannot escape its critics in relation to this study, as there is a wealth of evidence that supports the idea that those addicted to porn have similar brain activity to those addicted to illicit substances and alcohol. Carried out by Cambridge University scholars, the study revealed, through MRI scans, that brain pattern was mirrored between various ‘addictions’ [below].

IMAGE: Brain scans of compulsive pronography users compared to healthy volunteers. []

IMAGE: Brain scans of compulsive pronography users compared to healthy volunteers. []

Dr Valerie Voon, honourary consultant neuropsychiatrist told the Sunday Times the study found greater activity in the area in the brain named ventral striatum (the reward centre) which is involved in processing reward, motivation and pleasure. This can be directly linked back to Zimbardo’s belief that brain function in men, partly through pornography, is being altered.

Gender differences
Zimbardo also touches on a gender difference, which is indeed quite poignant in this study, partly down to the fact that girls are much less effected and ‘tempted’ by video gaming and pornography. He believes that while girls are becoming increasingly successful in the real world, boys are ‘retreating into cyberspace, seeking online the security and validation they cant get anywhere else.’ This ideology is not new, and has been linked with male self-esteem and fashion trends such as the ‘lumbersexual’ which could be deconstructed as a male retaliation to the very few spaces in society left that women are not welcome in. In short, men aren’t so ‘manly’ anymore.

This branches off into another two facets of the research. The first in the demographics and statistics which say with many children growing up with no father figure, boys (much more so than girls) are suffering with their abilities to motivate themselves to perform, Zimbardo believes that a mother’s love is unconditional- you can do wrong and she will still love you. After all, you did grown inside of her! But a father’s love is different- it has to be earned and done through a desire to be accepted and loved by your dad. He says the ‘central source of extrinsic motivation is gone now for almost one out of every two kids.’

The second facet is that with girls doing much better at school and achieving more, boys are feeling as though they are falling behind and ‘they are bored at school, increasingly have no father figures to motivate them, don’t have the skills to form real romantic relationships.’ These, however, are not required in online gaming and the watching of porn, and so perhaps this is why boys are ‘retreating’ to them?

Is he right?
It’s a tricky one to call, this one. In his interview with the BBC, Zimbardo is very strong and secure in his research, and that each claim can be reinforced with evidence. He has many reasonable beliefs and parts to his research, and it can be reasoned that due to less and less ‘masculine’ spaces in society, perhaps some boys feel the most manly place they can be accepted is alone with online games and pornography.

There is no doubt that these two activities have been severely examined in their behavioural effects on people, but would they warrant a ‘masculine sexual identity crisis’? I’m unsure.

Zimbardo’s solutions
First and foremost, he tells us we need to accept that this is happening. We need to accept this is a problem, and by doing that, we’re on our way to combating the ‘crisis’. He says parents need to be aware of the hours of day children and young people are spending alone playing video games and perhaps reconsider their approach to gaming in bedroom with no time constraints.

He calls for more sexual education in schools. This would entail more than just the physiological processes, but the communication, passion, emotion, feelings and other more emotional connections to sex and not just the biological logistics. He believes that pornography, like many other critics, represents an unrealistic portrayal of sexual relations, and needs some realism injected in at a school level to develop the more emotional skills needed in relationships.

Finally, Zimbardo believes there are not enough male ‘mentors’ for young men today. With absent fathers on the increase, it seems as though boys are finding their mentors in unrealistic porn scenes and online battle games than from a exemplary male other.

Bibliography  & further reading


Let me take a selfie

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THE selfie-stick.
Listed in TIME Magazine’s top 25 best inventions last year. It’s an answer to prayer for those stubby-armed selfie lovers and perfect photo hunters, but although it was one of the most essential Christmas presents 2014, unfortunately the times have quickly changed for the pop culture accessory.

Available in US shops since 2011, it really came to its peak of popularity in 2014 where it was a must-have for, well, everyone. The extendable monopod peaked in sales, says Amazon UK, who saw a rise of 301% between September and November last year.

So we know they are the ultimate accessory for the self-confessed selfie takers. But they have fallen on hard times now they’ve been about for a while, and are collecting various nicknames which are suggesting the selfie, and now selfie stick, are nothing but tools of arrogance and big-headedness.

Australian Soundwave festival has prohibited the sticks from its gates, labelling them as ‘wands of narcissism’. Ouch. Coachella has also added, under disallowed items at the festival, selfie sticks/narcissists. Latest to just say no was festival Splendour in the Grass, who although claims the ban is for safety concerns (fair enough), it begins by saying ‘Splendour says no to narcissism.’ 

So its now apparent that the selfie stick, and ultimately selfies, are synonymous with narcissism [which for those who didn’t know, is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes – Wiki, 2015]. But selfies have been around for a while. And, apart from Kim K’s excessive snapping (culminating in book, Selfish), it’s never been hated on quite as much as it is now.

The Guardian writer Bridie Jabour wrote a great article recently on whether the selfie haters are perhaps basing their dislike of the almost arrogant trend on the confidence the selfie snappers have as opposed to the actual thing itself.
In a society where crippling body and beauty expectations are at an all time high, surely witnessing young people (especially young women who, evidence suggests, are the biggest target of toxic body shaming trends and the people who suffer most from eating disorders) enjoying and feeling confident to photograph themselves is a great thing?

Jabour believes ‘it’s worth celebrating people who don’t hate their face’. And I agree. Granted, when done excessively and perhaps a little too much for some to handle, it may be seen as self-obsessed.

Katherine Martinko for says:

“The brandishers of selfie sticks cannot truly see what’s going on around them. Recording their own presence at a given moment is a greater priority than making eye contact with locals, staring into the distance, contemplating the history or beauty or cultural differences before their own eyes.”

Howard Jacobson for BBC A Point Of View has even stronger opinions on them:

“A selfie stick, as its name implies, is an agent of self-absorption, a lightning rod of narcissism, linking the self that’s being photographed and the device that’s doing the photographing, to the exclusion of all else.”

PERSONALLY, they do not offend me. I do like to see people feeling confident enough to photograph themselves without the hatred of their own reflection which people are so familiar with nowadays. They can be dangerous and block views when at museums or concerts, so I believe banning them from these places is justified. But how on earth can an instrument to perfect the selfie is under so much scrutiny, when the selfie isn’t. Well, not as much anyway. Perhaps they are simply ideal for those who adore a great picture or have sadly short arms.

I think people are thinking too much into this. And if ‘narcissism’ is something you want to ban, perhaps mobiles and cameras ought to be banned too?…


1000 words, 1 challenge: Countless tomorrows of already bettered bodies

Life is better when lived out with self-compassion and acceptance. Refuse to believe this is selfish or arrogant- it isn’t. Self-worth is multi-dimensional; diverse in characteristics and morals.  Those values you own, others appreciate them, didn’t you know?
We observe beauty in new and unfamiliar things. Like landscapes and animals or cultures. We appreciate them and value them; we aspire to see more of them. So why when we see different and unfamiliar bodies, of size, colour, ethnicity, do we not celebrate them too?

Blessed with bodies from birth, these blank canvases deserve to be adorned, dressed up, customized and appreciated by us; for us, to whatever means we desire. We must praise each other for expression through our bodies. Why be so shallow to command the identical and indistinguishable form of bodies in order to gain acceptance in society?
Instead of the barrage of undeniably toxic media messages on the girls, boys, men and women of this era, why are we not inspiring those who haven’t realised their beauty yet? Inspiring them to look past the façade, the exoskeleton, to appreciate all that makes them a person.

Work to comprehend how people can be happy. Happy at any size, shape, weight. Happy with their religion, ethnicity, background, morals.
Happy happens, and there is no blueprint. No magic number you must weigh or size you must fit. What we define people by is their morals, their actions. After all, they speak louder than words, do they not?

I challenge people to see appearances, to appreciate them and then look further in.
I challenge you to realise why you’re appreciated.
I challenge us all to question the dubious importance of aesthetics, appearance and looks over importance of personality, values and morals.
I challenge society to melt, re-mould and set ‘ideals’. Instead, question why all canvases need to be the same, to conform, to be accepted.

Screw the expectations and accepted requirements for beauty.
Beauty does exist. Yes, it does. It’s all around us. It’s what we see, what we smell, what we think, what we taste. Beauty is seeing a new born baby. Beauty is in witnessing the first frost of the autumn. Beauty is hearing rain drops on tall palm leaves.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, beauty is: ‘a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.’ So why then do we, as a society of Westernised culture, lack appreciation for all shapes or forms?
Fat, in its original noun use, is a natural oily substance occurring in animal bodies, often as a layer beneath the skin or around organs. It is a nutritional and scientific term, which has become a derogatory adjective, and not the simple part of life it actually is. Do not promulgate this idea to friends, family, at home or in the media. Fat is just that: something that happens.

Body image is to be discussed. It needs to be a part of our wellbeing we give time to. We need to know that.

I know this to be true.
I know this to be true that life is better with compassion for yourself.
I know it to be true that when you stop wasting time on worrying about how your body is seen, measured and thought of, that you find real beauty in the smallest things in your daily life.
I know this to be true that eating disorders are not your friend, despite everything they make you believe.
I know this to be true that bodies are one of the most beautiful creations, that allow us to live, that fight daily to save, heal and keep us alive.

In such ‘advance’ societies around the world (as we believe we are), we must not ignore beauty, nor vilify it, but celebrate its countless forms and appearances in life every single day.
Beauty lies in the smallest things, the largest things, the most familiar and most strange. The sooner we accept the nature of beauty and apply it to ourselves, each other; we will no doubt find harmony and calm.

When we believe the importance of the body, for living and not just for looking, we will, without effort, pass this down to the young girls and boys of new generations.
People come from all around the world. Some prefer bigger bodies, some prefer paler skin, and some just don’t care. Why, when we say we’re in a modernizing society of acceptance, do we continue to broadcast the same images and expectations and ideals to an ever-expanding and diversifying population.

Own who you are. Own your skin tone; own your hair. From your flaws to what you’re proud of; take your values, your strengths and your failings. Take it all and see it for the complete, come as you are, package. The way you dress, the way you talk, embrace it. Because who will respect you for that if you don’t first do that yourself?

Theft is a crime. Do not let Photoshopped, manicured and perfectly primped images of unrealistic women or women make you feel any less than the woman or man you are. Do not let them steal your self-confidence, your self-love and most importantly, your self-worth. Rebel against confidence theft. Shout loudly that you will continue to recognize the value of the shell we know as a body, that we do the dance of life with each day.

Hating others will not make you better.
Wishing you were something else will not change you.
Do not believe there is a design; a draft or perfect recipe for happiness- there isn’t one.
Remember each day that you are worthy.
No amount of wishing will change what you need to do yourself.
Don’t do battle with those around you; you never know when you’ll need them.

Life is better when lived out with self-compassion and acceptance. Refuse to believe this is selfish or arrogant- it isn’t.

Pursuit of pretty: pain without gain?

“Have you lost weight?”…

                                     “I’m not hungry”…

                                                             “You’re too fat to have an eating disorder.”


Beyonce has always got my vote. She’s glamourous and fabulous, but she’s real. She is relatable and she recognises the difficulties women all over the world face. The new video for single Pretty Hurts is emotive and intense; a shockingly accurate portrayal of what being pretty means to too many women and girls. ‘Beauty comes from within’ seems to have lost its meaning now, as not only are women expected to be nice, we’re expected to be beautiful.

IMAGE: Beyonce/Vevo


I don’t mean the expectations of men, hell knows they have their own body insecurities from media images of buff and ripped men, but the expectations of ourselves. We expect other women to look good, and we think that we ourselves must impress others; put on a front in order to be beautiful, pretty.
Pretty does hurt. I know first hand how much the pursuit of pretty can damage your body, your relationships, your mind. Eating disorders are seriously misunderstood, and are featured in Beyonce’s video. Purging, slimming pills, excessive exercise- these are all disordered behaviours and this is a realistic portrayal, based on research she did through talking with past pageant queens.

IMAGE: Beyonce/ VEVO

IMAGE: Beyonce/ VEVO

We fight for ‘perfection’- what she calls the disease of a nation- but who is to say what is perfect? The media; the clothes designers; our peers? Pretty is a social construct. What we accept as beautiful is often fed through mass media sources and through those who have control and power over what our society comes to accept.

IMAGE: Beyonce/ VEVO

IMAGE: Beyonce/ VEVO

As a nation of diet culture junkies, we revel in seeing celebrities piling on pounds. It’s cathartic- ‘yes, she’s put on weight. she can’t be much smaller than me now, yesss’. Why do we find it so interesting to see who has and hasn’t put on weight. I bet it doesn’t make them feel great- they’re just people too. We blame the media for giving us these body ideals, but if we didn’t love reading about losing weight so much, do you think we’d still see it in there?


We want to lose weight as a nation. And the media responds to that. We don’t want to lose weight to be healthy, not most of us. We want to lose weight because it’s what is ‘most attractive’. According to who?


Beyonce hits the nail on the head with this song and video. Perhaps a little stark, this video demonstrates some of the difficulties women suffer with in their pursuit of pretty. If we stopped judging each other by how we looked so much, maybe we wouldn’t be so obsessed. One thing is fro sure, Beyonce is pretty in this video not because of her hair or makeup or body. But because this song was written with all of us in mind.

Pretty shouldn’t be painful. Should we all not aspire to be happy above all other things?…

Lush’s reminder that inhumane acts don’t just happen to humans

Having been on a rather female-centric inequality roll of blog posts, I stumbled across this display of increasing awareness from 2012 concentrating on equality and fairness to animals. I think with so much wrongdoing and inequality in the world (for people) we often forget about animals. 
You may remember Lush’s public display of the sorts of things that happen to animals in labs. If not, have a look and you might end with a different opinion of cosmetic testing… 

‘CLEAN’ cosmetic brand Lush is known for their ethos of green, fair and ethically correct products, for which they create products from ingredients sourced worldwide. Advocates for cruelty- free cosmetic product creation, they have taken a loud and clear stand in order to get people talking about the welfare (or abuse of) of animals unfairly trapped in the manufacturing and testing labs.

Shocking, emotive and distressing, university student Jacqueline Traide, 24, stepped up to take part in a first of its kind protest against cosmetic testing on animals. Trapped in the window of the Lush flagship store in Regent Street, London, the performance artist was subjected to ten hours of painful, but educating, tests, procedures and examples of what animals experience in such cosmetic testing laboratories.

IMAGE: Mark Large, The Daily Mail

IMAGE: Mark Large, The Daily Mail

IMAGE: Mark Large, The Daily Mail

IMAGE: Mark Large, The Daily Mail

Mouth clamped open and led by a rope collar, Traide’s body was dressed to symbolise a sex-less, and helpless, vulnerable being; neither male or female. What followed was hours of relentless force-feeding, eye irritant tests, injections (of saline solution), hair shaving, all whilst attached to wires symbolising electrodes.

The Lush campaign is aimed at drawing attention to the problem of cosmetic testing on animals, and aim to head up a Humane Society International campaign. Passers-by were reported to be shocked and in awe of what Traide was putting herself through; perhaps disgusted at the level of realism in the recreation.

IMAGE: Mark Large, The Daily Mail

IMAGE: Mark Large, The Daily Mail

Newspapers have commented on the ‘stunt’, although most have responded with positivity and a new found respect and opinions on the lab testing. Some people, however, have responded with comments relating to the objectification of women and that this demonstration reinforces male dominance over female subjects.

IMAGE: Mark Large, The Daily Mail

IMAGE: Mark Large, The Daily Mail

IMAGE: Mark Large, The Daily Mail

IMAGE: Mark Large, The Daily Mail

I must disagree with this, as Lush were reported to have chosen Traide’s costume specifically to detach her from any gender-relating details in an attempt to concentrate on the purpose of the demonstration.
They told The Guardian that although they made a conscious decision to choose a female for this role, this was not related to any gender-shaming sexist reason. In order to communicate the idea of vulnerability and helplessness, they believed a female at the hands of a male in this circumstance would portray the vulnerable side to force and strength than in reverse.

I understand where that idea comes from which is being put forward by critics, but I understand Lush’s decision also.

The Daily Mail spoke to Dr Chris Flower, director general of the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Perfumeries Association (CTPA). He believes that although for a good cause, Lush may have delivered a misleading impression of animal testing, explaining that selling cosmetics tested on animals was banned in Britain in 1998 and throughout Europe in 2004.

He said:

“It is a pity that Lush chose to run this campaign in a country where the testing of cosmetic products on animals is banned and which has the strictest animal welfare provisions regarding the use of animals for scientific purposes anywhere in the EU.
“It is a pity the campaign is directed at an industry that has done more than any other to develop and promote the use of alternatives.”


FOR MORE INFORMATION, have a look at these websites:

Lammily: shaping the future of dolls girls can aspire to?

Shimmy over Barbie, has your 51 year reign come to an end? Forget glamorous, ‘Average is Beautiful’.

That’s right. Cindy didn’t quite prevail, but will the new Lammily doll be the next big thing. The creation of researcher and artist Nicholay Lamm, Lammily is a doll with a difference. Instead of unrealistic, unattainable and simply ridiculous body proportions, this doll is based on the measurements that came out last July of average American 19-year-olds.

This comes as a very exciting revelation to me (sad, I know), as this is something I can use in my dissertation into the effect of children’s media on the self-esteem and body image of young girls. Much of the research I’ve already done with authors of books on the topic points that parents are the first port of call in the protection of young girls seeing images which may affect their body image.

So who is this Lammily? Well, she’s a realistically sized young woman in doll form. Healthy and physically fit, Lammily can be seen with a natural face of make-up, casual wardrobe and moveable wrists, knees, elbows and feet for more interactive play.

No more hole in the wedding finger for a ring or permanently tip-toed feet for heels like Barbie dolls, oh no! The athletic Lammily is like nothing currently on the market, Lamm said to The Huffington Post, so perhaps parents will take a shine to this doll more than the present Barbie?

Lamm told The Huffington Post:

The message about body image targets parents of daughters. Many young girls do not care about body image, they just want a fun doll to play with. This initial campaign is aimed more towards parents, but the future depends on young girls wanting to play with Lammily.
I spent lots of time and research to create a doll which daughters are going to love. She isn’t just a doll with typical body proportions, she’s a fun doll which just happens to have typical body proportions. And everything from the packaging, to future ad campaigns, to future online interactive worlds, will be designed to appeal to kids.

The project is being funded by a crowd-funding campaign which has already obtained 4740 backers; collecting 165% of the intended amount to be raised. With more than $146,000 raised by members of the general public, it’s clear to see this is an idea people are welcoming into society.

Although not in production yet, these photographs are of the prototypes and the money raised will go towards the creation of Lammily dolls.

I, for one, am thrilled that something which has been seen to have such a huge effect on young girls’ ideas of an ‘ideal’ body is taking a stand against thin ideals; something which has been linked to the development of depression, body image issues and disordered eating habits in girls and young women.

Let this be the start of a real body revelation. Something that really sticks. Lammily, you rock! 

See the HuffPost article here 

“Click here to to encourage your mental health problems”…

YOU may not have been aware, but last week marked the Eating Order Awareness Week 2014, where various campaigners undertook programmes globally to increase awareness and decrease naivety to eating disorders. These diseases, which they are, are not only seriously misunderstood and stigmatised, but attract a lot of negativity from people ignorant to the problem.

Anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), binge-eating disorder… they are all very complex and separate problems and eating disorders in general cause the greatest amount of fatalities of any mental health problem.

You would be surprised at the number of women and men affected by EDs and it isn’t as simple as someone looking ‘skinny’ or throwing up after meals. You’d be even more surprised at the number of people you’ve met who probably have an ED, or at least disordered eating habits, that you’d never expect them to have.

Life destroying and all encompassing, the destructive mental health condition is often seen as girls wanting to be so thin you can see bones. It really isn’t that simple. Ke$ha, Demi Lovato, the Olsen twins are all victims of this, and it’s so sad/disgusting to see such negative press about them in the media. Often blamed for attributing to the pressure to be ‘thin’, this isn’t something that be switched on and off.

My anger about this has just been heightened by seeing an idiotic, uninformed and pathetic YouTube video entitled ‘Anorexia Tips to Become Anorexic’. The man in the video, who is not English yet has a computer-generated English commentary over his voice, is a total idiot. In my opinion, a huge imbecile. I would say ruder, but I won’t.

Purporting some ludicrous ‘tips’, this guy clearly has no idea of what EDs do to a person. There is a HUGE different between being skinny, and having an eating disorder. Things like these make up the heartbreaking media coverage I’ve seen during dissertation research which encourages disordered eating behaviour to reach a skinny ideal. It’s so sad and encouragement should be for recovery, not to get deeper in the disease…

Rant over. Just think next time before you use anorexia as an adjective of that girl who just walked past or jokes about becoming an ED sufferer.