This comment was on the post by Joanna Schroeder “Are Porn and Video Games Hurting Young Men?”
As someone who was most certainly addicted to video games and who is in the demographic that this pretty much targets, I have a number of insights.
#1. Involved parents. Parents can now let video games occupy their sons time and they don’t have to do any parenting. Give a boy a computer and a $15/mo World of Warcraft subscription and he’ll have an infinite amount of entertainment for $15. These games are addictive. I started playing MMORPGs in 5th grade and by the time high school rolled around, I was spending at least 30 hours a week playing MMOs and during the summer it was probably upwards of 60. I had no father and my mother couldn’t even be bothered to feed me, so I was able to do whatever I wanted, and what I wanted was to be able to avoid reality and feel like I was in control of something. MMOs gave me an outlet. It gave me an opportunity to be successful. I had a leadership role in one of the best guilds in a game of more than 10 million players. It felt good to be important.
Porn. I started watching porn at the age of 10. It’s been a daily and multiple times a day thing every day since that time. I think I’ve gone more than 4 days without watching porn once in my entire life. It is not inherently a problem, but it gives boys an outlet they would not otherwise have. Whether we admit it or not, boys (and men) are expected and required to do the lion’s share of approaching and initiating. In junior high and high school, your options are limited. If you strike out a bunch of times, you quickly lose any opportunity to get a date or a girlfriend and you quickly earn the label of socially awkward loser. I cannot begin to describe the pain and suffering that comes from serial rejection from women at such a young age.
How does a boy get confidence socially when he is perpetually rejected by women and that rejection is used as a tool to humiliate him by his peers? If you combine this with say, absentee parents who don’t regularly demonstrate affection towards their children, then you have a recipe for a child who feels they do not have any inherent self worth because they are being told by the world that they do not have any self worth. You can’t tell a teenage boy that the reason his parents and women and peers are rejecting him is a problem with them and not a problem with him. He won’t believe you.
He will have friends with whom he plays games, who are also having the same sort of social issues. It becomes a sort of band of brothers; a group of boys who have been rejected by the world who escape into video games where they can feel in control and good about themselves. Where they can have accomplishments.
We have a society that is truly, heinously brutal on boys. If they are deprived of early success, they choose a comforting and enjoyable escape that technology has provided them; video games and porn. I no longer play video games because I realized that it was an addiction that I couldn’t control. I cannot play games “casually.” The porn remains, of course, because I have no other outlet for sexual satisfaction. I, and probably every other boy/young man in my situation, long for a personal connection, affection, love, etc. To be honest, sex is not even secondary on my list. Hugging, cuddling, holding hands, and having someone who looks at me with caring and affection as opposed to indifference or disgust. That is what I want.
Unfortunately, I am a man. As a man, I must be the one to make it happen. I will need to approach women, ask women out, plan dates, pay for dates, and be the person who takes action. Otherwise, I will remain alone. How do you make this happen without self confidence? How do you have self confidence when you have experienced nothing but failure? I cannot answer either question, and it is a miserable catch-22 in which to find yourself. I have never in my entire life had a woman smile at me unprompted or approach me or say hello or ask me out on a date or anything. Not once. I’ve never been told I’m handsome, or sexy, or attractive, or been made to feel attractive and desirable. There are millions of boys and young men in this position.
So many people view porn as the cause of problems with relationships, but it is the result. Had I ever experienced at any point since I first asked a girl out in the 5th grade one who said, “Yes, I like you, I’ll go out with you,” I am fairly certain I would not be in the situation. Nothing succeeds like success, and nothing fails like failure. Confidence needs to start somewhere, and you need someone to help you start it. Without that, you have a continual downward spiral of declining self confidence, depression, and misery. I firmly believe that one of the biggest issues of the next decade will be overwhelming under participation in society of men and massive levels of suicide among millennial men.
Photo credit: Flickr / AngryJulieMonday