NOTE: This article was originally published at In Mala Fide on May 30, 2012. I’m re-posting it here as the site is now defunct.
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!”
Rudyard Kipling, “If“
American men are doomed, dontcha know?
We’re pleasure-addicted monkeys, mindless hedonists in search of a chemical high. We spend all day glued to our TV sets blasting away bad guys on our Xboxes; we spend all night glued to our computers blasting out wads to silicone-titted starlets moaning in phony ecstasy. Our depravity is causing us to strike out at school, at our jobs, and most importantly, with the ladies. We’re careening towards a future in which poor, suffering women increasingly shoulder the burden of maintaining society, while we sit in our basements alternating between playing Call of Duty and playing with ourselves.
Or will we?
The argument I not-so-subtletly mocked just now is being pushed by psychologists Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan in their new book, The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It:
(CNN) — Is the overuse of video games and pervasiveness of online porn causing the demise of guys?
Increasingly, researchers say yes, as young men become hooked on arousal, sacrificing their schoolwork and relationships in the pursuit of getting a tech-based buzz.
Every compulsive gambler, alcoholic or drug addict will tell you that they want increasingly more of a game or drink or drug in order to get the same quality of buzz.
Video game and porn addictions are different. They are “arousal addictions,” where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.
I’m a bit surprised that no one else in the manosphere has mentioned this story; I found out about it via In Bona Fide. Then again, there have been so many “man up” shaming articles in the past year alone that everyone’s probably burned out responding to them. You can see where Zimbardo and Duncan are going with this story long before you get to the end:
Young men — who play video games and use porn the most — are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety.
Such new brains are also totally out of sync in traditional school classes, which are analog, static and interactively passive. Academics are based on applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play and on long-term goal-setting.
Guys are also totally out of sync in romantic relationships, which tend to build gradually and subtly, and require interaction, sharing, developing trust and suppression of lust at least until “the time is right.”
If you haven’t had enough, you can listen to Zimbardo’s TED talk on the same subject, provided you can get over his gay Peter Lorre impression and his child molester mannerisms.
In what may be a heartening sign, virtually all of the comments on the CNN article are bashing Zimbardo, but aside from video game journalist nerds going apeshit over the idea that gaming has any negative effects whatsoever (as they’ve done going all the way back to Columbine), no one’s bothered to really address the article’s thesis. So I’m stepping up to the plate.
I think Zimbardo and Duncan are right… and wrong.
Where they’re right is in stating that porn and video games are bad for you. Ferdinand Bardamu was dead on the money when he wrote that masturbating is unhealthy. Without getting graphic, I’ve discovered that being “master of my domain” gives me more energy, focus and drive. The website Your Brain on Porn has a wealth of information on why rubbing one out to YouPorn every night is seriously screwing with your mind.
And when it comes to video games, they’re fine… in moderation. It’s when your life revolves around them that it becomes problematic. I used to game heavily, but I’ve pretty much quit in the past three years; the only games I’ve bought in the past year were Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mass Effect 3, the former out of nostalgia and the latter because I wanted to see how the story ended. And like with porn, there’s considerable evidence that video games are altering your mind for the worse.
But here’s where they falter: addiction is a symptom, not a cause.
Drug warriors, AA groupies and the like love to make the claim that anyone anywhere can become addicted to their bete noires. This is precisely wrong: addiction only happens to people who are broken to begin with. Poor white trash smoking meth, poor ghetto blacks smoking crack, high-strung Wall Street bankers snorting blow off their bathroom mirrors, bubble-brained bimbos ODing on methadone: the thin red thread connecting all of them is that they are unfulfilled and unsatisfied. For whatever reason—they live in poverty, they hate their jobs, their love lives are lacking, or they’re just plain mentally ill—they turn to drugs to fill a void. People who are contented with their lives rarely if ever become addicted to anything.
Starting from this premise, we realize that “the demise of guys” is symptomatic of wider social problems.
The “mancession” is old news. We men are more likely than women to either be out of work entirely or “underemployed,” stuck in low-paying jobs that don’t make use of our skill sets or educational credentials. This is because male-dominated sectors of the economy like construction and manufacturing were impacted more severely by the recession than female-dominated ones like healthcare and education.
We’re more likely to flunk out of high school or college, and when we do graduate, we underperform academically compared to girls and are more likely to be diagnosed with developmental disorders like ADD and ADHD. This is because the structure of classroom learning is geared entirely towards girls and retards. If you’re a boy with an IQ above 105, the idea of sitting still in a classroom watching a frumpy spinster drone on and on about material you’ve already mastered is intolerable. You’ll read a book you smuggled in from the library, you’ll pick at the scabs on your arm, you’ll daydream and stare into space: anything to escape the soul-crushing ennui of the classroom.
From that perspective, why wouldn’t a lot of guys prefer video games over reality?
In a game, the playing field is fair. It’s tailored to your strengths as a man. It offers tangible rewards for performance. Its rules are clearly stated and work as advertised. If it screws you over, it’s because you did something wrong or didn’t perform up to speed. In other words, it’s everything the workplace and classroom are supposed to be but aren’t.
The same with porn. Contemporary romantic relationships are a Lovecraftian horror show. Women are getting fatter, uglier and more personally repellent, yet they still behave as if they’re virginal princesses who deserve their own Prince Charmings. Log on to OkCupid, Plenty of Fish or any other dating site and you’ll see no end of obese blubberbutts who refuse to date men who aren’t in shape, along with countless careerist types who’ve opted to be aggressively bitchy in lieu of developing actual personalities.
Again, why wouldn’t some guys prefer YouPorn to this freak show?
Porn stars don’t complain about the toilet seat being left up. They don’t refuse to have sex because they have a “headache.” They aren’t hunched over their iPhones half the time. They aren’t grotesquely, repulsively overweight. They come in, fuck, swallow and leave.
If men are addicted to porn and video games, it’s because reality for them is so awful, dull, unrewarding and punishing that they’ll seek any outlet to escape.
The people bloviating about “the end of men” don’t understand this at all. A few weeks ago, Dennis Mangan posted on a similar subject: the rise of “herbivore men” in Japan and their role in bringing down the country’s birthrate. While Mangan’s analysis was solid, his commenters seized on the post to ride their various hobbyhorses: “Let’s ban porn!” “We need to tax single people!” “The religious shall inherit the earth!” I left a comment trying to explain the reasons why herbivore men are sprouting up; it was roundly ignored in favor of more circle-jerking. One commenter, who I strongly suspect is a woman, left this howler:
I’m perplexed by all these guys who claim (at least implicitly) that they would be incapable of masturbating without porn. You’re not looking at it because you are “desperate and horny”, you’re looking at it because you are bored out of your mind. Stop lying to yourself.
Yes, boredom is why men look at porn. And rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power.
So yes, I understand why many men prefer virtual reality to actual reality. That doesn’t mean I support it.
Manospherians are justifiably averse to the phrase “man up,” because it usually means “do whatever I tell you to do.” No one who uses that phrase has your best interests at heart, whether it’s Bill Bennett, Kay Hymowitz or some Christian traditionalist who spends his free time debating about whether angels are male or female or something else equally inane. But that doesn’t make being a onanistic manboy any more justifiable.
In less than two weeks, I’m leaving my hometown of Syracuse, New York on foot, with nothing but a suitcase. I’m walking across North America, starting in Montreal and ending in Portland, Oregon. I’m on a mission to see new places, meet new people, lose weight and get in shape, and jump-start a career as a writer.
I’m not doing it because someone told me to, I’m doing it because I want to. I’m doing it because I want a story to tell. I’m doing it because I’d rather die than live another day the way I am now.
I’m doing it because I want to be a man.
My friends and family think I’m crazy. The aforementioned “man up” shamers would probably think I’m crazy too. They’d probably say I should spend my life trying to get a demeaning job so I can marry some vacant-eyed blimp and have her squeeze out 2.1 children for the good of society.
Unfortunately for my detractors, I don’t have any fucks to give.
Masculinity is not about how much money you have, how many children you have, how big of a McMansion you live in, or how often you go to church. Masculinity is about strength. Masculinity is about having the ability to realize your desires and project your will upon the world. Whether your desires are moral or good for society is completely irrelevant.
That’s what it truly means to “man up.” It’s not about having a family, it’s not about having a fancy job title, it’s not about being part of the “right” social class, and it is most definitely not about “moral renewal.” By this definition, the leading lights of the manosphere—Roissy, Roosh, Frost, Ferdinand—have not only manned up, they are far more masculine than any of the dupes who bought into the American Nightmare of love, marriage and a baby carriage.
I’m not writing this article to shame guys into manning up. I’m writing it to inspire them into manning up, for the right reasons.
Don’t man up because some cock carousel-riding thirtysomething needs a beta chump husband.
Don’t man up because your Boomer parents expect you to give them grandchildren before they go senile.
Don’t man up because some sanctimonious prig says you’re a “moral degenerate” if you aren’t married with children.
Don’t man up because some corporate shill needs new suckers to fuel the engine of consumerism.
Man up for yourself.
Man up because your life as it stands is intolerable and unfulfilling. Man up because porn and video games are pale imitations of the real thing. Man up because living the life you want is better then just dreaming about it.
You have no excuses. No matter how down on yourself you are, how much of a failure you believe yourself to be, how deep of a hole you think you’re in, there is always a way out of the darkness. Unless you’re a wheelchair-bound retard soaked in your own spittle, you always have options. The rub is that you won’t be living your life the way your friends, family, co-workers or fellow church-goers expect you to. If they don’t like it, that’s their problem. It’s your life, not theirs.
The manosphere is here to help you climb out of the hole, find your way to the light. All that remains is for you to decide what you want and go after it.
I’m tired of living in the darkness. It’s time for me to ride into the sun.