Blaming the web and porn for the demise of courtship and proper masculinity has become one of the favorite hobby horses of old pundits who just entered the hey-you-kids-get-off-my-lawn phase of life and want to seem scientific about it. Unlike the proper manly men of the middle of the last century, we waste our lives playing video games, watching porn, and not having kids to hand off to our wives to raise soon enough. Now, back in the days when Philip Zimbardo was coming of age, that’s when real men roamed the Earth, aimlessly wandering around on a bike, climbing tress, playing soccer, and feverishly masturbating to lingerie catalogs when mom and dad weren’t looking, growing up to have full, rich lives of children and fulfilling marriages. If you ignore that 50% divorce rate and numerous societal ills caused by a complete lack of sex ed in any way, shape or form. Sounds like an asinine thesis? Well, it is, but sadly that’s exactly what two TED talks, a study, and a book by Zimbardo claims. Men today barely qualify as men.
You know when a study about masculinity is bad when Slate’s Amanda Hess, a writer who one would easily place among those echoing the meme of porn turning men into evil lusty beings, if we go by her past articles, swiftly decimates both the premise and methodology behind it. The study itself was an exercise in cherry picking so textbook, no wonder the only media outlets so eager to cover it are tabloids. Zimbardo created an arbitrary definition of porn addiction, asked enough young men about their video game and porn habits to hit his target numbers, and went on to declare that we’re suffering through an epidemic of porn addicted gamers clogging up the gene pool. Even worse, he primed them with his conclusions, already embedding the idea that young men today were useless shells of what they were back in the day, then asked subjects to more or less agree with negative stereotypes of said young men who were just declared to be worthless by someone in a lab coat. This is not a study. This is punditry masquerading as data with even less objectivity than a political talking head on prime time news would feign.
Still, there is a small germ of an interesting question buried in this pseudoscientific hatchet job, and that’s the question of how porn affects young men since access to it is easier than it ever was, and it can be found at younger and younger ages. Do men indeed have unrealistic ideas about sex by a large margin as is so often claimed? Do they really suffer from penis envy at an alarming rate that’s somehow different than throughout recorded history? You won’t find these questions actually researched by Zimbardo, merely taken as truisms not to be doubted, which really is worse than doing no study at all. He doesn’t care about the science or the data, all he’s interested in is promoting his self-glorifying, I-hate-young-people-with-penises thesis. Just like daytime quacks, like Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil, old fogeys with scientific credentials need to be ignored by their would-be audience and excoriated by actual experts. Instead of helping us understand the world around us better, like scientists should, they’re opting for cheap, easy minute of fame for regurgitating nasty stereotypes that make other geezers feel warm and fuzzy inside. That is not what real men do. Real men actually do their jobs and try to find out the truth.