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lunedì 18 aprile 2016
A generation of young men is being lost to arousal addiction, preferring the instant gratification offered by online pornography and gaming to the challenges of real-life interactions.
In their new book Man, Interrupted, US psychologist Philip Zimbardo and his colleague Nikita Coulombe argue that these young men are growing up isolated, socially stunted, unmotivated, struggling academically and with unrealistic sexual expectations of themselves and potential partners.
Stanford University Professor Emeritus Zimbardo said his study of 20,000 young men found many were retreating to the digital worlds of pornography and gaming where there are instant rewards, clear goals, fewer risks and consequences, more excitement and no fear of rejection.
"Porn guarantees sexual gratification without rejection, and without the time and money needed to go out on a date," he told Fairfax Media. "Video games offer a degree of instant gratification, but also offer structured goals and feedback on performance, which is currently lacking in most real-world spheres for men."
His co-author Ms Coulombe said young men were being conditioned to always expect a reward. "Real life doesn't work like that. Real-life rewards require planning and there is no guarantee of success in any pursuit."
One young man interviewed for the book said: "I think the on-demand pleasure, gratification, control and stress release of pornography and video games reduces our patience, makes us hold ourselves to unrealistic expectations and cripples us socially."
As the young male brain adapts to the intense stimulation of pornography and gaming which is available free and all the time on the internet, too much use of either makes them forget their responsibilities or lose interest in daily real life. They struggle to form relationships as they haven't developed real-world interpersonal skills.
Professor Zimbardo describes excessive use of gaming and pornography as "arousal addiction", which he said is different to other addictions.
"With alcohol, drugs or gambling you want more of the same, but with porn and video games you want the same – but different. You need novelty in order to achieve the same high," he said. "To get the same amount of stimulation you need new material, seeing the same images over and over again becomes uninteresting after a short time."
It is estimated that up to 10 per cent of gamers have a problem, while teenage boys watch an average of two hours of pornography a week – starting well before they have any real-life sexual experiences.
Australian sex educator Liz Walker said arousal addiction underlies the "edging" masturbation trend popular with young men. To keep themselves on the edge of an orgasm for hours at a time they will watch one pornography clip after another.
"The levels are that intense that trying to break away from [the habit] is near impossible," Ms Walker said.
Experts say that young men who are sensation seeking, suffer low self-esteem or anxiety, or have poor family connections are more vulnerable to arousal addiction. The Man, Interrupted authors believe that if these trends continue, a group of men will opt out of society, others will increasingly turn to crime, and there will be a decline in marriage and family formation.
"More women of course will be asking 'where are all the good men?' as they become more educated and financially well-off than their male peers," Ms Coulombe said.