Although many claim that men in most western countries live a rather privileged life, there is a stark and ongoing change in the quality of life that young men live. Men today are not like their fathers or grandfathers: They are more socially awkward and shy around women, consume more porn at a younger age, are falling behind their female counterparts in school, and are receiving only meager sex education from their parents and schools. Men consume countless hours of social media and video games with little moderation, and they are less active and more obese than any generation before them. Men are becoming less interested in academic, romantic, or job-related success and many underlying societal, cultural and economic problems for men are coming to light. These issues need to be addressed — the sooner the better.
Philip Zimbardo, in his book “Man Interrupted,” outlines the current detriments millennials and young boys face as they grow up in our modern world. His work describes a particular “arousal addiction,” although the arousal is not purely sexual. Young men grow up and live in different environments than previous generations, causing them to overcompensate or ignore their faults, lack of guidance and experience. For example, the increasing rate of divorce in America leaves many boys with partial parenting or distant emotional relationships with their fathers. This has been directly linked by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Texas Department of Corrections to increased rates of delinquency and adolescent criminal activity. This initial lack of guidance in a young man’s life can lead to future emotional and personal deficits to himself and others, can create a childhood partially or entirely void of a male role model, and can impact future relationships as well.
Speaking of relationships, many young men are becoming less enticed by the prospects of romantic partnerships due to their difficulty to obtain and the interpersonal bonds necessary to create lasting connection. As a result, young men consume more pornography than any other demographic. Porn consumption has become so habitual that it has created its own sexual dysfunctions, such as PIED — Porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Watching porn changes brain chemistry, according to Gary Wilson, author of “Your Brain on Porn.” Over time, excessive porn viewing and masturbation rearranges neurons in the brain to the point where arousal for anything else — even real-life sexual experiences — becomes more difficult. Most importantly, excessive consumption of pornography can result in emotional and personal difficulties with lasting romantic relationships. Pornography is well known for creating unrealistic representations of sex and intimacy, deterring young men from seeking real-life romantic or sexual experiences due to ease of access. It should be understood by all young men and adults that porn has no basis in reality and shouldn’t be used to make up for a lack of real-life passion and experience.
Another issue young men face is their disenfranchisement with the world around them due to economic detriments, lack of romantic connection, and lack of personal success. Many young men don’t feel accomplished or useful due to a lack of outlets or ability to perform outside of school or work. Video games fill this void — they are objective and accomplishment based, provide a sense of reward so realistic that it activates the same neurons in the brain associated with reward, and place the player in a setting different from their own. Studies reveal that an increase in problem-solving abilities when video games are played on a regular basis. However, this form of achievement procrastination can become addictive as well, becoming a dead-end outlet for personal frustration with the real world. Like the over-consumption of pornography, the rearrangement of neurons in the brain — especially when the player plays alone — creates an “arousal” dependence over time. This habit can also take time away from developing real world skills, hobbies, recreation and developing a good work ethic. And although the over-consumption of video games and other media can negatively affect both sexes, it appears to be a prominent problem for young men, who play in far greater quantities than their female counterparts.
Something seldom discussed is the effect that Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have on young men and boys. Boys are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with these disorders and far more likely to be prescribed medication, according to child psychiatrist Victoria Dunckley. Certain medications — as well as other hormone manipulators like Bisphenol A — can affect the puberty and development of young men physiologically, leading to lower testosterone, decreased fertility, decreased sexual performance and poor fitness.
Young men face more challenges today than people believe. They are becoming disinterested in finding work, finding a romantic partner, starting a family, and seeking out their passions and interests in life. Instead, they have become distracted, over-diagnosed, less educated than their female counterparts, and face unique psychological and physiological threats. We need to recognize the importance of healthy, well-rounded men and their role in society, and do everything we can to help this current generation of young men regain its masculinity, its self-reliance, and its ability to give back to society. Otherwise, the current situation young men face will only become more detrimental not only to them, but also to the rest of us, and could take generations to correct.