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Porn and video games engender masculinity crisis in boys, says psychologist

Technically Incorrect: A Stanford psychologist says that boys' brains are being "digitally rewired" and that online activity is causing the young to have erectile dysfunction.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Is it causing a crisis of masculinity? This is Genius/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I'm sorry if you're reading this at the wrong time of day, but we're going to be discussing porn-induced erectile dysfunction in the young.

Philip Zimbardo, a Stanford psychologist, believes that it's happening and it's a symptom of a crisis. He believes that the brains of young boys are becoming "digitally rewired" because of an excess commitment to online video games and porn.

Speaking to the BBC, Zimbardo said his research has uncovered something in those boys who are online up to 15 hours a day.

He described boys' altered brain function like this: "When I'm in class, I'll wish I was playing World of Warcraft. When I'm with a girl, I'll wish I was watching pornography, because I'll never get rejected."

He says that such a mindset has been created because of the Web's existence and the proliferation of particular entertainment sources on it. The particular young men who Zimbardo thinks most at risk are those who play games and watch porn in social isolation.

Zimbardo defines excessive porning and video gaming as more than five hours a day.

More than that, however, he regards the addiction and the rewiring of the brain as being a factor of not merely the number of hours, but the obvious changes in mindset. The psychological excitement of the Web is, for some young men, all there is.

Young men are taking less drugs, drinking less alcohol and being less violent than they used to be, so studies show. However, Zimbardo said: "They're not violent because they're alone in their room."

He added that young men are drinking Coke instead of alcohol and becoming "fat-asses." The chances of type-2 diabetes are increased, he said, which tends to decrease libido.

Kids might find online porn exciting psychologically, but physiologically they are actually becoming less excited. They suffer, he said, from PIED. Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction. (Please, no Pied Piper jokes. Thank you.)

As many academics do, Zimbardo is selling something. "Critics have to read our book," he said. It's called "Man (Dis)Connected."

He believes that parents have to get involved and realize how their offspring is spending his time. He also believes that images of males in the media are almost universally negative. (Does David Beckham know?) And then, of course, there's the need for better education.

The subtitle of his book is: "How technology has sabotaged what it means to be male."

Is it sabotage? Or is it progress?