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Andrea Morisette Grazzini

CEO, WetheP, Inc.

TEDCRED 30+

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Is the "demise of guys" a harbinger for the demise of human development?

Renowned researcher Philip Zimbardo crystallizes an unintended consequence of digital economy. It appears male social, educational and sexual capacities are undermined by the ubiquity of consumer resources online.

The lynch-pin that has been removed? Real-life experience. The result? A stunting of relational learning.

Without in-person experience, social skills regress. Without social skills, education is truncated. Only so much learning goes on without ongoing human interaction.

As example: Boy’s sexual development is now predominantly accessed via computer. Without trial and error in real relationships, boys can’t learn the complex give-and-take co-responsiveness required for successful, sustained partnerships at home, in school and work. Needless to say, females lose out too without males to learn with.

All conspire in a viscous cycle that leaves significant gaps in human development. Researchers and others have sounded this alert for some time, to little avail. Some I've written of:

Author Jon Scieszka -- http://sparkaction.org/node/443
College football players – http://bit.ly/rgE6m8
Psychologist Michael Thompson PhD -- http://bit.ly/oWs0Ar

Now a quickening effect is underway. Its impacts don’t bode well for either gender.

An example: US researchers now find it difficult to find male subjects who haven't bought sex, in part, due to online marketing. Which, in turn, scaffolds regressive social norms that further undermine healthy relationships.

Compounding these are trends in other countries where infanticide and abortion insure greater numbers of boys, ostensibly for economic production. It is expected there will be 50 million more men than women populating India and China in 2021.

Imbalances like these lead to increased violence and crime, including sex trafficking. Which, in turn, strap resources needed for building education and family systems.

Can we derail this demise of guys—and, can doing so save our societies?

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    Aug 12 2011: Thank you for another interesting topic and discussion, Andrea.
    I wonder how the fact that male sperm production has diminished seriously in that last few decades fits into this phenomenon? The motility of sperm has been documented for decades and the significant decline in the potency of sperm appears to be a world wide phenomenon. Do you think this plays into the issues you are raising?

    As a mother of 4 sons and one daughter, these issues are very important to me. Although I am an avid proponent of women's rights it is in the context of human rights and I do see that young men at this time in history are finding the going pretty tough. I think this confrontation of values and attitudes has encouraged them to retreat to computers and pornography. Men are not so unlike women that they do not have issue of self esteem, the desire to be accepted as they are and worries about rejection. I see a sharp dividing line between the behaviours of my eldest two sons and my twins. The younger two are more concerned about body image than the elder two are and I am not sure where that influence came from.
    I have also found that many of the girl friends seem to have all the expectations of previous generations and still expect men to be 'the provider' at a time when many men are not finding the easy entry to employment that they used to enjoy. These are certainly complex issues.
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    Aug 9 2011: Taking the less PC response, I'd say there is a deeper issue.

    Are all available women worth men putting down remote controls, logging off and unplugging for? Now, my point is not insulting but perhaps maybe women likewise lack the abilities to attract men into such social relationships and interactions or simply the mind pollution goes both ways. I'll posit that it takes more then having the right sex organs to lure men into a relationship.

    I'll also throw in the fact that most western males have few male role models throughout our lives. Me, I luckily have a father. But how many boys have only their lone single mom? How many don't know their dad or only hear how terrible he was via their only parental figure? How many go to public school were perhaps the only male faculty member is the PE teacher and the sports team coach?

    Consider for a moment that there may be more to this then some wish to acknowledge.
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      Aug 9 2011: James,

      Interesting points.

      I agree with you re: few male role models. Its similar to what I heard from football players I met (in linked story) and many male colleagues. I actually think there are role models for boys, but many thoughtful men are either too busy or too reluctant to express themselves as role models in ways culture and communities see them.

      I have a friend who feels the need to defend his masculinity by saying "Just because I'm kind, doesn't mean I'm not a man." Others express tenderness or compassion only in private, but wouldn't dare act the same if men were around.

      I was thinking about this last night while playing basketball. A man walked by and said "Way to go. Great way to work off steam.". If I were a man in yoga class he walked by, I'm not so sure he be inclined to say "Way to go. Great way to work off stress."

      I think you are right on re: sons of single mothers. However, I think it is unfair to finger single parents of any gender for the impressions children have of the absent parent, whether its Dad or Mom. These are often cases where, as you point out, where there may be more to the story. First, the stressors of single parenting can complicate mothers' frustrations with having to go it alone. Second, children themselves live the reality of absent or semi-absent parents, and thus some develop their own negative views.

      What you are getting at regards lack of male faculty in public schools correlates to a consumer culture that demonstrates its values by paying, for example, professional athletes and tech programmers, more than educators.

      Meanwhile individuals and not a few institutions pay exorbitant fees for sports, technology and sex (for which men are the primary markets) but pitch fits re: funding schools and boy-friendly programs.

      Finally, a few Qs to isolate the deeper issue you speak of: How can available women attract men? How can men transmit what attracts them? And what does "available" mean?

      Andrea
      • Tom Sok

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        Aug 18 2011: Sometimes I wish all those women with beautiful bodies boycotted men like their corrupt banker/politician/lawyer husbands and took away their incentive to be so brutal in amassing money. Similarly I feel there is something very wise about men, not necessarily turning to porn, but to really hold back from women until they develop a better radar for which of the women are the socialised magazine-reading man-users. Women feed problems by going for socialised men (they love so-called 'success' and lavish lifestyles). Men feed problems by deciding to support manipulative women lusting after a good lifestyle who will likely repay the man with spite and ever-decreasing intimacy in the long run.
        How can women attract men? Firstly work through your own prejudices and social conditioning, taking some responsibility rather than seeking scapegoats in men. Then learn to be wise in not choosing brainwashed and prejudiced men who are beyond the reach of your authenticity.
        But that's too simple and unrealistic. Go for men who are sincere in their intent to - with your help - undo as much as possible of their own brainwashing. And be sincere in your attempt to let him help you undo yours.
        As for simply attracting the opposite sex in the first instance, women already have a monopoly on that (supported by how many magazine articles?) and it's not hard, since men have been so demonised and rejected for their stronger sexual desires and there is a severe supply and demand imbalance (hence the ever-growing porn industry). Come onto the man, take some risks yourself, or at least don't come up with a million 'no's at every turn if you really are interested in him. Don't expect him to go through a thousand barriers you put up like Sleeping Beauty to make the man prove he is worthy of your attention by fulfilling the role of fearless hero and cutting through all those thorns and forest.
  • Aug 13 2011: My two cents.

    Cent 1. Isn't it uncomfortable that you all are lamenting how much time boys spend in onlin games, and then you all are spending, it seems, equal or greater amounts of time online here communicating with people you only know digitally? By you own logic, you shouldn't be here interacting with digital people; you should be out in the real world interacting with your families, friends etc. So boys like online games. You like online games too -- except your game is this forum.

    Cent 2. Have any of you actually played any of these games? It sounds like you haven't. They are highly social and spontaneous. My son play, and it is not him vs the game, as you seem to think. He plays xbox and connects to the Internet, thereby playing with other young people (mainly boys but occasional girls). He wears headphones. They have teams and play against other teams. They talk, they laugh, they trash talk, they strategize. He meets people from all over the world. There is more spontaneous interaction there than in this forum to be honest. Honestly I don't think you have seen how this actually works. It is much more spontaneous and social than watching TV. I wish I had these games when I was a kid.
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      Aug 13 2011: Joe--

      I, too, note the irony of being online discussion online issues. However, you are parsing out one of several concerns and missing the larger points that have been made.

      1. To my knowledge no one is calling for a wholesale removal of online interactions. As I said in a early post, online as an adjunct but not primary communications mode seems like a contextually useful balance.

      2. The concerns have to do with more than games. They have to do with boys using the internet for their primary sexual "interaction." And how that minimizes their healthy development.

      3. One presumes most on this forum are adults who have achieved their pubescent development. And are on this forum to dialogue about how to understand and aid boys development.

      4. Your presumption that people on this dialogue haven't played games is erroneous. I have played Doom, many years ago. A programmer I worked with showed me how it works, the social interactions you speak to and also the creative opportunities it offers. I've also played Wii, which also, allows for social interactions.The point is not that these games aren't part of a child's picture. The point is they are too much of it.

      5. Due to the increasing replacement of one-on-one face-to-face relationships and all the nuances they offer for fully human development, by online games which not only, as you note, isolate boys from girls and from their immediate living environments, but also because they immerse boys into a environment that minimizes their potentials to nothing more than marauders and pillagers in a fantasy world.

      All this said, your point about interacting with families is good. So that's what I am going to now go and do.

      Andrea
      • Aug 13 2011: Well, I am still not convinced. You say when they play they are "nothing more than marauders and pillagers in a fantasy world.". That sounds like you don't really know what they are doing. When my son plays online, it is much more than that. They all have mics and earphones and they play in an online community. From your response you say only that wii "allows" for social interactions, which I guess means you've never seen it done, or done it yourself. I love to sit with my son when he plays wii. Believe me, again, they are much mot pre than "marauders and pillagers in a fantasy world." i I think you are referring to fantasy games, which my son doesn't like. They play sports games and realistic war games, and, rather than "marauders and pillagers in a fantasy world," they are comedians, team-mates, sometimes they break into song -- whatever the latest pop tune is -- then they laugh at each others singing voices, and they talk about the soccer game earlier that day -- e.g., nice goal; they smile widely, they have a blast. The game is the background to their conversation.

        I gues the only thing missing is seeing each there faces, but with FaceTime and Skype technology, it can't be too long until that is included too. Certainly they would love to be able to see their friends' faces. It's just a question of technology catching up.

        So they are on xbox; their mother's are on Facebook, or for some of them there mothers are on here professizing. The difference is that the boys aren't talking about how terrible it is that their mom's are online on Facebook here.

        They are such great spirits these boys. If it's fun for you to theorize about how their online life is decrying something, go on ahead.

        From what I have seen, They are full-of-life, spirited, hilarious, irreverent, etc etc., and all this comes through loud and clear in their online interactions with each other. It is a great improvement over the past. And they are so FUNNY with each other.
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          Aug 13 2011: Joe--

          It sounds like you are a Dad who is quite plugged in with your son. Who is surely benefitting from your presence, appreciation and support of his unique character. He sounds great.

          Others are buying less wholesome games. Like the second leading seller "Duke Nukem Forever." It features strippers, aliens raping women, and the players' avatar, "Duke Nukem" throwing hysterical women over his shoulder and slapping them in the face and butt while "saving them."

          Not all families are so lucky to be led by a father like you.

          Andrea
  • Aug 11 2011: I think there are several issues here.

    Society has become more distant in general since the dawn of the current technology revolution. The need for social interaction for the average person is very low compared to what it was thirty years ago. There are more options for individual entertainment and activity then there have been for most of human history.

    Online society, via games, internet and social media has been more geared towards men, and there may be gender social dynamics that exacerbate this. Men aren't disappearing, they're moving from the physical world to the virtual one for social interaction. It seems that women aren't moving to this new social environment as quickly, and so perceive a decline in male interaction in their social life.

    The challenge for women is to venture into this new environment and interact with men. In many ways I feel that this is a success of the feminist movement. Online you are your mind, not your body. If women are finding it difficult to engage with men in a non-physical environment then what does that say about the calls for equality and the deobjectification of women?
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      Aug 11 2011: Gary--

      Your thoughts are very provocative. In a sense the online would is an equalizer, or can be. If I'm getting your point. The challenge really goes back to who is creating content online. And what content sells and/or draws different or both genders. Where are the potentials for crossover media? (TED is obviously one, but what of others)?

      And while I think I see your point that online engages cognitive intelligences, what of kinetic and physical experiences? Responses to physical environments and physical experiences, emotions, affection and sexual experiences. I have yet to meet a man or woman who prefers online pornography are their primary source for sexual outlet.

      Their is good research that shows touch, physical activity and outdoors environments improve cognitive abilities. Other research shows women who spend time outdoors experience stronger sense of self than woman who don't.

      And what of children? If adults mediate relationships only in online environments, shall we expect children should/will as well? What of babies? We know that they can't survive without touch, but if all the adults are interfacing primarily online, how would they thrive?

      Andrea
      • Aug 11 2011: I see some of the predominant male-ness of online social communities declining when looking at the big social media sites, Facebook, Google+, Twitter. These are social settings that have drawn both sexes into their fold, but there is still a reluctance on the part of some women to be 'out' as women in these venues, precisely because it can decreases the equality of intellect in those venues.

        I would suggest that you have yet to meet a person who prefers the online to the physical because you're not looking in the proper social circles.

        One thought that I have is that the decline in educational performance of men can be related to online engagement, be it in entertainment, or social interaction. I don't know however if pulling men away from their online environment is the complete solution. The problem, I think, is one of what content and interaction is available online. If there were a richer environment to explore online perhaps young men would be exposed to more than content that is directed at them.

        I think one way to pull people, not just men, from online reclusion into the physical world is by building communities online that materialize in the physical world. I think Nerdtacular (http://nerdtacular.com/) is a good example of this. There is an online community that manifests into several physical encounters throughout the year.

        As for children, they already are forming relationships online via social media and texting connections. They don't see it anymore unusual that the previous generation did talking on the phone. I think there does need to be something to reengage boys into the physical world, but to do so at the expense of the online risks rolling back some of the progress made by enabeling the reach of the online and the removal of social pressures inherent to the medium.
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          Aug 11 2011: Gary--

          I agree online as an adjunct to physical is best. But, there is little longitudinal data that supports that online as a primary communications tool trumps relational and environmentally experiential. The keys are quantity, quality and balance.

          As for correlating kids phone use vs online use, you don't factor in the ubiquity of online communications throughout childhood and in all childhood settings. In the past, children's phone use was confined to after school, at home. Online, including via cell phones, pervades childhood in all realms, now.

          A related argument: Western children don't see divorce unusual either. But divorce has serious repercussions on educational and health outcomes for children. Normalizing things that conspire undermine children's development might be convenient, but doesn't fix the bigger picture problems.

          As for your point about my social circles. My work has been very much in the online world since 1994. Many of my colleagues have been EEs and programmers.

          Even beyond them, I know people who, as you say, say they prefer online sex to physical. But generally this is because it is easier. And I know none who prefer it over the actual physical contact. Because online lacks warmth, touch, smell and the heightened senses these offer/produce. For some, the benefits of companionship and sustained relationship still remain.

          I want to bring this back to the larger point, which isn't a debate online v. not. It is about healthy "whole person" development.

          Again:

          What of babies? We know that they can't survive without touch, but if all the adults are interfacing primarily online, how would babies and toddlers thrive?

          Andrea
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    Aug 9 2011: We can attempt to blame these negative behaviors of men on video games, or pornography, but let's address the real issue. It starts at birth, with family dinamics. Broken homes, parents who work too much, not close enough relationships with parents, lack of spirituality, lack of belonging, too much media and tv, not enough extracurricular activities, not finding thier talents, not raised with good morals and ideals, family where women are treated badly or looked down upon, lack of exposure to sex and the human body, peer pressure, culture where negative behaviors are glorified by thier groups, lack of empathy, trauma's as a child, etc.

    We need to tackle these problems. Single parents need to find thier children a mentor (big brother, sister)
    Get kids involved in teamwork: art, photography, sports, debating, conflict resolution, group projects
    Parents need to pay close attention: give more advice, and be a listener rather than quick to judge/punish
    Media: needs to clean up thier act, and put more emphasis on postive rather than negative
    Communities need to create a sense of belonging and working together.
    People of influence(cops politicians) need to get out there and be more proactive, show themselves on a personal level, give more talks at school.
    More church, or spiritual services.
    More family dinners.
    More people willing to accept people for who they are, the beauty and how to accept diversity.
    More mediating in schools, and couselors who are on the youths levels so they feel okay opening up to them.
    More interaction (adopt a grandparent) with our elders to bring back old school values.
    Less divorce, or waiting for marriage to be sure of compatibility, and more communicating and conflict resolution between adults and parents.
    More role models.
    More clubs and groups
    More open about gender and the human bodies.
    Making things less taboo, but rather focusing on deemphasizing the matter, and educating them on things because everyone knows kids can b rebellious
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      Aug 12 2011: Good Idealistic Ideas Kelli, but the actual possibilites are not aligned for this to happen. Society is changing, and the rate of change itself seems to be speeding up (although my advancing age might be influencing this perception). We cannot stop the change. We cannot even adapt to the change and we become less and less able to adapt to the change as we age. Heck, we can't even agree on the FACT that the planet is changing. This conversation is making me a nihilist. Your ideas are conservative to the point of reactionary, almost as if women must retake the veil to save our souls. Society, the planet and humans are changing and our puny attempts to slow this down or return to the old days is doomed to failure. We might perhaps learn how to adapt faster. But stop the change, no, I don't think so.
      • Aug 18 2011: Now you're going to hate me Renzo, for being such an idealist, but I have to ask where you get your evidence that change is inevitably headed in a constant direction of greater suffering? Things go up and down and I would agree that society overestimates it's level of civilisation and vastly underestimates it's own brutality (I was going to say animal brutality, but I've got nothing against animals or our own animal nature) - and yet some progress has been made over time, with up and down changes and pendulums swinging too far to the other extreme, but at least in some nations few people these days would easily get away with sticking a spike through your skull or drowning you in a river as a 'cure' for 'mental illness' (political/social dissent?). Not many 'witches' burned at the stake these days either.
        So I'm sorry I don't agree with your defeatist attitude. Things may go slowly and pose a real challenge and the forms of oppression have become more subtle in response to growing awareness, but you and I have some power to influence change in more desirable directions. Though I admit I have also felt much despair when the world seems full of deaf ears and don't wish to invalidate your feelings on this matter. But since when did we expect life to be a piece of cake anyway?
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          Aug 18 2011: Oddly, I appreciate your comments, but I don't consider my opinions to be quite as negative as you see them. Maybe I flatter myself.

          We have little right to expect anything from this experience of being alive. That is partly my point. So much is beyond our control, and I think that we fool ourselves somewhat in thinking that we "can" control the whole thing. I think of hoarders who save everything in a doomed attempt to hold on to the past.

          I do agree with almost everything else you said, however ("more subtle oppression", "deaf ears" "not many witches burned at the stake"). I think for example, burning witches is directly comparable to executing the mentally handicapped and imprisoning drug offenders and the like in modern days. Just sayin'........
      • Aug 18 2011: I see what you're saying and I agree. And whereas I am idealistic I don't wish to escape the dark side of current reality that really needs to be spoken about.
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    Aug 9 2011: What does available mean? Available is a women seeking a man, or who is open to a relationship in the first place. Not every man is available, Not every women is open to every man.

    Figuring out what attracts us requires a higher understanding of us then most women commonly are aware of. At least not in our mass media culture. Consider the sacrifices of a relationship, giving up freedom, having to compromise a lot and do many things one may not wish to do. It has me always analyzing "Is it worth it?" and generally it isn't. I think first women in the west will have to stop seeing us through the lens of dumb borderline mindless sex obsessed trolls. Gaze at the magazines, the advice columns and the media most consumed by women and look at their depictions of males and what opinions they craft about us. I've read sites like say Jezebel and laughed, because keeping us does in fact take more then just the vagina. Every female has one, what makes an individual stand out and any better then the billions of others.

    Consider it like this, if one wants me or any male to put down the xbox controller, unplug the internet and not use porn and focus on said woman and do all of these compromises, we better be receiving a grand thing in exchange. Because essentially it is a sacrifice of our freedom that is being asked. That is a tall order, a tall request.

    I'd return for a question, in exchange for this compromise what is that men get out of this?
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      Aug 9 2011: James,

      If most women aren't aware of what attracts men and many men remain plugged into their technology: How are women to understand that men are attracted to anything but women's vaginas -- (and, some men tell me, their breasts.)

      Telepathy?

      You haven't answered my Q. You have indicted women for not understanding men, and women's attempts at understanding men.

      If men refuse to sacrifice time away from media for sincere and sustained attempts to engage with women, women have no choice but to learn via the available means: women's magazines, advice columns and internet chat sites. Of course, one can connect the dots on how most woman's media is communicated by corporations driven largely by economic forces.

      I'm going to turn your logic around on you:

      How are girls supposed to understand boys, if they observe men refusing to engage women, their mothers, social ills, etc.? Who will girls' examples men be?

      And, to your Q: What do men get out of this?

      I touch on the answer in my orienting Q above, as does Philip Zimbardo's video. A better Q is what do men get when they opt out of human relationships? The answer appears to be demise.

      Andrea
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        Aug 10 2011: I'd say the first thing is to stop reading magazines, and getting advice from sources like Jezebel for example.

        Look to history and look to what works. Speaking in a more philosophical and metaphysical sense, it seems the deepest desire I and other guys hold is to matter. Why did Alexander the Great, well do what he did? In an xbox game you get to compete and win, you get praise, merit and badges and tokens of accomplishment. In sports someone wins, In D&D you cut the dragons head off and get the praise of the kingdom. What do we get out of these pass times? The Basketball games, the xbox, the parties, we get to feel amazing.

        What motivates a man? Probably anyone who can give that feeling of being an important and necessary person who is respected, admired and whose existence is important. In school everyone wins, we are not allowed to compete because someones feelings might be hurt. Heck here on TED we had Hannah Rosin explain how much better women are then me and my lot. Not exactly conducive to having that feeling of being an important and special person whose participation in this activity called a relationship is worth much.
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          Aug 10 2011: James,

          I appreciate your candor.

          Though I don't know what Jezebel is, and don't think 2000+-year-old Alexander the Great collates to contemporary times.

          Again, I'd ask the Q: how can girls develop understanding of boys if men in both of their lives check out?

          Is it not a sign of self-respect for men to see themselves important enough to engage as relational role-models who matter even if they don't get the immediate reward of a merit badge to prove their worth?

          And, isn't it possible that by doing the right thing relationally, men could win the admiration of women?

          Or, how about this: What if men competed to win respect by doing the hard work of staying in relationships, if not in romantic relationships, at least with real people and/or children in their lives?

          Perhaps by accomplishing important advances as cultural or community role models, a bit more and accomplishing the cutting off digitized dragons heads a bit less?

          Wouldn't this be a prudent use of time spent trying to construct a better "Kingdom?"

          What do you think? Worth a shot?

          Andrea
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          Aug 12 2011: No. I think we need to enjoy the interaction itself, the getting to know someone, and to have the social, time and mental space to exercise this pleasure. That means that first of all operationally one needs to socialize, in person, for real, with other humans. ...............................
          The interaction itself must feel good without the payoffs of recognition, badges, honors, awards, and orgasms (the male fantasy of free orgasmic fellatio all the time). I think the mentality (not to become ad hominem, really NOT) that we would be better if they treated us right is weak, indefensible and unsustainable. I am not attacking anyone with these comments, but I beg readers to look at the real issue: do you like women or not? Do you like people or not? Do you like men or not?
        • Aug 18 2011: I would posit that men initially wanted to be heroes because women love heroes/status/money. Then as we grow up we forget the initial desire was intimacy, be it merely sexual or something more than that.
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    Aug 9 2011: Hello Andrea, this is an interesting issue. The two main areas where we can influence the development of our children is in our homes, our family and in school. Beyond this, professional efforts such as what we are doing here at TED, can always be helpful, to spread ideas that inspires people.

    I've been always wondering how come we are more ardent in fighting environmental pollution when the most crucial pollution that we should address is what I call "mind" pollution or the pollution of our awareness and consciousness.

    It sounds like a worn out solution but I believe it's the only real solution - strengthening our families and our education system to also include values or caring education. http://Bit.Ly/KeyPower
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      Aug 9 2011: Joe --

      Mind pollution is an apropos metaphor I've sometimes used a mind-deficit metaphor: poverty of thought. Both minimize consciousness, awareness and growth, and, thus our greater potentials.

      Do you have thoughts on specific methods we as communities and cultures can employ to meaningfully strengthen families and education systems in ways that allow boys to achieve their potentials?

      Maybe more to the point: how can it pay off in concrete ways to produce fewer of the polluting media and more of the emotional intelligence boys and our wider cultures need?

      Andrea
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        Aug 11 2011: Hi Andrea, the key to me is in the power of our hearts to care like the respect that James "demands" that we all should be giving to one another. More caring in homes and in schools.

        The daily interactions that we have with one another are the opportunities to ignite each other's hearts and minds. This conversation is one area but the best opportunity to show the power of our caring is in our family, school and work settings where the people in "authority" have the influence to show care and teach it by example.

        When the caring bond is there, anything else we teach has a better chance to be absorbed by the people we most care about. http://Bit.Ly/KeyPower
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          Aug 12 2011: Excellent point and well stated, although truthfully it is a bit on the idealistic side of what's possible or likely BUT it is not useless or bad to talk in idealistic terms. I do frequently. I think most of us do not have mind maps of how to help others and therefore when situations arise we do not have the mental resources to respond naturally and kindly to help resolve the problem. "Interfering" in our neighbors' lives has become less normal and we have lost the instruction manual (which used to come from one generation to another) of how to be a "neighbor". I criticized a mother for slapping her child repeatedly on the metro once. No one else around me helped out or supported me. It might have been different if a woman had spoken to the young mother and offered some distraction, leading to a discussion of how difficult it is to raise children and 'discipline' them. It was not only the other people in the train who failed to help the mother -- it was also ME who failed her by approaching the situation unproductively, unskillfully and unsympathetically.
  • Aug 20 2011: Maybe looking at this debate in a Sociological context...we can begin to unlock the understanding of how the roles are changing within the cortex of our global society. Technology and Trade are global markets that are interlinked with States politically, educationally and socially to which we choose to conform with because of the Norm.
  • Aug 17 2011: Andrea, you ask what would attract men and what men could do to get the admiration of women and how can men communicate what would attract them, if I have more or less paraphrased you correctly. These questions presuppose that men have a fundamental trust of women and their motives (a) in courtship and (b) in relationships.
    Now speaking from my own personal experience I'm quite disillusioned with men too and have closer female friends. But if I get in touch with my feelings around attempting to form sexual/romantic connections with women, despair and pain are dominant feelings. Already by admitting this I set myself up for much mockery and insult from many women (as well as men perhaps) for not being 'a man'. In real life this has clearly not translated into sex appeal as, for example, a huge wallet might. I also fear in these politically correct times that expressing my grievances towards women I will be attacked for being sexist. So, no wimpy hurt and grief, and no anger towards women. And then I get insulted as a member of the male gender for not expressing my feelings. But hey, look what happens when I express my feelings in many cases - I get aggressively steamrollered by women's emotionally superior self-satisfied stance that refuses to acknowledge the possibility of having any part in the rift between the sexes and in men's reluctance to engage with women on their own tightly held terms and conditions (yes, of contract, that's what women often look for). Now please understand that I fully appreciate the existence of many beautiful and loving women, but there are enough of such women (who at first appear very lovely and caring and able to love more than status, image, wealth, intelligence etc) unable to confront the truth to make me/men want to really pause before I decide to take any more risks with a woman.
    Now I've already written a long message and that's only skimming the surface of why men may find it difficult to communicate with women. More later?
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      Aug 17 2011: Tom,

      I'm not sure women are as self-satisfied with their "emotional superiority" as it might appear. As with men, any aggressive act of superiority generally masks interior unease.

      Many, like men, feel despair and pain regards gender-relationships.

      Like men, this despair leads to distancing. And the pain leads to anger. Both genders are supported by same-gender peers responding in gender-defined ways. ie: "Video games give more satisfaction than women." "Who needs men" etc. And react with anger, via blame and derision.

      Distance and anger pulls both from each other. Ironically, both can be constructive in sincere gender solutions.

      Distance, in its best "use," can inform boundaries important for individual and/or sex-identified sense of independence and, perhaps a sense of "mastery" ie: I am not utterly dependent on the other gender to define me. When used as a balancing healthy boundary, it isn't a problem.

      Anger, in its best expression, can articulate understandable pain and/or fear that needs processing. Without naming it in constructive ways with the other-gender, it erodes both self and other. Expressing it with same gendered people has its benefits, because the same gender understands.

      But, for both genders, only expressing with same-gendered people is an enormous mistake.

      For two reasons:
      1. Shared anger is compounded in isolation--gang mentalities kick in.
      2. Isolated anger can't lead to mutual understandings. For constructive relationship with each other we need to be able to express our anger with the other gender so they understand it at levels sufficient to have empathy and "care."

      In my view, your note here is an excellent example of one gender reaching across the chasm of distance to express authentic frustrations. Exactly what we need much more of. As, you note, it's risky terrain.

      I appreciate how you balance "hot" truths of frustration with "warm" feelings about women. This tone draws me to want to hear more.

      Andrea
      • Aug 18 2011: I agree with you on all points. Thankyou! I wouldn't go for a woman if I could see no possible cracks in her armour. But when a woman somehow manages to put out completely false feelings of affection I find that harder to spot.
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    Aug 12 2011: Babies 'survive' without touch as long as minimal vegetative needs are met, but they grow up demonstrably damaged, and in foreseeable and predictable ways. Most notably (e.g. wire monkey mothers versus real monkey mothers) we could expect them not to have the faintest clue how to nurture and touch their own biological offspring. This is only the most well known experimental evidence. There is clearly more to come in this regard given the digital involvement of the newer generations.
    Let us not forget that this technological blitzkrieg of tweating, texting, phoning, surfing and being plugged in is being mostly promoted by profit motives. It seems unlikely to change without a cultural shift of maximal proportions, like a religious revolution (like, I said, not that we need one of those). Our mores have shifted to allow that someone who is having 'lunch' with you will stop the conversation and go online (so to speak) because s/he has received a message. I am not only talkin about physicians responding to emergencies here.... everyone essentially now regards notification of an email or ringing of a phone to be reason to interrupt a face to face visit. Why? How did this come to be? Why permit it?
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      Aug 12 2011: Renzo--

      There is some research on skin-to-skin contact as a way to improve premature babies survival rates and long term outcomes.

      Technology is exceedingly advanced for these children, still, neonatologists will do everything possible to get even the most fragile babies into parents arms on as regular as basis as possible, preferably laid bare-skinned on mom or dads bare chest.

      The human bond, they know, is critical to these babies survival. Even when survival via technology is feasible, healing is improved. And even when health is restored, the belief, if not evidence, is babies have better long-term health, cognitive and emotional outcomes.

      My personal evidence is my son, who is thriving on all counts. Ironically, he is more physically affectionate than my daughter, his older sister.

      Andrea
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        Aug 12 2011: Thanks for the info. It was new(s) to me. I do sincerely believe that touch, smell, close sight and warmth are all important for ultimate health of babies, they need lotsa love to be their best possible selves.
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    Aug 11 2011: I wonder if there is there any truth in the notion that we guys are victims of a seachange in the general exposure to those who set themselves up as being 'opinion formers'? Let's not forget the influence of the media in all of this: Opinion forming now seems to be something that is a media-led extravaganza of objectivising everything that was once held as sacrosanct in the human condition, including sexual attraction - and sex itself. The prime motivation of the media is to sell trashy newspapers and magazines, along with the dreadful peddling of garbage that they pass off as fact. Things that are objectified in this way are easier to sell and to write about (real emotions, real love and genuine human warmth on the other hand, are not) So one could say that the human condition has once again been sacrificed on the altar of commercial gain. To be unashamedly political, capitalism has a hell of a lot to answer for.
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      Aug 11 2011: Allan,

      I agree with you on all points. I have a son worry that he will be a victim of the narrow stereotypes and scripts opinion formers set.

      The problem comes when we consume media that undermines men and holds them back from expressing and achieving their fuller potentials. Media is motivated to create more of the same if what they produce sells. I think until men start standing up in some organized fashion and clearly rejecting this bill of goods they are being sold, I see little incentive for the media to adopt less reductive stereotypes.

      Here is a wild idea: What if men led a sustained boycott of the worst media offenders?

      Andrea
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        Aug 12 2011: I imagine whole seas of men who love masturbating to online porn (it is not really "sex" as referred to above, because sex implies dyadic behavior) who will never boycott anything that will lessen their access or "pleasure'. But it is masturbation.
        When I attended medical school (not in US) the professor of the Human Sexuality Course was lecturing one day about certain behaviors. She emphasized again and again that everyone masturbates, everyone, everyone, everyone, and if they say they do not then they must be lying. Her repeated emphasis on the "everyone" prompted one student (male) to ask while she faced the blackboard writing "Professora, do you masturbate?" With a calm, unemotional facial expression firmly in place, she turned, faced the class and in a proud loud and clear voice said "No absolutely not, I do not ever masturbate." Of course her denial was even more emphatic in making her point than her original emphatic statements. (I offered this for amusement, although the story is wholly true).
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          Aug 12 2011: Renzo --

          Fun story. Believe there is research that shows women use a fair amount of online porn--for masturbation, presumably.

          And I agree odds of men opting out of online porn as a masturbation tool, let alone boycotting it are highly remote. I just threw it out there to queue up an irony as we perseverate re: objectification of women and undermining effect on mens' fuller selves.

          My point was that to indict the media as the creators of the problem when consumers are consuming media images misses the point that people are complicit in the less appealing outcomes of capitalism on male and female sexual stereotypes.

          Certainly businesses know sex sells, the Q is what if it didn't? An unanswerable Q, I'm sure. But calls us to have insight into how we are complicit in the problem.

          Andrea
      • Tom Sok

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        Aug 18 2011: Andrea, you suggest men lead a boycott of the worst media offenders. This makes sense with respect to porn, but the main consumers of other kinds of trash like soap operas and glamour magazines and the like are women. There is clearly a huge market for misandry, particularly in the magazine sector. It has been noted (back in the 70's by Warren Farrell) that soap operas are emotional porn for women. Like porn it is a seeking of fulfillment which does not come so easily in real life and usually simplifies and escapes from the real issues whilst reinforcing damaging expectations of men. Porn is so popular with men because their sexuality has been demonised and women often use their sexual power to take men for a ride - to coldly use and manipulate with scant regard for the men's feelings, and of course it is usually taken to be the man's responsibility to take all the risks of being rejected and demonised at every bid for increased intimacy. In this women get a power kick over men by having so many opportunities to reject men. Thus men seek a substitute kind of sex sometimes avoiding the pain of rejection and manipulation and always avoiding feeding a woman's spiteful power game (unless that's a kick the porn star gets with all the money coming in I don't know?). So it's not surprising that in some porn there is violence towards women. And yes, there is the danger of men objectifying women more to escape from these feelings, as men do anyway, treating women as a game to avoid that underlying sense of powerlessnes.
        I completely agree with you that we cannot just put it on the capitalist media, which merely serves to amplify social problems in a kind of feedback loop, kind of giving us what we want from our own most base and already socially conditioned level.