In a choice instance of a carnal clickbait, ducked at a website corner, a swarm of internet users are relayed to sites showing adult content with sensual images and pornographic content. A similar picture is likely to commensurate when a surplus of individuals, youth in particular, fritter away hours on video games, being indolent for hours.

The 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, which is cited as a telling evidence of losing masculinity in men, has bolstered the notion that mankind suffers a vertical and stroppy decline of masculinity. The experiment had to be forcibly culminated in view of the draconian observations made within the first six days of the experiment. A group of nine collegiate students were wilfully arrested, taken to Stanford County Prison, and a flip of a coin established a dichotomy between them – prisoners and guards. According to the lore that had been flooding up, the guards had the gall to physically and psychologically humiliate the prisoners. Nonetheless, the guards were harassing and hurling abuses at them and the prisoners, in turn, had become subservient and meek. The set-up became so extreme that the experiment had to be pre-empted in its embryonic stage.

Though the findings of the experiment are still vague and a large part of the results still suffers ambiguity, but sure it prompts us to think. Was the experiment a mere study of human behaviour or an indispensable finding of how one reacts following a situation? Does the experiment question our own ego and test our fallibility? There’s a vein of contradiction running through the results, which has tipped the balance of behavioural sciences and testifies our institutions. Whether or not it provides us a burning issue that demands an immediate take to resolve itself is a different question. For now, one thing surely sticks to the belief – the experiment suggests that regular people develop cruel potentialities to practice brutality, if given full power and control. Even as it suggests, a full cede of control to people can lead to acrimony, with people turning into ruthless tyrants.

Homosexuality In Ancient Rome - Mosaico Trabajos Hércules (M.A.N. Madrid)

Homosexuality In Ancient Rome – Mosaico Trabajos Hércules (M.A.N. Madrid)

According to the researchers in psychology, men – especially striplings, on spending hours on video games and subject to pornography, tend to elicit certain psychological processes which observe a steep decline in masculinity. Zimbardo, who himself played a role in the experiment as a Prison Superintendent, told the BBC last week that “almost every statement we make is evidence-based,” but that hinges on the way you define an “evidence”. The research that fortifies the book doesn’t derive from a peer-reviewed study. In fact, It comes from a survey that Zimbardo posted online alongside his 2011 TED talk. The survey was based on the data of 20,000 responses collected in two months, but not just from teenagers or youth, but from eclectic groups of society. Only 39.8 percent of respondents were under the age of 25, and about one-quarter of all respondents were female. Many of them had just watched a video where the psychologist managing the survey told them that young men have been “digitally rewired” to nosedive at life and love and that if radical social changes didn’t materialize soon, humans would be reduced to “banana slugs.”

However, the survey, itself is not cogent enough as to believe, for example, in the last few pages of the survey results, the authors write that the survey initially defined “excessive” gaming and porn consumption as “2 or more hours per day,” but that they “later” altered the definition to “4 or more hours a week of gaming or 2 or more hours per week of porn use.” That’s a drastic difference, and the swap cannot be undermined. The questions too, sabotage the survey’s originality, since they are seemingly kept to pitch survey’s promotion. One asked respondents whether they believed in a “strong relationship between excessive video game playing and/or porn watching” and a “lack of interest in pursuing or maintaining a romantic relationship/social isolation.” But we have no idea which of the two definitions of “excessive” the respondents were using, and feeling socially isolated is a different experience from losing all interest in relationships. Things got correspondingly squishy when the results had to be reported. Worse, the authors write that “a lot of young men in our own 20,000-person survey said that porn distorted their idea of a healthy sexual relationship.” How many is “a lot”? No one gets a clear-cut idea.

Some of the sketchy evidence produced by the survey is also disturbing. “I play video games and watch pornography on a regular basis,” one respondent said. “I’ve hated the tiresome aspect of having to make the effort to appease the opposite sex. It’s expensive, confusing and rarely successful.” That sounds like a boy pleading for help. But this aphorism is not a trend. In the book’s introduction, Zimbardo writes, “You don’t have to look too far to see what we’re talking about; everyone knows a young man who is struggling.”

Zimbardo conceives his results with a rider to it, he claims that porn is making the young men impotent. Only a small fraction of internet community lies undefiled from pornographic content, and for the rest, the science has subdued the problem with its invention – drugs such as Viagra. “When the male sexual enhancement drug Viagra was first promoted, its advertisers featured white-haired older men,” the book claims. “Now consider that more men under 30 years old are being prescribed Viagra than ever to ensure adequate sexual performance.” But Viagra commercials still feature silver foxes. As for the nebulous claim that more young men are taking Viagra “than ever”: Zimbardo’s source. Perhaps one might eschew from the increasing urge of an immediate action, and a lot makes the notion of taking such an action highly vulnerable. We have a cornucopia of video games and the internet is submerged with a multitude of porn sites. A bitter fact to bemoan (or perhaps not to!) is that 37% of the internet is made up of pornographic material. Many of those people who quoted this figure took it from a press release put out in June 2010 by net filtering firm Optenet. The men have garbed their spite in a thick ooze of inexorable obduracy, and our plebeian society would continue to find its own ways of vindication.

Abhinandan is a part-time media and journalism professional and a passionate victim of wanderlust. Despite all his attempts to conquer the eclectic tastes of diverse cuisines, scenic views of deep valleys and panoramic mountains, he is still uncertain about his interests. He is a food lover, compulsive traveler, an enthusiastic writer, aspiring entrepreneur, ingenious web developer, and a mathematics-savvy guy. To make up for the credence of eternal optimism, he is skilfully blessed with boundless energy and an inborn penchant for new experiences.

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