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The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It

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Is the rampant overuse of video games and online porn causing the demise of guys?

In their new TED Book, Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo— leader of the famous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment—and co-author Nikita Duncan suggest that just might be the case. Based on survey responses from 20,000 men, numerous individual interviews and dozens of studies, Zimbardo and Duncan propose
that the excessive use of videogames and online porn is creating a generation of shy and risk-adverse guys—who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment.

Taking a critical look at the problem which is tearing at families and societies everywhere, Zimbardo and Duncan suggest that our guys are suffering from a new form of “arousal addiction,” and introduce a bold new plan for getting them back on track.

122 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2012

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About the author

Philip G. Zimbardo

118 books803 followers
Dr. Philip George Zimbardo is an American psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He is president of the Heroic Imagination Project. He is known for his Stanford prison study, and authorship of various introductory psychology books and textbooks for college students, including The Lucifer Effect and The Time Paradox.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 49 reviews
Profile Image for George.
802 reviews84 followers
February 10, 2013

"To a young man, the thrill-packed worlds of online porn and video games are far more exciting than real life. And these sources of stimulation are now totally pervasive"

The sky is falling. The sky is falling. Again. If it's not a pool table in River City, then it's video games in Visalia or porn in Poughkeepsie. At one time or another it's been movies, pool halls, gambling, comic books, alcohol, drugs, Al Capone, television, jazz, pinball machines, rock 'n roll, homosexuality, heterosexuality, bad breath, bad posture and foot odor that was going to be the total ruination of our boys, and the death knell of western civilization. SOS. Save Our Sons.

How come there's never been much hue and cry about the ruination of our daughters?

The major premises of 'The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, by Philip G. Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan seem to be: times have changed, things aren't like they used to be, and the world's going to hell in a hand basket.

Then sign me up for the ride. It sounds like fun.

There have been worthless bums in every generations of every human society throughout civilization, and beyond. And yet, we survive and progress. The millions of men, spending hundreds of millions of hours and billions of dollars playing video games and watching cyber porn aren't really the one's who shape and move the world, and, cumulatively, aren't worth the time, energy or words of this one sentence.

Besides. Isn't it THEIR hundreds of millions of hours and THEIR billions of dollars that they're so spending? What ever happened to 'live and let live'?

Recommendation: Find something else to lose sleep over.

"Laissez-nous faire!"--French businessmen, late 1600s

TED Book edition.
Profile Image for Daniel Namie.
57 reviews23 followers
May 28, 2012
"The good things in life usually take a commitment to success, to delaying gratification, to putting work before play and to understanding the importance and vitality of the Social Contract—giving to others with the assumption of reciprocal giving back."

-- Phillip Zimbardo and Nikta Duncan

The "Demise of Guys: Why boys are Struggling and What They Can Do About It” By Phillip Zimbardo and Nikta Duncan. The undercurrent argument that arises in Zimbardo and Duncan book is how to define a man. In one word, responsibility defines a man. The encompassing word responsibility defines a man, because a man is defined by how he responses to responsibility.

Zimbardo and Duncan also define "Social Contract [as] giving to others with the assumption of reciprocal giving back." To combined these two definitions is to further illustrate and answer the question what is a man by writing that a man's responsibility is a social contract for which he must persistently pursue in order to achieve a sense of "self-actualization" (Maslow).

Without self-actualizing, a man forfeits his responsibility and social contract. That forfeited social contract exiles him from social rule. That social rule allows a man to give and to be reciprocated. Those givings’ and reciprocations are categorized as “the good things in life.” Then what chance does a man have without self-actualization? The answer to that question is written in the title of Zimbardo and Nikta thesis.

The demise of men in turn is the demise of women. To go so far as to write, the demise of men is the demise of heterosexuality. A modern society is now built on equality upon the sexes. The rise of women has spawned a wonderful diversity within the world. However, as the rise of women has empowered women to become independent, the equal and opposite reaction is men have been disenfranchised to become dependent.

Duncan refers to these men has "man-poodle" or "man-child." These man-children seek instant gratification without the hard work. Without the journey of hardship the reward becomes entitled and on-demand. The creation of streaming pornography offered man-poodles justification and encouragement to not "delay gratification." The principle "play before work" overcomes the drive to commit to responsibilities.

The illusion of a world dominated by men is gone. The world that women are subordinate to men is gone. What is left for men to control and become masters of are videogames and on-line porn. This disillusion of a virtual world has created a further disconnection with men's identity and with women. Women are not the sex crazed, ass-to-mouth (ATM) porn stars portrayed on-line. Women seek intimacy, love, and monogamy. Men become confused after a constant stream of porn reveals the opposite.

Women hard fought equality will not be answered with men becoming man-poodles or man-children. Women will not tolerate taking care of men. Dependence simply isn't man’s nature. Men are meant to be hunters, innovators, and fixers. Men strive on the completion of goals and the hardships that evitable follow those pursuits. It is the man’s responsibility to find a balance between equality amongst the sexes and self-actualization.
Profile Image for Ivan.
769 reviews26 followers
June 12, 2012
Time to run around screaming murder?
I don't think so.
We'll go downsides first.
As many other popular psychology books, this book conflates many contradictory notions, pulls on wrong social stereotypes, therefore propagating them and jumps to conclusions, whenever an inattentive modern reader would distract him(sic!)self.
While pornography can certainly be a problem in many cases it is an outlet for those who are unable to form normal social connections, here the author engages in slut-shaming, verbal beating of women into stereotypical sexual roles ("virgin on a pedestal") and social stereotyping of women as the proper "keepers of sex" which is counterproductive and wrong, considering that the system which made men restricted in their career choices, shamed them for showing emotion and destroyed their self esteem is also responsible for the continual assault on women's rights in the past and today.

That also brings me to a tangent - many surveys in this book mention separating men and women (or male and female pupils) for better learning, and glorifying very specific places (such as the army). I have nothing against the army and its attainment of goals by violence - if not for my condition, I would have been a mercenary somewhere in the more interesting regions of this world, however a thinking person could not help but wonder, how an age-old masculinist institution with strong gay, ludophobic and misogynist undercurrents could shape men to find themselves, understand women and to be better suited to a modern world?

It doesn't help the general point when the author cites an example of a typical cognitively dissonant person , as to show that men want to have a cake and eat it and now when the cake appears to have a will of her own, they flunk away.
Guess what - it's the consequence of several hundred years, maybe thousand years of misogynous cultures and the coming changes are bound to make people, especially men, uncomfortable. The assumption of the only male obligation to work and bring income, the myths of the Golden Age (1950-1968) and the separation of child-rearing between genders are also recent American-originated phenomena, fortunately some countries have not been psychologically polluted by this nonsense and I sincerely hope that media (Mad Men f. ex.), promoting a longing feeling for such sick sad society will be erased from the public eyes.

The inclusion of the outdated and Maslow's Hierarchy of needs is a bit strange for a modern work, too.

On the upside - the author draws a good picture of the pornography and gaming addiction cycle, raises the glaring problem of an inadequate sex-education in United States, shows the real face of the pick-up artists (PUA) as unsatisfied hunters for ego-fuel.

I found another good commenter, albeit on a different website, who speaks of the wrong end of the causal link, and I happen to agree with it -

"As a shy and risk adverse man, I would say I retreat into video games as a safe escape from a unknown and adverse real world. Video games present worlds with defined and predictable rules, and set actions and reactions available within them. It makes them predictable, safe, and enjoyable, a sharp contrast to my experience of the real world, which I will share with you and Reddit to provide an example of qualitative context:

As a child I was repeatedly and habitually bullied on a daily basis for the entirety of my school life. That was what caused me to be a shy and risk adverse person, because frankly staying at home was safer then going to school.

Logic therefore follows that within the limited confines of a home, videogames provide a focus that is both entertaining enough for sustained interaction in an indoors lifestyle, and is also challenging enough to forestall boredom. At the time, it was an uncommon solo pursuit (this was the 80's), not maintained with friends, and thus it clearly provided a easily obtainable pursuit for a solitary child. As a child, it was an obvious fulfillment of the desires for play. Lacking friends and venues, it provided those things for me.

However I am also an avid reader, an online blogger, a martial artist and a lab scientist, (all indoor pursuits) but I don't see you listing those as causing shy and risk adverse people. I am not agoraphobic, and I have had girlfriends, but I still play videogames.

For similar albeit more sexual reasons, I also enjoy online porn, but again, I was risk-adverse and shy long before the internet even existed, and long before I even had an erection.
I find pornography fulfils (poorly) a basic need, since again as a child and teenager I had only negative experiences of social interaction. I would challenge you Professor to consider the difficulty trying to obtain a romantic date during high school when other boys would fling dog shit at you for fun."
Profile Image for Libby Broadbent.
Author 4 books10 followers
June 4, 2012
So... disturbing! I teach high school, and I can see so many of these quirks being manifested in our young people, and not only the boys. There is a general apathy and lack of social conscience that is disturbing. Is it the fault of social networking? We no longer need the direct physical contact between people to teach us the social mores that led to work ethic and manners and conscience in the past, and young people now feel they are entitled to a social voice that isn't tempered with wisdom, or a filter, or maturity. They have the power to say whatever they want, with impunity, in the cyber world, and they are not learning how to function in the social world. The real world. Where I live. With manners, and stuff. This short work is engrossing and disturbing and a must-read for educators, business people, parents... any one who hopes to have a conversation with a young adult that doesnt involve textese and emoticons. Wait, maybe I'll tweet the link to my students. Maybe they'll read it and feel compelled to turn off the porn and go talk to someone!
Profile Image for David.
1,341 reviews14 followers
May 29, 2012
A brief ebook that attempts to diagnose the issues with boys in America. After presenting numerous facts that demonstrate "the demise of boys", Zimbardo focuses on online porn and video games as drivers of the demise. While Zimbardo may be overplaying this thesis, there is no doubt that porn and video games are contributors. The ebook ends with a set of actionable ideas that may help out. Key among the ideas: boys need positive role models in their lives - dads, uncles, brothers, grandfathers, other male leaders, mentors.
Profile Image for Alejandro.
90 reviews14 followers
May 19, 2013
Definitely a great book. It may be seen as too short to deal with such an important topic, but that is because it's a TED book. It certainly sheds light on some of blurry problems people may assume exist but never really define. Each resource quoted in the book is a whole realm to be explored. I think this can be helpful not only for parents, but also for young men and teenagers as well.
Profile Image for Ryan.
430 reviews15 followers
August 1, 2012
This was an interesting book, to say the least. Though I don't agree with their worldview, and I think there are many more factors going on behind the scenes than merely psychological and physiological (think spiritual), it was still insightful to hear their thoughts on this generation of young men who are growing up addicted to video games and porn. Not only do they treat those subjects very thoroughly, including many relevant and also astonishing statistics, but they also deal with the subjects of fatherlessness, how arousal addiction affects young men in school, and how many youngsters are socially awkward and don't know how to relate to women in real life. Their words about violent video games making kids aggressive and porn objectifying women was extremely insightful too.

Instead of raising up "boys who can shave," as one person has said, there is a call to father's out there to show masculinity and what it means to be a masculine man clothed with tenderness, as another has said. Though I think video games aren't necessarily morally wrong, though they could be depending on the content; and though I do believe all porn is always morally wrong, I still enjoyed reading their thoughts and statistics about the present subjects—they were useful in making us aware of a much overlooked problem right in front of us. But because I view these through a Christian worldview, I think their simplistic advice of "turn off the porn," "do something else," "make friends with some females," "discover your inner power," and the like, fall drastically short of what only the power of the gospel can set one free from.

But overall, I thought this was well worth the time and was very insightful. Some of the subject matter is very mature, so it's not for the faint of heart. The two addictions this book presents could be summed up in what one fellow has called "fake love" and "fake war."
Profile Image for Ryan Mcreynolds.
8 reviews8 followers
July 7, 2012
I was very disappointed with this book. It pretends to blame video games and porn equally for the demise of guys, but actually blames lack of father involvement in the lives of young men. This results in a false equality between the damage of porn (which is enormous) and the useful technology of video games.

It also does not emphasize the best solution from the data presented which is to encourage and support marriage and fatherhood.

There isn't even a clear definition of what a video game is. It's clear from their characterization of "video games" that the authors have never played them, yet one of them spent three days looking at porn for "research" purposes. It might have been helpful to become as intimately acquainted with the other supposed "cause" of the "demise".

Much of the "evidence" throughout the book is anecdotal. There is much useful information but the whole thing felt slapped together.

It seemed to me that the book was marketed to sell based on the fears of parents regarding porn and video games, and less to make a coherent and convincing argument about how to help guys.
1 review
January 31, 2013
This book had a lot of potential, but I think it only skimmed the surface of the problems facing young males.

Given Dr. Zimbardo's credentials, I was expecting more facts and less broad generalizations. The book hits on way too many topics. We've known for a long time that fatherless homes and poor role models create bad kids, no need to devote the first 1/3rd of the book to it. Instead lets see some hard data on newer activities like porn and video games. The book just states convincing hypothesis's or cites anecdotal evidence.

It is still a read because the subject is newer and few books are out about it. At least it gets people to realize that yes, it is possible to get addicted to a video game or the internet. Sometimes, it's hard for older people to understand how a kid can have a "technology addiction".

I have a lot of respect for Dr. Zimbardo, I hope he will research the subject further and come up with more convincing evidence of the cause of these problems, as well as solutions.
Profile Image for Maria.
353 reviews10 followers
February 24, 2014
Refreshing and wonderful insight.

As a feminist, I appreciated this book. It showed that while girls are struggling, so are our boys. Our boys feel emasculated, due to the belief that they must be masculine to be considered of worth. Both our girls and boys are hindered to enhance their full potential as individual people because of gender roles and ideals that later lead to insecurity. Other than that, gender equality is often associated with being genderless. We, as a society, can enhance individual traits by responding to gender traits, instead of being ambiguous and assume that what applies to one gender will apply to another. Boys and girls are different, but this does not mean equality cannot be achieved.

This book (or research, whichever you prefer) encourages educational reform as well. The world is changing, and so are our children. We need to adapt to the change that is happening, because really, what is the point of maintaining decades-old mechanisms when it is no longer working?
Profile Image for Chris Wright.
6 reviews
January 5, 2018
An extensive treatise on the various problems facing young men today, personally it wasn’t a engrossing or interesting read. The book reads more like an extensive scientific journal rather than a seamless narrative. Basically the book can be summed up as follows - Young men (but not all) tend to isolate themselves by watching extensive amounts of pornography and playing video games.

Solution ? - Get out more. That’s what I got from this book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
27 reviews2 followers
March 20, 2018
What an amazing book, by an amazingly famous psychologist. He is bravely bringing forth a controversial argument in today's climate: men are negatively impacted by their greater predilection for abuse of video games and pornography, and they are more lost than women because of the absent father, as well as the greater number of female teachers.

This may imply reduced consideration for the challenges faced by women. This is not the case. Women face their challenges warranting attention. The point here is men are also facing challenges not sufficiently covered, warranting more attention. While they may be dominating board rooms and CEO positions, which is problematic for both women and companies (whose customers are often both men and women), men are performing worse in school in relation to women, diagnosed with greater rates of ADHD. Over time this could lead to a shift in workplace but this time with men lagging behind. It's important to have both genders at their maximum potential, and this book does well to identify the issues facing men psychologically in this new environment of digital technology and absent fathers.
February 1, 2023
This book presented today young guys problems. Yes every generation had their problems but it seems today's generation of young adults are more disconnected than ever, ironically in the era when you can connect with anyone via Internet. Young guys are very isolated today and only a small percentage of them actually succeed on carrer , family and so on.... most of these kids(boys and girls) are raised without one parent, or in very disconnected families, or without parents figure at all. They have to learn on themselves without a guide and most of them get lost on the track.
The book presents video games and porn as the two most important factors of men's fall. Truly video games and porn addiction can ruin your life like any addiction.
Also the book show us how parents, school , media and the state can misguide young men(and women).
Overall was a great read. This books also gives solutions as what parents, school , the state and media can do to help the next generation. But if you are a parent listen to the advice on this book, because family, friends, everyone's social circle can help our children to become the best version of themselves.
Profile Image for Grzegorz.
273 reviews14 followers
May 12, 2018
3 stars for pointing out some kind of problem in our society. But I felt like there were many generalizations and not enough scientific approach - too many assumptions, anecdotic evidence (among statistics and research of course), and when there were statistics, I felt like they were taken for granted and not deeply analyzed (correlation vs causation etc). I think that I expected much more from this book after all the hype and knowing who Zimbardo is.

I guess that it is just short "TED series" book, and I should read other works by Zimbardo to get something that will maybe live up to my expectations.
Profile Image for Aniket.
31 reviews3 followers
October 27, 2019
This book briefs about various socioeconomic factors which might be contributing to the 'demise of guys' or young men falling behind women in career. Though the book mainly discusses the situation in American society, some of the points do apply for young men in Indian society- like the Internet, video games and pornography. This book does a good job of bringing attention to the obstacles in front of young men, who have been troubled by the confused narrative of masculinity in 21st century increasingly feminist American society.
Profile Image for Stiltzkin Vanserine.
376 reviews6 followers
May 13, 2022
The rise of technology has reshaped and continues to reshape humanity in so many ways. The widespread addiction to pornography and video games is harming society and its residents, especially young men and boys. A man brought up with constant instant gratification will seek a life of hedonism, a life without motivation, ambition, or innovation. Humanity is in the thrall of technological slavery … and the future grows dimmer by the hour.
Profile Image for J.D. Busch.
1 review
September 17, 2020
Despite some gender generalizations maybe biased by the author’s personal feelings, this book is still worth reading for the research and insight. I’m a guy, and while I find some of the book enlightening and informative in helping raise young men, found myself cringing at the use of the word “chicks” and casting men as all the same. Because it’s a short read, I’d still recommend it.
Profile Image for pszemeksz.
53 reviews
September 24, 2020
This is a book about the crisis of manhood in modern world. First, the authors described where the problem comes from. I think that they did it well. Further, they proposed solutions. In my opinion they are too general and unrealistic. Nevertheless, the book is worth reading because the problem which it describes is wrongly disregarded.
Profile Image for David.
27 reviews2 followers
May 9, 2020
It’s like a crash course for the crisis in contemporary masculinity along with thought-provoking future policy implications. The book is a short read so even those without much interest in psychology can enjoy.
Profile Image for Sourabh Gharde.
50 reviews1 follower
May 22, 2020
Really a great book. Starts with the problems of guys, what's wrong and why's it wrong with us. The book ends with how to address those problems and make a better humans out of us.
Profile Image for Lucas Schmidt.
Author 24 books8 followers
May 10, 2019
Zimbardo, famous for his prison experiment that was made into a movie, discusses even more controversial topics, porn and video games and the addictive processes of each. He states playing four or more hours of video games a day as "excessive." Zimbardo wasn't able to say how much porn use is negative since it depends on what you look at and how it affects you, whether it controls your life or not (sometimes unknowingly).

This is a short book. It doesn't really give a solution, despite the title. Only generalities.

Even our education system is brought up, stating we are far behind, especially in science and math, and that we don't prepare guys (even women) for failure later on in life. We shame kids for failure, whether it's getting a B instead of an A or not being the best at sports or doing bad on a single test, etc. It covers a lot of things that holds back men. People rating say, "Oh, this is just like what they said about such and such. They're being dramatic. It's not a problem. They're being dramatic over nothing." Well, it is life changing for some people (referring to porn addiction). Some live their lives trapped by addiction, whether it's alcohol, drugs, porn (Your Brain on Porn is mentioned) or excessive video game playing (some in the book said they played for 12+ hours daily). Through research we now know porn and heroin has the same effect on the brain. It's scary, but the solution is not found in this slim book, only saying to stop looking at it for a while and see the effects. The other solution is reducing video game playing to less than four hours a day, or none at all. He even tells porn sites to educate the public on intimate sex (aka sex involving love). Not sure why he took that seriously. Porn sites don't care. Porn traps so many kids these days. Average age of a kid looking at porn is eleven years old, morphing the way they look at women, relationships, sex, etc. Video games, too, played excessively, brings reality out of focus (some will say that's good as it's a good way of escape). It's controversial, sure, but I think it's come at a time where guys are struggling to transition into adulthood. Whose fault is that? Depends on who you ask, but Zimbardo says there's many different reasons. A lack of parental guidance and a lack of schools teaching proper sex education (some schools don't teach it at all). A lack of a proper education that is more individualized (Montessori is mentioned as a better alternative). A lack of stating that failure is part of life. A lack of many different things that helps men (yes, women too) grow into a healthy adult. If you're old(er) it might not appeal to you unless you're interested in the subject of how young men are struggling compared to young men fifty or so years ago.

There's a longer book by Zimbardo I saw on Amazon that goes into more depth. 300+ pages.

This short book is free on archive.org.
Profile Image for David Alexander.
158 reviews8 followers
August 5, 2012
This book is energetic and musters up to date sociological findings regarding the plight of boys in our current ecosystem. The authors sound the alarm bell about addiction to online gaming and porn. Some have criticized the conflation of these two, arguing that porn is bad but gaming is not. If the reader is looking for Christian guidance on these subjects he will not find them in this book because the authors are not against porn but only against what they see as causing risk averse and social inhibiting behavior in porn. They are also not against gaming but rather excessive gaming and types of gaming they regard as causing inhibiting behaviors. This book is valuable for the information rich content and is a needed alarm bell. Though I do not share many of the assumptions and conclusions of the authors, I think their work vigorous and an enriching contribution to grappling with the plight of boys and male behaviors in our society.
236 reviews
December 27, 2012
I wanted to read this book to shed light on some of the reasons young men under 30 in my life seem generally to lack ambition and maturity. Also, I have been troubled to observe how many men I know in this age group are still living at home with their parents. While the book generally kept my interest and did raise some points I had not considered, I was disappointed in the depth topics like pornography and excessive playing of video games were explored. I believe there are more influential environmental and societal factors to be considered. Finally, I was most intrigued by the summary of how the American public education system may have a negative impact on the development of young men today. This made sense to me and prompted a lot of thought.
Profile Image for Mohammed Ghoul.
61 reviews3 followers
January 17, 2020
Overall decent
Not bad, the basic premise was intriguing and the points made where important and merits discussion, but I think a better job could've been done, some points were backed up and discussed thoroughly, but most weren't. I guess this is kind of a short book so that is ok, but I thought the subject matter was worthy of more research. Anyway while I don't agree with all of the authors' points, I do share some of their concerns, and this book was an interesting outlook at those problems. To the authors merit the book offers a great deal of recourses and some descent suggestions on how to potentially deal with some of the problems for parents, women, male role models, and society in general.
Profile Image for Aaron.
28 reviews
June 23, 2012
This was a great overview of a lot of issues men and boys are facing at the moment. While there are more pieces to consider as well, this piece does a good job of identifying some problems and offering some solutions. Solutions are going to need to much broader to curb. I work in the violence against women field specifically with family violence offenders who face similar challenges connected to being anti-social, objectifying women and high use of pornography. Men have have always struggled with these issues in some way. Technology has just enhance their effects.
Profile Image for Ezra.
134 reviews35 followers
August 17, 2015
I was very disappointed with the parental prescriptive section as ALL the items were things my parents did in my childhood. The section on what I should do was even worse as I have practiced them for years before even being aware of this book. My hope was the book would give me ideas about a better direction. Instead I got what I had guessed myself and ultimately unhelpful.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 49 reviews

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