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

July 2012
by Michael Keller

There is a new book called The Demise of Guys: Why Boys are Struggling and What We Can Do About It. It sheds light on the problems facing young adult males. The book cites research that young men have become hooked on two mediums: video games and online porn. The link is that they both focus on various forms of arousal. Similar to gambling and drug addictions, researchers are saying it is possible to become emotionally addicted to video games and porn due to the arousal effect of each. Brain imaging technology shows that both video games and porn lead to a constant state of stimulation that becomes problematic when the individual does not know how to operate without this input, or is continuously seeking it.
 
While the book details the psychological and physical effects of these vices, it doesn’t offer much in the way of solutions other than getting individuals to stop using them. That is poor advice considering that most people cannot change their character by mere determination. If Scottish pastor Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) is to be believed, then the only way one changes is by the “expulsive power of a new affection.” Something else has to become more lovely and important than the destructive things that currently inhabit the heart.
 
In this instance, porn tends to give a sense of intimacy while actually not being intimate with anyone at all. In fact, if anything, it tends to objectify the individual viewed, leading those who watch porn to see someone as primarily physical and therefore an object to be used and not a person to be communicated with.
 
If porn gives a false sense of intimacy, then video games give a false sense of accomplishment. What better way to feel a sense of reward than to beat all the levels, and unlock all the secret passages and boards of the latest game that others of your generation are playing as well? Games like “Call of Duty” release new versions yearly so that individuals can spend hundreds of hours to master the game, only to start over again 365 days later.
 
Interestingly, while stimulation and addiction appear to be a physical problem as much as a spiritual and psychological one, porn and video games ultimately lead men to become less willing to take risks. It is easy to feel a sense of accomplishment and intimacy from the comfort of your own couch. When given the option between getting a job, working at school, or starting a family—why would men take that risk when there is more to gain and less to lose by sticking with the comfort electronic images? Real life is risky, pixels are not.
 
So how do we change this? Can we merely tell men and women to stop? Will that really work? Probably not. These individuals need to have people close enough to them and who care enough to reveal the emptiness of these life-substitutes. That can only happen if there is a larger framework of purpose and truth that is available for them to experience. Here we enter into the world of faith. What is good? What is right? What should we do with our lives? What is the purpose of everything? At the end of the day males aren’t failing because of porn and video games—they are failing because they don’t have a significance outside of themselves. And only Jesus can offer that.


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