America the fat and helpless
The dark connection between pornography and everything from depression and marital tensions to erectile dysfunction and romantic disinterest is compelling. The neurological effects parallel drug addiction, literally rewiring men’s brains while polluting their hearts and robbing them of their ability to love.
The video support of porn, its ubiquity, instant access – these elements combine to wreak havoc on the neural wiring that underlies the processes of learning and memory. It is not the same as watching an action movie or reading a book; porn becomes more real to the mind than reality.
“The properties of porn video make it a particularly powerful trigger for plasticity, the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of the experience,” writes Rachel Anne Barr, doctoral student in neuroscience at the Laval University. “Combined with the accessibility and anonymity of online porn consumption, we are more vulnerable than ever to its hyper-stimulating effects.”
Barr cites the work of Norman Doidge, an expert in neuroplasticity, who shows how powerful and cost-effective the effects are. “Pornography meets all the prerequisites for neuroplastic change,” Doidge explains. “When pornographers brag about pushing the boundaries by introducing new, more difficult themes, what they don’t say is they have to, because their clients develop a tolerance for the content.”
The abnormally high levels of dopamine secreted during porn consumption numbs us to natural sources of pleasure, while hyperstimulation of the medium erodes the part of the brain critical for impulse control and willpower – hampering moral development, as both are necessary in order to deliberate, hold back, and choose between right and wrong.
Gen Z, the most “online” generation, are also the most asexual – not because of chaste mores, but in part because hyperreal pornography has damaged their ability and desire for human intimacy.
There is no doubt that watching porn reduces men to helpless viewers, fantasizing about the actions of others. But can watching sports do the same? In a way, yes, and the effects and consequences are not unknown to our cultural memory.
The colloquial term “bread and circuses” was coined by the poet Juvenal to mock the Roman population’s preoccupation with gladiatorial games and chariot races, which he accused of declining heroism and indifference or ignorance of civic duty. In Juvenal’s eyes, the corrupt elites had strengthened their hand by offering the people a degrading distraction that diverted their energies and deprived the Romans of all meaning.
The only difference between now and then is that we have declared the bread and the circus a positive good. Indeed, this seems to be one of the few things on which there is bipartisan consensus. During the pandemic, as states banned religious gatherings while police intimidated Americans into not wearing masks outdoors and surfing on secluded beaches, 73% of sports fans said watching games at home. television helped them cope, with 60% saying it calmed their mental health. Many of our experts agree that such a distraction and feeling of pseudo-community is a good thing.
Watching sports can provide a sense of belonging and meaning similar to that offered by a church congregation, but with less risk of offense against such or such progressive piety. Indeed, sport has become a major vector for the dissemination of progressive ideology and symbolism. As far as the brain is concerned, the former is a fairly good – if not better – substitute for the latter.
Using fMRI imaging, Barth writes, the Harvard Intergroup Neuroscience Lab ‘observed the brain activity of 18 die-hard Red Sox and Yankee fans (who have been deadly enemies since the Red Sox distributed Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920) while submitting them to a video clip from ESPN’s Gamecast. ‘ Turns out the effects aren’t that different from porn. “Upon seeing their favorite team mark or eliminate an opposing player, a wave of activity is observed in the ventral striatum, a region of the brain associated with reward-based decision making, as well as addiction.”
Sports enthusiasts also respond to loss by producing more cortisol, a stress hormone linked to obesity, low libido, and erectile dysfunction. This is particularly bad news for fans of the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions.
And as with watching porn, it is proven that the more you watch sports, the more physically impotent you become.
A team of researchers examined the association between watching sports on television, physical activity levels and the risk of obesity in 2014. “Watching elite athletes may play no role in promoting fitness. physical activity in the elderly, ”they found. Additionally, obesity was prevalent in 30.8% of the sample group, and watching sports on TV was associated with a higher risk of obesity.
What about the effects on young viewers? In 2018, a study led by Marie Bragg, a researcher at New York University, found that three out of four food ads and half of drink promotions at major U.S. sports programs promoted high-calorie, filling products. sugar. “There is an inherent message in sport about the importance of fitness and health, and diet is an important part of fitness and health,” Bragg told Reuters. “The fact that high profile sports organizations serve as a vehicle to promote junk food to children sends a mixed message that is incompatible with maintaining a healthy diet.”
The National Football League had the most junk food sponsors, followed by the National Hockey League and Little League. “Exposure to food advertisements can influence children’s food preferences and purchasing demands and can lead to increased food consumption in the short term,” the study reports. Meanwhile, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that nearly one in five children between the ages of two and 19 is obese. Among men, women and adults of all age groups, about four in ten adults are considered obese – and watching sports actually contributes to obesity and the problems that come with it.
Worse yet, the types of food and drink advertised during games are endocrine disrupting chemicals linked to lower testosterone levels, lower sperm count, and increased defective sperm in men; in females, they can mean precocious puberty, lower egg quality, and more miscarriages. Infants most exposed to endocrine disruptors like phthalates tend to have higher rates of physical deformities, including smaller penises.
A small price to pay to see an athlete play who hates the country in which he was born and raised.
The physical consequences of watching sports, like those of consuming porn, end up making men distracted, weaker, fatter, and less manly. But the moral, civic and spiritual parallels are even clearer and more disturbing.
At the height of the controversy over athletes protesting and condemning the United States, the police, many sports enthusiasts and even the conservatives refused to turn off the television. They continued to don shirts, drink and eat junk food while complaining that America was going to hell. And as the Black Lives Matter riots tore the country apart, as athletes showed solidarity with the chaos, the same sports fans watched just as intently, complying with restrictions that kept them from entering churches and gyms. but did little to stop the looters. The same people who organized to wave flags in protest against the looting of cities have never ceased to hang out with the individuals and organizations that fueled the days of rage last year.
Why? Many people just wanted and needed to watch their favorite teams, although they didn’t like the shame and guilt that came with recognizing the dissonance between their views and those of the athletes and the industry. Again, there is an interesting parallel here. One study found that compulsive porn users report wanting and needing more porn, although they don’t necessarily like it. “This disconnect between wanting and loving is a hallmark of the disruption of reward circuits,” Barr writes. This kind of deregulation seems to be the hallmark of mass man in mass society – a feature rather than a bug.
The first step to recovery is to admit that we have a problem. And as CS Lewis wrote, the problem in our time is that we “make men without breasts and expect virtue and enterprise from them.” In other words, we have lost sight of what makes men good and yet we complain about the consequences of a world without virtue for which good men are needed. “We laugh at the honor and are shocked to find traitors among us. We castrate and ask that the geldings be fertile, ”concludes Lewis. We are so castrated now that we are not even allowed to notice that the people most vulnerable to COVID-19 are obese and sedentary. It doesn’t strike us as strange that crooks like CNN’s Brian Stelter are making hissing comments about public health issues.
To watch sport today is to subsidize the enemies of decency and virtue, while allowing themselves to be withered physically and morally. It is the glorification of bread and circuses and the squandering of vital energies. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and fighting back is as easy as turning off the television and relearning how to be good and strong.