Let’s Have a Look at Porn

I bet you watch porn. Or if not, I’d wager you know dozens of people who do. Humans have been getting a kick out of watching other humans getting hot and sweaty for years.

But with the recent massive rise in free porn (shout-out Pornhub), numerous issues have arisen from how sex is portrayed in porn, and the impact it has had on young people’s sex lives.

This week, I did a little digging on the effects of porn, to find out just how much of an issue it is for the sex lives of this generation.

Washington Times
Image credit: Washington Times

“Using porn to guide sexual activity is like using Jackass to model behaviour.” – Merlyn Gabriel Miller

Porn Facts:

And porn is evolving with technology. The emergence of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality means that these days you can fully immerse yourself in these videos. Soon we will see teenagers growing up with the technology to be able to have virtual sex, without ever having been taught anything about sexual education, or what sex even means to them.

The risk is a generation growing numb to sex, unable to establish meaningful relationships without employing preconceived ideas of what their sex should be like.

But that’s the future. What has porn done to today’s youth already?

Porn Effects:

  • Erectile dysfunction – a growing number of male 20 somethings are having trouble ejaculating, being turned on, or maintaining erections due to their porn habits, according to previous research.
  • Falling libido – in 1988 in a survey among teenagers, 51 percent of women and 60 percent of men reported having had sex. In 2017, that has fallen to 42 percent of women, and 44 percent of men. That’s a sizeable drop. Teenagers are having less sex, even in an age with Tinder, Grindr, and Bumble.
  • Warped ideas of real sex – a 2018 study of Pornhub found that in the Top 50 videos on the website, only 18 percent showed a woman reaching climax, in comparison to 78 percent of men. Doesn’t seem entirely fair.
  • Loneliness – porn use and loneliness have a significant correlation, that works both ways. The more porn you use, the more likely you are to be lonely. Porn use has also since been linked to relationship distress and disrupted attachment.
Sharing Is Caring
Image credit: Sharing is Caring

With all these emerging issues, there are alternatives being encouraged online already. Namely, the “NoFap” movement and the “PornFree” redditors.

For those unaware, NoFap is the complete abandonment of masturbation, with many users on the site reporting enhanced awareness, clarity, and improved confidence. These modern-day superheroes are the extreme – I’m not saying give up masturbating and repent your sins, just maybe relax with the weird hentai.

There is no evidence to suggest not masturbating provides superpowers (or enhanced awareness, if you will). In fact, evidence suggests that masturbation can improve your sleep and reduce stress levels.

PornFree is something I would sooner endorse. It’s a sub-reddit with the goal of helping those who feel the negative effects of porn to reduce their usage. They’re currently on day 299 of their year-long “Stay Clean 2018” challenge, which you sign up for and seem to confess when you have failed and restart.

I’ll be the first to admit that I always thought that porn was fantastic. It’s easy to access and completely free. But from statistics alone we’re already seeing the effect porn is having on this generation and their sex lives, and with the emergence of VR/AR, it may only be the beginning for future generations. Porn isn’t going anywhere, but the manner in which we compare or use it with our own sex lives, even subconsciously, is proving to be unhealthy. It may be worth exploring other avenues of sexual gratification that don’t create damaging images of women and (potentially) affect your ability to have real sex.

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Fitness Behemoth

The pressure to look a certain way. A precarious tale of “Stop body shaming me” vs. “But you have legitimate health issues”. Fat used to be a sign of wealth. Pale used to be a sign of luxury. Big Dave sits bereft in his basement playing Dungeons and Dragons, dreaming of a time when he would’ve been surrounded by clamouring men and women. The truth is society will tend to find the most difficult to achieve features the most attractive. And in an age of consumerism, where you can literally get Nutella on tap, Big Dave’s once rare attributes are no longer the mouth-watering prospect they used to be.

In fact, skinny doesn’t seem to be cutting it anymore either. Gone are the days when young women would all aspire to have the stick-thin figures of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell – these idols have been replaced by the famous/infamous Instagram model.  The same goes for young men, an enthusiastic army of testosterone-fuelled individuals intent on attaining a six-pack and that “epic Christmas tree” back.

So have we improved our role models for body types, or have we moved on to an equally unhealthy mindset?

Evening Standard
Image credit: Evening Standard

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” – Vain idiot, 2009

Let’s talk about the pitfalls of the Instagram fitness craze gripping today’s youth.

1. Instagram models selling weight-loss teas: having thousands of followers looking to you for inspiration on their diet is a big responsibility. And in the immortal words of Uncle Ben (Spider-Man reference, for those of you living under a rock), “With great power, comes great responsibility.” This type of influencer is out for profit, as these products are notoriously ineffective, and they’re doing nothing for the wellbeing of their followers.

2. Instagram models clearly on steroids: this one speaks for itself really. An influencer not openly admitting they juice and presenting their near-perfect body is going to set an unhealthy precedent for those confounded as to why they’re not getting the same results.

3. Instagram models editing their photos (beyond filters): more confusion and ultimately inspires insecurity. Young people aren’t going to look in the mirror and see an edited body, instead they’re going to see something far from the well-edited photo on their favourite influencer’s feed. The blatant, “Look at me, look like me” of these posts is hard to stomach when you consider the body issues affecting many youth today.

But the social media “summer ready” body type isn’t a bad thing in principle. It encourages many to stay fit, eat well, and gives us a sense of constructive routine. If the media is idolising healthy body images (i.e the right fitness models), then I’m all for it. Healthy country, happy country. But it takes a special kind of commitment to achieve a perfect body. These competition-ready bodies you see on your feed don’t get the wondrous pleasure of sitting in McDonald’s until 3AM, having a few beers with friends, and if you aspire to look the same, you probably won’t be able to do these things either.

apec wiki
Image credit: apec Wiki

Find yourself an influencer that will speak about the struggles of maintaining their fitness. That talk about skipping the occasional workout to focus on their personal life. That discuss mental health issues associated with wanting to constantly look a certain way.

If you’re at a loss, here are a couple of Instagram pages that tend to cover the above:

For the guys:

For the girls:

Dangers can arise from basing your entire life around fitness if it’s not what you do to earn a living. You open yourself up to the risk of an injury removing your defining feature, and having a significant mental impact on you. Take a moment and consider that if you couldn’t work out, do you have other aspects of your life you could turn to for solace? If you manage to do it for a living then more power to you. If not, diversify.

Body-type role models for young people have improved. The focus has shifted from attaining stick-thin figures through restricted eating, towards staying in shape and properly nourishing your body. Steer clear of the Instagram opportunists, and you’ll find a host of people interested in your health and wellbeing. Just don’t be too hard on yourself!

 

The New Narconnoisseurs

If you’re here expecting an article condemning casual drug use, you’re going to be disappointed.

Drug use in young social circles is commonplace. Party drugs are no longer a privilege to the Rock stars of old – UK prices are at an all-time low, and the national average currently sits at £41 for a gram of cocaine according to The Telegraph. As drugs become more accessible, are they the soul destroying substances portrayed by the media, or just another alternative to alcohol?

Martin Lewis' Blog
Image credit: Martin Lewis’s Blog

Around 1 in 5 adults aged 16-24 have taken drugs in the past 12 months, according to the latest statistics from the Home Office Crime Survey for England and Wales 2017/2018.

Drug consumption is no new concept for the young. A lot of our parents were doing them at university, and this is likely the place where young people will first encounter drugs. While previously perceived as the worst thing you could possibly do, many students suddenly find themselves experimenting with them for the first time. This is entirely a matter of choice. Lots of people experience the pressure of taking drugs in their late teens/early twenties. As a student, you should never feel pressured by the presence of drugs around you. The thing about good friends is they won’t be pushy about it, and if they are, you need new friends, not drugs.

For those that do take drugs, the most prominent social issue for casual drug users vs. alcohol consumption is the impact on their finances. I use the word ‘casual’ carefully – there are heaps of differences between abusive drug use and alcohol consumption. But if you’re going out at the weekend and buying a gram of cocaine at the national average, that’s an annual investment of £2,132 a year. Given most entry level jobs with a university degree sit around the £20,000-23,000 mark, that can be as much as 1/10th of your annual salary.

Some would argue that this money could equally be spent on alcohol during a night out, but the issue is that alcohol consumption generally isn’t reduced by much when coupled with a drug like cocaine. The result is the cost of a night out can typically be doubled just by using drugs.

This doesn’t need to be the case. One of the main reasons behind consuming the same amount of alcohol with or without the presence of drugs is down to the purity, and therefore effectiveness, of these substances. Drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and ketamine are typically watered down versions of themselves, mixed with cheaper alternatives in order to widen profit margins or undercut competitors.

It is the complete lack of regulation which makes casual drug use so dangerous – just as the same lack of regulation during the 1920’s prohibition era made alcohol so unsafe.

HotBox Events
Image credit: HotBox Events

Casual drug use no longer needs to be perceived as the Bogeyman – as more people take drugs, more people are becoming interested in the safety of those doing so. Drug helplines, self-testing kits, and websites such as FRANK are becoming readily available to those interested. In the summer of 2017, six music festivals allowed festival-goers to test their illegal drugs for safety. Drugs are becoming more socially normalised, and there is progress towards safety being made.

“We can never condone the use of illegal drugs, but we recognise that some people will continue to take them and we need to adapt our approach in the interests of public safety.” – Andy Battle, West Yorkshire Police assistant chief constable

Unfortunately, drugs can have social impacts beyond the effects of their purity, and the knock-on effect on  your wallet. The availability of drugs can dictate a social group’s choice of night out. Events such as deep house nights can often rely on the presence of drugs. This is not always the case – I know people who listen to deep house before bed like absolute lunatics. But if drugs are a deciding factor in whether or not you go to an event, then they become a limiting aspect of your life, and begin to define you as an individual. Drugs should not define you as a person, but rather should be an aspect of your life that is kept a close eye on, much like drinking responsibly.

There is little reason for the difference in perception that currently exists between casual drug use and alcohol – many of the health risks and after effects mirror one another.

I won’t pretend to be in any way enlightened as to this subject over anyone else – the perspective presented here is subjective, and certainly not condoning engaging in illegal practices. But young people are taking drugs, and will evidently continue to do so. Turning a blind eye to the glaring lack of quality regulation in a product consumed by 1 in 5 young people is not the answer. What is required is a sense of progressive responsibility towards protecting those who are using party drugs, as they become more engrained in our culture. Unfortunately, each day that passes without some movement towards production control leaves young people at unnecessary risk.

 

 

They See me Scrollin’

Ah, smartphones. Everyone has one these days – they’re the staple of a sane human being in Western society. There is little more unnerving than spotting someone pulling out their Nokia 3310 and instantly knowing that they are anarchist bent on ushering in the next dark age. But as we all spend hours a day scrolling endlessly through our social media feeds, are we taking it too far?

Smartphone addiction could be changing your brain
Photo credit: Wnem

“The cellphone has become the adult’s transitional object, replacing the toddler’s teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.” – Margaret Heffernan

Depending on who you believe, young adults spend anywhere from 3-5 hours a day on their smartphone. I count myself among those addicted to scrolling. A common sight during my time at university was five hungover students engrossed in the dim light of their phones, a straight-to-DVD comedy playing in the background, largely unnoticed. Most attempts to galvanise the troops into venturing out were met with indifference, followed by a short exhalation of breath through the nose at an otherwise hilarious meme found on one’s smartphone.

So in some vain attempt to understand life without smartphones, I took it upon myself this week to ditch Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube. Needless to say, I began to regret it immediately. Instinctively I would pick up my phone to open Instagram, seeking to satiate my temporary boredom by consuming images of random celebrities leading far more exciting lives. Once I overcame my initial lack of access to instant social gratification, I began to explore alternative ways of keeping myself entertained. Unfortunately, I was poorly versed in these methods. Reading a book is a fantastic form of entertainment, yet I typically found myself moving straight to my laptop, much in the same way switching off one lamp will simply lead a moth to cross the room in search of lamp number two.

b2655359-f3c4-436e-b7dc-7ceb3d528dfd-dj92z5rvsaa7uku
The Reflective Idiot’s author – 2018

But what did you learn? (I hear you not ask).

  1. Avoid scrolling endlessly through random Instagram feeds, Facebook videos and Snapchat explore clips. Nothing is learnt from these forms of smartphone engagement, and a lot is missed out on. Typically they interrupt drinks with friends, conversations that could have been with family members, or any form of self-improvement.
  2. Attempting to fully remove yourself from a culture of likes, comments and shares does lead to missing out. The simple fact is that smartphones have allowed people to actively remain a part of one another’s lives while living halfway around the world from each other. Grandparents see their grandchildren through smartphones, friends who can’t make weddings can watch their friends get married, and couples with long distance relationships stay in touch far better than a simple call. They’re a method through which to share photos that make us laugh, or movements that are important to us. For many, it’s a way to stay in the loop on the latest news.
  3. What defines whether using a smartphone is healthy or not is the individual using it. When you effectively possess the extent of human knowledge at your fingertips, you can’t conclude that smartphones have left us worse off as a society. Instead it is some of our inherently addictive natures, a constant yearning for likes or views, or some media outlets appalling excuse for news, that can lead smartphones to have a detrimental impact.

It might be worth testing yourself to see how dependent you are on your own smartphone – a week isn’t long to go without, and it may even lead to pursuing a new hobby, or reading a book, or achieving something worth being proud of. Give it a try (or don’t, I’m not your parent).

Conversations Among Martians

“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” – or so the saying goes.

There are numerous aspects of everyday life that do not reflect this disparity between men and women. However, when it comes to discussions surrounding emotions and wellbeing, this age old quote does appear to come into its own. Admittedly this article may feel like a generalisation – there are millions of men capable of honestly discussing their emotions with other men. Yet the trend undoubtedly leans toward the attitude that opening up to other men can be an uncomfortable and awkward experience, and therefore one that is too often avoided.

The single biggest killer among men under 45 is suicide.

Recent trends such as the #ITSOKAYNOTTOBEOKAY via Facebook have made long overdue inroads into opening up conversations among young men about issues affecting their everyday life. In my experience, I have had friends open up to me about their current mental state and in turn, I have been able to open up to them regarding my own. Conversely, I have spoken to some men about issues affecting others to be met with “real men don’t talk about those things”. This is an extreme example, but it paints a picture of a society still transitioning from so called ‘stoic’ silence to healthy, constructive conversations between men.

The main issue appears to be the initial breakthrough. Relationships among men are often based just as much on what is left unsaid than what is said. Mutual respect, and an underlying knowledge that the company you keep will have your back in the event of a financial crisis, or on a sports pitch, or even in a fight. Why then should this not extend to in the event of an emotional crisis? More often than not, each of us has an emotional battle to overcome at some point. The effectiveness of support systems among men in these other issues is fantastic – so why do a lot of men feel the need to keep this particular challenge to themselves? Perhaps it is because young men of today span an awkward generational gap. On the one hand, it has been clearly established that discussing their emotional state with others is paramount to their mental health. On the other hand, given how recently this has been established, they lack the appropriate role models from which to learn how to discuss these issues.

menfeelings_main
Photo credit: Feministaa.com

In my own experience, directly behind the initial breakthrough is the immediate understanding. During my school days, I had particular trouble with one boy who would tease me daily about a range of things. Usually I could absorb this ‘banter’ in my stride, but during this particular time in my life I was dealing with the aftermath of my parents divorce, and neither my temper nor my ability to control it were particularly adept. These daily comments began to hurt much more than usual. Rather than ‘man up’, I decided to send my would-be tormentor a text explaining my current situation and how it was making me feel. To his credit, the response came back immediately, “yeah no problem, I get it”, and there was a marked turn in his behaviour towards me. The issue clearly therefore is not the inability to understand, but the unwillingness to admit to what some might perceive as ‘weakness’ and broach the topic in the first place.

Fearing the initial contact is ingrained in most of us by frankly toxic gender stereotypes about men and their right to discuss their emotions, despite the majority of men being totally content to discuss the topic once broached. These stereotypes do not belong to this generation, yet they undoubtedly have an effect on how young men perceive truly opening up regarding their feelings. As young men forge forward into a mostly unknown landscape of what can only be described as unfamiliar emotional liberation, it is down to them to set the precedent for future generations on how best to engage in essential conversations about topics such as depression, anxiety, and wider insecurities. In the months and years to come, there will need to be numerous uncomfortable conversations had in order to create the new normal, and in doing so provide men with an accessible method by which they can share, vent and heal.

 

 

“So, what are you doing now?”

Six words that have always filled me with dread.

Young people are under a huge amount of pressure to answer this question with an impressive answer. “I’m currently on a grad scheme for a major recruitment firm” or, “I’ve just finished my first year at a top advertising agency based in London.” These are great answers, but the answer to this question should not be something that we as young individuals should feel overly pressured by.

My first job out of university was working in a local pub. I made great friends and I was happy with my work. Yet undeniably my time spent working at a pub was constantly surrounded by one question to myself:

“When am I going to start a real career?”

Jul-29_FrustratedAt-Header
Photo credit: Advance Cessnock City

So (after a LOT of searching) I became an account executive at a major design-firm based in London, and the novelty of being in a career and having a ‘proper’ job was exciting at first. Speaking to friends, there was a noticeable difference in their reactions when telling them about my latest job – that feeling of respect from your peers can be somewhat addictive. Yet when it actually boiled down to it, I did not find my work to be fulfilling – I quickly established that this was not my passion, and that timelines and trackers were not my allies. However I knew in the back of my mind that I had to do a year at this company – I was constantly reminded, “Everyone does a year, it looks respectable on your CV”.

This resolution to stick it out led to many a Sunday afternoon with a cloud of anxiety hanging over my head. The challenges that lay in the week ahead were impacting my ability to enjoy my free time, which we all work so hard for in the first place. I dreaded getting back into the office – at my lowest point, I was experiencing the physical affects of anxiety – due to stress I had admittedly placed upon myself. When you’re not happy with your work, it usually begins to impact most aspects of your life. The average adult spends at least one third of their life at work. If someone had approached me at a younger age and informed me that I wouldn’t enjoy one third of my life when I grew up, I would have swiftly informed them that I would never allow that to happen.

Having established the above, I quit, having only completed a measly 11 months (never did hit that golden year!). Nevertheless, the moment I handed in my notice, I was met with a wave of relief. Who cared that I had no idea what I was going to do next? I was free! The very next week I was garden landscaping for a living, with a friend of mine having offered me the job while I searched for my next ‘big’ career move. As I write this article, I have been landscape gardening for 2 months, and despite the heat, I am certainly far less stressed than I was throughout my spell at my old job, and as a result far happier in my wider life.

So why when I see my friends, do I still feel embarrassed to let them know that I have already (to some people’s minds) given up and taken on a temporary job? I almost feel like I’ve regressed, and that I have wasted (almost) a year in an office on something I did not want to be doing. Yet, importantly, this is not the case. Every young person is moving at a different speed, and to view career progression as a competition is to miss the recognition that a career should be an exploration of who you are as an individual. Stan Lee created the Fantastic Four when he was 39 years old. Colonel Sanders franchised KFC at the age of 62. Lululemon founder Chip Wilson did not found the company until he was 42 years old. The point is that each of us will find something that suits us, if only through trial and error. It doesn’t have to earn millions, but maybe it will.  Don’t be afraid to take a step back and think “what am I actually passionate about?”

dream-career
Photo credit: Jobboom

Personally, I haven’t decided on my next career move yet, and whilst I am obviously concerned with this fact (who isn’t) I know that this is a process, and one which takes many people a lifetime to figure out. Take the strain off of yourself, pursue something you actually like rather than simply something you think you’ll be good at, and just enjoy being extremely bad at something that you find really interesting for a while. Who knows – you might even make some money out of it one day.

 

 

 

An Intro to What this is all About.

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

Having recently discovered (to my own self-loathing) that an awful lot of my time has already been wasted on things in life that I hold little or no passion for, I have taken it upon myself to pursue this blog, for 2 main reasons:

  1. I enjoy writing, especially as it allows me to express myself and explore the many topics that I feel passionately about.
  2. I don’t feel there is enough discussion surrounding the topics I will be writing about/ many people feel uncomfortable talking with their friends about them.

Hopefully you, the reader, will be able to relate to at least one of the articles I intend to publish, and it may provide some small modicum of relief that you are in fact not alone in certain aspects of your life, be they positive or negative.

If you have the misfortune of being one of my friends reading this blog, I hope this will either provide you with the shocking revelation that I am in fact not entirely useless/lacking direction, or at least it will allow you a chance to have a laugh at my expense.

Stay tuned.