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Recently came across an interesting article on Psychology Today about the growing problem of porn-induced erectile dysfunction. While ED is often associated with middle-aged and older men, a “growing number of young, healthy Internet pornography users are complaining of delayed ejaculation, inability to be turned on by real partners, and sluggish erections.”

The problem is physiological not psychological. As with any stimulation you give your brain, at first it gives you a lot of pleasure, but eventually the brain gets used to it, even numb to it. It’s like if you love chocolate ice cream; if you started eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, after a couple of weeks it would stop giving you pleasure, and it might even start disgusting you. Here’s the more scientific explanation:

Recent behavioral addiction research suggests that the loss of libido and performance occur because heavy users are numbing their brain’s normal response to pleasure. Years of overriding the natural limits of libido with intense stimulation desensitize the user’s response to a neurochemical called dopamine.

Dopamine is behind motivation, “wanting” and all addictions. It drives the search for rewards. We get little spurts of it every time we bump into anything potentially rewarding, novel, surprising, or even anxiety-producing.

Animal models have established that both sexual desire and erections arise from dopamine signals. Normally, dopamine-producing nerve cells in the reward circuitry activate the sexual (libido) centers of the hypothalamus, which in turn activate the erection centers in the spinal cord, which send nerve impulses to the genitalia. A steady stream of nerve impulses, which release nitric oxide into the penis and its blood vessels, maintain an erection.

Nitric oxide in turn stimulates the blood vessel dilator cGMP, the on/off switch for engorgement and erection. The more cGMP is available the more durable the erection. So, the pathway from the brain to an erection is:

Reward circuitry (dopamine) > hypothalamus > spinal cord > nerves > penis

Erections start with dopamine and end with cGMP. Sexual enhancement drugs work by inhibiting the breakdown of cGMP, thus allowing it to accumulate in the penis. Yet if the patient’s brain isn’t producing enough signals in the first place, ED drugs will not increase libido or pleasure even if they (sometimes) produce an erection.

In the case of age-related erectile dysfunction, cardiovascular conditions or diabetes, the primary weak link tends to be the nerves, blood vessels, and penis. However, for men with porn-induced erectile dysfunction, the weak link is not the penis, but rather the desensitized dopamine system in the brain.

In the last decade or so, addiction researchers have discovered that too much dopamine stimulation has a paradoxical effect. The brain decreases its ability to respond to dopamine signals (desensitization). This occurs with all addictions, both chemical and natural. In some porn users, the response to dopamine is dropping so low that they can’t achieve an erection without constant hits of dopamine via the Internet.

The solution to those suffering from porn-induced ED is to “reboot” the brain by abstaining from porn and masturbation for several months.

Read the whole article: “Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow” @Psychology Today

 

 

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While writing the Warrior archetype post, I came across this article in the NYT about an Olympic hopeful in the sport of open-water swimming. I felt like the piece had some uncanny parallels to the characteristics of the Warrior, which was cool, because the archetype stuff can seem really abstract, and this shows a very concrete example of what the activation of the Warrior archetype might look like in the life of a real modern day man. I recommend reading the whole piece. Here are some excerpts along with the Warrior qualities they reminded me of:

Comfort with Pain

Describing the appeal of the sport, Meyer said: “There’s something beautiful about man at his absolute breaking point. It hurts and it hurts and you keep pushing. Your body says no but your mind says yes.” He added, “It’s like a feeling of euphoria.”

‘Outsuffering’ Others

Meyer’s affinity for pain surfaced early. At 8, he was on the swim team at the Y.M.C.A. in Glens Falls, N.Y., when one of his friends was elevated to a more accomplished group in which the swimmers trained longer and harder. Meyer’s mother, Shawn, recalled, “Alex said: ‘I want to swim in that group. I want to do more yardage.’ ”

His grades improved — Meyer graduated in 2010 with a degree in evolutionary biology — but his coordination out of the water never did. Early in Meyer’s senior year, he broke his back while trying to make a catch in an Ultimate Frisbee game and spent almost two months in a brace.

He managed to resume swimming in time to earn all-American honors in the 1,650-yard freestyle. His Harvard teammate Sam Wollner, whom he doggedly chased for two years in the distance lane, was not surprised. He had borne daily witness to Meyer’s capacity to “outsuffer anyone,” as he described it.

Wollner recalled that Meyer took an almost demented delight in the high-mileage sets — grueling gut checks like 32 laps repeated 10 times with little rest in between — that drove other swimmers to take extended bathroom breaks.

“We’d do sets where we were testing our aerobic threshold, and some people, as it got harder, you could tell they wanted out of it,” Wollner said. “Alex got a little more ferocious, a little more intense about it.”

Adaptability

It takes a certain temperament to thrive in open water. The competitions are held in lakes, rivers and oceans in wildly varying conditions, all of which present physical, psychological and pelagic challenges. To excel requires a flexibility that has nothing to do with being double-jointed.

The best open-water swimmers are able to adapt to an environment that constantly changes. In transforming himself from a national-caliber pool swimmer to a world champion endurance athlete, Meyer has shown an extraordinary ability to persevere in the face of the worst adversity.

Paul Asmuth, who dominated open-water swimming in the 1980s, long before it was on the Olympic radar, said, “I’ve noticed that if something happens to Alex’s plan, he’s able to make a new plan and not get upset by it.”

Aggression

“I like that it’s a much more intimate racing environment than a pool, where you’re separated from the other swimmers by lane lines,” Meyer said. “In open water, you’re literally banging up against the guy you’re competing against. I secretly have always wished I played a contact sport and had an outlet for that little bit of pent-up aggression. I love the physical battle. I feel like when I’m in a race, it’s not a gentleman’s club, it is war.”

 Loyalty and Purpose

Meyer has pictured himself listening to “The Star-Spangled Banner” while standing on the awards podium in London. Winning an Olympic medal — preferably gold — was a dream he shared with Fran Crippen, another pool swimmer who took to the open water like a dolphin.

Crippen, a Philadelphian who was four years older, befriended Meyer, the new kid on the national team, in 2009. Crippen was an open book on the sport, and Meyer committed to memory all of his tips on strategy and technique.

A two-time national champion in the pool before becoming the American standard-bearer in open water, Crippen finished third in the 10-kilometer at the 2009 world championships and won silver medals in the event at the 2006 and 2010 Pan Pacific Championships.

The 2010 competition was held in Southern California, and Crippen most likely lost the gold medal when he doubled back during the race to check on Meyer, who was ill and struggling.

Two months later — a year ago Sunday — Crippen died during a 10-kilometer race contested in the United Arab Emirates. The water temperature was in the mid-to-high 80s, ideal only if you are floating lazily on your back.

 Meyer, recovering from an appendectomy, attended the event in hopes of racing but ultimately could not. He led the search for Crippen, whose body was found just before the last buoy on the triangular course. An autopsy concluded that Crippen died of heat exhaustion and drowning.

Crippen, then, is never far from Meyer’s thoughts. Sometimes his mind plays tricks on him and he can feel Crippen beside him, matching him stroke for stroke.

“He affected me as a swimmer but even more as a person,” Meyer said.

“He was such a good son, brother, friend,” he added. “In the water he had this aura, like Michael Jordan.”

Like the woman in the wedding gown, Meyer, then, is on something of a memory-keeping mission. He carries a photograph of Crippen to every competition and takes a photo of the photograph at each site, as if to say, “Look, Fran was here.”

“I’m pursuing my lifelong dream for myself,” Meyer said, “but I’m doing it for Fran, too.”

Knowing Your Limits and Only Taking Necessary Risks

Would he swim the 25-kilometer race (15 ½ miles) in conditions eerily similar to those in Abu Dhabi on the day Crippen died? His coach and mother, who had traveled to China to support him, both expressed their concerns about the water temperature, which would reach a high above 85 degrees.

Meyer announced he was bowing out of the race, citing the unsafe conditions; only then did his mother resume breathing.

“I was sick to my stomach,” she said, “because I thought he was crazy enough to push it because he wanted to defend his title and puff his chest out. When he chose not to swim, I was prouder about that than the fourth-place finish, because that decision was about character and integrity and standing up for what’s right.”

Read: From Walden Pond to the Olympics, Swimmer Thrives in Open Water (@NYT)

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The University of Akron in Ohio is conducting a survey of men in order to find out why men are less willing to ask for help than women are, and if their reasons are related to social class and their views on masculinity.

Here’s the link if you want to take part in the survey.

The survey takes about 30 minutes to complete. All participants are put into a drawing for a $50 and $70 Amazon gift card.

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The other day I heard this touching story on NPR from Tony Norris about his childhood in Central Texas. It’s about his uncle whittling him a monkey out of peach pit. It’s simple, but for some reason it really resonated with me. I thought some of you would enjoy, too.

A Peach, A Monkey, A Memory: One Texas Summer

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James May is famous for the UK’s popular show “Top Gear,” but he also does a show called “Man Lab” where he demonstrates how to do different manly skills. May asserts that dads have stopped passing down DIY skills to their sons, and that men today are wimps who don’t know how to do basic home and car maintenance jobs that their forebearers did.

In a recent piece in The Telegraph, Jeff Howell articulates the other side of the issue, which is that our fathers and grandfathers enjoyed a distinct advantage that modern men don’t: their appliancess were actually fixable by the home handyman. Appliances and cars used to be made in a simple way, with the parts showing, and with instruction manuals that could guide you through the process. Today’s cars have engines that come sealed in metal and plastic cases, and are connected to electronic systems–they can’t be fixed by the average joe and have to be taken to a trained mechanic. Companies do this on purpose–if you can’t fix it yourself, you have to buy a new one, or get the dealer to fix it.

I can see both sides of the coin: Howell is definitely right that a lot of things simply can’t be fixed by the household handyman anymore. On the other hand, there are still some things that a man can do for himself, and if his dad hasn’t taught him how to do them, he should try to learn them himself. My dad didn’t pass on a lot of DIY skills to me, but I’ve been slowly learning them myself as I get older, and it’s a lot of fun and really satisfying.

Did your father pass down any DIY skills? If not, do you still think it’s important to learn them, and have you been trying to do so on your own?

Read the whole article: DIY: Are Dad Skills Obsolete? (@The Telegraph)

Found via Built By Kids

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A recent article in the Scientific American discussed new research on how men’s minds turn women’s bodies into objects…although, not quite. From the article:

“A recent study found that showing men pictures of sexualized women evokes less activity in areas of the brain responsible for mental state attribution—that is, the area of the brain that becomes active when we think we are looking at an entity capable of thought and planned action. Other studies have found similar results. When men see body shots of women as compared with face shots, they judge women to be less intelligent, likeable, ambitious and competent.”

But it’s not that men see women as objects, like robots, but that they see women through one lens instead of the other. “Research into mind perception has found two dimensions along which we tend to categorize others: agency (the capacity to act, plan) and experience (the capacity to feel emotions). A robot, for example, is high on the dimension of agency but low in experience. It can think, but it can’t feel. When we see flesh, on the other hand, we tend to see experience but not agency—an entity capable of pleasure and pain but not necessarily the sharpest or most useful tool in the shed.” When men see women’s bodies, their perception of their ability to act and plan goes down, but their perception of the women as emotional goes up. And interestingly, as the latter goes up, so does a man’s sense of the woman’s vulnerability and thus her need for protection.

Read the whole article: How Our Brains Turn Woman Into Objects (@Scientific American)

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No it’s not about naked ladies in the woods. Cabin Porn is a tumblr blog dedicated to showcasing cozy cabins from all around the world. Looking at these images will make you lust for your own quiet place in the woods.

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The NYT recently did an article about a new book called “Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection,” by Niobe Way, a professor of developmental adolescent psychology who explores the nature of friendships for boys and young men. Way argues that while teenage boys are often stereotyped as “grunting, emotionally tone-deaf creatures who bond over sports talk and risk-taking,” “their need for intimate friendship is as potent as it is for girls.” Despite this need, “as the boys grew older, the intensity of those relationships faded. Boys feared being seen as “too girly” or even gay for expressing attachments to one another, even just for feeling them.” Way believes this breeds depression in young men (around 15 or 16, the suicide rate for boys becomes four times that for girls), and grown men alike. She argues that adult men struggle to make close friendships, and rely on their wives as their only support person, which can take a toll on their relationship.

Read the whole article: Allowing Teenage Boys to Love Their Friends (NYT)

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The blog at Collector’s Weekly, a vintage and antique site, recently posted a long and interesting post about how taxidermy is making a big comeback. It had fallen out of favor after the 1940s (along with the decrease in the popularity of hunting). But now it’s popping up at stores like Urban Outfitters and Juicy Couture (really) and hip restaurants and bars. Stuffed animals are increasingly being used by decorators, and a bunch of books on the subject are coming out.

Nouveaux taxidermists believe this resurgence in interest is due to people’s craving for something real and a connection to nature in our increasingly disembodied, online lives.

Taxidermy’s comeback has an unfortunate trendy, hipster vibe–it’s popular amongst cool urbanites who are looking for stuff that’s “authentic.” Real hunters have pointed out the irony in the fact that many young collectors of old taxidermy pieces are also anti-hunting. And there’s a new movement of hobbyists who call themselves “rogue taxidermists” (really), who adhere to a no-kill policy and use road kill, animals that died of natural causes, discarded livestock, and “nuisance” animals like rats.

My dad was a game warden and I grew up around taxidermied animals at his office. They weren’t something used to comment about modern animal abuses or as a tribute to the mysteries of the Victorian Age. But hey, there’s nothing more hipster than turning on something because it gets popular! So I still think taxidermy is cool.

Are there any modern taxidermists out there? You should write a guest post for us!

Read the whole article: Taxidermy Comes Alive! On the Web, the Silver Screen, and in Your Living Room (@Collector’s Weekly)

PS–The article covers aspects of taxidermy you didn’t even know existed, but it fails to mention Chuck Testa! I will right this wrong:

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John Carter Cash, only son of Johnny and June Cash, sorted through a treasure trove of photos and ephemera left by his famous parents, and compiled them for a new book about his father: House of Cash. The NYT provides a preview, including this photo of June and Johnny relaxing in their House on the Lake, and a love note written by Johnny to June. As Cash recalls, “Dad never ceased to remind my mother of his love for her.”

See More: Inside the Cash Family Vault (@NYT)

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