America: Dumbed Down, Fattened Up, Porned Out & Pissed Off

Sure, it could be blamed on television or movies. It could also be about fast food, preservatives, and hormone-laden chickens. Maybe it’s violent rap music or video games. Overworked, stressed out adults. Over-scheduled or latchkey kids. The end of stickball and street hockey. Not enough vegetables and too many cans of Coca-Cola.It could be any of those things, or. . .it could that my theory is true, and America is suffering from a collective, nearly all-inclusive depression. Of course, one of the hallmarks of depression is that people who suffer it don’t believe they have it – they invent other reasons for feeling lousy, or are so used to feeling lousy that it almost feels good.

However, an analysis of clinical depression symptoms with the current state of America looks something like this.

Symptoms:

1. Changes in weight. An increased or decreased appetite. Weight gain or weight loss.
2. Impaired thinking and/or concentration. Trouble making decisions.
3. Sleep disturbances. Problems falling asleep or problems waking.
4. Heightened feelings of agitation. Easily annoyed. Irritability, restlessness.
5. Fatigue or sluggishness. Weariness. A lack of physical energy.
6. Depressed mood, with feelings of apathy, helplessness, and hopelessness.
7. Loss of interest in sex, changes in sexual functioning.

America:

1. Growing steadily obese. 64.5% of us are overweight. 1-5% are anorexic or bulimic.
2. America now ranks 20th in the world for education. We are becoming dumber.
3. Sales of sleep-aids like Ambien have skyrocketed. Starbucks has heavily expanded.
4. Road rage. School shootings. We have become more temperamental.
5. Despite a plethora of health clubs, we’re exercising less and eating more fast food.
6. A high voter turnout in America is 54%. 66% of us call in sick when we’re not.

7. Since 1998, Viagra has been one of the most popular drugs in America.

I think a scientific case might be made for my theory of a collective American meltdown in the last decade, but the empirical evidence by itself is overwhelming.

Stolen Childhoods

In 2001, I was at a grocery store when I saw a sweet grandmotherly woman bend over a stroller to coo at an infant and congratulate the mother. The mother quickly jerked the stroller away and said, “I am teaching him NOT to talk to strangers!”. The child was about six months old. Teaching kids the danger of strangers is appropriate, but making them paranoid, fearful, and anxious is not.

The protection of society’s children is warped. Those who most need protection do not get it, and the public is left with harrowing stories of child abuse and murder. Meanwhile, there are far too many over-coddled children whose parents forgo discipline in favor of a “my child can do no wrong” attitude. When their children act out at school, parents are quick to blame the teachers. While teachers aren’t infallible, it does not help that classroom time is often dominated by children with behavior problems. Teachers cite defensive parents and discipline as two of their major struggles.

At the same time, many public schools have eliminated recess, and any chance for children to expend excess energy, in order to fit more learning into the schedule. Children are being saddled with more and more homework, further cutting into a child’s play time. The average backpack of an elementary school child weighs 13.8 pounds. A 2004 study found that over 64% of middle school children report pain from carrying heavy backpacks.

There has been a 500% increase in the number of ADD/ADHD drugs prescribed to children since 1991. An article published by Education World states, “According to the Congressional Testimony of Terrance Woodworth, a deputy director of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the number of prescriptions written for methylphenidate has increased by a factor of five since 1991. About 80 percent of the 11 million prescriptions doctors write for that medication each year treat childhood ADHD, he said. In addition, production of Adderall and Dexedrine, also used to treat ADHD, has risen 2,000 percent in nine years.”

Is it really any wonder that America’s children are becoming overweight couch potatoes who are less interested in learning and more interested in the latest video game release? We have stolen childhood away from them at every turn. We need to give it back to them, complete with free time, family time, the outdoors, and discipline.

All the Rage . . . and the Apathy

Rape is the fastest growing crime in the world, with America still in the lead. The statistics are simply staggering, but perhaps none more so than this — only 2% of perpetrators are convicted. Pedophilia is a rising crime that has actually gained proponents in the academic sector.

While people should be enraged by that, and the often light sentences handed out to rapists and child molesters when they are convicted, many choose to expend their energies elsewhere — like on the highway. In 1999, a prominent Twin Cities anesthesiologist beat up a 68 year old female driver for going too slowly. The case was shocking at the time, but road rage has since become more common. Violence and deaths caused by road rage have risen steadily.

According to Wikipedia, in the 90′s, “gangsta rap” hit the mainstream, and by the early 2000′s, rap music became one of the bestselling music genres in America. Bustin’ caps, shooting your ass, bitches, pimps and ho’s were introduced into the American lexicon, and embraced by a newly ghettoized culture of youth and young adults. A 1996-1997 study found that illicit drugs were mentioned in 63% of rap songs, compared to 10% in other genres. Defenders of rap music claim that the lyrics are fueled by reality — if the reality did not exist, then neither would the violent, misogynistic lyrics. While that may have some grain of truth, the vast popularity of rap music does not match up with the reality of most American lives, black or white, which are not dominated by shootings, crack cocaine, pimps and whores.

That such things became popularized, and that psuedo-gangs have hit the suburbs, might be attributed less to the reality of American lives than to the feelings of hopelessness, frustration, and rage many Americans, particularly young people, seem to feel. Of course, there are plenty of people who also feel apathetic — they are either numb to the world outside of themselves, or disbelieve that anything they might do would have an impact. They keep to themselves, away from the polls, and apathetically go along with the dumbing down they get from corporate-sponsored television and newspapers, while they read fewer and fewer books.

Sex: Just Not That Sexy Anymore

Pornography continues to sell, and is becoming more mainstream. Estimates of porn sales in America range from a conservative estimate of $4 billion dollars up to $15 billion. In any event, the porn business has boomed since 1970, when revenue was estimated at a relatively paltry $5-10 million.

We can now order porn into our living rooms with a subscription to cable or an internet connection. Americans no longer have to sneak out to dark theaters to get their fill of naked, copulating others. There’s freedom in that — and some socio-cultural changes that don’t seem to be going away any time soon.

American women, taking their cue from porn stars, have started shaving or waxing their nether regions to baldness or near baldness. The trend has taken personal grooming into spas and salons, where for $30-$100 women can get themselves trimmed to bikini perfection, shape their pubic hair into a thin stripe, or go all-out and get the front to back, totally bald Brazilian.

“I wouldn’t date a woman who didn’t shave down there,” said one blog commenter, “too gross.” Preferable, it seems, is a woman’s return to labial prepubescence.

While all cosmetic surgery is on the rise, labiaplasty — a particularly painful operation which involves the cutting and restructuring of labial tissues to form a “youthful” appearance — has gone from being a secret of porn stars into the mainstream of female consciousness. Vaginal rejuvenation, a procedure that actually may have some medical merit for women who have prolapsed vaginas, has become a a fashion trend, with many women seeking the surgery only to appease the fantasies of their porn-fed boyfriends and husbands. From Women’s e-News:

Ileana Vasquez is a 29 year-old Southern California housewife with four children. She read about vaginal rejuvenation after she saw an ad in a magazine. Her marriage was in trouble and she noted that her husband wasn’t happy with her sexually.

“One time he had a few beers and told me that because I had all our kids and was looser now he didn’t want me as a woman anymore,” Vasquez said. “He did say he was sorry later on but I knew he was telling the truth.”

Vasquez had the surgery and she noted her marriage is back on track and her sex life is good again. “He’s become my sweetheart again,” she said. “He bought me a house and he wants me all the time.”

Anal sex, which was once reported by Kinsey to be engaged in by 9% of the heterosexual population, is now a growing trend. The CDC has reported that 38.2% of straight men and 32.6% of women now engage in backdoor play. The sales of anal “toys” have increased dramatically in the last decade.

So have porn, waxed parts, and Greek-style lovemaking made America any sexier? Not really. An estimated 25% of American adults, a third of women and a fifth of men, have no interest in sex. Up to 33% of our adult population has gone one year or longer without a sexual partner. Viagra sales have continued to rise since Pfizer introduced the drug in 1998.

Fewer people, it seems, feel adequate anymore. Their bodies and parts don’t match the sexualized images porn has brought them, and they turn towards surgery and drugs to “save” them. Where the Kama Sutra of decades past brought eroticism and imagination to millions of bedrooms, today’s porn is selling Americans on picture-perfect vaginas, silicone enhanced breasts, enormous phalluses, and taking it up the ass.

For millions of Americans, sex just isn’t that sexy anymore.

(to be continued).

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12 comments

  1. Jesus, Jane, HOW do you DO that? How do you get inside my head and read my same EXACT thoughts, and then put them all together in ONE post?

    I wish you could hear me screaming on the other side of this computer. Screaming because I know there’s at least ONE PERSON who really really gets where I’m coming from!

    THANK YOU! I don’t know what else to say. You said so much that I have thought in the silence of my mind.

  2. Found this on Digg, and say bravo. I have been pressured into things I did not want to do and called a prude. It hurts. I don’t like it. But every boyfriend I have wants it now and they don’t think it hurts because it doesn’t hurt the ladies on porn shows. My rectum fell. I was afraid to go to the doctor. Luckily it went back in by itself.

  3. I remember the back-packs and the homework which sometimes I stayed up until 11 ore 12 to do. Its part of the reason I hated school soooooooooooooo much. When I have kids they’re going to montessori or some other school that doesn’t give them hours of homework every week. It’s too much and it does make kids like school less.

    I gave this article a digg, even though I disagree with some of what you said I relate to the school and kids part.

  4. Another symptom of depression is losing interest in activities that were once enjoyed. I think of this and family dinners. I grew up with them, and my kids grew up with them, but my sons & their wives are often too busy or working different shifts.

    Sometimes it was the only time the whole family could get together and learn about what happened in each other’s lives. Now the only time a lot of people come together for family dinner is the holidays, and even then they’re really busy or don’t want to talk about certain things.

    My dad, who wasn’t a real talkative or demonstrative guy, used to take us out for walks individually. It made us feel special. Sometimes we talked and sometimes we didn’t, and sometimes we looked forward to our turn just so we could have alone time with him. That’s a tradition I remember fondly, just like I remember my brothers fighting over the wishbone, or my mom and dad discussing politics or the cost of living. It seems I learned so much from those 30 minutes that I might have otherwise never known.

  5. I’ll be damned if I don’t learn something new everyday. I did not know about the surgeries, and frankly could have lived without knowing about them, LOL.

    Interesting article as always, Jane. Interesting parallel too, about depression and America. Weird, but I see the truth in it.

  6. Jane; I agree with Lonnie, I don’t know how you do it…. your gift to put it into words makes me jump up and say ‘that’s right’…. to sitting in silence and awe. Thank you again!

    Interesting observation regarding the depression…. however I think most would dismiss this as an excuse… or “cop out” (does anyone even say that anymore?)

  7. Jane,
    Right on.
    You know what I have often thought about?
    How unfortunate this really is for all these very young people now having their perceptions about sexuality so skewed because they have been watching porn since they were 12, and they think that porn sex is real sex. They are entering relationships with all the trouble and strife that goes with that, with a totally unreal, and impossible to live up to model. We were able to learn about sex much more naturally. You are so right about all of it. Have you seen the movie Idiocracy? It is a silly movie about 500 years into the future. Everyone is an idiot, and sex rules! it’s gross, funny, and disturbing. It’s basically what you describe.
    Barbara, I so agree about the family time. I have three adult children, one in highschool, a grandaughter, and another granchild on the way. We do the best we can to get together often, but usually some are missing due to all the different work schedules. We do things individually with all of them. I make Sunday dinner for my Dad and anyone who can make it. I don’t know what the answers are anymore for the conditions of our society.
    It seems bleak.

  8. Allison,

    I agree with you on the porning-up of sexuality in society. It’s strange, really, how most of us learn about sex through books and movies. For me, it was the 1978 movie “Coming Home” with Jane Fonda and Jon Voight. (I was a late bloomer!).

    In that movie, I perceived lovemaking as a tender and passionate and loving event, and the books I read, and music I listened to, echoed all of that, so that’s the way I thought it should be/would be, and for the most part it was. . . .

    I can’t imagine being that big-eyed, big-dreams, fantasy-driven & curious teen today. Lady humps, milkshakes, players. . . .? Bitches and baby daddies?

    Not everything is like that, and there’s still tenderness and love to be found (John Mayer, Hope Floats), but the predominate culture seems to a bit more violent, cynical, and yeah. . . .porned up.

    Then again, look at what our parents thought about our halter tops, silk shirts, free love and acid rock! We grew, and I’m sure this generation will too, in their own way.
    So I have hope and don’t think it’s bleak, except for the politics. . . .which will soon change (cross your fingers!!).

  9. hi jane, sorry i haven’t been around a whiile, super busy with holidays and visitors. still reading and enjoying your blog!

    rose

  10. Thanks all for your responses!

    Nila, I hope if nothing else you’ve learned to always speak up for yourself. And please — don’t be afraid to go to a doctor! They really have seen everything, and many of them are even compassionate and understanding.

    Dee, I think so, too. And yes, I still say “cop out”. Groovy sometimes, too. :-)

    Allison, another movie on the list. My daughter told me she was getting me a DVD player for the holidays, so I didn’t get one, but it turns out that was just a ruse. (She knew I’d pester her until she told me something because I really am a kid at heart). Loved what she got me, but still have to get a new DVD player since mine fritzed in the move. By the way, I’m available for dinner Sunday. :-)

    Rebecca, my five year old soon-to-be grandaughter knows all the words to Fergie’s song. It’s disturbing, especially since she mimics the dance. I didn’t say anything to her about it, but hope like me, her dad and my daughter, will lead her away for a game of Cherry Oh’s or Candyland instead.

    Rose, and everyone, I hope your new Year is splendid!

  11. I attended a wedding last summer where at the start of the “hump”song about fifteen very young little girls jumped to the dance floor and started bumping and grinding. They too knew the entire video. What was interesting were the reactions. The young mothers beamed with pride, some jumping to their feet joining in. the older people, sat bewildered, and shocked. It was really something to observe. Well, welcome to 2008!

  12. Oh Jane, I can see so much of this as a Kathy Griffith skit! Do you like her? She’s one of my faves.

    I agree with you about giving children back their childhoods. I was in such a hurry to grow up, and now I think why? LOL……I was also excited about getting my first job! I would have never guessed how I’d feel decades later! Give me the merrygoround and jump ropes again! (Well, except I don’t think I could jump rope anymore.)

    I love your site!

    Peace and love to you and everyone here for a shining 2008!

    Thanks, Laura. Actually, I think Kathie has a skit on cosmetic surgery in which she refers to the V-R. I enjoy her comedy quite a lot, but liked her TV show even better. Her parents cracked me up.

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