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This Is Kind of Creepy

March 9, 2013

The other day on the radio, they were interviewing a psychologist who was talking about something called “porn creep.”  I’ll spare you the details but essentially it refers to a condition in which people who spend an inordinate amount of time looking at pornographic material lose the ability to experience the real thing.

They actually interviewed twenty-somethings who basically said they were unable to have a normal sex life because they’d spent so much time interfacing, if you will, with their computer.


I took the risk of Googling the term to see if it was mainstream and, yes, it is.  Not only do you lose the ability to function in the real world, in extreme cases, you need increasingly graphic stuff to, shall we say, pique your interest.  The condition has been studied and there is even a cure for it, in case you are interested.

After that segment of the show was over, they had the news and then had extended commentary on a number of the news stories du jour.

As usually happens these days when I listen to the news or any analysis thereof, I shake my head and wonder what the hell is going on.  It was the same old thing.  Sanity and civility seem to have taken a permanent vacation; and people seem completely unable to listen, communicate and engage in civil discourse without recourse to name calling, or worse, lawyers.

I switched to the oldies music station.

But that night I figured out what the problem is.

We were out at an event where people didn’t know each other all that well.  As a result, no one talked about anything controversial.  The conversation stayed at the level of kids, pets and television.  I’m not too well equipped to talk about any of those, but what interested me was the discussion of TV.

All they talked about were reality TV shows.  Mostly cooking shows, but they also now have reality shows about house buying, house renovating, losing weight, cosmetic surgery, raising kids, driving trucks in bad weather and pre-pubescent beauty pageants.  There is even a show where people bid on the junk in unclaimed storage lockers and hope it’s worth more than they paid for it.

The common denominator in all of these shows is a general lack of civility.  Apparently what makes the shows so popular is that the contestants are constantly bad mouthing each other and generally being nasty.  Cooperation and teamwork are generally considered signs of weakness.  Winning is less about excelling and more about torpedoing the competition at all costs.

At some point that evening, all of those pieces sort of clicked together and I developed my new theory of why contemporary society is so uncivil—reality creep!

Just as the person who is over exposed to porn finds themself unable to function in the real world and requires ever greater stimuli, I’m thinking that people over exposed to “reality” via reality TV develop the same problem.

As reality TV becomes increasingly popular, the hyper individualistic, winning at all cost behaviour of the people appearing in reality TV shows becomes the norm. So every discourse or discussion has to have a winner.  Compromising is for losers.


There’s supposed to be a cure for porn creep.  Let’s hope they can find one for reality creep!

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2013 1:49 pm

    Interesting post. You took it to an unsuspected place, but it’s very interesting to consider – but also scary how much influence media has on the general public. Of course all corporations involved will deny the true power it has, shaking off all responsibility for what they put out there but it absolutely does all have an affect.

    However I wasn’t aware of the term porn creep either…

  2. March 9, 2013 2:16 pm

    Personally, I’m a trifle skeptical of “pron creep,” although it’s quite true that there are people who do not beenfit from time spent looking at porn. I used to date one. In fact I was the first person he ever, in the euphemistic sense of the term, “dated.” In the process of dumping me he remarked that he had not expected real sex to be so much “work.”

    But I suspect the number of people in this situation is severely limited. On the other hand, there seems to be no limit to the number of people who believe that candor about sex will lead to the End Of The World. End of rant.

    Reality creep: well, that may well be more arguable, since unlike porn, crappy shows that depict boorish behavior are almost impossible to escape in public venues. But I think the “win at all costs” rubric predates them; something like it was going on in the late Eighties at least, so far as the death of civility. It was some time in the early 90s when I noticed rude driving and F-U behavior proliferating in public spaces. The US Congress followed suit during the budget staredown of 1994. Jerry Springer came some time afterward.

    • March 14, 2013 12:18 pm

      The rant is called for.

      Accurate statistics about porn creep would be hard to nail down, but they interviewed kids who claimed to have been hooked since their early teens and the therapists made it sound fairly routine to them.

      You’re definitely right that civility has been on the decline for a long time and that Jerry Springer, etc. were the advance troops. You could even go back to the 60s and 70s if you want to indict TV in general.

      • March 14, 2013 2:36 pm

        Well, I think compulsive and dysfunctional approaches to sex have been with us forever. At the high end, consider the Emperor Tiberius, John Wilmot Earl of Rochester, or the Marquis de Sade; about all their disports and effusions is something banal and juvenile, on a level with the hothoused exaggerations of cyber-porn, and incongruous with their intellectual stature. (Well, Tiberius was mainly a successful general and then emperor, but he was hardly a dufus.) At the low end, consider generations of men who blew all their money “on whores.” The notorious “Walter” of My Secret Life (an instructive memoir in several volumes; don’t drop it on your foot) is a perfect middle class example. Virtually all his free time seems to have been devoted to sex for pay and voyeurism.

        Incidentally, the theologian Paul Tillich was a devotee of pornography and drove his wife to distraction therewith. And this in the days when you had to invest a fair amount of money in a projector and film reels to view live porn; so easy accessibiltiy on the Net is not the sole culprit.

        Have you ever encountered the Jerry Springer opera? It almost made me like him.

  3. March 9, 2013 2:44 pm

    People that watch reality TV have “vapid creep”

  4. crytomodat permalink
    March 10, 2013 4:15 am

    The same thing seems to have happened with music: programming (of all sorts) always has a soundtrack and people are now unable to go about their lives without listening to music while they do it.

    • March 14, 2013 12:19 pm

      I have to admit that I’m guilty of that–using my own sounds to mask out all the other noise!

  5. March 10, 2013 8:21 pm

    I think you’ve made a very insightful observation and coining the term “reality creep” is a good one, too! I think civility died a long time ago, but if possible, it is getting worse. You may be onto something!

  6. March 10, 2013 8:47 pm

    I’m still laughing at the “they’d spent so much time interfacing, if you will, with their computer”. It’s all in that “if you will” 😉

    • March 14, 2013 12:21 pm

      So glad you liked that. I spent some time considering whether it should be “if you will” or “as it were” and decided that “if you will” was better.

  7. March 11, 2013 3:37 am

    Is our human nature to be voyeuristic? Or as godtisx asks above, does the media contribute? Behavior begins in the family unit and it is there, many are failing their children. We need pills, devices, wires, and therapy to find the meaning of life. And usually, if found, much of life has already slipped away.

    Excellent, thought-provoking post.

  8. March 12, 2013 4:34 pm

    I’d like to look into this but also afraid to.

  9. Snoring Dog Studio permalink
    March 13, 2013 12:18 am

    You voiced my same belief. Reality TV is the worst thing that has happened to humanity since the A Bomb. Our society celebrates the snarky comeback and roots for the most vicious “stars” on these shows. It’s cool to be uncivil, to have the last word, to make someone back down. It’s a different sort of violence in TV, but probably worse than anything involving weapons. It promotes inhumanity.

  10. March 13, 2013 2:32 am

    I think there’s way too much ‘reality’ shows; to the point where it’s getting ludicrous. I’m suffering from Geezer-creep: I just wanna be left alone and not bothered with anymore BS.

    • March 14, 2013 12:25 pm

      I hear the networks are working on a “At Home With the Geezer” show and are looking for geezers to visit!

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