Madonna's utter disdain for hydrangeas made news over the weekend, largely because of her failure to realize such a public display of snobbery was caught on tape, as well as the ridiculousness behind her bemoaning such a gift. A quick recap: flowers were presented to Madge by a fan during a press conference for her new film W.E., to which she not-so-quietly proclaimed: "I absolutely loathe hydrangeas." Never meet your idols, kids. After the world exploded with viral riffs and humorous musings on Her Madgesty's comment, which has likely led many devout followers to rethink their own floral preferences, a spokesperson issued an official response to the non-controversy. "She's entitled to like any flower she wants and she didn't want to hurt the feeling of the hydrangeas of the world. No disrespect to the hydrangeas lovers of the world but she prefers different types of flowers," Madonna's rep said in a statement.
Maybe we don't get a lot of flowers around here, but the whole things sounds a little ungrateful to us. But maybe not. Hydrangeas might just be a really, really terrible breed of flowers that have secretly been responsible for some of the worst happenings in world history (or just music, specifically). We're not florists, which is why we threw this one to the professionals, hoping to discover if loathing is the typical reaction one might have in the presence of such (seemingly pretty) flowers.
"Everyone has their personal preferences when it comes to flowers, but I will say she is the only person I've ever heard of that hates hydrangeas," said Jeff Leatham, notable floral designer to the stars. While Leatham lists orchids, calla lilies and roses among his most popular client requests, hydrangeas have been an American garden staple since beings transported from England in the 1700s, later becoming a fixture in mainstream households thanks to the Tao of Martha Stewart. While their Northern European origin alone should satiate the notorious Anglophile's craving for all things born and bred across the pond, hydrangeas are frequently used in both Japanese herbs and teas, leading us to demand an ingredients list for wherever her fountain of youth creams and potions come from.
Madonna was once partial to filling videos like "La Isla Bonita," "Bedtime Stories" and "Love Profusion"—not to mention her children's book The English Roses—with floral references, including roses, sun flowers and lilies. To her credit, we never once saw a hydrangea in the bunch, so give her points for consistency. So where did this longstanding hatred come from? "Hydrangeas are very romantic, feminine and maybe a little demur," suggested Eddie Zaratsian of tick-tock Couture Flowers based in Los Angeles, Calif., who has worked with corporate clients like Chanel, as well as an undisclosed list of celebrities. "Madonna is known for her strength and confidence and so it's only natural she would gravitate towards a bolder flower." The elephant in the room: hydrangeas are working-class flowers, aren't they? Somehow partially responsible for current economic crisis? Make your pee smell bad? "I think a lot of people have strong opinions about flowers, [but] it's just that we pay close attention to what celebrities do and say," Zaratsian continued diplomatically. "Sure, it could be a small part of cultivating an image, also in the same way Madonna likes to wear certain designer clothing like Dolce & Gabbana. But it's important to know what you like and it's especially important for celebrities to create an image. I don't see it as a negative thing at all."
To Zaratsian, who believes every flower to be a "gift from God"—we'd make Carrion flowers the exception—it is the overall experience of receiving flowers that helps one formulate a memory, and thus create an opinion or preference to hold over time. "What [do] they take from that connotation of that flower? What is that memory of that flower for them?" he explained. Perhaps the larger question is: what did these innocent flowers ever do to you, Madonna? Because of her quick, vehement response at the Venice Film Festival, we'd say they stole all of her lunch money as a kid, and beat her up on the schoolyard, obviously.
Staunch opinions like these might seem ridiculous, yet are really no worse than anything said or done by the women featured on Bridezillas, or some of our own most private freak-outs in the frozen food aisle, conveniently hidden from reality cameras and mainstream media. Madonna is also not the first star to have a flower-related episode. Katy Perry famously—and in all caps—outlined her distinct distaste for carnations earlier this year, leading up to her California Dreams tour. Carnations, of course, have long been the black sheep of the floral family, so we could fully understand it if Madonna had decided to toss them from the hands of her fan altogether. "I'm never surprised when people don't care for baby's breath or carnations," Leatham confessed, hinting at the longstanding bias towards carnations due to their low cost and simplistic look. Yet, both designers insist hydrangeas do not share the same stereotype. "There is no connotation for a hydrangea," said Zaratsian. "Personally I don't know why Madonna hates hydrangeas, but you know she could hate something now and then love it later. It all depends on who does [the arrangement]." Congratulations, Madge. Despite your outburst, the floral world is still hopeful you'll change your mind. And somewhere, a sad bunch of droopy flowers is still yours, if you'll have them.
It was an inside job.
TW: This article contains references to sexual assault and abuse.
Let's get one thing straight: Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself.
According to official reports helmed by top medical examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson, Epstein hanged himself in his cell—but later medical reports suggested that his injuries resembled those of a homicide more than a suicide. When Epstein died, he had been removed from suicide watch, left alone and not checked on for hours because the two guards assigned to watch him were "sleeping," and, conveniently, the cameras outside his cell "malfunctioned." Recently, a former Navy SEAL went on Fox News and blurted out, "Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself."
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Porn videos games and video game themed porn are suddenly on the rise.
One of the biggest things that sets Millenials and Gen Z apart from previous generations is their relationship with technology, a common critique being that video games have replaced real life for many young people, particularly young men.
It's true that many 20-and-30-somethings began playing video games when their brains were still malleable.This was before psychologists began raising concerns about the effect it may have on the brain, concerns that are now backed by a mountain of evidence. Frequent video game playing has been connected to a myriad of issues, including decreased life satisfaction, loneliness, decreased social competence, poorer academic achievement, increased impulsivity, increased aggression, and increased depression and anxiety.
These concerns have only been further highlighted in cultural conversation by the sheer number of people who play video games: 67% of Americans, to be exact, a number that has grown exponentially in recent years. Perhaps even more startling, according to Pew Research Center, 72% of men younger than 30 report playing games often. Scariest of all, Douglas Gentile, a psychologist who's been studying the effect of video games on the brain for decades, estimates that roughly 8.5% percent of young people who play video games in the United States are addicted — not including the number of people who are inevitably underreporting how much time they spend playing.
There's also plenty of evidence that video games can be a positive thing for brain development. According to Psychology Today, playing video games can help children develop "perception, attention, memory, and decision-making," as well as "logical, literary, executive, and even social skills."
But regardless of what side of the evidence you choose to believe, there's a new factor to consider in the conversation about video games' psychological effects: their relationship to porn. Most notably, according to a study by Laura Stockdale and Sarah M.Coyneif, playing an excessive amount of video games greatly raises your chances of becoming addicted to porn, and, likely, vice versa. This is because both sources of stimulus, primarily visual and aural, affect the same pleasure center in the brain, specifically the ventral striatum which helps elicit the good feelings you get when you do something good, can be done in the same environment (alone, in a technologically connected room), and are both sources of immediate satisfaction and escapism.
Prominent Stanford University psychologist, Phillip Zimbardo, conducted an in-depth study into 20,000 young men's relationships with video games and pornography. He said of the experiment: "Our focus is on young men who play video games to excess, and do it in social isolation - they are alone in their room. Now, with freely available pornography, which is unique in history, they are combining playing video games, and as a break, watching on average, two hours of pornography a week." He goes on to say, "It begins to change brain function. It begins to change the reward centre of the brain and produces a kind of excitement and addiction. Young men -- who play video games and use porn the most -- are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety."
As these commingled addictions develop, they soon (similarly to drug addictions) require greater and greater degrees of stimulation to get that same chemical release. But since these two addictions seem to affect similar demographics and often coincide with one another disproportionately, there's something that sets them apart from other forms of addiction. According to Zimbardo, porn and video game addictions are "arousal addictions," which differ from drug and gambling addictions in that the attraction is in "the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content." So while drug addicts need increasing amounts of a substance to get high, they still crave the same substance over and over, while arousal addicts need an increasing intensity and variety of stimuli, as well as more and more.
This leads to a desire for increasingly intense stimuli, leading addicts to more violent and bizarre video games and porn in pursuit of novelty. Fascinatingly, and perhaps disturbingly, while these addictions are interwoven, they used to require separate stimuli to satiate — but even that's changing. In an inevitable progression, the two addictions have begun to seamlessly merge in the form of pornographic video games and video game-themed porn, allowing an addict to satiate both needs simultaneously, setting off a veritable fireworks display of dopamine responses — at least until the viewer becomes desensitized. For example, Fortnite-inspired porn is apparently so widely consumed that "Fortnite" was one of the top 20 most-searched terms on Pornhub in 2018, and in 2016, when Overwatch rose to popularity, searches for Overwatch porn jumped by 817% in a matter of months.
Perhaps even more distressing is the advent of porn video games, where players take an active role in the plot of the explicit content they're viewing, perfectly intermingling the already connected addictions. While some of these games show consensual sexual intercourse, many do not. For example, RapeLay, produced in Japan, is a game where a player plays as a disembodied penis to simulate rape of a woman and her child daughters over and over again. There was a massive outcry against the game when it was released, ultimately causing Amazon to stop selling it — but not before millions and millions of people purchased the game.
As an article on the topic in Men's Health points out, this trend of combining two similar and symbiotic addictions is understandable as video games already often feature hyper-sexualized characters, porn is being watched more and more on video game consoles, and animated porn allows for a level of fantasy live-action porn can't reach. If your brain is lighting up in a similar way when you play video games and when you watch porn, of course you'll begin associating the two. Throw in the feeling of power that comes with having control over the results of the stimuli, as a player does in porn video games, and you have a perfect chemical spider web, one that ensnares young men in an endless and isolating cycle of escape.
There are legitimate physical issues that can result from addictions of this kind. There's evidence that it can lead to debilitating sexual dysfunction in young men, called porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), a term coined by Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, an associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School — an affliction that can get worse as a video game addiction feeds off a porn addiction in a vicious cycle of dopamine release. Many doctors are reporting that more young men than ever before are coming to them with ED, and they think the cause is, at least in part, because of this rise in virtual escapism in young men. "I have absolutely seen a pretty drastic increase in ED rates among young men, especially in the last two, three years," says sex therapist Vanessa Marin. "My average client base is starting to get younger and younger."
Even more troublingly, Zimbardo concludes that the effects go even deeper, and that this toxic combination creates a "generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment." Of course, this estimation doesn't take into account countless other factors at play in the lives of young men, not to mention the risk that comes with shaming people for sexual exploration. As Dr. Marin goes on to say, "We're not having any conversations about what are healthy ways to engage in porn. So no one has a general sense of what's healthy and unhealthy when it comes to porn. And of course it's not black and white either, but I do see a lot of younger men engaging in porn in ways that aren't healthy, in ways that make it more difficult for them to connect with partners and make it more difficult to engage in their own healthy sexuality."
Perhaps the same can be said of video games, that are treated dismissively by parents, as a quirk of young men that should be, for the most part, discouraged until outgrown. Perhaps, the culturally polarized narrative surrounding video games and porn is part of the problem, and the conversation we need to be having is how young men can indulge in video games and explore their sexuality, without the shame that can often foster addiction — and without letting it consume their lives.
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