(NEW YORK) — At a time when sexual misconduct allegations against prominent men seem to emerge on a near-daily basis, Good Morning America is talking with boys, parents and experts to take an in-depth look at how to raise a new generation of men who treat women as equals.
After hearing from young boys and teenagers, GMA sat down with a group of college-age young men to hear their views on relationships and what they think it means to be a man.
ABC News’ Deborah Roberts asked a group of young men, ages 18 to 22, for their thoughts on everything from “locker-room banter” to how alcohol consumption affects relationships.
Parents remain extremely “important and influential” in their son’s life during these critical years, Dr. Harold Koplewicz, a psychiatrist and president of the Child Mind Institute in New York City, told ABC News as he, and the boys’ parents, listened in on their discussion.
When asked to describe what being a “good man” means to them with only one word, the boys, whom GMA agreed to identify only by their first names, responded with the following terms: responsible, respectful, love, value and humble.
“Being a good man just really comes down to being a good person,” Khalil said.
Daniel added, “It’s pretty much making a conscious effort to check in with your humility.”
When asked where they got their ideas from about what it means to be a good man, Ollie noted how impressionable they can be when it comes to understanding masculinity.
“We sort of take examples and then try to be better versions of what we see,” he said.
‘The onus or responsibility is on men to make a change’
The group also discussed the pressure they feel to participate in — or say nothing — when they hear their peers engaging in “locker-room talk,” which Roberts described as “that kind of disrespectful talk, when you know that a woman is not in earshot.”
“It’s hard because when you’re made the odd one out like that, it’s like everybody can gang up on you and call you gay,” Jordan said. “Or, you know, emasculate you in some way. … All of a sudden, then you give people the opportunity to bring you down.”
Isaiah, however, said his relationship with his mother has significantly influenced how he views or speaks about women as a young adult.
“A saying always stuck with me that a man treats his wife how he treats his mother,” he said. “That type of thinking always shaped how I spoke about women. … And I didn’t view them as objects. I viewed them as my equal.”
Koplewicz told ABC News that he believes “there’s a very big difference between young men who are between 18 and 22 and older men who, let’s say, are above 40 years of age. A lot of these guys have grown up with a different sensibility.”
“I think there’s a difference with this generation,” he added, noting that open discussions about “respect” or “consent” in sexual education classes “weren’t necessarily part of the lessons learned by 40-and-older men.”
Khalil said he believes the “onus” is on men to change the culture.
“This idea of locker-room talk, and men being complacent when they hear these horrible things being said by other men, really underscores the importance of acknowledging … these issues of sexual misconduct that we’re hearing about more and more,” Khalil said.
“The onus or responsibility is on men to make a change and to address these issues, even when it may be socially uncomfortable to do it at that time,” he added.
The college-age men also discussed the role that alcohol consumption can have on their relationships with others.
The group said they felt a responsibility to step in if they witness a situation where they believe someone may be too intoxicated to give or receive consent.
“For some reason, we can’t get it in our heads that good people can do bad things,” Jordan said. “I think once we get that in our heads, we can become more comfortable calling out people.”
Ollie added that when alcohol is involved, “You want to check in with your friends to make sure they’re OK.”
“You also have to check in on your friends to make sure they’re not doing anything,” Ollie added. “Because people change when they’re drunk.”
Koplewicz told ABC News that “these young men are very conscious.”
“Lots of things are going on in the world that are disconcerting to them,” Koplewicz said. “Yet they’re able to separate what other people are doing versus what they know they should do.”
Key takeaways for parents raising college-age sons
Koplewicz also broke down what he identified as his top actionable tips and takeaways for parents of college-age sons, on how to help them understand.
1. Continue to talk to your son about how his brain is still developing and changing.
Koplewicz told ABC News it is important to tell your son at this age that “he is capable of incredible learning and adaptation.”
“At the same time, his ability to plan and exercise self-control is not fully mature,” he added. “Let him know that it’s OK to stop and think and ask for advice — or say he’s not sure about something.”
2. You are still important and influential in your son’s life.
“Asserting your values, and supporting and guiding him toward healthy habits and attitudes may seem unproductive, but you can’t know how much your example still means,” Koplewicz said.
3. Let him know how courageous and masculine it is to stand up for what he thinks is right, and to stand up for more vulnerable people.
Koplewicz recommended telling your son that you understand “that being nonconformist is socially risky.” He added that parents should also instill, however, that “‘going along with the crowd’ is just another way of being impulsive and ignoring what’s best for us and other people.”
4. Tell him that most young people — male and female — are confused about sex and relationships.
“Sexual development is all about new experiences, including feeling embarrassed, feeling unsure, feeling bad and feeling good,” Koplewicz said.
“It’s OK to be confused. You don’t have to act confident or aggressive to make up for it.”
5. Have a conversation about how he might end up regretting some of the decisions that he makes too quickly or in response to social pressure.
“Part of growing up is learning to make informed choices, not to give in to impulsivity,” Koplewicz said. “Becoming a man means learning to think about people other than yourself right now — including how you’ll feel in the future.”
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