Millennial males react to Harvard report on sex and relationships

Young men open up about how they view love and relationships.

ByABC News
May 31, 2017, 8:18 AM

— -- Millennials are more interested in the components of dating and relationships than casual sex, according to a new Harvard University report that looks into the "hook-up culture" of young adults.

In the report, entitled "The Talk," researchers from Harvard's Graduate School of Education spoke to over 2,000 18-to-25-year-old's from across the U.S. about their romantic and sexual experiences.

The report stated that many young adults and teenagers "tend to greatly overestimate the size of the 'hook-up culture' and these misconceptions can be detrimental to young people."

Richard Weissbourd, the lead author of the report and a psychologist at Harvard Graduate School of Education, told ABC News that the report "is about two pervasive problems."

"One is, we are failing ... miserably to prepare young people for romantic love, probably the most important thing they will do in life," Weissbourd said. "The second is that there are very high rates of misogyny and sexual harassment."

Researchers examined instances of sexual harassment faced by millennials, including everything from being cat-called to being touched without permission by a stranger. The report suggested that the more women succeed in school and life, it seems the harder it is for men to respect them.

ABC News spoke to a group of millennial men about the report and their own experiences. For privacy, only their first names are used.

After the men watched a video clip of a discussion between millennial women who each experienced cat-calling and other forms of disrespect from men, the group said it did not come as a surprise.

Charles, 25, said that while he speaks to women with respect, he is aware that in some instances, he does toe the line.

"Sometimes you make jokes that you think are -- everyone is laughing at, and are good natured, and stuff. But it might -- maybe some people interpret them differently. But it's not done with a mean intention," he explained.

When asked if they felt awkward speaking up for women who are disrespected, the group collectively answered "Yeah."

Weissbourd told ABC News that a lot of adults can be "passive" about instances of sexual harassment. "We can't be passive about it," he said. "I mean this is a place where we really have to be forceful. We hear boys making misogynistic comments and sexually harassing others. We have to intervene."

The report shows that a lot of young people want guidance about how to have a healthy relationship, and the young men in particular admitted it can be a struggle to sort through what that means.

Ismael, 24, told ABC News that the new definition of a relationship or hookup has become vague. "At an age this early, while we're still figuring ourselves out ... I'm changing," he said. "I might not consider myself a good enough person to be a partner with. Because I hold myself to a standard that I haven't reached yet."

The report also looked at pornography and stated that "males as young as middle school are now often saturated with porn," which can offer the false idea that "women enjoy domination and degradation."

"If you're just exposed to this stuff, right, and you're at that age where you're just mimicking what you see, then that might not be super healthy for you," Ismael said. "You don't necessarily know how to put that in context. You know, like, that's make believe entertainment, you know? And, like, a healthy relationship is actually this."

But the resounding consensus from the young men was that they do want to settle down at some point and enjoy a meaningful relationship in the future.

Gladimir, 26, said, "Who doesn't wanna fall in love with their best friend? I think just finding ourselves in our -- and takin' that time to really get to know that person, and then developing is-- is probably the key."

ABC News' Taylor Behrendt contributed to this report.