As teens grapple with Me Too, Jayden Castillo just wants to be a ‘good guy’

As teens grapple with Me Too, Jayden Castillo just wants to be a ‘good guy’

The world taught Jayden Castillo to be strong and stoic. But he knows his silence comes at a cost. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)

On a sunny autumn afternoon, Jayden Castillo and Janelle Moore sit at a suburban Wendy’s, sipping strawberry lemonades and talking about the realities of sex for American teens.

The old friends, both seniors at Oxon Hill High School in Maryland, believe access to porn has warped their generation’s concept of sex — especially in the minds of boys. “They learn everything from online,” Janelle explains.

But on the question of sexual assault, the two are split. Janelle suspects things may have improved over the past few years. “Just because now, more than ever, it’s publicized,” she says. “You know you can get in trouble for doing certain things, so you don’t have a choice but to behave.”

Jayden shakes his head and lowers his eyes. “We both know it still happens,” he says.

Raising boys

In light of the past year’s news of rampant sexual misconduct by some powerful and famous men, Washington Post journalists asked the question: How do we raise boys? To find out, we searched the country, talking to boys, parents and experts about what it’s like to be a boy today. In this series:

“It still happens, but more and more people are getting educated. Now we have the Me Too movement,” Janelle argues. “I was 13 or 14 when I heard, ‘If the answer isn’t “Yes,” the answer is “No.” ’

“But,” Jayden replies, “some guys want to think a ‘no’ is a ‘yes.’ ”

He is 17 years old, 6-foot-3, popular and athletic. And he knows that sometimes “no” is not enough.

Janelle is silent.

“Some guys want to think a ‘no’ is a ‘yes,’ ” Jayden Castillo says. He says that he’s not one of those guys.

Relationships and sex have always been tricky territory for teenagers, but the landscape today is charged with fraught questions about coercion, culpability and consent. A young man such as Jayden Castillo stands at the center of the minefield.

Like boys all over the country, Jayden grew up in a world that taught him to be indomitable, tough and aggressive. Those are the traits so many spheres of society demand of boys and revere in men. And they are the same qualities that sometimes lead to trouble — for guys and others in their midst.

Gary Barker, chief executive of Promundo, an organization that enlists men in the effort to curb violence against women, says many young men feel there is a “real way” to be a man. Boys learn on athletic fields, at recess and through movies, music and video games that the “real way” involves not backing down from a fight and never asking for help. And, Barker adds, “guys who believe in that cluster of ideas about manhood tend to cause more harm to themselves and others.”

In psychology circles, that cluster of ideas has become known as the “boy box.” And boys keep getting pushed into it, even as the country is waking up to its violent ramifications.

Federal health and crime statistics stack up against boys and young men: They’re four times more likely than girls and young women to commit suicide.
They make up 85 percent of juvenile delinquent rolls. Ninety-eight percent of sexual assaults against women are committed by men — a number that has remained constant over the decades. And boys — almost exclusively
— have been the ones to take assault weapons into schools to murder their peers.

Suicide rate for males 15-24 remains far higher than that

of females

Chart shows deaths per 100,000.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

National Center for Health Statistics, Underlying Cause

of Death 1999-2017 report.

Suicide rate for males 15-24 remains far higher than that of females

Chart shows deaths per 100,000.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Underlying Cause of

Death 1999-2017 report.

Suicide rate for males 15-24 remains far higher than that of females

Chart shows deaths per 100,000.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Underlying Cause of Death

1999-2017 report.

As they become teenagers, the pivotal time when they grow from boys to young men, it is often the lack of meaningful connection, especially with male peers, that shapes them most.

“We tell our sons to not express their vulnerability,” Promundo’s Barker explains. “When they turn 14, 15, 16, they push their friends away. It’s ‘That’s so gay,’ if you look like you’ve got a really best guy…

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