Listen and Learn? Sex and Songs

A study published in the April 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that teens who listen to songs that have sexually degrading lyrics are more likely to engage in sexual intercourse and noncoital sexual activity. Author¬†Brian A. Primack, MD, from the Center for Research on Health Care at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, states that, “This study demonstrates that, among this sample of young adolescents, high exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex in popular music was independently associated with higher levels of sexual behavior. In fact, exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex was one of the strongest associations with sexual activity…These results provide further support for the need for additional research and educational intervention in this area.” This study was done over a period of years. It took a baseline level of interest and sexual involvement by telephone interview in 2001, then followed up with survey’s 2002 and 2004. The association between degrading sexual lyrics and sexual activity was found after controlling for other variables that could be accounting for this phenomenon such as lack of parental supervision, sex, race, previous sexual experience, religiosity and pre-existing deviant behaviour. It is important to note that sexual lyrics that were not rated as “degrading” did not show an association with increased intercourse and non-sexual activity. ¬†The definition of degrading was based on content that showed sexually insatiable men pursuing women valued only as sex objects.

The messages teens gain from sexually degrading music should be the primary concern here. Degrading sexual content in music is, in effect, a type of sex education. This underscores the importance of sex education in schools. Secondly, increased sexual activity is not necessarily a negative experience. Over half of the participants in the study were 18 or older at the time of the final survey. Obviously, adult sexual activity is not a cause for concern. Again, it is the quality of these interactions that could be of concern given the messages that are being conveyed in degrading content. Lastly, the researchers found that listening to music, in general, was associated with increased sexual activity for teens. Okay, parents, is it time to panic and ban all music?! Obviously, the answer is to educate teens so that they have healthy and appropriate sexual experiences that are not informed by sexually degrading content.

You can read more on this study here.

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