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David Baxter

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Sexual Lyrics Prompt Teens to Have Sex
August 06, 2006

CHICAGO (Associated Press) -- Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found.

Whether it's hip-hop, rap, pop or rock, much of popular music aimed at teens contains sexual overtones. Its influence on their behavior appears to depend on how the sex is portrayed, researchers found.

Songs depicting men as "sex-driven studs," women as sex objects and with explicit references to sex acts are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior than those where sexual references are more veiled and relationships appear more committed, the study found.

Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

Among heavy listeners, 51 percent started having sex within two years, versus 29 percent of those who said they listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

Exposure to lots of sexually degrading music "gives them a specific message about sex," said lead author Steven Martino, a researcher for Rand Corp. in Pittsburgh. Boys learn they should be relentless in pursuit of women and girls learn to view themselves as sex objects, he said.

"We think that really lowers kids' inhibitions and makes them less thoughtful" about sexual decisions and may influence them to make decisions they regret, he said.

The study, based on telephone interviews with 1,461 participants aged 12 to 17, appears in the August issue of Pediatrics, being released Monday.

Most participants were virgins when they were first questioned in 2001. Follow-up interviews were done in 2002 and 2004 to see if music choice had influenced subsequent behavior.

Natasha Ramsey, a 17-year-old from New Brunswick, N.J., said she and other teens sometimes listen to sexually explicit songs because they like the beat.

"I won't really realize that the person is talking about having sex or raping a girl," she said. Even so, the message "is being beaten into the teens' heads," she said. "We don't even really realize how much."

"A lot of teens think that's the way they're supposed to be, they think that's the cool thing to do. Because it's so common, it's accepted," said Ramsey, a teen editor for Sexetc.org, a teen sexual health Web site produced at Rutgers University.

"Teens will try to deny it, they'll say 'No, it's not the music,' but it IS the music. That has one of the biggest impacts on our lives," Ramsey said.

The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the U.S. recording industry, declined to comment on the findings.

Benjamin Chavis, chief executive officer of the Hip-Hip Summit Action Network, a coalition of hip-hop musicians and recording industry executives, said explicit music lyrics are a cultural expression that reflect "social and economic realities."

"We caution rushing to judgment that music more than any other factor is a causative factor" for teens initiating sex, Chavis said.

Martino said the researchers tried to account for other factors that could affect teens' sexual behavior, including parental permissiveness, and still found explicit lyrics had a strong influence.

However, Yvonne K. Fulbright, a New York-based sex researcher and author, said factors including peer pressure, self-esteem and home environment are probably more influential than the research suggests.

"It's a little dangerous to just pinpoint one thing. You have to look at everything that's going on in a young person's life," she said. "When somebody has a healthy sense of themselves, they don't take these lyrics too seriously."

David Walsh, a psychologist who heads the National Institute on Media and the Family, said the results make sense, and echo research on the influence of videos and other visual media.

The brain's impulse-control center undergoes "major construction" during the teen years at the same time that an interest in sex starts to blossom, he said.

Add sexually arousing lyrics and "it's not that surprising that a kid with a heavier diet of that ... would be at greater risk for sexual behavior," Walsh said.

Martino said parents, educators and teens themselves need to think more critically about messages in music lyrics.

Fulbright agreed.

"A healthy home atmosphere is one that allows a child to investigate what pop culture has to offer and at the same time say 'I know this is a fun song but you know that it's not right to treat women this way or this isn't a good person to have as a role model,'" she said.
 

David Baxter

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Frankly, my first response to reading this was that it's garbage research. My second response was that it's poorly designed garbage research. And my third response is that I don't believe it for a moment.

I'm not personally a fan of RAP or hip-hop, partly because of the negative and demeaning attitudes toward women that the lyrics contain. But that doesn't mean the average young person listening to this "music" is even hearing the "lyrics", let alone trying to imitate them.

One of the things I remember finding odd early in my career was the coincidence of three young teens all suffering their first psychotic episode while watching the movie The Wall while high. I don't recall feeling any need to blame the movie for schizophrenia, though.
 

ThatLady

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I read that article on MSN a week or so ago, David. I don't think most thinking people doubted what they have proven for a moment, even without a study. Most parents I know, and I, believe that music, video games, television, movies, computer games and chatrooms, and other forms of media popular with teens have a definite and measurable effect on their attitudes and behaviors. They're impressionable. They're at the age when they're curious and exploring their world. With the media being such a large part of their lives, they can't help but be affected by the message that media carries.
 

David Baxter

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The part that bothers me is the implication that without these lyrics teens wouldn't be thinking about having sex. That's just unbelievably naive.
 

foghlaim

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when i read this article i decided to go and ask my own young ppl.. 21 and 19.. what they thought...

both said it's absolute rubbish... listening to any kind of music doesn't make a diff... whether it contains sexuallyrics or not. I asked them what did.. they said .. depends on the person or persons whether they wanted to have sex or not. Did they think the way ppl were reared made any diff.. they said yes.. because some parents teach the diff between right and wrong.. how to behave towards the opposite sex.. and if they were going to have sex to have protection with them. this discussion broadened a bit.. but ithe rest doesn't relate to the article above.

anyway the concensus was..
music of any type didn't make a diff..that
if the young ppl wanted to have sex they would regardless of any type lyrics.

my own belief is almost the same... young ppl are young ppl and they are going to experiment with having sex...maybe hormone driven.. or peer pressure are more likely pressures for some.

nsa
 

ThatLady

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The part that bothers me is the implication that without these lyrics teens wouldn't be thinking about having sex. That's just unbelievably naive.

With that I certainly agree. Of course teens will think about having sex. Hormones see to that. :D
 

braveheart

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before ipods there was D H Lawrence et al....

(cynical ex English Lit student, me....)
 
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it might not be the lyrics (although they do not help) but one thing i am quite convinced of is that the sexual content of the video clips, as well as magazines and tv programs are distorting teens' views of sex. the portrayal of women as sex objects and men as superior sickens me. have you noticed how little girls 8, 9, 10 years old already seem to dress like they're 18 and how they dance? there is a lot of power in images that people do not realize. it all gets registered subconsciously. just think about hypnosis where imagery can evoke a lot of emotions.

it bothers me that there is so much sexual content in our culture, in our advertising, etc. often enough at the supermarket they have magazines at kids' eyelevel and they see pictures of women that are anorexic on the covers of the tabloids. what kind of message are we sending them? it is disgusting and our children should be protected from that. all i can do now is just talk about it to my kids and hope they learn from me, i can't stop them from seeing these things because unfortunately the ideal of being unrealistically thin will bombard them from every angle.
 

Halo

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BBC

I admire and think that you are courageous to talk to your kids about it and what they are seeing in society is not necessarily realistic.

Good job. :)
 

David Baxter

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bbc said:
all i can do now is just talk about it to my kids and hope they learn from me

That really is the key, in my opinion. We can't stop our children from being exposed to all this stuff but we can help them to learn how to filter it and evaluate it.
 
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thanks nancy :) i believe in guiding my children, not trying to cover things up. i'd rather that they hear about real life from me then to build a distorted view of life through their peers and the media. i know i can't protect them fully and i know i can't control everything they hear or see. so the best i can do is try to guide them as best i can and to set an example.
 

Halo

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Again very admirable for not being naive about what is really going on and trying to shelter your kids. It is best to be open and honest with them as it sounds like that is what you are trying to do. :)
 

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