Teach Teens About Sex or Their Music Will
> 8/22/2006 1:00:12 PM

Never known for shying away from controversial subject matter, the RAND Corporation released a study earlier this month that linked degrading music lyrics to sexual behavior among youths. Appearing in this months issue of the journal Pediatrics, the study concludes that:

Listening to music with degrading sexual lyrics is related to advances in a range of sexual activities among adolescents, whereas this does not seem to be true of other sexual lyrics. This result is consistent with sexual-script theory and suggests that cultural messages about expected sexual behavior among males and females may underlie the effect. Reducing the amount of degrading sexual content in popular music or reducing young people's exposure to music with this type of content could help delay the onset of sexual behavior.

Data was compiled through interviews with teens and adolescents in 2001 and then later in 2002 and 2004. Information regarding their sexual activity was compared with their responses regarding music listening choices. The music was analyzed to discern whether or not it had sexual content and whether or not that content was of a degrading nature.

Speaking in a RAND news release Dr. Steven Martino, who led the study, described types of depictions that qualified as degrading. He points out that often the messages about women are clear, but that often the negative or damaging depictions of men are forgotten. Dr. Martino also speculates on the impact of these depictions:

“It may be that girls who are repeatedly exposed to these messages expect to take a submissive role in their sexual relationships and to be treated with disrespect by their partners,” Martino said. “ These expectations may then have lasting effects on their relationship choices. Boys, on the other hand, may come to interpret reckless male sexual behavior as ‘boys being boys' and dismiss their partners' feelings and welfare as unimportant.”

This may be the most thorough study to make these types of claims thus far, but it certainly isn't the first. The album below, "As Nasty As They Wanna Be," by 2 Live Crew, was released in 1989. The furor raised over the album so far outweighed the actual merits of the work contained therein, that the record has become a poster child for censorship's backlash.

To be fair, the group's song "Me So Horny" was pretty outrageous, especially for the time, and while it wasn't receiving much airplay on radio stations, MTV made sure it got its fair share of time. The band was arrested for obscenity during a concert, there were lawsuits and counter-suits and all in all, the exposure probably put 2 Live Crew on the map in a way that they never deserved. The point is that parents and concerned groups worried about these same things nearly 20 years ago, and their parents worried about Elvis, The Beatles and Mick Jagger even before that.

Instead of legislating censorship and making martyrs out crappy musicians, parents need to speak to their children about the music they're listening to. Sexual education in schools should be a start to making sure that teens understand healthy, safe sex information, but beyond that, parents have a responsibility to teach values and smart decision making to make sure that kids can understand the difference between the fantasy of some music and the reality of life. It's only when parents and schools blush at the opportunity to provide real, factual information that degrading music is allowed to flourish and pollute societal norms. These artists aren't to blame, they're going to make what sells. But we have the ability and the responsibility to make sure that it doesn't become the only word on sex and relationships.

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