Monday, August 07, 2006

Lusty lyrics spur teen sex

From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 7.

(The underlying assumption seems to be: teen sex = BAD.)

Study: Lusty lyrics spur teen sex
CHICAGO - Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found.
Music’s influence on teen behavior appears to depend on how sex is portrayed, researchers found.
Songs depicting men as “sexdriven 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 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.
The study, based on telephone interviews with 1,461 participants aged 12 to 17, appears in the August issue of Pediatrics released today.
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.
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-Hop 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.”
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.
Martino said parents, educators and teens themselves need to think more critically about messages in music lyrics.
Fulbright agreed.

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