Interesting press release in my morning Eurekalert! feed
In an article published in the April 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found that teenagers who preferred popular songs with degrading sexual references were more likely to engage in intercourse or in pre-coital activities.
Already, with the euphemisms. What are pre-coital activities? Heavy petting? Badminton?
Writing in the article, Brian A. Primack, MD, EdM, MS, Center for Research on Health Care at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, states, “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.”
If I had known this then, I would have taken extra care in putting together mix tapes for the girls I fancied.
Surveys were completed by 711 ninth-grade students at three large urban high schools. These participants were exposed to over 14 hours each week of lyrics describing degrading sex. About one third had previously been sexually active. Compared to those with the least exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex, those with the most exposure were more than twice as likely to have had sexual intercourse. The relationship between exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex and sexual experience held equally for both young men and women.
Similarly, among those who had not had sexual intercourse, those in the highest third of exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex were nearly twice as likely to have progressed along a noncoital sexual continuum compared to those in the lowest third. Finally, the relationships between exposure to lyrics describing non-degrading sex and sexual outcomes were not significant.
Students reported the number of hours per day that they listen to music and their favorite musical artists. Through a detailed content analysis, the percentage was calculated of each artist’s most popular songs containing lyrics describing degrading sex. An exposure score for lyrics describing degrading sex was then computed by multiplying each student’s hours of music exposure by the percentage of his or her favorite artists’ songs that contain lyrics describing degrading sex.
Oh, OK, I think I found the problem here. They surveyed “711 ninth-grade students at three large urban high schools”…now, I’m no expert on youth culture, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a song popular among urban high schoolers that wasn’t about degrading sex. Of course kids listen to songs about sex.
When I was a kid, I’d hover over any material, in print, on video or sketched by a 17th c. Dutch Master in the often vain hopes that there would be some sort of sexual content in it. A kid would no sooner pass up a song about deviant sex than they would a Trader Joe’s Vanilla Joe-Joe (Crom, I love them). On the surface, there seems to be some correlation/causation confusion.
And that’s the danger of it. For all I know, this is probably good, legitimate science and there are factors here that just aren’t coming across in a press release. Mark my words, this press release will picked up unedited and regurgitated in news outlets across the land.
It doesn’t help to use phrases like “noncoital sexual continuum” as if that’s a normal everyday figure of speech. What does that mean? It sounds like the leading cause of blindness in teenage Borg. I’m assuming “noncoital sexual continuum” is how we round the bases in science-speak. Does that make it degrading? If so, I don’t know what’s normal.
How do you quantify degrading sexual lyrics, anyway?
“I’m sorry, son, that hip-hop song rates a 6.5 on the Ludacris scale and, well, that’s logarithmic and the logarithm is going to get you. Your mother and I don’t want that sort of thing in the house. You understand? Good, now here’s $20, go see American Pie 7 while your mother and I get our freak on…Gladys, where’s the butter and the Lil Wayne?”