Do Sexual Song Lyrics Promote Sex Among American Teens?S

A new study suggests that 14 and 15 year olds who listen to music with sexual lyrics are more likely to be sexually active. But is music to blame for kids having sex too young?

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh surveyed a group of 711 ninth grade students at three large urban high schools, reports EurekAlert. The teens were broken into groups by how often they listen to music. Those who listen more than 17.6 hours per week were classified as "regular"listeners, and those who listed less than 2.7 hours per week were classified as "not listening often". Students reported their favorite artists, then researchers calculated the percentage of each artist's popular songs containing lyrics describing "degrading sex." Researchers wouldn't name specific artists but gave the phrase "I'm gonna beat that pussy up" as an example of a lyric being studied. (Though researchers won't name the songs, we assume they are referring to the charming song "Wait" by the Ying Yang twins; lyrics here.)

Two thirds of the students were virgins when the study started, and, of those students, the group exposed to the highest number of sexual lyrics were more than twice as likely to have started having sex by the end of the study, compared to the group that listened the least. (The numbers were equal for girls and boys.) Lead researcher Dr. Brian A. Primack concludes 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."

The BBC quotes Primack as saying:

"It is tempting to say music is just 'teenage stuff' ... I am not saying parents should try to ban such music, that is unlikely to help. But they should be talking to their children about sex and putting these sorts of lyrics in context."

Of course parents should be talking to their kids more, but some experts are calling the study's conclusions into question. A spokeswoman for Brook, a UK charity for teen sexual health, tells the BBC:

Obviously the cultural environment plays a part, but that is not to say there is a causal link. It is far too simplistic to say just because someone listens to this music they have sex. There are a variety of factors that influence decisions.

We have to agree. Every few years a study comes out blaming rap music or video games for everything that's wrong with kids today, but often the research gets boiled down to headlines like the Daily Mail's "Degrading Rap Songs Drive Teens To Sex." Even the EurekAlert article starts out by saying:

With sexual activity among adolescents in the United States resulting in over 750,000 teenage pregnancies each year and reports of up to 25 percent of all female adolescents in the US having sexually transmitted infections, researchers and public health officials are looking for those factors that might increase sexual activity in teens.

Songs with degrading lyrics about women are disgusting, but are they really one of the top factors leading to teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases? Degrading images of women and depictions of sex are present throughout the culture, not just in pop music. It's questionable whether preventing kids from listening to Britney's "If You Seek Amy" is going to change the behavior of children and teens but, of course, it's easier to get alarmed about children listening to explicit rap music than to sit down and talk to them seriously about safe sex.

Sexual Lyrics In Popular Songs Linked To Early Sexual Experiences [EurekAlert]
"Wait" By The Ying Yang Twins [Song Meanings]
Music Linked To Teen Sex Habits [BBC]