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Health & Sex

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Degrading Lyrics Linked to Earlier Sex

Teens Who Like Songs That Objectify Women More Sexually Precocious
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 7, 2006 - Teens start having sex sooner if their preferred music has sexually degrading lyrics.

However, lyrics with sexual content that is not degrading did not affect teen sexual behavior. Degrading lyrics, as defined in this study, describe men as insatiable studs and women as sex objects.

The findings come from RAND, a nonprofit think tank. It based its study on telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,242 kids, aged 12 to 17.

RAND researcher Steven C. Martino, PhD, and colleagues report the findings in the August issue of Pediatrics.

"The more teens listened to degrading sexual music content, the more likely they were to subsequently initiate intercourse and progress in [other], noncoital activity," Martino and colleagues report. "These music effects held, even though 18 other predictors of sexual behavior were taken into account."

After getting parental consent, the interviewers asked teens detailed questions about their sexual behavior. They repeated the interviews one and three years later.

Rating the Lyrics

They also asked the teens how often they listened to 16 different music albums popular at the time of the interview.

Each music album was rated for number of sexual references, as well as for number of degrading sexual references. Of the 16 albums, those in the rap and rap/rock genre were most likely to contain degrading lyrics.

"Lyrics classified as degrading depicted sexually insatiable men pursuing women valued only as sex objects," Martino and colleagues note.

"These types of portrayals objectify and degrade women in ways that are obvious, but do the same to men by depicting them as sex-driven studs whose individual desires are subsumed in their gender role," the study says.

A Script for Teen Behavior?

The researchers suggest degrading music offers teens a "script" for how to behave in ambiguous situations. Repeated exposure to such scripts may, over time, cause teens to act out these stereotyped gender roles.

"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 and colleagues write.

"Boys, on the other hand, may come to interpret reckless male sexual behavior as 'boys being boys' and dismiss girls' sexual preferences and desires as inconsequential," they say.

The researchers suggest parents monitor and set limits on the music to which their teens are exposed. They also encourage parents to discuss the sexual content of music with their children.

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