Dirty Music Isn't Sexualizing Our Teens, But This Is

teen musicHoly Elvis Presley flashbacks, Batman! Scientists took a look at the Billboard chart topping hits from the last 50 years, and parents, it feels like the 1960s all over again! Sex in songs, say the folks from Brigham Young University, is wreaking havoc on our teens.

I know what you're thinking. Brigham Young. Don't they make adults sign chastity pledges there? Is this just some holy roller bribery? Well, they do, and they're trying to pretend it isn't.


See, the first thing the release sent to The Stir told us sounded pretty scary. They said sexually explicit lyrics give our daughters poor body image, spiking the rate of eating disorders and making them more depressed. The boys are said to be more aggressive and more likely to treat women as objects. OK, I've listened to an Eminem song in my day, but I won't turn it on when my daughter's in the room. Oh heck no. I was almost seeing their point.

Until I read a little deeper into said release. Seems the problem is mostly with "male, non-white" singers. And according to researchers Cougar Hall, Joshua H. West, and Shane Hill:

Popular music can teach young men to be sexually aggressive and treat women as objects while often teaching young women that their value to society is to provide sexual pleasure for others. It is essential for society that sex education providers are aware of these issues and their impact on adolescent sexual behavior.

There it is!

School of the sexually repressed has cherry picked their way through 50 years of songs to find a way to tell kids that the darn devil music is going to get them to take their britches off in the back of a car! I so called that one!

Let me lay this out on the table. I listened to some pretty crass music by male, non-white singers in my teen years. My dad screamed "turn down that crap" (his word for rap) more than a time or two. It didn't turn me into a slut or make me pick a man who treated me like an object. I did have an eating disorder, but that can be related to a host of other issues in my life completely unrelated to a preference for Run DMC over DC Talk.

So why not? Because correlation does not equal causation, folks. Yes, there has been more sexy talk in popular music. Yes, sexual issues as they relate to teenagers have come out of the darkness (yes, they existed before -- your grandmother had sex too, she just didn't talk about it). But the existence of the two at the same time does not mean that one caused the other. It's just as easy to say that kids who want to have sex listen to sexy music.

The music I listened to didn't make me the responsible adult I am today. My parents (yes, I'm going to say it) did. They taught me that I was worth more than what I could do for a guy in a bedroom. And they taught me to believe that I deserved to find a partner who would treat me like an equal.

That's all it took.

And lest you think this is anecdotal evidence, every time one of these "music made me do it" studies comes out, so do the experts in adolescent psychology. They'll tell you the same thing: peer pressure, home environment, etc. play a much bigger role in your kid's sex life than their iPod.

Kids raised to be jerks who happen to play violent video games will be jerks, but kids raised to be kind and loving who happen to play violent video games will be kind and loving. The same goes for music. You can act like your grandparents and blame Elvis' swinging hips, or you can act like a parent.

Up to you.


Image via Made Underground/Flickr

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