Posted by Jay Livingston
researchers found that teenagers who preferred popular songs with degrading sexual references were more likely to engage in intercourse or in pre-coital activities.That’s from the lead of an article passed around on a campus list here. America’s teens are having sex, and music is taking the rap.
I don’t know how far back in history this idea goes – blaming sex on music – maybe to the ancient Athenians. In the past century in the US, we’ve gone from ragtime to rap, each generation worried that the raunchiness of the music and lyrics their kids were listening to was leading those kids to sinful pleasures.
If each generation was right about the increase over the previous generation in a continually upward curve, kids today would have run out of hours in the day to have sex or “pre-coital activities” (just which base are they talking about anyway, and why didn’t we ever have an equivalent of shortstop?).
Now we have Research and Science to justify the fears about music. Note the clear cause-effect relation implied in that first sentence. Kids who listened to nasty music were more likely.
Here’s what the article* actually said
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 activityThe emphasis is my own addition because somebody here is missing a point that any intro sociology student should have learned: correlation is not cause.
Back in the 60s there was a rock group called The Association. (Anybody else remember “Along Comes Mary”?) I think they chose that name to distinguish themselves from another group, The Causation.
With Association, you don’t know what’s causing what. The message of that first sentence is that listening to those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad lyrics makes kids go out and have sex. But an equally plausible explanation is that kids who like sex in real life also like it in their music.
Even if there were a time factor with exposure to the nasty music coming first, you still couldn't conclude causation. All you could say is that kids who like to listen to dirty lyrics when they're young grow up to like doing dirty things when they get a little older.
And oh, don't bother Googling for The Causation or their greatest hits. I just made that part up.
* “Exposure to Sexual Lyrics and Sexual Experience Among Urban Adolescents,” by Brian A. Primack, MD, EdM, MS, Erika L. Douglas, MS, Michael J. Fine, MD, MSc, and Madeline A. Dalton, PhD. It appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 36, Issue 4 (April 2009).