A couple of years ago, researchers at the RAND Corp. released a study that found heavy exposure to sexual content on television shows relates strongly to teenagers' initiation of intercourse or their progression to more advanced sexual activities.
To some, those results seemed so reasonable because, well, aren't they so obvious? But there are always those who won't accept the obvious, even when it's presented for them on a scientifically documented silver tray. Critics were quick to argue that there was a chicken-and-egg question: Couldn't it also be argued that teenagers who are already predisposed to sexual activity have a predilection for sexier TV shows?
In the scientific sense, it is certainly possible that cause and effect may not be as simple as "monkey see, monkey do." But it's odd that some activists can berate corporations for tempting children into eating Twinkies and drinking sugary sodas, but then don't see corporations pushing hypersexual entertainment as tempting the young into premature sexual activity.
Now the RAND Corp. has a new study, published in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics, taking on another major teenage influence: their music. The same alarming results jump off the page. According to the study, based on interviews with nearly 1,500 teens, those who said they listened to sexually explicit music were almost twice as likely to start having sex within the following two years than those who listen to little or none of that music.
This holds true for boys and girls as well as for whites and non-whites, even after accounting for a list of other personal and social factors associated with adolescent sexual behavior.
Music is no small part of youngsters' lives. Adolescents typically listen to 1.5 to 2.5 hours of music per day, and that doesn't include the amount of time they are exposed to music through music videos. The researchers were especially concerned about sexually degrading music like the F-bombs and "ho" lyrics of the rappers.
"These portrayals objectify and degrade women in ways that are clear, but they do the same to men by depicting them as sex-driven studs," said Steven Martino, the RAND psychologist who led the study. "Musicians who use this type of sexual imagery are communicating something very specific about what sexual roles are appropriate, and teen listeners may act on these messages."