Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Really? The music made you do it?
The more often teens listen to sexually degrading songs — marked by obscenities and stereotypes of women as sex objects and men as sexual predators — the likelier they are to have sex at an early age, according to a new study.
A sex drive is, of course, a natural thing for adolescents, but the Rand Corp. study released Monday points out that engaging in intercourse too early can lead to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, making the matter a public health concern.
“People have been concerned about the sexual content of music lyrics for decades. The concern is not new,” said the study’s leader, Steven Martino, a psychologist. “What’s new here is that we conducted a study that as closely as possible establishes a connection between the type of music kids listen to and their sexual behavior.
Now, I'm not going to argue that kids -- or anybody, really -- should be indulging in a musical diet of sexual degradation. I'm all for keeping track of what your kids are listening too and, if it gets too rough, putting the kabash on it. (Much to my shame. I rebelled against my parents for doing just that.) I'm an adult. Some of the stuff I listen to, I'm not letting my young niece or cousins hear. Or at least not without me being right there with them, to talk to them about what's being said and how it would really play out in RL, ya know?
That said -- music isn't making kids have sex at a younger age. No way. If it had that power, I'd have been making like a bunny by age 12.
Not to say teens won't blame some of their choices on music. (Or tv or the book they read or whatever.) I remember, my senior year in high school, riding on a bus with some classmates. We were, of course, listening to the radio. One song came on, some romantic thing that I couldn't stand, and the girl sitting next to me makes this coy remark about the song "making" her do things. And even at that age, I was smart enough to know that was bullshit.
And, being cheeky, I told her as much. She insisted she'd only done what she'd done (though she wouldn't tell me what it was exactly) because of the song on the radio.
Riiiiight. Because hormones have nothing to do with it. Because social station, the imagination, sheer curiosity, a sense of rebellion, of sheer teenage invulnerability had nothing to do with it. Uh-huh.
“The lyrics we categorized as degrading are especially degrading in their treatment of women, but nevertheless girls were affected in the same way boys were. The more they listened to music with degrading sexual content, the sooner they initiated sexual activity,” Dr. Martino said.
The study, which first appeared in this month’s edition of the scientific journal Pediatrics, was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and performed by researchers from Rand Health, a health policy research group. The scientists were based in Pittsburgh, Santa Monica, Calif., and Los Angeles.
Do you think maybe those girls were lacking other things in their lives? Maybe it's not the music, stupid, but the society. Maybe it's the fact that girls get told, from the time they're old enough to listen, that their role is to be secondary. That they're here to perform for men. That their self-worth is directly tied to how many men they can get affection from. That they're nurturers and mothers and really, let the men do all the thinking, won't you just stand there and look pretty? Girls are given very narrow parameters for their lives. They have to be thin and pretty and not too smart and not too ambitious. They have to be supportive girlfriends or wives. They're supposed to differ to the man's judgement.
It's not the music, as bad as it may be. A girl who doesn't know who she is, whose never been allowed to develop a true self, isn't going to be able to stand up for herself. She isn't going to know she's allowed to say no. And maybe, she's a little too ashamed of that fact to acknowledge it. So it's easier for her, and society, to blame the music she hears than to admit that we've failed our sisters and daughters and nieces horribly.