So, my disclaimer comes up front: I in no way condone strongly sexually explicit music among children. That being said, a recent study
concludes that teens who do listen to music with sexually explicit lyrics are more likely to begin having sex earlier than their peers.
Exposure to lots of sexually degrading music "gives them a specific message about sex," said lead author Steven Martino, a researcher for Rand Corp. in Pittsburgh. Boys learn they should be relentless in pursuit of women and girls learn to view themselves as sex objects, he said.
I'm not convinced. As a teen, I frequently listened to music that referenced sex, drugs, crime, etc... Furthermore, I frequently watched (and continue to watch) movies that have explicit scenes of sex and violence. Yet, I remained abstinent until my marriage, have never done drugs, and haven't been in a fight since middle school. Music didn't influence me, or most of my friends, so why should I believe that it will influence so many others?
I will agree with the authors that there is probably a correlation between the two. However, as anybody who read and understood Freakonomics
(check out the Freakonomics blog
), a correlation tells us nothing about causation. It's very plausible, and I would posit that it is more likely that other factors influence both a tendency to listen to this type of music, and a tendency to engage in sexual activity at a young age.
My Father allowed me a great deal of independence as a teen, but he also instilled the sense of right-and-wrong in me. I knew that my independence came because I could be trusted - and I could be trusted because I had an excellent role model that helped to guide my behavior. Thus, I was able to listen to this type of music without engaging in the activities.
Correlations are easy to determine; causation is more difficult. I have a feeling that music has a minor, possibly non-existent, effect. Likely it is parenting and general upbringing that truly influence this activity.
UPDATE 8/8/06: Looking at the Freakonomics Blog
, they reach the same conclusion that the relationship is not necessarily causal.