August 07, 2006

Does That Mean If I Listen To 'Bobblehead' I'll Get A Hummer?

I'm not much of a fan of what Big Music is jamming down our throats nowadays (especially rap, which they insist on spelling without a leading 'c', and which I characterize as "boasting to a drumbeat," which line I cribbed from someone else I can't recall at the moment and for which Google shows one hit - my previous reference to it - which now marks a personal record for most 'which's in a parenthetical remark).


I guess the point I'm trying to make is that I'm about the last person I would expect to defend rap, but when the attack against it is even stupider than the music itself, I figure I gotta say something. It would appear that Modern Youth is powerless to resist sexual lyrics:

Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found.

Whether it's hip-hop, rap, pop or rock, much of popular music aimed at teens contains sexual overtones. Its influence on their behavior appears to depend on how the sex is portrayed, researchers found
OK, so it's kind of my ox being gored here with the rock and everything, but whatever.
Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

Among heavy listeners, 51 percent started having sex within two years, versus 29 percent of those who said they listened to little or no sexually degrading music.
That's 76% more likely; hardly what I would consider 'almost twice as likely.'

Even granting this fairly strong correlation, nothing in the study (at least, nothing in the story) really establishes causation. There doesn't appear to be any acknowlegement that the relationship may be reversed - that teenage horndogs tend to like songs with sexual lyrics.

The first 'expert' quoted is a teenaged editor for a 'teen sexual health web site,' and even she admits that she doesn't pay attention to the lyrics...

Natasha Ramsey, a 17-year-old from New Brunswick, N.J., said she and other teens sometimes listen to sexually explicit songs because they like the beat.

"I won't really realize that the person is talking about having sex or raping a girl," she said.
...before remembering to get back on message.
Even so, the message "is being beaten into the teens' heads," she said. "We don't even really realize how much."

. . .

"Teens will try to deny it, they'll say 'No, it's not the music,' but it IS the music. That has one of the biggest impacts on our lives," Ramsey said.

To be sure, the article makes room for a dissenting viewpoint...

However, Yvonne K. Fulbright, a New York-based sex researcher and author, said factors including peer pressure, self-esteem and home environment are probably more influential than the research suggests.

"It's a little dangerous to just pinpoint one thing. You have to look at everything that's going on in a young person's life," she said. "When somebody has a healthy sense of themselves, they don't take these lyrics too seriously."

. . .

"A healthy home atmosphere is one that allows a child to investigate what pop culture has to offer and at the same time say 'I know this is a fun song but you know that it's not right to treat women this way or this isn't a good person to have as a role model,"' she said.
...which of course must be immediately outweighed by the scaremongers:
David Walsh, a psychologist who heads the National Institute on Media and the Family, said the results make sense, and echo research on the influence of videos and other visual media.

The brain's impulse-control center undergoes "major construction" during the teen years at the same time that an interest in sex starts to blossom, he said.

Add sexually arousing lyrics and "it's not that surprising that a kid with a heavier diet of that ... would be at greater risk for sexual behavior," Walsh said.

Posted by Chris at August 7, 2006 05:35 PM

Category: Media Stupidity

I'm impressed you read that much of the article. To me, this is just bad science. The 2-year window "Among heavy listeners, 51 percent started having sex within two years" is pretty broad to establish a correlation. And a 51%correlation (or even 76%) is actually pretty low.

Take 100 16 year olds in a given community. What are the chances that 51% are going to have sex within a 2 year period anyway? And could it be that they have an pre-existing interest in sex as exhibited by their choice of music?

Based on what we know about the socio-demographics of the typical listener of rap music with raunchy, sexual lyrics, are we surprised that they are having sex in the teenage years? How many 34 year-old grandmothers do we need to read about? (veiled racial innuendo implied, feel free to abuse me).

There are other cultural factors involved here besides music choice. I've always believed that popular music REFLECTED a cultural behavior, as opposed to instigating a cultural behavior.

Put another way, did watching NASCAR lead me to drink beer and nail my sister, or did I get around to watching NASCAR because it was on the tube on a hot Sunday afternoon when my sister and I were drunk and horny?

Figuratively speaking, of course.

Posted by: Jay at August 8, 2006 11:28 AM

You had me right up 'till the last paragraph. That one you probably should have kept in your head.

Posted by: Chris of Dangerous Logic at August 9, 2006 10:36 AM

It was for entertainment purposes only, which obviously failed.

It seemed that the mainstream media picked up on this story from the "we all know what kind of people listen to this music, and our preconconceived notions about that race are confirmed" angle. So I thought I would look at it from the White Trash angle because, well, it's so easy and you are such a WT maven.

Posted by: Jay at August 9, 2006 03:38 PM