Are your teens having sex? Check their iPod
Researchers are suggesting that teens who listen to songs with degrading and dirty lyrics are the ones who are having sex the earliest.
Perhaps your teen is one of those who, when exposed to the movie "The Exorcist," begins to twirl her head around, declare she is the devil, and vomit green pea soup.
Well, then you will be one of those not surprised by research, from the University of Pittsburgh, that suggests any teen who listens to the bulk of 50 Cent is more likely to partake of sex early and often.
I am being unfair to Fitty. The academics looked at other musicians whose lyrics they deemed to include a "power differential"--that is, one of the sexes declaring its bodily dominance over another. Something you will probably not find in, for example, a Jennifer Lopez ditty. (Although "Let's Get Loud" surely suggests serious antisocial tendencies)
Brian Primack, an associate professor at Pittsburgh, gave an interesting example of a degrading lyric: "After you work up a sweat, you can play with the stick."
When I first heard this little couplet, from 50 Cent's "Candy Shop", my immediate reaction was "field hockey." However, the Pittsburgh team is convinced that "high exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex in popular music was independently associated with higher levels of sexual behavior."
It's also worth noting that some rap lyrics are, to the researchers, not degrading. They cite "Baby I'm Back" by Baby Bash. Whose allegedly nondegrading lines include: "I wanna be stronger than we've ever been, I'm here to cater to you."
Is there anyone who hears the word "cater" and doesn't think kitchen scene in "Fatal Attraction?"
The academics are very careful not to suggest that the music causes rampant teen nymphomania. They limit themselves to showing the link between degrading lyrics and increased teen sexual activity. But they do point out that they analyzed around 300 songs, of which one-third had sexually explicit language, the majority of that language having degrading elements.
I am a touch skeptical of these results. And it is not merely because every single piece of social science research that has ever been performed by any academic institution leaves me wondering whether I have just listened to a duet between Roland Burriss and Joe the Plumber.
You see, I am not sure most teens of any generation are all that bright. I'm not sure how often they get even the broadest meanings of many songs.
Think of all the supposedly mature and, no doubt, sexually active folks who thought "Puff the Magic Dragon" really was about a mythical creature called Puff. So shouldn't we wonder whether teens are driven by words or merely by the thumping beat that raises their heart rates and brain impulses beyond the control of any public jurisdiction?
I asked one of the world's foremost psychologists what parents should do if they examined their teen's iPod and found lyrics of unsound sexual power relations.
"Download Marvin Gaye's 'Sexual Healing' for them," was her reply.
I have no idea what she meant. But one thought keeps reverberating around my head--if in doubt, ask yourself this question: Did Bristol Palin really listen to 50 Cent?