Study shows link between degrading music, behavior


Young men, dressed as animals, follow several attractive women down the street. As they close in, the men shoot darts into women's bodies—as if the women were animals and the men big game hunters. Moments later, all the women are lying on the ground.

This scene is from a music video by a band called the Bloodhound Gang. The lyrics include such gems as: "You and me baby ain't nothin' but mammals. Let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel."

That's about as explicit as I'm allowed to get—or want to get.

The song, like many others, not only contains offensive language; it also describes men treating women in degrading ways. And now there's evidence that listening to this music leads teens to engage in the same kind of behavior the songs describe.

According to published reports, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh evaluated the sexual aggressiveness of popular song lyrics from least degrading to most degrading. And then they asked 771 teenagers about both their taste in music and their sexual behavior.

It turned out that 44.6 percent of the teens who listened to the most degrading music had engaged in sex. But of those who had not listened to sexually degrading music, only 20.6 percent had sex.

There's more bad news, according to Brian Primack, the study's lead author. He said the lyrics, which "frequently portray aggressive males subduing submissive females ... may lead adolescents to incorporate this 'script' for" sex "into their worldview." They may make both male and female adolescents "feel compelled to play out" the roles the lyrics assign to them, Primack added.

No wonder three-quarters of a million American teenagers get pregnant each year; or that nearly a fourth of all teenage girls contract a sexually-transmitted disease, or that so many women are sexually abused by men.

What can parents do about this on their own? Not much, I'm afraid. Sure, you can snap those nasty CDs in two if you catch your kids with them. But as Helen Ward, president of the Kids First Parents Association of Canada told the French news service, modern technology means it's almost impossible for parents to monitor what their kids are listening to.

"Government," she said, "needs to help parents regulate the industry."

Well, she's right, and we ought to join with other parents to find ways to do that. It won't be easy. There are some people who, no matter how much evidence you give them, simply refuse to accept the truth—magical thinking, I believe it's called. They like degrading music, they don't think it harms anyone, and therefore—in their minds, it doesn't harm anyone.

Until the day—if it ever comes—degrading music is banished from public life, we need to gently explain to our kids how music can affect them—just as violent video games and television do. We are obliquely warned of this possible damage in Philippians 4:8: We are told to dwell on whatever is true, right, pure, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise.

Once again, modern science is proving the truth of Bible teachings. That Pittsburgh study reveals that if we choose instead to dwell on what is evil, false and degrading, we end up harming, not only ourselves, but our society as a whole.

And that's not something to sing about.

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