Research Links Music, Risky Sexual Behavior

New research draws a connection between increasingly sexually explicit music, and adolescents and emerging adults engaging in risky and sometimes violent sexual behavior.

The report by the Division 46 Task Force on the Sexualization of Popular Music was two years in the making, but its publication coincides with the advent of the #MeToo movement and heightened public awareness about sexual assault.

That was a coincidence, but “if this is part of the problem, then now is the time to fix it,” said Chrysalis Wright, Ph.D., associate lecturer of psychology at UCF, chair and one of 10 researchers on the task force.

The report compiled the work of more than 250 studies into the area of sexually explicit music. Researchers found that the more emerging adults, adolescents, and young children are exposed to the ideas presented in music videos and music, the more approving attitudes they hold on topics like violence against women. Watching and listening to this music is also detrimental to young people’s identity and gender role development, according to the paper. Finally, more permissive attitudes around sexuality can lead to increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, Wright explained.

“Younger children are being sexualized before they’re really ready,” she said.

The research concludes with several recommendations for crafting public policy, public awareness, the music industry, education systems and popular music media literacy. These include educating children on fantasy versus reality and presenting age-appropriate music; advocating for the inclusion of information about the sexualization of popular music in public school health education; and exploring the profitability of promoting counter stereotypes, positivity and pro-social skills.

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