The Effect of Sexualized Lyrics on Adolescents [Study]

The effects certain aspects of culture on children has been a subject of study for a number of years, and the effects of sexualized musical lyrics on adolescents is of particular concern. Researchers from Brigham Young University are examining the growing trend of including distinct explicit sexual lyrics in popular music. The journal, Sexuality & Culture, has published the results online to help educators develop plans to promote appropriate sexual development in today’s youth.

Previous research has indicated a link between sexually explicit song lyrics and the sexual behavior of youths, but the authors of the current study did not find a fully distinct link. This complicates the role of educators involved in sexuality education.


For the age group of youths between 8 and 18 years of age, the amount of music listened to has increased by 45%. The development of smaller portable devices with larger space for music storage has progressed alongside this steep increase in the amount of music listened to.

Previous studies found a very strong link between visual and lyrical exposure to sexually explicit content and participation in sexual behaviors. It was also found in existing research that teens would overestimate the amount of sexual activity experienced by their peers. Researchers have attributed to this overestimation to the extent of exposure to sexually explicit material.

The recent study examined the lyrical content of the top 100 songs listed in the Billboard Hot 100 year-end songs in each decade ranging from 1959 to 2009. Non-white male artists generated the most songs containing sexually explicit content. As expected, there were more sexually explicit references in 2009 than there were in 1959.

The researchers note that all of the sexually explicit lyrics range in quality. Music that is particularly degrading can actually have a harmful effect on listening adolescents, especially girls. The development of certain conditions and disorders that are linked to low self-esteem have been traced back to consumption of degrading lyrics.

The authors state the need to thoroughly examine some of the issues raised by the study. The promotion of unhealthy sexual development and behaviors is at the heart of those concerns. The researchers suggest that listening to some of these unhealthy sexual lyrics may promote sexual aggression and the objectification of women in male listeners while teaching female listeners that their role is one of sexually servicing men. According to the authors, these issues are the pressing topics educators need to approach.

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