Monday, August 07, 2006


The headline from CBS4 in Boston couldn't be clearer:

Study: iPod Music Affecting Teen Sexual Behavior

Bloody hell - have people abandoned the button in the middle in favour of just stroking round and round the outside for hours on end? Have men started to be told that the smaller it is, the more impressive?

Not exactly, as the study was actually about the links between listening to pop music and sexual behaviour, and so the word "iPod" really had no business being there at all - it's like fingering the transistor radio for the mods and rockers violence on Brighton seafront.

So what of the report, then? It suggests a link between listening to sexually explicit music and earlier start of sexual activity. Or, as CBS misstates it:

Songs depicting men as "sex-driven studs," women as sex objects and with explicit references to sex acts are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior than those where sexual references are more veiled and relationships appear more committed, the study found.

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.

You can find the full text of the report at the Journal of Pediatrics - intrestingly, it doesn't mention the word "ipod" once.

What happened was a small sample (just over 1,200) were contacted by telephone once when they were aged between 12 & 17, and then again one and three years later, and asked questions about their music and sex life.

Before this survey could even start, they needed to get permission from a guardian, which automatically weakens the value of the research: so, we're talking about kids in households where the parents are happy for their twelve year olds to talk to a stranger about masturbation over the phone. That's going to slightly skew things.

Then, there's the question of whether all the research has done is found that either the sort of people who listen to the more sexually charged sort of music are more likely to lie about how sexually experience they are to a stranger on the end of a phone; or else that people who don't listen to a lot of songs about shagging and dogging are more reluctant to tell somebody they've never met that they let a boy put his dinkle in their ladygarden. Especially when their mum is hovering in the kitchen listening on the other line.

Even if people don't tend to lie on occasions like this, since these kids haven't spent the last three years living in a house with exposure only to music, how on earth do the researchers attempt to correlate their sexual experience with the music? What books were they reading? Did they have older siblings who stayed over with their partners? And where was the control group?

Ringing people up might be a fine way of deciding who's won "product of the year" (everyone, judging by the current flurry of adverts) but to pretend that it's a sensible scientific study is pushing it somewhat.


Anonymous said...

In fairness, 1,200 is actually a large sample for this kind of academic research. But it does start from a heavily judgemental position and makes a great leap at its conclusion – in common with much similar research on the 'effects' of computer games, TV watching, etc it dismisses the notion that the process might be randy kids like dirty songs, rather than dirty songs brainwash our impressionable young. And indeed, what kind of parent alllows their kid to answer questions about their sex life?

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