Raunchy lyrics from the likes of Drake and Beyoncé encourage sexting in teenage boys, but not teenage girls, a new study shows.
US researchers monitored text messages sent between teenage girls and boys while looking for sexual lyrics in the adolescents’ favourite musical artists.
Teenage boys were likely to send sexts at 18 year olds when they’d been exposed to steamy lyrics around the age of 15, but teenage girls were not, they found.
This could be because society makes sexting appear more acceptable if it’s from males than females, the experts suggest.
Raunchy lyrics from the likes of Drake and Beyoncé encourage sexting in teenage boys, but not teenage girls, a new study shows. Pictured is Drake in September 2021
Sexting is defined as sending or receiving nude or partially-nude pictures or sexually explicit written messages to others via texting, social network sites, apps, or other forms of communication such as email. US researchers claim to provide the first evidence that listening to sexual lyrics in music is associated with future sexting behavior among male teens
The new study was led by researchers at University of California, Davis and Brigham Young University in Utah.
‘We found a strong correlation between listening to sexual or sexually objectifying lyrics and an increased likelihood of sexting in male participants,’ said lead author Savannah L. Keenan-Kroff, now at Portland State University in Oregon.
‘This suggests that boys may be more susceptible to provocative lyrical messaging due to gendered sexual expectations and that the exposure to such lyrics may play a role in their psychosexual development.’
Sexting, which has grown among the young with the proliferation of smartphone use, is legal if it occurs between consenting adults (over the age of 18).
But as with any sexual behaviour, a dangerous line is crossed when sexts are unsolicited and not consensual.
So far, there’s been little research on the impact of media on sexting in adolescence, and none regarding the influence of musical lyrics, the team say.
This is even though music contains more sex messages than any other media content except pornography, while sex accounts for almost 40 per cent of lyrical themes in top billboard songs, according to previous studies.
For the new study, the academics recruited 278 teenage boys and girls who were assessed at three different time points over three years.
Participants were all recruited from a public school district in Texas using parental permission and were on average aged 15 at the start of the study period and 18 at the end of the study period.
At the start, each teen was provided with a BlackBerry phone, equipped with data plans that allowed internet access and unlimited texting.
The researchers cited Drake and Beyoncé as artists with sexually-charged lyrics. Beyoncé is pictured here at Glastonbury Festival in June 2011
‘Although not prohibited from communicating online or on other devices, participants were encouraged to use the BlackBerry as their primary cell phone,’ the researchers say.
Through the BlackBerry data, researchers were able to analyse the number of sext messages both sent and received at two time points – ‘Time 1’ when the average age of teens was 15 and ‘Time 3’ when the average age of teens was 18.
For the purposes of the study, sexts were defined as text-based messages only, ‘given that sexually charged lyrics in music are not photo-based’.
Researchers measured the teens’ exposure to two types of lyrics – ‘sexual’ lyrics and the more offensive ‘sexually objectifying’ lyrics.
They did this by analysing lyrics from the participants’ top three musical artists, which were self-reported.
Lyrics were analysed by software for ‘sexual’ words (such as boob, penis, erotic, fetish, screw) and ‘sexually objectifying’ words (booty, whore, diddle, p***y, cooch).
The results revealed that boys who listened to more sexual lyrics were more likely to engage in sexting by the time they were 18 years old.
But there was no link between girls’ sexting behaviours and exposure to sexual or sexually objectifying lyrics.
The researchers say there’s a ‘sexual double standard’ where it is seen as more appropriate for boys to listen to sexual lyrics than girls.
Researchers measured teen exposure to ‘sexual’ and ‘sexually objectifying’ music lyrics. This graphic shows the effect of hearing ‘sexual’ and ‘sexually objectifying’ lyrics (heard at average age 15) on sexting by at the end of the study period (average age 18)
Girls are often taught that sex is unacceptable outside of a committed relationship, and are encouraged to participate in less sexual behaviour, which likely affects their sexting behaviours, according to the researchers.
‘It is possible that not only do boys listen to more of both types of music lyrics but internalize these lyrics more as a facet of their psychosexual development,’ they say.
‘Increased listening to sexual and sexually objectifying lyrics may influence adolescent boys to, over time, feel that sexual behaviours, such as sexting, are more normal or acceptable.
‘In contrast, as girls are often discouraged or stigmatized against for engaging in sexual behavior it is possible that sexual and sexually objectifying lyrics may not fit as cleanly into their perception of what is acceptable, normal, or desirable behaviors for girls, and thus have little to no influence on their sexting behaviors.’
The team now suggest parents take a more active role in preventing sexting, by monitoring their child’s texts and talking with their child about their musical tastes.
The new study has been published in Computers in Human Behavior.