Sexual Lyrics & Sexual Behavior

John Bunyan is mostly known for a book he wrote while imprisoned for preaching the gospel. That book is called The Pilgrim's Progress. But he also wrote many other books, and among those others is an allegorical tale called Holy War.

Written in 1682, Holy War chronicles the battle waged by God's archenemy against the soul of man.

Bunyan writes, "This famous town of Mansoul had five gates which were also impregnable. They could never be opened or forced unless permission was given by the people within. The names of the gates were Ear Gate, Eye Gate, Mouth Gate, Nose Gate, and Feel Gate" (John Bunyan, Holy War, 8).

The gates, as you may have guessed, are the channels through which sin can enter the heart/soul of a person. Once inside, it festers and grows until it works its way out in all sorts of ways, words, and actions.

What strikes me most about Bunyan's brilliance is that he recognized these things long before the days of photography, magazines, computers, videos, and iPods. Despite the fact that he had none of those things, Bunyan saw the sin that so readily crouched at our doors (see Genesis 4:7).

Recently I conducted an informal survey. I asked several high school students if they thought the lyrics of the songs on their iPods affected whether or not they engaged in various sex acts. The answer came back a resounding no. The students saw no connection whatsoever in having Katy Perry tell them about the "Teenage Dream" through their headphones and engaging in sexual actions that really bring that song to life.

However, an article I came across from the Houston Chronicle says that those students are wrong. In the classic inverted pyramid of journalistic writing, the article opens by stating its main point: "Teenagers whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs..."

You want specifics? Ok.

The article continues, "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."

Of course we could play with semantics all day with regard to what exactly constitutes "lots of music" and even what lyrics are "sexually degrading," but if you open iTunes on any given day and survey the Top Downloaded Songs, I'm sure you'll see the point.

Make no mistake about it: sexual song lyrics lead to sexual behavior.

John Bunyan knew it 400 years ago, the Rand Corporation of researchers has confirmed it in the present, and anyone who argues against it is merely in denial.

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  1. The citation for the article mentioned is:
    Tanner, Lindsay. "Underage Sex Tied to Raunchy Music / Study Suggests Teens Who Listen to Explicit Lyrics Lose Their Virginity Sooner." Houston Chronicle, August 7, 2006, (accessed November 5, 2010).

  2. Benjamin Barber, a professor at the University of Maryland, wrote an article in October 1998 for The Nation, called "More Democracy, More Revolution." He makes a statement in that article which is frequently mentioned when this topic comes up in contemporary discourse.

    Barber said, "It is time to recognize that the true tutors of our children are not school teachers or university professors but filmmakers, advertising executives, and pop culture purveyors. Disney does more than Duke, Spielberg outweighs Stanford, MTV trumps MIT."

    While conceding the possibility of overstatement-for-effect, I agree with him in his assessment.

    secondary source:
    Henry A. Giroux, The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), 63).


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