Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Licking the lollipop

An Independent article from Monday takes aim at rap music's potential to influence young people into degrading and unpleasant behaviour. And they're not referring to your mum trying to bogle to Elephant Man either. Research from the University of Pittsburgh showed a link between teenagers who listen to music which features "degrading" lyrics of a sexual nature and younger sexual activity. They don't claim that the lyrics cause this earlier sexual activity, but that the two go hand in hand. Or gland in hand, if you prefer.


Two criteria were used in establishing whether lyrics were degrading. The words
had to be based on a purely physical, non-emotional description of sexual
activity and there had to be a “power differential”, with one sex expressing
physical dominance over another, Professor Primack said. An example of a non-degrading sexual lyric was: “Come a litter closer baby, I feel like srippin’ it down.” While a degrading lyric would be: “After you work up a sweat you can play with the
stick.”

We looked at the lyrics of rap here a while ago on this blog and it's always been an interesting topic for language investigations over the years, but maybe the language angle is what makes this interesting for us on this course: can lyrics actually influence or shape our behaviour? Does language control us or is it a lot more complicated than that? I suppose one argument against this determinist position would be that young people who listen to music with such lyrics may already have different, more accepting, attitudes to "degrading" sexual imagery and therefore be more likely to seek out such music. Then again, we might argue that our perceptions about what's an acceptable way to treat our bitches - sorry, I mean life partners and Strong Independent Black Females - might be skewed by exposure to such lyrics. Perhaps they naturalise certain types of behaviour which we would previously have seen as wrong or demeaning.
This blog post about an article by Zoe Williams in The Guardian is worth a link if you want to follow it up. It also featured on last summer's ENA6 paper, so it's good practice for those of you looking to get some work done for June 18th and the dreaded ENA6 exam.

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