CHICAGO -- Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found.
Whether it's hip-hop, rap, pop, or rock, much of popular music aimed at teens contains sexual overtones. Its influence on their behavior appears to depend on how the sex is portrayed, researchers found.
Songs depicting men as ``sex-driven studs" and women as sex objects, and which have explicit references to sex acts, are likelier to trigger early sexual behavior than those in which 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 next two years, compared with teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.
Among heavy listeners, 51 percent started having sex within two years, versus 29 percent of those who said they listened to little or no sexually degrading music.
Exposure to lots of sexually degrading music ``gives them a specific message about sex," said lead author Steven Martino, a researcher for Rand Corp. in Pittsburgh. Boys learn they should be relentless in pursuit of women and girls learn to view themselves as sex objects, he said.
``We think that really lowers kids' inhibitions and makes them less thoughtful" about sexual decisions, he said.
The study, based on telephone interviews with 1,461 participants aged 12 to 17, appears in the August issue of Pediatrics, being released today.
Natasha Ramsey, a 17-year-old from New Brunswick, N.J., said she and other teens sometimes listen to sexually explicit songs because they like the beat.
``I won't really realize that the person is talking about having sex or raping a girl," she said. Even so, the message ``is being beaten into the teens' heads," she said.
The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the US recording industry, declined to comment on the findings.
Benjamin Chavis, chief executive officer of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, a coalition of hip-hop musicians and recording industry executives, said explicit music lyrics are a cultural expression that reflect ``social and economic realities."
``We caution rushing to judgment that music more than any other factor is a causative factor" for teens initiating sex, Chavis said.
Martino said the researchers tried to account for other factors that could affect teens' sexual behavior, including parental permissiveness, and still found explicit lyrics had a strong influence.
However, Yvonne K. Fulbright, a New York-based sex researcher and author, said factors including peer pressure, self-esteem, and home environment probably are more influential than the research suggests.
A separate study released today found that teenagers who watched pro-wrestling on television were likelier to behave violently than other youth.
It found girls seemed to be more influenced than boys.