I'm not buying this study that U.S. teens have sex earlier because they're exposed to "Desperate Housewives" and Eminem lyrics.
American youth are doing it at a younger age than their European peers, and there is no way our media is nearly as sexed up as it is in Europe. It's got to be something else.
Our three years in Berlin were a 24-hour skin show. Lots of frontal nudity on television, women's breasts exposed on billboards, sex shops in malls, as well as a looseness with language that was initially shocking -- as in shockingly funny:
First week, we're tuning the FM dial, and find a rock station where the DJs are taking lunchtime calls from listeners and bleeping every couple of words. The calls keep coming, offering more and more reasons for bleeps, and the DJ's laughing everytime he gets verbally flipped off. We're surprised that there is some sort of censorship in this German-language version of laddie radio. Except that no one bothers to censor what the DJ calls the program: "The F#$% You Show."
No one censored rap lyrics - usually in English - on the radio, and actually hearing what Eminem was saying in "My Name is ... Slim Shady" made him no longer seem like some sort of cuddle toy to my kids. It turned them off.
In school - middle school - our kids were taught to roll condoms on broom handles. My wife taught a boy - an actual prince - whose mother's picture was wrapped around utility poles in our neighborhood advertising a performance-art show that literally translated to Hanging Tits Over Berlin.
Anyway, I digress.
Jane Brown, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, conducted the study. This is from a NY Daily News piece:
The study, published in Pediatrics magazine, analyzed 170 popular songs, including hits by Nelly, Ja Rule, Jay-Z and Destiny's Child. They discovered 40% of the lyrics contained sexual content.
"The Simpsons" was the most popular TV show among the teens but the shows that included the most sexual content were UPN's "WWE Smackdown," and MTV's "Total Request Live."
The researchers interviewed 1,017 black and white adolescents from middle schools in North Carolina. Each teen was evaluated at age 12 to 14 years, and once again two years later.
Despite the flood of hormone-soaked shows and songs, less than 1% of teen media content focuses on sexual health or family planning.
"What's missing in the media are the three C's," Brown said. "Rarely is there a commitment, contraceptives or consequences."
So I turned to another University of North Carolina study, this one from UNC-Charlotte, which has teamed since 1998 with Advocates for Youth to study the differences in attitudes about sex in the U.S., France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Basically, we have more pregnancies and more abortions, more STDs, more sexual partners and start younger, the school's studies show.
How about it's because our culture still thinks sex is dirty, and what is forbidden is always inviting to the young. It's the tease that sells here. We could start by airing what rappers are really singing about. Maybe our kids would eventually turn the dial. Or maybe we should pass out condoms and brooms. Who knows, maybe they'd even clean their rooms.