A study examines the effects of sexually oriented song lyrics on teenage sexting behavior.

A news Computers in human behavior This paper analyzes the longitudinal and cross-sectional impact of sexting and sexually objectifying music lyrics on text-sexting behaviors among adolescents.

Study : Associations between sexual music lyrics and sexting in adolescence. Image credit: Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock.com

The hypersexual nature of music

Dangerous and unrealistic sexual messages are commonly disseminated by various media sources, despite efforts by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to encourage such media to instead present the realistic health consequences of sexual behaviors and safe sex practices.

Music, movies, television, video games, and music videos have glorified sex as casual and inconsequential. Moreover, these sexual messages often portray women as helpless objects used for sexual gratification.

Sex and sexual objectification are prevalent in modern music. For example, previous studies have indicated that around 40% of songs on the charts contain sexual lyrics, and that some musical genres incorporate sexual themes in up to 65% of their songs.

Research also suggests that comments about sexuality from popular entertainment can influence adolescent behavior. Sexual song lyrics are associated with unwanted pregnancies, risky sexual behavior and an increased risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in adolescence.

One type of sexual behavior that has yet to be explored in this context is sexting. Sexting can be defined as receiving or sending sexually explicit written messages or fully or partially exposed photos through text messages, social networking sites or emails. It is unclear whether sexting and sexually objectifying music lyrics can predict sexting behavior in adolescents.

About the study

The current study collected data from adolescents ages 15-18 from 2010-2012. Approximately 53% of participants were white, 17.1% Hispanic, 19.4% African American, 1.2% Asian and 9.4% mixed or other.

Additionally, 46% of teen families earned more than $76,000 per year, 22% earned between $26,000 and $75,000 per year, and about 12% earned less than $25,000. Most of the teenagers came from two-parent homes.

Family visits were held once a year, during which teens answered questions about their musical preferences and sexual behaviors. Although data was collected for three years, the study used data for two time points, including Time 1 and Time 3, which were two years apart.

All participants received a BlackBerry and were asked to use it as their primary phone. The content of text messages sent using the phones has been saved for research purposes.

All study participants were asked to indicate their three favorite musical artists at the three time points of the study. Then, the top three songs from each artist were identified and files containing the lyrics to those songs were created.

A total of 636 files were created and then analyzed by quantitative text analysis software called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). Up to 10% of songs were analyzed to identify sex words in lyrics.

Each artist was given a score for the different moments based on the percentage of lyrics that were sexual in nature. All participants were also given a sexual lyrics score based on the percentage scores of the three artists they previously mentioned as their favorites. A similar procedure was used for lyrics of a sexual nature.

Four-day message samples were selected to code sexually explicit messages during each year and were repeated for all three time periods. A score of ‘0’ was used to indicate participants who had not received or sent a sext message, while a score of ‘1’ indicated participants who had sent or received a ‘sext’ during the time periods considered.

Parental gender, race, and income of participants in Period 1 were used as controls.

Study results

The adolescents included in the current study listened to sexually oriented and sexually objectifying lyrics at medium or low levels. Also, about 43% of participants received or sent a text message at time 1, while 40.65% were observed at time 3.

A weak association was reported between preference for lyrics and sexting at time 3 for both boys and girls. However, at Time 1, listening to sexual and sexually objectifying lyrics was associated with lower family income. Furthermore, boys were more likely to listen to sexually oriented and sexually objectifying lyrics at first time than girls.

Sexual and sexually objectifying lyrics and demographic factors were not associated with early sexting. On the contrary, first-time sexting behaviors were associated with third-time sexting behaviors.

Moreover, an association between listening to sexual words at time 1 and sending sexts at time 3 was observed for boys but not for girls. However, the interaction between sexually objectifying words and sex was not significant at Time 3.


Listening to sexually oriented music lyrics may lead to future sexting behaviors in adolescent males; therefore, boys are likely to be more sensitive to lyrical messages regarding sexuality due to gendered sexual expectations.

These findings underscore the importance for parents to discuss sexting with their children and their media preferences, messages, and societal expectations regarding sexuality. This will help prevent the development of sexting behaviors and create a healthier environment for identity development in adolescence.


The current study only used a non-pictorial measure of sexting. Another limitation is that the impact of lyrics on the frequency of sexual behavior has not been fully understood, as sexting is dichotomous.

Two years is also a short period of time to analyze sexual behaviors. Also, coding the three most popular songs from the top three artists might not be enough to represent the songs teenagers listen to daily.

A final limitation of the current study is that the LIWC may not be able to identify sexually oriented and sexually objectifying lyrics in specific contexts.

Journal reference:

  • Kroff, SL, Coyne, SM, Shawcroft, J., et al. (2022). Associations between sexual music lyrics and sexting in adolescence. Computers in Human Behavior. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2022.107562.

A study examines the effects of sexually oriented song lyrics on teenage sexting behavior. – Palestinian Liberation 🇫🇷