SCIENCE

Monday, August 7, 2006

Study Links Explicit Music, Teenagers' Sexual Activity

Teenagers who regularly listen to music lyrics with explicit references to casual sex are more likely to initiate sexual intercourse and take part in other sexual activity, compared with those who do not listen to such music, according to a study being released today.

The study is the first to document that music with "degrading" lyrics appears to trigger different kinds of behavior than other songs, including those that focus on romantic attachment, love and longing.

Lyrics about casual sex affected both male and female teenagers, whites and nonwhites, according to Rand Corp. researchers who published their findings in the journal Pediatrics. The study tracked 1,461 adolescents over three years and compared the music they said they listened to with self-reported sexual activity.

"Lyrics classified as degrading depicted sexually insatiable men pursuing women valued only as sex objects," the researchers wrote. Such lyrics, which were most prominent in rap music, might convey distorted notions about gender roles to both male and female teenagers, the researchers concluded.

Large numbers of sexually active teenagers told researchers that they wished they had delayed sexual initiation, the study said.

Early sex is associated with an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, the study noted -- more than a third of teenagers reported not using a condom the last time they had sex. About 900,000 U.S. teenagers get pregnant each year, which translates to one in five sexually active teenage girls.

-- Shankar Vedantam

Deep Oceans Called Home Of Diverse Microbial Life

Scientists fishing for genes in the deep oceans have netted a huge catch of surprisingly diverse genetic snippets, providing the best evidence yet that the seas are home to far more microbial diversity than researchers had thought.

The work indicates that the world's oceans, once thought to be virtually sterile on the microbial scale, are teeming with bacteria and related organisms that have been evolving and swapping genes for billions of years.

Mitchell Sogin of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., led the new work -- part of an ongoing census of marine microbial life. They knew that previous efforts to catalogue single-celled oceanic bugs, which involved trying to grow them in laboratory dishes, had led to vast underestimates because only a small portion of those life-forms can survive in standard nutrient broths.


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