Some cultural activists like Hollywood director Rob Reiner believe smoking is so influential it should be the target of modern-day McCarthyism and banned from films and television. What about sexualized lyrics in popular music?  Do those have an impact on the sexual behavior and attitudes of adolescents?

Researchers Cougar Hall, Joshua H. West, and Shane Hill from Brigham Young University examined the trend of increasing use of sexually explicit lyrics in music - though if they think the trend is recent, they must be fairly young; music from the 1970s was stuffed with overt references to sex.

The amount of music that 8-18 year olds listen to has increased by 45 percent in recent years, rising dramatically with the popularity of MP3 players. Previous research has indicated that there is a strong link between exposure to sexual media (on screen and in music) and sexual activity. Teens tend to overestimate the sexual activity of their peers and one source of this misperception is entertainment media.

In their Sexuality&Culture study, the researchers analyzed the lyrics from the top 100 songs in the Billboard Hot 100 year-end most popular songs every decade from 1959 to 2009. They found that male and non-White artists were more likely to write songs with sexual lyrics in the past two decades and that there were more sexual references overall in 2009 than in 1959.

How did they know the writers were non-white?  Their method doesn't say.  Perhaps they believe everyone who sings a song is also the writer.

Not all sexual references are equal, and if casual smoking examples in films can have a deleterious effect on teens ("Casablanca" as gateway drug), degrading and sexualized music can certainly have an impact; they claim that girls in particular are led to judge their personal worth on a sexual level only by such music.

The authors advise that their findings raise serious concerns related to the promotion of unhealthy sexual messages in music. They conclude: "Popular music can teach young men to be sexually aggressive and treat women as objects while often teaching young women that their value to society is to provide sexual pleasure for others. It is essential for society that sex education providers are aware of these issues and their impact on adolescent sexual behavior."