Our Sexualized Music

Mick Jagger & Ed Sullivan

Mick Jagger & Ed Sullivan
“Let’s spend some time together”

On January 15, 1967 The Rolling Stones returned to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. Based on their four prior appearances, the Stones had figured out that an appearance on Sullivan’s show boosted record sales. Thus, when Ed Sullivan insisted that the band change its lyrics from “Let’s spend the night together” to “Let’s spend some time together,” they complied. Not happily, of course, but they complied.

Sometimes I attend an aerobics style class to keep my heart and body in good shape. The instructors use current pop songs for some of the workout music. Most of the time, I am too busy trying to get the steps right to think too much about the lyrics. However, I have started tuning in more. And I am appalled.

Back in 1967, Ed Sullivan drew a line that he would not cross on his show. Today media outlets do have certain restrictions, but they are very few, and you have to get pretty extreme to cross the line. Short of a profanity-laced rant or a “wardrobe malfunction,” just about anything is written, talked, shown, or sung about this days.

How much is too much in our lyrics? Has our music become too sexualized? And what effect do sexually explicit lyrics have on our view of sex itself?

Lest you think I’m adopting the Church Lady approach to ranting and raving about modern culture, when I first started drafting this post, I took a look at the Top 10 on Billboard.com and on iTunes. Thankfully, the majority of hits were more about puppy love and dancing, but among them was Usher’s “Scream.” Obviously, I recommend against buying this song; however, so you know what I’m talking about, there are some of its lyrics:

I see you over there so hypnotic
Thinkin’ ’bout what I’d do to that body,
I’ll getchu like ooh baby baby, ooh baby baby
A-ooh baby baby, ooh baby baby
Got no drink in my hand, but I’m wasted
Gettin’ drunk off the thought of you naked
I’ll getchu like ooh baby baby, ooh baby baby
A-ooh baby baby, ooh baby baby
And I’ve tried to fight it, to fight it
But you’re so magnetic, magnetic
Got one life, just live it, just live it
Now relax and get on your back
If you wanna scream yeah,
Let me know and I’ll take you there
Get you going like a-ooh baby baby, ooh baby baby
A-ooh baby baby, ooh baby baby
If you want it done right
Hope you’re ready to go all night,
Get you going like a-ooh baby baby, ooh baby baby
A-ooh baby baby, ooh baby baby

The Beverly Hillbillies grandmother

“I should wash your mouth out!”

I looked again as I was polishing the post, and I can’t even print what Lil Wayne says. (His mama needs to wash his mouth out with the lye soap made by the Beverly Hillbillies Granny. At least twice.)

Note that this may be music your kids hear. That’s disturbing. (Which is why you need to talk to them about sex and get your values across to combat these messages.)

However, is there any reason I should listen to this either? What talk about sexuality is appropriate in our music choices?

I have to admit that some songs that hint at sexual intimacy do not offend me. In fact, I’m happy to load my MP3 player with songs that might inspire a little nookie between the hubster and me. Background music while making love can enhance the experience.

But I wanted to explore this subject this week. Today’s post is a warning/question about our sexualized music. Philippians 4:8 says that we should think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable . . . excellent or praiseworthy . . .” Psalm 101:3 states, “I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.” One would assume that listening to the vile and vulgar is also not pleasing to the Lord. And the admonishment to “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23) is immediately followed by this verse: “Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech.”

It matters what messages we put into our brain.

Our music can influence how we think about sex.

Some Christians simply choose to avoid secular music altogether and tune into Christian music stations or listen to classical or instrumental music. Frankly, my own music tastes run the gamut from Johann Sebastian Bach to Steven Curtis Chapman to Martina McBride to Train to classic Rush . . . and anything you can think of in between.

I suspect I’m like most of you — listening to a variety of music and filtering through the lyrics as needed. Sometimes, I find myself lost in the beat and tune before I think to myself, “Would I be listening to this if Jesus was here?”

I worry, though, that while such songs were rare in previous times, now they swarm our radio stations. Online radio (such as Pandora, Spotify, and others) also means that we often hear the explicit version of a song rather than the sanitized one that would be played on public airwaves. Where you used to have to hunt for those songs, now you must actively dodge them like a paintball warrior trying to avoid being marked.

So how much is too much? When has a line been crossed?

Personally, I try to stay away from songs that describe sex in a cheap or coarse way. Can I quantify that? No. But I usually know it when I hear it.

I don’t believe that all music describing sexuality is bad. As I said, I keep some tunes on my MP3 player that get me in the mood or provide good background music for hubby and me. So I want to come back on Thursday and provide a lovemaking playlist for couples. If you want to make your own suggestions to my list, please head over to my Facebook page HERE and answer that question.

For the comments below, however, do you think about how our current music represents sexuality? Has our society collectively crossed a line? Do you have standards for what you listen to?

Sources: EdSullivan.com; Billboard.

10 thoughts on “Our Sexualized Music

  1. Sara with an H

    I think that most of the music today tries to push the envelope as far as what they can get played on the radio. I do think that a lot of the music right now cheapens sex to just a one night fling type deal and that its just about the physical and not the emotional connection. In fact, I read an article the other day about an artist who wrote a song giving very explicit directions on how to perform oral sex on a woman. It eventually got banned on radio and pulled from YouTube.

    That being said, I do have a list of songs that we will put on when we make love. Some of them are a little dirtier than others (teehee), but there isn’t anything explicit or outright crude. And any song that uses the F-bomb to describe sex (or in general) is not allowed on any playlist I have. If I can get the censored radio version, I will. You definitely need to be careful and listen to lyrics very closely.

  2. Marisa

    Definitely crossed the line in my mind. It totally breaks my heart to see young, elementary school kids singing the lyrics out loud and not necessarily knowing what they are singing but it is getting into their minds. Never mind some of the moves they see on the music videos that are quite suggestive. I do guard what I listen to.

  3. K.

    Music has been highly sexualized for decades. I never really realized what I was listening to and singing when I was a teenager back in the 70’s and 20-something in the 80’s until I became a Christian and God opened my eyes and ears. Now when I wander over to the classic rock station to see if they’re playing any old favorites I am amazed at how many of the songs are very sexual. I mean, rock and roll was and often is all about debauchery, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but I still am! lol

    1. Louisa McFarland

      I was going to say this very thing. I was a teen ager in the 80’s, I had no idea what I was singing along to. I loved the songs, Bon Jovi, Guns and Roses, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Barnes (Aussie) and heaps of others. Now when I hear them on the radio or in the shops, I am appalled at how crude some of them can be. I think that as a sheltered country girl who didn’t have much idea of sexuality the meanings didn’t sink in. Now as I listen with mature ears I am shocked. That being said I just googled one of my all time favourites, and it is quite honest and touching, and it still fits

      Working hard
      to make a living
      Bringing shelter from the rain
      A fathers son left to carry on
      Blue denim in his vein
      Oh oh oh he’s a working class man

      Well he’s a steel town deciple
      He’s a legend of his kind
      He’s running like a cyclone
      Across the wild mid western sky
      Oh oh oh he’s a working class man

      He believes in god and elvis
      He gets out when he can
      He did his time in vietnam
      Still mad at uncle sam
      He’s a simple man
      With a heart of gold
      And a complicated life
      Oh he’s a working class man

      Well he loves a little woman
      Someday he’ll make his wife
      Saving all the overtime
      For the one love of his life
      He ain’t worried about tomorrow
      Cause he just made up his mind
      Life’s too short for burning bridges
      Take it one day at a time
      Oh oh oh he’s a working class man
      Oh oh oh he’s a working class man
      Oh yeah
      Yes he is
      Well he’s a working class man
      Oh
      Ma ma…I tell you he’s a working class man

  4. Gary

    I think the primary problem in the secular music industry isn’t so much the descriptive nature of the sexual interactions themselves in the lyrics, which in many cases are relatively mild innuendo when compared even to the Song of Songs (at least in terms of what’s broadcasted on public secular radio stations, not secular music collectively). The main problem is that a majority of secular music explicitly conveys and promotes sexuality in a non-marital context, even praising one night stands and multiple sex partners simultaenously as a means to good “natural” fun. Sex is equated to any other recreational activity and extricated from any deeper meaning, conversely being portrayed as preferrably detatched from the intimacy-building aspect of it to avoid encumbering oneself with the “burden” of commitment.

    I do think that our society has far surpassed the line of what is appropriate in this regard. It’s a shame that youth are being overwhelmingly exposed to such garbage on a daily basis, and, based on my experiences with secondary school students, are using it as their primary source of sex education. I honestly feel very sad for the youth who are destroying what could be an amazing, healthy and deeply intimate future sex life by conforming to what secular society is aggressively advancing as natural (translation: animalistic) and good sexual behavior, which it is everything but.

    In regards to my own standards for what I listen to, not much is required since I virtually listen to nothing but dubstep, which often contains little to no lyrics. When I do venture to other genres on occassion, I tend to avoid songs that are excessively explicit or unequivocally convey unmarried sexuality. Though I am liberal to some extent with myself if I find the beat particularly enjoyable since that is all I’m usually listening to anyways. I’m also not the type to be influenced by any given idea regardless of how often or strongly I am subjected to it when I know it’s not true. I do however avoid playing the odd song with such content around others since I don’t know the conditions of their hearts and don’t want to cause anyone to sin on account of my personal pleasure.

  5. Anonymous

    For adults with children – whether they’re little kids or high school kids – remember that you are setting the Christian example of what is acceptable for your children to listen to. Period.

    Tracie in Ohio

  6. MonMon

    I have actually struggled with this issue in my walk with God because music is such a HUGE part of my life. I love music so much! I play instruments, sing, and just love listening to all types. I do listen to secular music but I have become much more careful over the years about filtering out songs because the lyrics are so awful now. It saddens me how sex has become so pervasive in the lyrics because of how cheap and easy it’s being portrayed. A line has definitely been crossed IMO. We must guard our hearts by watching what we watch and hear but there’s nothing wrong with listening to a sexy song in the proper context of your marriage!

  7. Greg

    Excellent post(!)–and a subject I think every follower of Christ should be asking themselves, because it extends to what we watch, read, and the kind of language we use ourselves. Yes, our society crossed the line decades ago, and it’s only going to get worse. Problem is, we love the tunes, but not the lyrics; we like the plot and characters, but not the innuendos and language. Yet we struggle to stay away, because the catchy content are like hooks that instill in us messages and world views contrary to biblical truth. And we’re just not willing to endure the pain of removing them. DC Talk’s “In the Light” echoes this: “I am the king of excuses; I’ve got one for every selfish thing I do.” How much is too much is a question only a heart that genuinely desires to honor God can answer. The Newsboys’ “Shine” song put it well: “The truth is in, the proof is when you hear your heart start asking, “What’s my motivation?”” (John Lawry’s song “Video Logic” also talks about this).

    I’ve really struggled with these things, and personally, I think the answer is “push away until it hurts.” If it doesn’t hurt yet, it’s not enough. As an example, something that’s really bothered me are the music videos for even techno “trance” music that I really enjoy; namely André Tanneberger or “ATB”. I love his music–a very talented artist, but instead of trying to be creative with landscapes or views of André himself as a backdrop to the music, sexual themes (including homosexuality) now constitute the majority of his official videos. As a Christian, I cannot support that kind of content. I still struggle with bad language not only because I heard it five days a week throughout my public high school years, but because for too long I chose to watch numerous movies with bad language (among other things) in it. So I’ve thrown out numerous CDs and DVDs.

    IMO, the bottom line is: how serious are we about our faith? We need to be like the new believers in Acts 19:19 who literally burned items worth a small fortune because of what they represented.

  8. Anonymous

    I downloaded a workout music station onto my Pandora, but I had to dump it. Every song was about illicit, sinful, sometimes abusive or rape-like sex; one night stands, just wanting a woman for her body, racking up the “body count” on his bedsheets, etc. Disgusting.

    It also didn’t help that I was exercising to relief some sexual tension from not having my needs met because hubby was out of town on business (he doesn’t allow and isn’t into Skype or sexting or phone sex).

  9. Kristi

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this the last few weeks, so it’s awesome to see this on your site, J. Love this post. I think it’s very important that parents be aware of what their kids listen to and watch. I know so many people that simply see a “PG-13” rating and let Hollywood choose their kids viewing habits. MY idea of what my 13 year old should watch is substantially different than whoever rates these things PG-13, girl!!

    On the other hand, I have really eclectic taste in music. I like it all…apart from the “Lil’ Waynes” of the world (I don’t really like any rap music), I can listen to almost any kind of music. I think it’s equally important that we don’t NOT listen to good music simply because the artist “looks” different.

    A good example, IMO, is Jack White (formally of the White Stripes). He looks…unique. He dresses old school and has longish hair, so when I mentioned him to a friend, her first response was…”I would NEVER listen to HIS music!! He’s all…DARK!”. Ummmm….no. No, he isn’t. His musical hero is Loretta Lynn…need I say more?! She’d never actually listened to his music, but judged solely on his appearance, which isn’t bad, IMO. Just unique. He’s a blues/rock/country singer who can play a guitar like nobody’s business. She listened to his latest called, “I’m Shakin” and responded with…”I wouldn’t have thought that’s what he played!!!!”. I haven’t seen many videos, so I can’t speak for those, but the music itself is great. (youtube I’m Shakin’ if you want…it’s great)

    We need to let our kids hear/see/read great art, while making sure it’s appropriate for God’s people.

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