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Sex and Song Lyrics: Enough Said

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I remember when lyrics were poetic indicators, paintings, photographs, lilting, shifting landscapes of innuendo and allusion. Laying on one's belly with the record jacket open, poring over lyrics, trying to decide whether they meant what you originally thought or what your friend Suzie said they meant....

Now I turn on the radio and, if my children are with me, most times turn it right back off again or find a different station. The mainstream music stations have no songs with landscapes, no poetry.

Freud discussed the sublimation of sexuality as having the ability to create art; that is to say, but channeling our sexual impulses away from sex and into other things, we could create works of art. Song lyrics have been that for me. The constancy of finding myself in the poetry accompanying beautiful music is something that allowed me to discover my own path, my own feeling template, validating my most frightening and profound confusion and intense yearning.

Now the songs are about strip clubs, alcohol, lesbianism without commitment, drinking so much you forget where your phone is, paying for lap dances, pimping, prostitution and booty shaking.

Sublimation, it seems, has vanished. There is no channeling away from sexuality to create art, there is simply lyrics that try to rhyme and the most base, the most puerile take on sexuality and altered states of mind are promoted. Its as if the music industry is run by a gang of 16 year old boys pretending to be important men.
While I admit, my kids don't understand a lot of the lyrics, this isn't the domain of a select few anymore. This music permeates our popular culture so that even 'Kids Bop' have versions of it, all cleaned up and heading toward the playground. The school bus driver blares the radio on the long ride to and from school, with Kindergarten, first, second, third and fourth graders straining to hear about people's heads spinning around and someone named "Shorty" and the loads of sex they may have on their birthdays.

As a parent and as a teacher, its uncomfortable and disturbing to say the least.

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Into The Night is not a song about an older man in love/lust with a 16 year old...at all!!! It was Benny Mardones who said to his songwriting partner "She's 16, leave her alone." and the song was written about a young neighbour whose father had left her family...she and Benny were friends and she turned to him for help. I've heard the story first hand and Benny is a very dear friend of mine...get it right.

October 7, 2009 - 5:15pm

O-M-G - Girl, you had me DYING with laughter, all up in Herrrr...

I can't even tell you how amazing and how funny your comment was.

Enough said.

B - zizzle

October 7, 2009 - 4:24pm
HERWriter Guide


It's "Shawty" not "Shorty!" You ain't down with the jiggy, girl! (Speaking of, slang in music often comes from very iffy origins that pinpoint race, gender, nationality etc, and although I'm not very politically correct in nature - I just thought I'd point that out!)

I love your post and agree with you but have you heard some of the songs they used to sing along to back in the day? Holy mackrel!

"Into the night" by Benny Mardones is a very dubious "love" song from a grown man to a 16 year old minor. I think the singalong "I'd really love to see you tonight" by folk (yes!) singer England Dan may just be the original booty call song and The Doors and The Beatles were glorifying drug use nearly 50 years ago.

But you are right - the difference between now and then is subtlety versus the obvious. Nowadays there's no need to "play the record backwards" (remember that craziness?) to hear subliminal messages. It's all out there. And actually, it's not half as much fun.

I'm not up for any kind of censorship at all. When our kids aren't in the car, my husband and I listen to very adult comedy, Howard Stern and the like. Hey, we can't help what we like! I can tune into Howard and switch to BBC America in a heartbeat; if people are talking, I'm listening, no matter how left, right or middle they are!

But the songs that are directed to tweens and teens now have sexual overtones as well as violence and kicking it "to the man" (including parents and teachers) to them that are quite troubling. Equally troublesome are the parents who buy into it (literally) in order to be the cool-best-friend-parent type or due to pressure. Or the mentality of "well, they're all doing it. As long as I know about it, I can monitor it". They assume their kids will tell them if things get out of hand. That's what friends do, right? Ha! Daddy, kidz spittin game on you!

Discrimination isn't always a dirty word. In some aspects of life, we need to do a lot more of it and make that fine line a lot thicker. There is a huge difference between adult suitability and what works for kids. Kids may be somewhat more sophisticated these days, that much is true. But they are as impressionable and vulnerable as any other kid of any other era and why on earth have we forgotten that? Or do we just ignore it? Why do we lament kids growing up so fast these days, yet perpetuate it?

Again, great post. Mad props to your scribblin skillz.

October 7, 2009 - 11:44am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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