If, as the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind,” then rock music is the universal language of youth. They get up to it in the morning, spend their waking hours listening to it, and then fall asleep to its beat. For about four to six hours a day the average North American teen becomes engrossed in rock’s lyrics and moves to its beat. And while music can uplift and inspire, it can also teach messages of violence, destruction and perversion.

In the rock music industry today, there is a small but highly popular and successful group of performers who are cashing in on the Pornographic Rock phenomenon.

Crude and violent

A far cry from the sexual themes veiled in romance and innuendo found in early rock and roll, pornographic rock glorifies promiscuity and perversion and affirms violence as acceptable and desirable. The lyrics of these songs are explicit, crude and violent.

While many parents may wonder at their children’s ability to hear the lyrics above the wailing guitars and the pounding percussion, there are “heard” at a subconscious level. The late rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix knew and understood this. “You can hypnotize people with music,” he said, “and when they get at their weakest point, you can preach into their subconscious minds what you want to say.”

Just children

If preaching into subconscious minds is what pornographic rock is doing, then there is immense cause for concern on the part of parents everywhere. The minds of young people are open and vulnerable. In the hurry of today’s North America with its racing ahead for prestige, money and success, it is often forgotten that children are just children, not miniature adults. And while we, as adults, can dress them like adults and request adult behaviour, the psychological development of a child cannot be rushed. But by exposure to images and themes inappropriate for his or her age, teen’s psychological development can be seriously damaged.

Even teens must be recognized as not-yet-adults. They may possess the emotions, passions and physical capabilities of adults, but they lack the adult judgment and maturity to harness them. Still living in the world of concrete operational development, their minds rest on the here and now, on tangible, instantaneous results. Thus, they fail to recognize and account for all possible consequences of their actions.

Sexual assault

And so, into the impressionable minds of today’s youth come song lyrics and video and stage images of rape, murder, sadomasochism, incest and much more. With groups like W.A.S.P. (now disbanded), simulating on stage the rape and torture of half-naked women with knives, saw blades and other gruesome instruments, is it co-incidental that the number of young male teens convicted of sexual assault, or assault and murder, has increased rapidly in the last few years?

When, in concert, Madonna writhes passionately, wriggles her behind and strikes poses before her male guitarist suggestive of oral sex, is it co-incidental that the rate of teenage pregnancy is on the rise? The pre-teen and teenage girls who comprise the majority of Madonna’s following are Madonna “wanna-be’s” – perhaps copies, from their crucifix earrings to their purple lacy panties and brassieres. Moreover, these young girls not only dress like Madonna, but they act out the “women can be as lewd as men” theme that Madonna peddles.

Heavy toll

Pornographic rock exacts a heavy toll upon our young people. Surveys demonstrate that the proportion of teens who are sexually active has steadily risen over the past number of years. Concurrently, the average age of first sexual encounters has steadily declined. Thus more teens are involved in sex at the earlier age. As a result of their sexual activities, approximately 1,000 Canadian teenage girls will become pregnant each week, and of these, over 37 per cent will end their pregnancies by abortion.

Sexually active teenagers, whom statistics place at up to 50 per cent of the teen population, must also contend with rapidly increasing rates of infection with such sexually transmitted diseases as Chlamydia, PPNG (a penicillin resistant form of gonorrhea), venereal warts and genital herpes. And with larger numbers of the population testing positive for HIV, teens too must now face the specter of AIDS.

But the misfortune doesn’t stop there. A study by the National Academy of Sciences have revealed that teenagers who terminate their pregnancies through abortion have a ten times greater chance of future wanted pregnancies ending in miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. Still other reports have noted that the highest rate of marital happiness is obtained by those who enter marriage as virgins, while promiscuous individuals have the lowest rate of marital happiness and hence, the highest divorce rate.

To condemn rock music as the prime factor in the increase in teenage sexuality and its associated consequences would be simplistic and naïve. On the other hand, to ignore the impact of rock music on the formation of a young person’s values and attitudes would be equally foolish, for music not only mirrors the realities of today’s society, but it reinforces and validates them. For many teens, rock music lyrics become a philosophy of life.

In light of the prevalence of sexual and violent images in the media today, is it wise to expose our children, through their music, to even more of the excesses of adult society.