A new study has found unexpected gender differences among teenagers who watch music videos on television.
The study, conducted at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, found that sexually active youth of both genders think their peers are also sexually active after watching music TV.
But the study also found that when girls and boys perceive males in music videos as being sexually active, it makes boys watch more music TV, and girls watch less.
The study, published in Springer’s journal Sex Roles, notes that watching music videos is a popular pastime of European and American teenagers. The videos, however, are often criticized for having too much sexual content, for objectifying women and for promoting a recreational view of sexual activities. They also have been linked to teenagers becoming sexually active earlier in life, according to the researchers.
For their study, researchers gathered information three times over the course of a year from 515 Belgian teenagers between the ages of 12 and 15. The kids were asked how much music television they watched, how sexually active they were, and how sexually active they thought their peers were.
The researchers found that watching sexual music videos only had an effect on the sexual behavior of teenage boys, but not girls. They said they believe this behavior is influenced by the sexual scripts of music videos, which tend to show men taking a more active role in any sexual interaction.
Watching music videos definitely had an influence on how sexually active boys and girls thought peers of the same sex were, the researchers reported. It made them believe that many of their friends were also sexually active — even though this might not be true.
This, in turn, made the boys watch even more of this kind of television, according to the study’s findings. Girls, on the other hand, stopped watching this kind of television.
The researchers speculate that this might be a type of defense reaction on the part of girls who believe that many male peers are sexually active. The girls also may be rejecting media content that tends to portray girls as sexual objects, the researchers hypothesized.
“Regarding the influence of music television exposure on sexual behavior, our findings suggest that increased sexual activities may be triggered by media use among boys, but not among girls,” said co-author Eline Frison.
“As the portrayal of women as objects of lust reflects patriarchal values, media images that support this type of male dominance may provoke resistance in female viewers. This is especially valid among those who view such activity as a threat because of the high sexual activity rates of male peers.”