Music Videos and Sexual Risk in African American Adolescent Girls: Gender, Power and the Need for Media Literacy

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Background: Music videos contain sexual content often reflecting women as promiscuous, submissive, or passive. Few studies have examined gender- and sex-related attitudes in African American females, particularly across genres of music videos. Purpose: Using constructs from Cultivation Theory, Theory of Gender and Power and Social Cognitive Theory, this study examined the association of music video viewing, gender roles, self-efficacy for condom use, and condom use among a sample of African American adolescent girls (N = 522). Methods: This study employed a cross-sectional design using baseline survey data collected through a larger study testing an HIV-risk reduction intervention. Results: Viewing frequency was highest for rap (97%) and R&B (80.4%) videos. Negative exposure in videos significantly predicted perceived personal influence and condom use self-efficacy. Girls who watched rap videos held less traditional attitudes toward women than those who watched rap and R&B combined. Discussion: An examination of music videos allows a broader evaluation of factors that may support sexual risk behavior. Further, R&B videos may contain images that romanticize male-female relationships and reinforce unhealthy gender roles.

Translation to Health Education Practice: Research should examine media literacy approaches in combination with appropriate HIV prevention education to develop youth as informed, critical consumers of sex-related gendered content in various music video genres.

Robillard A. Music videos and sexual risk in African American adolescent girls: gender, power and the need for media literacy. Am J Health Educ. 2012;43(2):93-103. Submitted June 3, 2011. Accepted September 22, 2011.

BACKGROUND

Media, as a form of entertainment, are believed by some to be a vehicle for behavioral influence. For many years researchers have hypothesized a relationship between media and behavior, suggesting that media content shapes cultural norms and indirectly affects behavior. (1) This may be particularly true during adolescence, (2) and especially so with respect to music videos. Music videos have raised concern because of the combination of explicit music and sexual visual images. (3) These visual images offer "added value" to music. (4) Both music and their accompanying music videos have garnered attention for their content.

Despite early debates about music videos (and music lyrics) beginning in 1983 (5,6) by the Parents Music Resource Center, (7-9) Women Against Pornography and the National Coalition on Television Violence, (10) music videos are now an entertainment staple. Their availability extends beyond the traditional mode of television to the Internet as well, and they have come to be an appreciated and highly consumed form of entertainment, particularly by adolescents. (11-14)

In recent years, several groups have raised concern over the portrayal of women in music videos and its impact upon girls. The Girls, Women + Media Project is an initiative developed to increase awareness of how media represent and affect young women. (15) Essence magazine, a popular lifestyle publication for African American women launched a series of articles highlighting this concern specific to African American women resulting in the "Take Back the

Music" campaign. (16) In addition, concern about the nature and content of music videos was voiced during the 61st National Convention of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (a group representing members of Black Greek Letter Organizations) where a boycott of Black Entertainment Television (BET) was considered. (17) The American Academy of Pediatrics has also issued a policy statement on the impact of music, music lyrics and music videos on youth with recommendations for physicians to become more familiar with this issue so as to best guide patients and parents. (18)

Concern for adolescent health has led to research questioning the effects of music videos on the lives of adolescents, (19) particularly their impact on attitudes toward sexual risk behavior and the outcomes associated with it, including HIV. …

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