Thursday, August 10, 2006

I Must Be Missing Something

Wow. Apparently the Rand Corporation did a study and found that teenagers who listen to sexual music are more likely to have sex:

Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

Among heavy listeners, 51 percent started having sex within two years, versus 29 percent of those who said they listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

Putting aside the question of what kind of person says "yes, I like sexually degrading music," back when I was a teenager, the word we used to describe conclusions this obvious was "duh," or sometimes "a-doy-a-DUH." But the Rand Corporation in its wisdom goes on to find causation here:

Exposure to lots of sexually degrading music "gives them a specific message about sex," said lead author Steven Martino, a researcher for Rand Corp. in Pittsburgh. Boys learn they should be relentless in pursuit of women and girls learn to view themselves as sex objects, he said.

"We think that really lowers kids' inhibitions and makes them less thoughtful" about sexual decisions and may influence them to make decisions they regret, he said.

But nothing in the Rand summary of the study suggests they even thought about whether correlation proves causation. In other words, okay, Rand, you proved that kids who like sex like music about sex. Great. Kids who like rodeos probably like songs about cowboys. Does that mean that listening to country music causes increased rodeo attendance?

For that matter, I really like Watership Down; I own two copies. Is that the reason I own two rabbits?

Rand was asking the wrong questions when it spoke to these kids. I suspect most high school science students could have explained the difference between correlation and causation. Or at least, the kids could put them in touch with a science teacher who could.