Youth, Sexual Morality And Pop Music Culture

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Youth, Sexual Morality And Pop Music Culture

Youth, Sexual Morality and Pop Music Culture, By Adeola Ojoawo

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Sexuality and sexual morality as they concern the youth are issues that acquire their timeless currency against the backdrop of the unceasing evolution of human culture right from primitive society to modern times. In general terms, the cultural norms and values that govern sexuality and the expression of that basic biological drive (sex), among virtually all known human societies, have tended to evolve towards greater freedom and the embracement of more permissive attitudes, especially with the advent of western liberalism as the world’s dominant culture.

This piece was written by Adeola Ojoawo. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Even though culture, as we know it, is one of the key distinguishing features that set one society apart from another. It is also true that there have always been, in the evolution of human culture, those features that are shared in common by all human societies, such as using language for communication, the marriage institution, organised kinship, regulation of sexual conduct, notion of right and wrong, etc. Thus, humanity has always been culturally characterised by differentiation and some form of homogeneity, with the latter depending on the dominant global civilisation at any point in time.

Today, what is generally recognised as the world’s dominant civilisation is Western liberalism, of which the pop music culture is a derivative. The pop music culture arose as another category of cultural differentiation known as sub-culture. This third level of culture usually develops among sub groups within society who adopt norms, values and beliefs, about conducts and behaviours, which differ from (and often run counter to) society’s mainstream cultural values.

But such sub-culture, not infrequently, acquires the status of popular culture, which is distinct from high culture that is identified with the elite in society. But a society’s high culture, as well as its popular culture component, matter to its cultural continuity and survival. And it is the complex interactions of these cultural subsets within society on the one hand, and their mingling with cultural influences from outside on the other hand, that generate the continuing dynamic cultural evolution that we have witnessed from ancient times to date.

It is a sociological fact that cultures die, evolve, and undergo creative transformation. But what is important is whether the cultural survival of a given society and the well-being of its members can be assured even while it accommodates and adjusts to new cultural influences. The pop music culture and its impact on the sexual morality of our youth is a good material for examining this point.

In Nigeria, both before and after independence, the moral norms and values that governed sexuality have been broadly conservative, in a manner that placed a modicum of social restrictions, and individual restraint, on the expression of sexuality. But with continuous interaction with and accommodation of the cultural influences from the West, the liberalising culture of sexuality and overt sexualisation began to creep in on us. Through the pop culture it gained a cultural foothold in our society, and with the aid of modern media, the vivid sexualisation of Western pop culture soon became a stronghold of sexual cultural reorientation among our youth – with unhealthy consequences for the society’s moral health.

The reasoning here is that culture is an important aspect of the infrastructure of domination which the more powerful societies employ to keep weaker ones in perpetual subjugation. Thus, the firm hold of the pop culture on our youth is not as harmless as it appears. It affects certain core organising pillars of society such as human sexuality, gender and power.

One of the major ways by which human society sustains itself culturally is by transmitting its cultural norms and values to succeeding generations through various means of socialisation. In other words, young people are a core consideration in the cultural sustenance and survival of any society. Consequently, the kind and quality of values they imbibe are of vital importance.

It is beyond dispute that the youth are the foremost stronghold of the pop music culture – and it comes with its own package of norms and values by which its adherents deal with such important issues as sex, human sexuality, gender and power. If our frame of reference here is that society must preserve and protect those norms and values that conduce to its survival and the well-being of its members, then, it ordinarily, for instance, would frown at promoting the free expression of the sex drive among under-age youth who are not equipped to handle the consequences.

However, this is one of the values disseminated by the pop music culture through its sexually suggestive lyrics and explicitly sexual musical videos. With the aid of traditional and new media, pop music has become the ruling culture of our time, and it is reworking and redefining the values and orientation of our youth in ways that are deleterious to society’s moral wellness.

The youth today spend much more time interacting with the pop music culture, through the media, than they do with the major traditional agencies of socialisation – the family, schools, or religious institutions. Being a creative art form, the pop music culture has developed ways of communicating its luridly sexual messages through slangs that may sound sexually innocuous to uninitiated adults, but quite effective at passing its messages across to its target youth-audience.

By promoting the notion of unrestrained expression of sexuality and other vanities such as materialism, indolence, short-cut to success, etc., it misleads impressionable young minds into accepting the false idea that the cultivation of such values carry no consequences, or that they generate desirable outcomes.

Bolstered by its musical video component, the pop music culture promotes the sexual objectification of the human body, especially that of the females who are the easier targets. By displaying women and girls in various stages of nudity, it exerts a powerful audio-visual effect on the malleable minds of its young viewing audience towards sexualisation, and the focus on the female body only in terms of its sexual utility.

It also inflicts long-lasting damage on the female participants in the videos as well as the female audience. By constantly projecting explicit sexual footages that glorify female sexual objectification, it promotes the false idea that the larger society accepts and endorses what is being projected, and also pressures the girls into a redefinition of their self-image and the acceptance of their role as mere tools of sexual gratification for their male counterparts.

The sexualising orientation of the pop music culture also projects the view of women as physical and mental weaklings, who are submissive and subservient to male sexual domination and exploitation, while simultaneously strengthening the macho culture of the male as the all-powerful and all-dominant partner in social relationships and the social role-set.

It similarly promotes a particular idea and ideal of female physical beauty (being sexy). This ‘sexy craze’ works to make the females redefine their sexual self-image (of whom they are and whom they should be) and encourages the choice of skimpy, tight-fitting, body-revealing sexy clothes/clothing by our young girls, which further entrenches their sexualisation.

The damaging consequences of the values promoted by the pop music culture on the youth, particularly the females, can manifest in unimaginable ways. A woman who has been led to accept her sexual objectification is just as easily amenable to sexual promiscuity and prostitution, among other sexually abnormal behaviours. Youth with such values towards their sexuality are also susceptible to other social problems such as teenage pregnancies, single parenthood, high incidence of female school dropouts, female marginalisation and disempowerment, sexual harassment, and sexploitation, among others.

One key lesson derivable from the corrosive effect of pop music culture on society’s moral health is the need to be awake to the implication of having our mainstream values and norms determined by groups or individuals – within or outside our society – who are not necessarily keen on the corporate responsibility of ensuring the cultural sustenance of society and the moral well-being of its members.

As a society, we need to reconceptualise ourselves as a socio-political and cultural entity with a view to determining our fate culturally – by creatively and selectively controlling our own cultural reproduction in a way that guarantees our collective survival and moral well-being.

Adeola Ojoawo teaches in the Department of English and Literary Studies, Kings University, Odeomu, Osun State.

This piece was written by Adeola Ojoawo. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of



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