Friday, August 18, 2006

Here we go again. . .

Researchers who tried to decipher the complex behaviors and attitudes of young men in the United States said that musical tastes may offer clues to rates of HIV infection. According to their study, boys hooked on gospel, techno and pop are more at risk of HIV infection than devotees of other musical styles, including hip hop.

Hundreds of young men interviewed in New York this year reportedly told lead researcher Miguel Munoz-Laboy of Columbia University that images of scantily-clad women in submissive roles in hip hop music videos had a "real impact on their lives."

"There is a connection. You see it in the way people dance, dress and it has an impact on their sexuality," said Munoz-Laboy. "We often blame youth for their behavior without understanding it," he said. "(But) there is a complex story about sexuality, masculinity and culture here."

Fortunately, the study did not imply listening to certain types of music caused HIV infection, but simply found links between genres and risk factors. The researchers looked at three New York neighborhoods and interviewed boys aged 16 to 21 about their listening tastes and attitudes toward condom use and sexual activities.

There is always a straight line between two dots. If all that the researchers looked at was, say, preferences in toothpaste and attitudes toward condom use and sexual activities, they would have found some correlation. "Crest has been shown to be an effective decay-preventing dentifrice when used in a conscientiously applied program of oral hygiene and regular professional care, and its users tend to be more likely to use condoms and practice safe sex," they might have concluded.

It's sad that the study did not choose to look at a broader range of issues than musical tastes to understand the "complex story" they alluded to. Did they consider education, parental presence or absence, history of drug and alcohol abuse, or other factors, or did they just ask, "Do you like hip hop or techno? Do you use condoms?"

The behavioral analysis divided participants into two musical groups: hip hop, reggae, reggaeton, rap and rhythm and blues; and rock, heavy metal, pop, techno, electronic and gospel. "Kids would be appalled that we grouped them this way, but this is how they mapped out in the mathematical analysis," Munoz-Laboy said. It probably also made the statistical analysis match their predetermined results much better, too.

Researchers distinguished between two styles of hip hop: the "bling, bling" hip hop that values fancy cars, money, and many girlfriends; and supposedly "real" hip hop that tells of urban youth stricken by violence, poverty and drug abuse. They found that boys who listened to hip hop music were more likely to have vaginal intercourse and had more partners, but boys from church or New York club scenes (techno, pop, electronic) took the most sexual risks. "Boys who listened to hip hop had more sex and more partners, but it did not impact condom use," said Munoz-Laboy. "Those who are part of religious culture or the club scene used condoms inconsistently."

It's sad what passes for "science" these days. . .

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