Hip Hop Fridays: Does Rap's Sexual Images Increase HIV Among Teens by Dennis Levy
Some Rapper's rhymes influence black teenagers to be sexually promiscuous and this puts the teens at a higher risk for contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. That is my position. I am not some high moral person but I must speak out as a black man and Health Educator who grew up in the hood. It is time to be concerned about the unquestionable sexual and violent images in some Hip-Hop music.
Ludacris is "a well rounded hedonist, who pursues a balanced lineup of vices and addictions," says Nathan Rabin in his review of the hip-hop star's new CC, The Red Light District. This CD is about as balanced as a seesaw with a fat kid on one side and a skinny one on the other. It is another variation on the same theme throughout much of hip-hop; sex and material wealth. Stanley Crouch, a well-known black writer calls this kind of hip-hop "cultural pollution". He said it is a " scurrilous product" that projects images of young black men "as thugs and young black women as sluts hot to trot and drop their drawers at the slightest provocation."
I was watching young black women shake their butts into the faces of young black men on BET's top ten music video show the other day. The men in the hip-hop videos responded with some hot simulated grinding with the young women. I never saw so many young black men grabbing their crouches. The sexual signals were so strong I thought the men and women would jump onto the floor and engage in an orgy any minute. I was surprised and that is something for me. I understood why Essence, the most popular black women's magazine in America, in this month issue, called for a movement to "take back the music".
In fairness, all rap artists do not create or use sexed up rhymes to sell music. I commend positive rappers for standing firm on a higher principle inspite of the powerful and almost irresistible attraction of hip-hop money. My concern as a Health Educator is the degree in which the sexually explicit lyrics of some rap artists influence young people to engage in unsafe sex.
There is no question that Hip-Hop has become a major part of American pop culture and it is so profitable most people are willing to excuse the violence and sex associated with it. It's influence touches people like Donald Trump and Ronald Perelman, the richest man in New York City as well as a generation of black and Latino youth in inner city ghettoes across America. Perelman said in a New York Magazine article on Hip-Hop that Russell Simmons, the founder and C.E.O. of Def Jam Records, is the 'man' and that rap and urban city dress is mainstream. I agree. There is much positive in the Hip-Hop culture. But Cynthia, a 12-year-old Harlemite gives mixed signals. She says Hip-Hop is hot!' She looks like a fan that listens to hip-hop music, watches the videos, and dresses like rappers. Looking like her hip-hop idol is where things get confused. She is wearing tight short pants that reveal the cheeks of her butt and a blouse that leaves nothing to the imagination about her breasts. Young boys are staring at her and calling out trying to get her attention. Remember that this is a twelve-year-old girl.
The question is 'does the sexually charged images' contribute to the increase of sexual activity among teens? I believe the role of violent entertainment to the violence in our society is informative. Rowell Husemann, the field's preeminent researcher says long term exposure to media violence among children 'boosts' violent behavior. Other researchers have found that sexually explicit material can have similar effects on the behavior of some youngsters. Based on those facts, I believe hip-hop videos depicting women, for example, as hos, bitches, and freaks encourage black youth to act like the images. These images are engaged in sexually provocative and promiscuous activities.
Does the increased sexual activity among our youth contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS? It's impossible to say. However, in 1998, teenagers were the theme of the world AIDS day. Dr. Ronald Valdseuir, deputy director of the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention said half of all the new infections in the United States were among people under 25 years of age and a quarter of that number are in people between the ages of 13 and 21. Most of the youth are Black and Latino. It is time to speak out.
We can all do our part to slow the spread of HIV. P. Diddy, Russell Simmons, Jay Z, and many other rappers have long been involved in AIDS causes. Many of these same artists raise money for HIV Education and Prevention. Lately, some big name Hip Hop artists have put together a public service message encouraging young teens to wear condoms during sexual intercourse. Some of their work is seen as good. But to give money and assistance to stop the spread of HIV in our community on one hand and to promote sexual promiscuity among teens on the other hand is hypocritical. Rapper's must clean up the violent and sexually charged images many of them send to our youth. If the rappers won't police each other, we must organize to stop them from sending 'hateful' images to our teens. Indeed, We must not continue to embrace and promote entertainment degrading to black people. This is about our children at the end of the day. Popular TV talking head Bill O'Reilly told an interesting story to get people to see the negative impact of some hip hop music. He said on last years Halloween, a first grade teacher in Biloxi, Miss., held a costume party for her class. "One little boy came dressed as a pimp, complementing another little girl made up to be a whore." O'Reilly said, "Somewhere, the Devil is grinning." Peace out.
Dennis Levy is the former Executive Director of the Black And Latino AIDS Coalition, Inc. of New York City. He is also a free lance writer. He can be reached at Levicobx@aol.com
Friday, March 4, 2005