Where Do You Stand on Censoring Sexually Explicit Lyrics?
Originally Published: May 15, 2021
Revised: July 30, 2021
As I was scrolling through Apple Music recently, trying to find a song I’d heard on the radio, I noticed that the same song was listed twice. The only difference was that one had a tiny gray “E” next to the title. It dawned on me that the “E” stood for explicit. Aha!
I like the idea of having the option of censored and uncensored music. I don’t mind sexually explicit music for the most part. Some lyrics are disrespectful to women, so that is my only exception. On the other hand, my mother hates sexually explicit lyrics. She thinks they’re “vulgar” and inappropriate. She believes that sex is more of a private matter. So, when I control the tunes while in the car with my mom, censored music comes in handy. I get to listen to my songs, and she doesn’t have to hear sexually explicit lyrics. Win win!
Interestingly, after speaking with teens, I realized that, unlike my mom, not many of them are in favor of censoring sexually explicit music.
Out of the teens who shared their opinions with me, none of them believe in outright censorship when it comes to sexually explicit lyrics.
Freedom of Expression
Out of the teens who shared their opinions with me, none of them believe in outright censorship when it comes to sexually explicit lyrics. “To say that such lyrics should be censored no matter what is to believe that sexual things are inherently ‘bad’ or sinful,” says Maxine, 19, of Berkeley, CA. “I think that our generation has largely moved away from that sentiment.” Looking back at past examples of censorship makes young people realize the damage it can do and the importance of free speech. “We watch movies like Footloose and read books like 1984, learning that censorship is a violation of our freedom of expression,” says Aren, 17, of Olympia, WA.
Even though the teens I talked to were against outright censoring explicit lyrics, some think there should be exceptions. “I believe we should not censor sexually explicit lyrics unless it concerns something like rape,” says Parker, 16, of Princeton, NJ. A few others brought up that talking about sexually assaulting someone in a boastful or bragging way in lyrics is not O.K.
Another reason why some people may not support sexually explicit lyrics is that some see sex—even talking about it—as a private matter. Some may feel this way due to the stigma that often exists when it comes to sex. “I fully support artists writing and performing sexually explicit lyrics because these lyrics are a form of expression over a topic that has caused unnecessary oppression and shame for so long,” says Isabelle, 19, of Bethlehem, PA. “I don’t think they should be censored because I feel this contributes to the stigmatizing and shaming of sexual activity. However, I can understand that because sex is a private activity, open descriptions can be off-putting.”
An Empowering Message
Freedom of speech is one of the reasons teens gave for not supporting the censorship of sexually explicit lyrics. “I think it’s not helpful and only ruins what the artist had intended for the song,” says Stewie, 19, of Silver Spring, MD. While freedom of speech is an important right and censoring takes that away from the artist, there was another reason teens gave for not supporting the censorship of lyrics. Some believed that sexually explicit lyrics could be empowering.
“I think sexually explicit lyrics are a necessary outlet for an artist’s desires and emotions in the same way that any other lyric is,” states Matt, 16, of Buffalo, NY. “Sexually explicit lyrics have equal capacity as any other lyric to be demeaning or empowering.” An example of what Matt is saying would be the song “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. While some people had a negative reaction to the explicit lyrics, others found them empowering. It’s been more common in mainstream music for men to perform songs that are more sexually explicit, so a lot of people welcomed women talking about sex—and enjoying it—freely and openly, without shame.
Teens have different views on sexually explicit lyrics, but of those I spoke with, no one was in favor of outright censorship. Next time you hear a lyric like this, check in with yourself. What do you think about censoring sexually explicit lyrics?
Photo by Manuel Iallonardi on Unsplash
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