Rap Many people say that our popular culture has

Rap Relationships: Music and Teenage Dating Violence

            Teenagers
all across the country are changing the culture of dating. From dating apps, to
recent music and pop-culture, a variety of things are making romantic
relationships different from what they used to be. These human relationships
have always changed with time and they certainly are different now. Unfortunately,
a byproduct of the new dating culture is newfound acceptance and increase of
dating violence. Many people blame rap music, because of the violence it
contains, and say that it must be boycotted. Dating violence is hurting the teens
of society today, and I am addressing the validity of that claim. Rap music is
popular, especially among adolescents, and certainly could be a leading factor
in this change.

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            Many
say that teenagers are stubborn and we won’t be able to influence their habits,
whether we like it or not. Many people say that our popular culture has little
to do with the behavior of teenagers. However, pop culture, especially music, does
have an influence on the teenagers in America. Adolescents often base their
values on their peers’ values or off of the culture they live in. Rap music can
facilitate dating violence and especially can lead to a larger acceptance of it
in our society, particularly in adolescents. In this paper, I will be cover the
history of rap music and dating violence, going over varying opinions about the
relationship of the two, showing how rap music has led to a greater acceptance
of dating violence, and offering solutions to this problem.

 

 

History of Rap Music and Dating Violence

            Rap
music is a genre of music that expresses and promotes opinions and values that
are unique. Rap music often portrays the ideal that the morals depicted are
desirable or more noble than that of the average human (Edmundson 2). The
values in this type of music can vary by song and artist, but, in general, they
involve violence, prowess, and pride (Edmundson 3). In a study of popular
music, it was found that approximately 1/3 of popular songs had derogatory
violent or sexual messages (Wright 2). Rap music also has a unique listening
audience. Many people may think that rap music is only for inner-city young
adults. However, this isn’t the case. Dr. Raphael Travis, a researcher and
professor at Texas State University, helps us understand this, “it is nearly
impossible to walk through any major setting where large numbers of youth are
gathered without seeing headphones in ears or hearing music playing” (Travis
4). He has studied adolescents and he found that rarely do youth gather without
having music playing. Dr. Travis also tells us that, “Consumers of contemporary
rap music do not fit neatly into stereotypical demographic genres. We find consumers
across ages, racial and ethnic categories, genders, and geographic regions”
(Travis 2). Later, he also expresses that rap music is shunned in some groups
just as much as it is celebrated in the same groups (Travis 2). So, we learn,
from his studies, that rap music is consumed by people in many different
groups. Inner-city youth are not the only ones who listen to rap music. This
shows that rap music could be having a large impact on the decisions that
teenagers are making across the country.

            Dating
violence also has some inner-city stereotypes. But, similar to rap music,
studies have found different. We know that around half of teens are in a
relationship by adulthood and that almost all have dated before then
(Friedlander 1). So, relationships and dating are extremely common among youth.
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control released a fact sheet
about violence and teenagers. They found that there are 4 common types of
dating violence, physical, emotional, sexual, and stalking (Understanding 1). They also found in a
study that “among high school students who dated, 21% of females and 10% of
males experienced physical and/or sexual dating violence” (Understanding 1). This is among all high schoolers – not just
inner-city ones. Dating violence in teenagers is much more common than people
think. There is also more to dating violence than some may think. As I refer to
“dating violence” throughout this work, know that I mean physical, emotional,
sexual, and stalking violence. There is also a large group of teenagers who
have been victims of violence but don’t admit to it. This could be due to the
fact that teens are afraid to report it to others (Understanding 1). Teens often are embarrassed to tell family and/or
friends that they are in an abusive relationship. This leads to an incorrect
assumption in our culture that dating violence isn’t very common.

Varying
Opinions about Rap Music and its Effect:

            Many
people may say that most people who listen to rap music are good people, not
abusive people, and that there is an incorrect assumption made that rap
listeners are bad. Their point isn’t just out of thin air either. Many of us
may listen to rap music ourselves and may not be in an abusive relationship.
Many of us may know someone who listens to rap music and is in a great, healthy
relationship. However, there is a big generalization being made with this
claim. It isn’t fair to see healthy relationships in your life, and then
generalize that to everyone’s life. We know that abusive relationships are out
there, and the proportion isn’t that small. Laura Friedlander, who has a
Master’s Degree in Neurology, did a study to find if aggressive media can
predict aggressive behavior in teenagers. The findings indicated that media
with aggressive messages, like rap music, can raise the occurrence of dating
violence in teens (Friedlander 2). Thus, in general, partakers of rap music
often have more violent behavior than those who don’t. Now, it is important to
address how high it raises that occurrence. It would be unfair to assume that
all people who participate in violent media become extremely violent people.
Using the same study as reference, it was found that violent music increased
dating violence by around 2% (Friedlander 6). Teens are affected negatively by
exposure to violent rap music. However, it may not make many adolescents more
violent in their relationships.

            Others
may say that adolescents are affected by listening to rap music, but not enough
to be worried. Many people think that teens who listen to rap music change, but
only a little. This is a claim that is loosely confirmed by the study listed
above. If 98% of teens won’t become violent by listening to violent music, then
it doesn’t seem like too much to worry about. However, becoming violent in
relationships is not the only byproduct. One of the most dangerous effects of
violent media is an increased acceptance of it. Teens may not participate in
dating violence, but if it happened later, they could accept it. The rap-music
culture can cause an increase in the acceptance of dating violence. In another
study, done by Felicity Baker, who has a Ph.D. and works at the University of
Queensland, it was found that violent music can desensitize reactions to
violence (Baker 3). Listening to violent rap music can drastically change
adolescents’ values and morals. Many teens will become more acceptant of dating
violence if they listen to rap music.

            Some
people also believe that rap music doesn’t always have bad messages or impact
on people. That is a very valid point. However, just because a few songs don’t
have violent depictions doesn’t mean rap music is non-violent. Others may also
believe the opposite. They may believe that all music that has rap-style slowly
turns people into murderers. Both of these generalizations are much to large to
be made in this instance. In the case of music, there is so much variation that
we have to just look at the big picture. For this paper, we will be looking at
majority, since it will have the most consistent message. In general, rap
culture has violent messages and depictions. There are songs at both ends of
the spectrum, but the middle of the spectrum is violence. Rap culture is a
lifestyle and an ideal. Many teens may idolize the rap artists that they listen
to, most of which live violent lives. So, much of rap music does have violent
messages, and people can be influenced by that. Teenagers are certainly
affected by the messages in the music they listen to, and rap music, which is
generally violent, can make teenagers more violent in relationships. It also
can cause an increased acceptance of dating violence, as discussed earlier.
Some rap may not have violent morals, but the culture is a violent one. And
teens who are in that culture are going to change to become more like it and
more acceptant of it.

My Findings

            Teenagers
are affected by rap music and rap culture to become more acceptant of dating
violence. This is the problem that is plaguing our society. Rap music and
culture, generally, combine to teach teenagers that relationship abuse is
acceptable and normal. Adolescents in our society often respond to the values
and trends that they see in their peers and pop-culture. Since rap music has
violent lyrics, often youth that follow rap culture grow up thinking that that
type of violence is normal.

            Dating
violence is large issue, but if teens aren’t acceptant of it, then our society
will move away from it too. Much of the dating violence that occurs is not
reported (Friendlander 2). This leads me to believe that it is unreported due
to it being considered acceptable behavior. This opinion is what will make
dating violence an epidemic. If every single case of relationship abuse was
reported to adults and other authorities, then we could drastically reduce the
amount of repeated incidences. We, as influencers of the future, must be
cautious of our attitudes to abusive relationships. By helping teens learn that
violence is unacceptable, we can significantly reduce the amount of unreported
dating violence in our society.

            Rap
music doesn’t necessarily have to be avoided. Teens and all people can listen
to rap music without becoming extremely violent. Rap music does spread messages
of unacceptable violence, and teens do pick up on them. Teenagers rarely become
violent because of music, however. As discussed earlier, their attitude towards
abusive relationships may change. Rap music is making our society more
acceptant of dating violence. In a 2015 journal, Chrysalis Wright, who has
earned a Ph. D. in developmental psychology, teaches us about the powerful
effect of music on teens. In this journal she states, “listeners are more likely
to make decisions, adopt thinking processes, and behave similar to the content
contained in the music they are exposed to” (Wright 23). Here we see that
adolescents are more likely to adopt violent thinking processes contained in
rap music. Many people may think that this statement is evidence that teenagers
should stay away from rap music lest they become more violent. However, we have
learned that rap consumers rarely ever become more violent. They are more
likely to that the average listener, but the real issue lies in the adoption of
thought processes.

How
We Can Help

            Overall,
rap music does increase dating violence, but not by a wildly significant
amount. However, more importantly, it does increase the acceptance of dating
violence in adolescents by a remarkable margin. Teenagers are at one of the
most influenceable times in their lives, and their morals and values that they
follow in teenage years will likely follow them into adulthood (Friedlander 1).
Educating our society’s adolescents will decrease the acceptance of dating
violence, and will in turn decrease the amount of dating violence that goes on
unnoticed. Teens who know the dangers of violent relationships will not allow
themselves to be in an abusive relationship. If we help our teenagers develop a
moral defense against dating violence, it will carry on through their
adulthood, and decrease the occurrence of unreported abuse.

            There
have been programs implemented in Canada schools that have seen success in
reducing acceptance of dating violence and I would like to highlight the
process they used. Discussed in an NPR radio interview, writer Brenda Wilson
illuminates some examples of teaching our society’s youth in Canada. The
program would start with teenage students expressing example violent situations
that they might run into (Wilson). Then, other students would do a guided
role-play of how to act in that specific situation (Wilson). This program
resulted in a 5% decrease of dating violence acceptance. That is significant
change that will only snowball through social groups. This is just one example
of how educating adolescents about dating violence will decrease incidents. The
solution to the problem is not to change rap music, but to educate about other
morals and values.

            So,
what do we do as students here today? Now that you are educated on the gravity
of the issue, and its pertinence, you can fight in the battle. Educate youth in
your area and your field. Whether you become a teacher or not, there will
always be young people to influence for good. Become a force that will choke
out dating violence. Music is an influencer, but not large enough of one to stop
our efforts. Don’t make teenagers stop listening to rap, rather, teach how
unacceptable some of the violence depicted in rap music is. Instruct your young
peers that violence is relationships is wrong and that it can be reported to
parents, administrators, and other proper authorities. We can become
influencers of good and help the future leaders of society. Change is indeed
possible, and the catalysts are here in this room.