Background: Much of the research literature on sexual consent and sexual consent education has been focused on college students, providing a significant gap in our understanding of high school students, especially ethnic minority youth, who are at greatest risk for unwanted sexual contact and sexual activity. Furthermore, recent research suggests that music with sexually suggestive and misogynistic themes influence sexual communication and consenting behaviors. An analysis of rap music produced after the year 2000 is necessary to identify themes that may influence sexual communication among youth. Methods: A thematic analysis was conducted to examine the lyrics of mainstream rap music songs. Songs from the Billboard Hot Rap Singles Year-End Charts for the years 2001 through 2011 served as the data corpus for thematic analysis. Results: Each year, an average of 18 songs in the top 25 rap music hits included some level of sexual content. Overall, approximately 74% of the 244 songs made references to sex, sexual expectations and/or relationships. Three major themes emerged from the analysis: (1) It’s Really About Sex or Nothing At All, (2) Substances as the Precursor/Enhancer, and (3) Performance, Parts & Brand. Conclusion: The major themes found here highlight the prevalence of norms that perpetuate non-consensual sex and non-verbal sexual communication in a dominant musical genre. Each theme presented in this study represents rules and expectations related to sexual interactions that could influence an adolescent’s view of sexual communication and consent. Findings here should be further examined to identify how adolescents may perceive them and resonate with their meanings.

Key Take Away Points

  • Education on sexual consent and communication is lacking for high school students compared to college students when many high school students are at risk for engaging in non-consenting sexual behaviors
  • Rap music, a significant source of influence on adolescent development, may have an impact on sexual consent and communication behaviors among high school students
  • Analyzing rap music lyrics provides a deeper understanding of themes present that may influence adolescent sexual consent and communication behaviors
  • Rap music could be used as a tool to help youth critically analyze themes regarding sexual consent and communication if used appropriately within sex education programs