Popular music teaches youth about sex on a daily basis—that’s nothing new. What is new is a generation of female musicians who openly talk about the pleasures of sex from the female perspective. This sex-positive movement includes pop stars like Ariana Grande (“34+35”) and Cardi B (“WAP”) as well as lesser-known artists like ppcocaine.
According to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, “The term sex positive … involves having positive attitudes about sex and feeling comfortable with one’s own sexual identity and with the sexual behaviors of others.” Children and youth learn about sex from popular music. As parents, church leaders, or educators, we should be aware that attacking and shaming a song creator does not lead to constructive conversation. We must start with the ideas presented in each song and explore the complexity of human sexuality together. The goal: youth who are empowered to discern healthy sexuality from a Christian framework.
When I asked a class of 10th-grade Christian high school students what new artists they were listening to, one male student mentioned ppcocaine. As the student played a song for the class to hear, many guys laughed at the crude language and sexual imagery. Most of the female students in the room remained silent and some visibly cringed. At this point, parents, church leaders, and educators might be tempted to attack and shame such a song, but this approach backfires.
I’m thinking of a prominent conservative commentator and a video he put out in which he attacked and shamed the sex-positive song “WAP” by Cardi B with Megan Thee Stallion. He quickly shifted his critique of the song to Cardi B herself. Most of his time was spent shaming Cardi B rather than unpacking the ideas she presented. The result was a polarizing video that shut down meaningful conversations about sexuality.
A better approach is to focus on the ideas within the song. The 10th-graders I spoke to discussed how the sex-positive movement influenced the ideas in ppcocaine’s songs. They learned how culture shaped their own ideas about sex. The boys discussed how ppcocaine’s song might sound attractive but is really false and misleading. The girls talked about ppcocaine’s reaction to a society that tells women that they should feel shame for feeling pleasure during sex. Both boys and girls explored what healthy sexuality might look like in their own context.
Youth absorb ideas about sex from popular music. We can help them by discerning healthy sexuality. Ephesians 6:12 implores us to avoid seeing people as the enemy, so we must not shame the artist. Both Ephesians 6:12 and Colossians 2:8 guide us to engage with someone’s ideas and philosophies. As we engage, we must also humbly repent of our own unhealthy ideas about sexuality. If we mentor our youth well, they will see how the sex-positive movement aligns with and diverges from Christian sexuality.