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The Smut and Sadism of Rock
Porno rock is not only sexually explicit; songs and videos celebrate torture, incest and even suicide and murder. The music business should clean up its act.

Viewpoints By Tipper Gore

Sexual innuendo or rebellion has always been a part of rock 'n' roll, but nowadays, sex is described explicitly, complete with moans and groans. Moreover, sadomasochism, bondage, incest and rape are out of the closet and into the lyrics. Whips, chains, handcuffs and leather masks are being popularized in songs and as images in videos and on album covers. Lyrics glorify forced sex; videos depict thrill killings.

"Eat Me Alive" from Judas Priest's double platinum album (2 million copies sold) "Defenders of the Faith" depicts forcing oral sex at gunpoint.

Motley Crue, a heavy metal band increasingly popular with young teens, sings this in "Live Wire":

I'll either break her face
Or take down her legs
Get my ways at will
Go for the throat, never let loose.
Going in for the kill.
Or consider this from "Too Young to Fall in Love" from "Shout at the Devil":

Not a woman, but a whore
I can taste the hate
Well, now I'm killing you
Watching your face turning blue
Twisted Sister, a group often in the Top 40, has these lyrics on their "Under the Blade" album:

Your hands are tied,
Your legs are strapped.
You're going under the blade.
My 11-year-old bought Prince's 10-million-seller "Purple Rain" album because she heard an innocuous song, "Let's Go Crazy," on the radio. But once we got our purchase home, we were also treated to "Darling Nikki." The song describes "Nikki" as "a sex fiend," who spends her time "in a hotel lobby, masturbating."

Another example of Prince's work comes in the song "Sister" from the "Dirty Mind" album. The lyrics describe a 16-year old boy making love to his "lovely and loose" sister. The song concludes that "incest is everything it's said to be."

I feel that these songs, and others like them, are inappropriate for my children. Yet I find it very difficult to protect them from their twisted themes.

Studies indicate that the listening, buying and viewing audience for music is growing younger. To those who say, "Just turn it off," I submit that it is unrealistic to believe parents can control everything a child listens to.

It's time to remember that radio stations are licensed to broadcast "in the public interest," using a precious natural resource that belongs to all of us. And it isn't just radio anymore. Music videos, which are used to sell records to kids, come into our homes via broadcast TV and via cable on MTV, a 24-hour music channel, reaching 26 million homes.

Graphic sex, sadomasochism and violence, particularly toward women, are rampant on MTV. Its executives need to respond to the public outcry and curb the excesses, especially since MTV is an industry trend-setter. Jay Durbin, a music video director, has been quoted as saying he doesn't let his young children watch MTV because of the "incredible sadism."

Thomas Radechi of the National Coalition on Television Violence warns that more than half of music videos are violent. For example:

* Def Leppard's video "Photograph" shows the strangling of a Marilyn Monroe look-alike, and ends with her body wrapped in barbed wire.

* Twisted Sister's "We're Not Going to Take It Anymore" shows a son destroying his father, smashing him with doors, dragging by the hair and eventually blasting him through a plate-glass window.

* Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" has a naked woman struggling in chains behind a transparent sheet. The Jackson's "Torture" shows women whipping skeletons and attacking men with claws and swords. Images of devil worship abound.

* Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" features a schoolteacher doing a striptease on top of desks while elementary schoolboys ogle at her. When my 8-year-old asked me, "Why is the teacher taking off her clothes in school," I started paying attention to the videos my children watch.

Children process reality differently from adults, a fact we too often forget. These images have powerful and terrifying effects on young minds.

In another disconcerting development, some rock artists promote and glorify suicide. Ozzy Osbourne sings "Suicide Solution"; Blue Oyster Cult sings "Don't Fear the Reaper"; AC/DC sings "Shoot to Thrill." Every year half a million teenagers attempt suicide. More than 6,000 succeed. Yet too many of the executives of the rock record industry apparently don't care.

No one should want a return to Victorian hypocrisy about sex. It was repressive at worst and unrealistic at best. But now the pendulum has swung too far toward the hedonistic and materialistic philosophy of: If it feels good, do it; if you want it, take it.

The time has come for concerned parents and consumers to demand a choice. Recently, 19 record companies offered to apply a warning label to albums containing explicit sexual material. However, each company would have its own standard as to what lyrics warranted a label. The effect in the marketplace would be to confuse the consumer.

The Parents Music Resource Center has asked the record executives to create an industrywide uniform standard defining what constitutes explicit and violent material. We of the PMRC are not trying to ban any songs, and we oppose censorship or government regulation. Instead, we believe that the music industry itself and its media outlets should voluntarily cut down on violent and sexually explicit material.

We have proposed a rating system for records, tapes and videos that the industry could administer itself.

The national PTA (National Congress of Parents and Teachers) has also been calling for records to be rated. And some responsible voices within the industry have called for restraint. George David Weiss, president of the Songwriters Guild of America, called for the music industry to tone down. "There is enough violence without glorifying it in music aimed at youngsters," he wrote in Billboard.

Even Sting, formerly of the rock group The Police, is on record as saying "to write pornography is to display a lack of imagination."

On Sept. 19, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold hearings on pornographic rock music.

That's the good news. The bad news is that most purveyors of porno rock think they can get by with anything by simply accusing their critics of advocating censorship.

To market explicit sex and graphic and sadistic violence to an audience of preteens and teens is a secondary form of child abuse. A society whose mass media peddles these themes unchallenged is abdicating its responsibility to an entire generation of young Americans. I believe in the First Amendment, but freedom always involves responsibilities.

It's not easy being a parent these days, but it's even tougher being a kid. It's about time the record industry gave us all a break.

Tipper Gore, a founder of the Parents Music Resource Center, is the mother of four, ages 2 to 11. She is married to Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.). "Live Wire" and "Too Young to Fall In Love" lyrics © 1982 Warner Tamerlane Publishing Corp. and Motley Crue Publishing. "Under the Blade" lyrics used with permission of Snidest Music Co. Inc. and Zomba Enterprises.

Newsday -- A Times Mirror Newspaper

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