Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 577–589 | Cite as

Conflicting Paradigms on Gender and Sexuality in Rap Music: A Systematic Review

  • Denise HerdEmail author


Rap music has major social and cultural significance for American and global youth audiences and, along with other media, is believed to play a central role in shaping adolescents’ beliefs, attitudes and intentions related to sexuality. However few studies concerned with health issues have explored the content of lyrics regarding sex and gender, with most research in this area focused on the effects of media portrayals on sexual behavior and problems. Much of the scholarship analyzing sexuality and gender issues in the media comes from disciplines outside of health and the behavioral sciences, such as cultural studies. This paper compares literature related to sexuality and gender in rap music from a variety of perspectives such as feminism, cultural studies, and sociology as well as from health and behavioral research in order to deepen understanding of the lyrical content that may influence sexual attitudes and behavior. The review illustrates that conflicting paradigms, for example of sexual agency or misogyny, emerge in this literature and that few studies are both conceptually rich and empirically strong. Future research should address this challenge as well as explore changes over time in how sexual and gender relationships have been depicted in this musical genre.


Rap music Sexuality Gender relationships Feminism Masculinity 



Funding for this research was provided by a University of California Faculty Research Grant.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that the author has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public HealthUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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