The Bedroom Scholar: Mood Music

31 August 2012

Early in the 20th century, society condemned jazz and blues for their sexual nature and bawdy lyrics. In the ’50s, rock ‘n’ roll caused no less scandal. Today, Barry White’s deep voiced songs resonate as typical ‘make out’ tunes and most music clips are akin to pornography. Of the popular music produced in the last hundred years, well over half of it has had themes relating to sexuality. The association between music and sex is irrefutable.

With that said, music is one of the greater anomalies of human existence. There is little evolutionary, psychological, biological or genetic evidence for why it exists. So naturally, there are a plethora of theories. A contender is the theory that music aids reproduction; those with musical ability and appreciation are ‘sexy’ and more likely to pass on their genes. This argument has many facets, but it still doesn’t really explain the existence of ‘mood music’.

The relationship between mood and music has been well researched. Psychologists have documented that many young people use music to regulate their moods. They listen to certain music to make them happy, sad, calm etc. but there is little mention in this documentation of using music to induce sexual arousal. It’s not exactly a priority topic for research.

Despite not currently being a major subject of interest, it is easy to see how music could be geared towards aiding sexual arousal. Listening to music can elevate the heart rate, which helps the body prepare for ‘action’. Music has generally been shown to have the ability to create positive feelings and emotions, and it increases release of the ‘pleasure’ neurotransmitter, dopamine. It can also prompt the desire to dance. Exercise elevates the level of certain neurochemicals in our brains, which in turn create greater feelings of pleasure and positivity. If one adds sexualised lyrics into this equation, the mind could then start to interpret the pleasure and physiological arousal in terms of sex.

From this it is easy to see why scientist Steven Pinker said that, “Music is auditory cheesecake, an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of at least six of our mental faculties.” Although he may be right about music being a tasty treat for the ears, it probably has a lot more functional capacity than anybody currently realises. A study provided evidence that playing positive music can actually help men to achieve an erection, whereas negative sounding music can make it more difficult. Healing sexual dysfunction could well be a beneficial branch of music therapy.

However the question remains—if music can help with sexual problems, could it then enhance sexual experiences? Studies have shown that listening to music can help us to feel less fatigued during exercise, especially if it has a fast beat. This alone could have practical applications, never mind the fact that music influences the brain in much the same way as an orgasm. Whether for seduction, arousal or an extra form of stimulation, the uses for the sexual aspect of music can often go overlooked. Music has been a part of being human for thousands of years… we must be doing something right.

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