Medical Mysteries of Music

Do Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll Really Go Together? Let’s Ask Science!

The phrase “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” go back at least to Ian Dury’s 1977 hit, probably earlier. The three things seem to be made for each other, but are they really that interrelated? I mean, scientifically. That’s what the authors of this study wanted to find out.

Appearing in the Human Ethology Bulletin under the title “Sex Drugs and Rock and Roll: Evidence Supporting the Storied Trilogy,” the answer seems to “yes–mostly.”

Hold on. Back up. Let’s start at the beginning.


Sex, drugs, and rock and roll (SDRR) is a storied trilogy in popular culture. However, in scientific literature, there is little empirical evidence to determine if there is a positive relationship between these three phenomena, despite biological, psychological, and social reasons that would suggest they are connected. Via questionnaire, we asked participants to self-report alcohol and drug use, sexual behaviors and attitudes, and musical ability and preference. Although evidence was limited, there was some support for an SDRR connection, particularly among male performers and female listeners of rock and “harder” music. Interestingly, this mimics patterns of several bird species where males are the producers and females are the consumers of song. Ethological considerations and future directions are discussed.

The study looked at 181 men and 286 women, teasing out the relationship each had with sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. They found that there was indeed a positive connection between the three things–but only under certain circumstances. And the connections were not as strong as you might think. From

The researchers found that female rock musicians were five times more likely to have reported having sex with a short-term partner without a condom. Male rock musicians, on the other hand, were more than four times to have tried stimulants and more than twice as likely as others to have tried hallucinogens.

Those who enjoyed “hard” music — such as punk, metal, techno, and rap — were also more likely to have higher scores on the measures of sex and drugs.

So fans of hard music (of both sexes) seem to fit the SDRR profile, eh? Well, it’s not that straightforward, Read the full executive summary here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38466 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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