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Sex and Gender in the 1980s Heavy Metal Scene: Groupies, Musicians, and Fans Recall Their Experiences


Groupies, heavy metal musicians, and highly devoted fans (metalheads) were some of the most salient identity groups for teenagers and emerging adults in the 1980s-the tail end of the Baby Boom and the beginning of the newly emerging Generation X. Met with appalled reactions from conventional society, the heavy metal scene nevertheless appeared to help at least some disenchanted youth negotiate turbulent times. The present study of 144 middle-aged 1980s groupies, metal fans, and professional musicians used both quantitative and qualitative data to develop insights into the developmental processes of these emerging adults of the 1980s. Metalheads described their childhood experiences, including maltreatment, their sexual and substance use activities in the 1980s, identity issues, and reported on current indicators of adjustment, such as education, mental health, and happiness. The results confirm that youth involved in the metal scene had high rates of substance use, risky sexual behaviors, and especially for groupies, traumatic childhood experiences, as well as drug dependence and sexual violence during their groupie days. However, despite their trauma and risky behaviors, participants were able to thrive and develop healthy adult lives, from which they look back fondly on those 1980s experiences. The richness of these data provide insights into the search for identity for marginalized youth, and provide hypotheses for future research on the understudied developmental processes of such adolescent style cultures. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York.

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