Why “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” became an annual controversy about date rape and consent

Frank Loesser ’ second 1944 “ Baby, It ’ mho Cold Outside ” has been a beloved Christmas-song basic for decades, covered by fabled pairings from Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting in 1949 to Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé in 2014 .
When you beginning hear it, the song seems like a cute, flirty call-and-response duet between a man and his lady friend who are debating whether she should stay the night. On the one hand, what would her parents or the neighbors think ? On the early hand, it ’ randomness fair then cold outside. The ending is ambiguous, but it ’ second implied that she decides to stay after all, keeping them both warm on a cold winter ’ south night .
But when you listen closer, the song ’ mho lyrics besides seem, well … a little rapey. The guy ignores his date ’ south protests and badgers her to stay, which feels a lot like sexual compulsion. At one point the woman asks, “ Say, what ’ second in this drink in ? ” — which is pretty alarming to a modern hearing that understands how r-2 work. The original score even lists the man ’ s separate as “ Wolf ” and the womanhood ’ s region as “ Mouse, ” making the predator/prey dynamic creepily denotative .
The birdcall ’ south legions of defenders argue that those concerns are overblown. They note “ What ’ south in this beverage ? ” was a common joke in the 1930s and ’ 40s made by people who wanted to make an excuse for something that they knew identical well they shouldn ’ t be doing. And in that more priggish clock period, women were expected to turn down sex ( at beginning, anyhow ) evening if they wanted it.

The vastly different ways people hear the like abruptly song have set off an annual internet battle over its feminist merits. For every think piece calling it a “ date-rape anthem, ” there ’ s a corresponding “ Oh, come on ” take about how oversensitive “ social department of justice warriors ” are killing chat up and seduction and taking the song ’ south lyrics out of context .
Which read is right field ? Is “ Baby, It ’ south Cold Outside ” excessively debatable to enjoy with a clear conscience anymore, or is our sensing of it the real problem ?
The answer international relations and security network ’ triiodothyronine wholly dim-witted. And it ’ s besides approximately more than good one Christmas song. The consider gets to the heart of a major acculturation war over sexual assault, consent, and “ political correctness ” — a war that came to a head in 2016 when America elected a president of the united states who ’ south been accused of intimate rape .

Are the lyrics rapey, or romantic?

I ’ ve pasted the lyrics below, with some annotations to help explain why it ’ s potential to hear the song in two very different — and possibly equally valid — ways. I ’ ll call these two unlike interpretations the “ quixotic ” reading and the “ rapey ” read .
In the “ romanticist ” reading, the womanhood actually does want to stay but feels socially pressured to leave. It ’ s 1944, after all, and it ’ s disgraceful for an unmarried charwoman to spend the night with a man. But since it ’ s obvious to her date that she in truth does want to stay, he feels no compunction about pressuring her — and she ’ s besides more than felicitous to be given an excuse to do what she wants to do anyhow .
Besides, the “ romantic ” read argues, Loesser used to perform the song with his wife at parties as entertainment ; it ’ randomness clearly meant to be a cunning floor about romance, and we ’ rhenium doing the song a disservice if we divorce it from its historical context. If you think about it, the song could even be read as a feminist hymn — a revolutionist celebration of women ’ s intimate agency in a inhibitory time .
The “ rapey ” read, on the other hand, finds the events of the sung troubling given our mod understand of how intimate accept and intimate rape exercise. Regardless of what Loesser intended, it ’ s a dirty model for love story that normalizes intimate coercion and date rape .
The “ rapey ” learn allows for the hypothesis that the woman truly does want to go — and if that ’ s the case, it becomes much more obvious why the man ’ randomness demeanor is a problem. certain, possibly she ’ ll end up staying because the homo won ’ metric ton stop bothering her and it seems easier to precisely give in at a certain point. But just because she gives in doesn ’ triiodothyronine entail she very wanted it, or that she ’ ll feel good about it subsequently. And whether or not she enjoys herself, and whether or not she feels violated or ashamed subsequently, the ends of how she feels about it late even don ’ thymine justify the means of how he got her to stay .
It ’ s a bad, coercive, and park moral force that many women ( and men ) have had unpleasant experiences with. And it can very well lead to, or be used to justify, rape .

The lyrics, annotated

( The charwoman ’ s character goes first, and the serviceman ’ randomness is in parentheses. )
I in truth ca n’t stay ( but baby, it ‘s cold outside )
I ‘ve got to go aside ( but baby, it ‘s cold external )
This even has been ( been hoping that you ‘d drop in )
so very nice ( I ‘ll hold your hands, they ‘re equitable like ice )
ROMANTIC: Aww, she had a dainty fourth dimension and doesn ’ t in truth want to leave ! And he ’ second holding her hand !
RAPEY: Yikes, he ’ south starting to put coerce on her to stay ; that ’ s not aplomb. Women are socialized to be polite ( and evening a little coquettish ) when rejecting a man ’ south advances to avoid making him angry ( or even violent ). sure, she said she had a nice clock time, but does she mean it ? We don ’ t know, and he doesn ’ thyroxine seem interested in finding out .
My beget will start to worry ( beautiful, what ‘s your rush ? )
My father will be pacing the floor ( listen to the fireplace bellow )
So truly I ‘d better scamper ( beautiful, please do n’t hurry )
But possibly just a half a drink more ( put some records on while I pour )
The neighbors might think ( baby, it ‘s bad out there )
Say, what ‘s in this drink ? ( no cab to be had out there )
RAPEY: WHAT ’ S IN THIS DRINK ? ! And no cab, no way for her to get home ? ! This is amazing. She ’ second trapped, and he knows it, and he ’ south basically gloating about it. Plus, “ Beautiful, what ’ s your rush ? ” precisely sounds very creepy and predatory .
ROMANTIC: Historical context matters a batch here. “ What ’ mho in this drink ? ” used to be a livestock joke to which the punchline was basically, “ Nothing, not even much alcohol. ” As one anonymous blogger put it, “ It is not a jest about how she ’ randomness drunkard and about to be raped. It ’ s a joke about how she ’ s absolutely sober and about to have awesome consensual sex and use the drink for plausible deniability because she ’ south know in a company where women aren ’ thyroxine supposed to have sexual agency. ”
Plus, getting another drink is her idea ; he doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate coerce it on her. She ’ s clearly looking for excuses to make this feel more socially acceptable. Every fourth dimension she says she wants to leave, she ’ south always worrying what other people will think — her parents, her aunt, her neighbors. But what she herself will think is another floor .
I wish I knew how ( your eyes are like starlight nowadays )
To break this enchantment ( I ‘ll take your hat, your hair looks swell )
I ought to say, no, no, no, sir ( mind if I move in close ? )
At least I ‘m gon na say that I tried ( what ‘s the sense in hurtin ‘ my pride ? )
I very ca n’t stay ( oh, pamper, do n’t hold out )
But pamper, it ‘s cold outside
I merely must go ( but child, it ‘s cold outside )
The answer is no ( but baby, it ‘s cold outside )
Your welcome has been ( how lucky that you dropped in )
So nice and quick ( look out the window at this dawn )
ROMANTIC: She ’ sulfur distinctly into him. She ’ s under the “ enchantment ” of attraction, and she knows she ought to say no, but she doesn ’ triiodothyronine want to. “ At least I ’ thousand gon na say that I tried ” feels like a shrug. She ’ sulfur put up the socially acceptable amount of resistance, and now she can have the fun she wants to have .
Plus, he actually asks for consent ! He asks, “ Mind if I move in close ? ”
RAPEY: That ’ s not asking for consent. She says “ no, no, no, ” but he blatantly ignores that and just swoops in before she has a probability to tell him whether she minds or not. And he seems to care a lot more about his “ pride ” than her consent .
She does qualify that “ no, no, no ” with “ I ought to ” — but again, that could well be an try to refuse him arsenic politely as potential so he doesn ’ metric ton get down pissed off. And belated she says flat-out, “ The answer is ordinal number ” But he doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate deference that at all ; he fair goes back to whining for the fiftieth time about how it ’ south soooo cold external and hoping that this meter it ’ ll change her beware.

My sister will be leery ( gosh, your lips look delicious )
My brother will be there at the doorway ( waves upon the tropical shore )
My inaugural aunt ’ south mind is evil ( gosh, your lips are delightful )
But possibly just a cigarette more ( never such a blizzard before )
ROMANTIC: Again, it ’ sulfur all about other people, not her. besides, he goes from saying her lips look delectable to saying they are delectable — which credibly means he kisses her. And it ’ s so hot, and she ’ s indeed into it, that she stops worrying about what her kin will think and makes so far another excuse to stay for just a little while longer .
RAPEY: thus what if she ’ randomness worried what other people will think ? That ’ south wholly rational number ; the social consequences for her will be no antic, whereas he will credibly face no consequences at all, because patriarchy. possibly she in truth does want to sleep over, but possibly she wants even more to avoid being labeled a prostitute and shunned by her community. Her reasons for saying no don ’ thymine matter. They ’ ra hush her reasons, and it sucks that he ’ s not respecting them. He ’ s putting her in a bad position by trying to coax her into doing something she might actually regret, even if she besides enjoys herself .
I ‘ve got tantalum drive home ( but baby, you ‘d freeze out there )
Say lend me a coat ( it ‘s up to your knees out there )
You ‘ve truly been thousand ( I thrill when you touch my handwriting )
But do n’t you see ? ( how can you do this thing to me ? )
There ‘s limit to be talk tomorrow ( think of my lifelong sorrow )
At least there will be enough implied ( if you got pneumonia and died )
I actually ca n’t stay ( get over that old out )
Baby, it ‘s cold
Baby, it ‘s cold outside
RAPEY: She ’ mho resisting all the way to the end. Given that they sing the final chorus together, it seems like he last wears her down. But wearing down a womanhood ’ s resistance international relations and security network ’ thymine romanticist. It ’ mho rapey — and frequently, it ’ randomness just plain rape .
ROMANTIC: Of course they sing the final examination chorus together. That ’ s the distributor point. The solid thing has been a delectable back-and-forth dance of seduction, and it ends in harmony — no more obstacles, no more excuses, just the two of them deciding to have great, consensual sex, like they both knew they wanted to all along .

Why any of this matters

At a certain point, spending hundreds of words close-reading a Christmas song starts to feel a little airheaded. What ’ s the point of yelling at people on the internet about this ? If you like the song, you like it. If you don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate, you don ’ t .
But here ’ s the thing : culture matters. We send and receive signals every day about who we are, who we want to be, or who we ought to be through the books, movies, and music we consume. And people often take umbrage to the suggestion that something they like is no longer satisfactory by the populace at big. That umbrage can manifest as complaints about “ political correctness ” run amok — and those complaints can become deep resentments, the kind that Trump tapped into masterfully during his successful presidential campaign .
But the argument over this specific sung is besides actually about the deep anxieties our nation is facing right immediately over how to deal with sexual accept .
If you touch person in a sexual means without her accept, you ’ ve committed intimate assault or rape. Those are unplayful crimes — but they ’ re still not taken american samoa seriously as they should be. sexual rape is coarse but underreported, and conviction rates are terribly low .
But some people seem much more concern about a much rare phenomenon : assumed rape accusations, and the remote control possibility that a young man ’ randomness life could be ruined by them. As such, survivors who come ahead still routinely face evil character smears from people who sympathize with the accused, or who just don ’ t want to believe that sexual assault is ampere common as it is .
It ’ south taken decades of activism to fight victim-blaming narratives about why rape might in truth be a womanhood ’ mho blame, but they ’ re still pervasive. And some of those narratives, as we saw after the ill-famed Access Hollywood Trump tapes came out, go even further than blaming the victim : They obscure the definition of sexual attack itself. They measuredly blur the lines between nonconsensual intimate touch, or attack, and alpha-male seduction. That ’ sulfur why the trump tapes were dismissed as “ footlocker room lecture, ” and why some of his surrogates — including, alarmingly, Trump ’ s lawyer general clean, Jeff Sessions — refused to admit that Trump ’ s boasts described attack .
But a key victory in the battle against victim blame has been a more evolve understanding of why consent is essential during sex. It ’ sulfur led to the concept of “ affirmative consent ” — that alternatively of putting the burden on women to say “ no means no, ” it should be the man ’ second duty to understand that “ yes means yes, ” and to make the attempt to learn what that looks like in practice .
This class, Minneapolis singer-songwriter couple Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski decided to record a new adaptation of “ Baby, It ’ sulfur Cold Outside, ” which emphasized the importance of affirmative accept. When Liza sings that she can ’ t stay, Lemanski replies, “ Baby, I ’ molarity cool with that. ” He puts no pressure on her, tells her what a nice time he had, and tries to help her experience home safely .
Writing for the Federalist, Bre Payton skewered the rewrite as the “ unsexiest thing I ’ ve ever heard in my entire life. ” The 1944 master, she said, is “ steaming ” because “ it ’ s an elaborate dance of subtleties during which a man successfully seduces a woman into staying equitable a act longer. ” But now millennials, “ the ‘ can I touch you here ’ generation, ” want to take all of that away, Payton writes : “ [ I ] n the age of affirmative accept, it ’ s apparently sexier when a man practically pushes you out the door for fear one might mistake flirting for something baleful. ”
These are coarse objections to “ consent culture. ” Some worry that men could be unjustly prosecuted under “ yes means yes ” laws without a notarize kind for every kiss — and there ’ randomness besides a more everyday reverence that affirmative consent will kill seduction and romance raw .
For the most character, as Amanda Taub explained for Vox in 2014, these fears are overblown, because getting affirmative consent international relations and security network ’ t actually that complicated. But more importantly, they miss the reason why affirmative accept is necessary in the foremost place : The “ no means no ” standard is exhausting for women, and it ’ south all excessively easy for rapists to take advantage of because they can “ claim to see accept in everything except continuous, definitive rejection ” :

From the perspective of actually trying to have a truly consensual sex life, there ‘s nothing particularly burdensome here. Do n’t take advantage of person else ‘s alcoholism. Hold out for enthusiasm alternatively of resignation. You do n’t need to be a skyrocket scientist in order to have a conversation in advance about boundaries or to agree on a condom parole. And if your partner sends signals that jumble you, stop. What you lose in nights of heat, you will gain in nights of not being a raper .

indeed, the lovers in the Liza/Lemanski rewrite end up losing a night of love. But, a few awkward phrases like “ You reserve the right to say no ” aside, it ’ s not unsexy at all .
The guy international relations and security network ’ thyroxine shoving the daughter out the door ; he ’ second being a gentleman and taking her desires seriously. once he takes the blackmail off, the “ will we, won ’ t we ” tension of the song is silent there — but it ’ s all on her end, as she asks herself whether possibly she should stay, because after all, it ’ sulfur cold outside. It ’ mho sweet and affectionate, and you feel certain when the song is over that there will be other nights of rage for this couple in the very near future .
Given the historical and musical context, you don ’ t have to turn in your feminist wag if you don ’ thyroxine interpret the master “ Baby, It ’ second Cold Outside ” lyrics as a misprint description of a date rape. In 1944, approving consent wasn ’ t even an choice for the charwoman in the birdcall ; she would have had to protect her reputation by either playing hard to get or not allowing herself to be gotten at all. And the way the birdcall is written — a playful call-and-response couple that resolves harmoniously — decidedly sounds like reciprocal desire.

But every sexual situation is dependent on context. It depends on the relationship two people have, the chemistry between them, the particular verbal or gestural communication that ’ second going on, and the clearness ( or lack thereof ) that both people want something to happen. Seducing person and making the first move international relations and security network ’ t intimate rape, but it can be if it ’ randomness unwanted .
So it ’ s besides wholly honest if the birdcall makes you uncomfortable — because in even a slenderly unlike context, the lapp dialogue in “ Baby, It ’ s Cold Outside ” could have easily played out as a bad, coercive experience for the charwoman. And the man could have very easily justified it after the fact, because the charge wasn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate on him to make sure his partner was comfortable with the experience. It should be, though — and as a culture, we ’ rhenium only beginning to imagine what that looks and sounds like .

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