Opinion

Here Is Why ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ Is Not A Song About Rape

Thanksgiving has come and gone, people are finally allowed to play Christmas songs without mocking, and social justice warriors are dusting off their arguments for why “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is about rape.

Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski kicked off the month-long murder of romance by rewriting “a less sexually aggressive” version of a song that was never sexually aggressive to begin with.

Affinity Magazine latched on with a Dec. 4 piece titled, “Baby It’s Cold Outside is Actually A Song About Rape.” Take note of the bright red “Feminism” flare above the title if you dare to click on that hyperlink. If you don’t feel like giving them a page view, here’s a little snippet of the argument they make: “What is also unmistakable are the lyrics, now considered to be extremely problematic, that highlight a woman being put in a uncomfortable and coercive situation by a man,” the Affinity author, who is a guy named Will, writes. “In 1944 when this song was written, marital rape wasn’t an idea that crossed people’s minds.”

Huffington Post, Mashable, PEOPLE and CNN described the new version as emphasizing “the importance of consent.” Lemanski told CNN he “always had a big problem with the song. It’s so aggressive and inappropriate.”

“You never figure out if she gets to go home,” Liza writes. “You never figure out if there was something in her drink. It just leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.”

Obviously, Liza and Lemanski never took the time to explore the song’s origins. It is a duet written by singer Frank Loesser in 1944 to be performed by him and his wife, Lynn Loesser, at parties. They debuted the song at the housewarming party for their new home and it became an instant hit.

“My father wrote that song as a piece of special material for he and my mother to do at parties,” their son John explained.

It was written in an era when seduction was not synonymous with sexual assault, you didn’t need to sign a consent form to hold a girl’s hand, and men weren’t assumed to be vicious predators. In fact, the only vicious one in this song is the woman’s aunt.

Now, we’re going to break this song down into simple English so all those offended can understand. YouTube has more than a couple versions of the song to pick from; I’d recommend Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer’s version. Here’s a link to the song’s lyrics.

I really can’t stay (But baby, it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go away (But baby, it’s cold outside)

He’s a man who knows the lady he likes has to leave, and is doing his damnedest to get her to stay for just five, 10, 15 minutes more. They both know that in 1944, it’s not appropriate for an unmarried lady to stay the night at her man’s house, and they’re dragging out the end of the night as long as they can.

My mother will start to worry (Beautiful what’s your hurry?)
My father will be pacing the floor (Listen to the fireplace roar)

The woman in this song is playing coy — she doesn’t want to leave, and she makes that very obvious. The way the song is written, with call and response interchanging vocals that play off each other, is meant to express two people who want the same thing.

So really I’d better scurry (Beautiful please don’t hurry)
But maybe just a half a drink more (Put some records on while I pour)

She asks him for another drink, he never offers one. The family is expecting her home, and she’s pushing just how long she can stay before they get upset.

The neighbors might think (Baby, it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)

I wish I knew how (Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)

At first glance, the delicate temperaments of 2016 might point at, “Say what’s in this drink?” and scream “Bill Cosby!” Thankfully, Cosby is nowhere near this lovely song, and neither are date-rape drugs. She doesn’t tell her beau what kind of drink to make her, just that she’ll have another. It’s a strong drink, it’s not strong enough, it’s something unfamiliar to her, she likes it and wants to know its name, she’s embarrassed at how tipsy she is and is blaming the drink — there are a thousand realistic explanations for why she asks what’s in the drink. Assuming there’s a hidden, dark meaning to the song is looking for something that isn’t there.

I wish I knew how (Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)

I ought to say, no, no, no sir (Mind if I move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (What’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?)

I really can’t stay (Oh baby don’t hold out)
But baby, it’s cold outside

This set of lyrics is important. The spell she’s talking about is attraction. She knows she’s supposed to be prim and proper and “say, no, no, no sir,” and she also knows what she’s going to do — “say that I tried.” Neither of them want to go anywhere, and she’s convincing herself it will be easier to ask for forgiveness later. Remember that this song was written in 1944, a time when women weren’t as free as they are in 2016 to do what they want; she’s taking a risk to stay as late as she is.

The third verse is the most critical. It’s the first time in the song that both the man and the woman sing the chorus, “baby, it’s cold outside,” together. If you need any proof that the song is a romantic duet between two lovers, that’s it. It’s the first time she gives in and sings with him that she doesn’t want to go home.

I simply must go (but baby, 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 warm (look out the window at this dawn)

My sister will be suspicious (gosh your lips look delicious)
My brother will be there at the door (waves upon the tropical shore)

My maiden aunts mind is vicious (gosh your lips are delicious)
But maybe just a cigarette more (never such a blizzard before)

The arguments she gives for why she needs to go (her sister, her brother, her “vicious” maiden aunt) are not meant for him, they’re meant for her. She’s trying to convince herself of all the logical reasons she should go, and he’s reminding her of all the illogical reasons to stay, which is why she follows up with the cigarette being another little excuse to linger.

I’ve gotta get home (But baby, you’d freeze out there)
Say lend me a coat (It’s up to your knees out there)

You’ve really been grand (I thrill when you touch my hand)
But don’t you see? (How can you do this thing to me?)

There’s bound to be talk tomorrow (Think of my lifelong sorrow)
At least there will be plenty implied (If you got pneumonia and died)

He’s being ridiculous. He’s being outrageous. He’s the devil on her shoulder oozing fantastical drama in a light-hearted attempt to keep her there.

I really can’t stay (Get over that old “out”)
Baby, it’s cold
Baby, it’s cold outside

If you needed a reminder for why this song is not even one bit evil, read the last verse. She says she can’t stay, and he answers with “get over that old ‘out.'” That implies the situation has happened before and he’s calling her out on all her old excuses to leave. Reinforcing that implication is that the end of the song is them singing the chorus together again.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has an ambiguous ending. It’s not clear if she stays or not — and it doesn’t matter. She was always free to walk out the door; we’re left to our imaginations on whether she decided to break the rules.

Songs can’t be dissected by simply reading lyrics. Emotion, tone and intonation are a few of the critically important aspects of a song that reveal the story the words are trying to tell. It was written by a man for him and his wife to sing. The basic foundation of this famous song is love.

Romance and its cues are nuanced and sometimes difficult to understand. Cherry-picking lines from a song and twisting them into something dark is disingenuous, manipulative and irresponsible. Stop fostering a culture that thinks all males are waiting in the shadows to pounce on every unsuspecting woman they see. Stop painting every woman as a damsel in distress incapable of making her own decisions and knowing what she’s doing.

This is one of the most romantic Christmas songs around. It’s courting in an era when woman didn’t have the freedom to romantically come and go as they pleased. Don’t believe it pushed traditional feminist ideals? Check out The Washington Post‘s 2014 take.

Stop attacking everything wonderful about Christmas, you grinches.

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