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Most of the time when I hear people talking about the creepiness factor of Frank Loesser’s 1944 song “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” the line that comes up is “What’s in this drink?”

But a little later in the song, we come to this exchange:

Her: I simply must go.
Him: Baby, it’s cold outside.

Her: The answer is no.
Him: Baby, it’s cold outside.

It’s pretty simple: If you’re interested in someone and trying to convince them to stay the night, and they tell you “the answer is no,” that’s the end of it. If you keep pressuring and coercing that person, you’ve chosen the role of the villain.

“But historical context!”

Yes, 1944 was a different time. For instance, in the U.S., it was legal for a man to rape his wife. Married women weren’t allowed to say no to their husbands. The couple in the song aren’t married, but you’re still dealing with the general cultural assumption that a woman’s “No” is empty and meaningless.

That…doesn’t actually work as an excuse. It doesn’t make the behavior okay. It doesn’t make the guy who ignores the woman’s “No” any less of a creep and a predator.

“She doesn’t mean it.”

I’ve heard the argument that this is all a game, and they’re just circling one another, moving closer and closer with each flirtatious verse.

Maybe you’re right. Maybe she doesn’t mean it.

It doesn’t matter. When someone says no, you stop. You act on what they said, not on your imaginary magical wish-fulfilling mind-reading powers.

“It’s just a song.”

Yep. Just a song about a man pressuring and coercing a woman. One of a near-infinite list of stories that normalize this kind of tactic, that say it’s okay to ignore “No.”

Will listening to this song magically turn someone into a rapist? I don’t think anyone’s arguing that.

Will growing up in a culture that bombards you with these messages, that reinforces again and again that “No” is just an obstacle to be overcome, that suggests men deserve access to women) — will that turn someone into a rapist? It sure as hell pushes a lot of people along that path…

It’s All About the Guy…

There’s another line toward the end where the man says:

I thrill when you touch my hand.
How can you do this thing to me?

That second line… Because her saying “No” is somehow all about him. About what he wants. Not only is this kind of guilt trip another form of coercion and manipulation, it’s also another layer of the presumption that he deserves access to her. That for her to even consider refusing him is some sort of cruel and unusual punishment.

In Conclusion

It’s just a song. It’s a song that mirrors what we see happening again and again. We see boys and men who think “No” is a challenge to be overcome. We see the presumption that men are entitled to women. Again and again, we see boys and men lashing out at girls and women who dare to say no.

Is the woman in the song flirting? Or is she simply afraid that if she says “No” too firmly, the man’s “charming” coercion could turn violent? Is she worried about what people will think? Or is she worried because she knows all too well how quickly a “nice” man can turn vicious when a woman tells him no?

You have the right to say no, and to have that boundary be respected.

And if they say “no” and you keep pushing? You’re not charming or flirtatious. You’re a predator.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 26th, 2016 08:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you for summing up why this song makes me uncomfortable to the point of lunging for the TV to switch it off. (Even the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald can't save this song.)
Dec. 26th, 2016 09:48 pm (UTC)
And as if ignoring her repeated "no" isn't bad enough, there's the line that really ought to give people pause: "Hey, what's in this drink?" Nothing says romance like pressuring a chemically impaired person, right? /sarcasm

If they didn't want to raise the possibility that he actually did mix the drink stronger than he told her, or slipped something else into it... why have that line at all? Plenty of other lines could have rhymed; it didn't have to be that. It's like the lyricist thought that someone possibly deliberately trying to trick someone else into becoming more intoxicated than they wanted to make them easier to coerce is just one of those cute romantic things. Horrible.
Dec. 26th, 2016 09:52 pm (UTC)

So, a duo called Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski have done an updated consensual version of this song and it's absolutely glorious - I urge you to seek it out and have a listen.

Dec. 26th, 2016 10:03 pm (UTC)
I would love to tear this song apart line by line and detail every last particle that makes me cringe (Him: "What's the sense in hurting my pride?" Him again: "Think of my lifelong sorrow, if you got pneumonia and died!" Me: "That's an awful lot of you you're talking about for supposedly caring about her health and welfare."), and I may yet do so - another time. Today I'm just going to sit and applaud.
Dec. 27th, 2016 02:03 am (UTC)
There is an excellent bit on tumblr putting the song in its historical context. It's been followed up by a simple point: if you need to explain the historical context of a song in 5 paragraphs to make it OK, maybe it's not really OK!
Dec. 27th, 2016 03:50 pm (UTC)
And to add another dimension to the squick, it's now included on some playlists as a "Christmas song". This is part of a pattern of cultural appropriation that's been going on for a very long time, of course - any song that even mentions winter or cold (Jingle Bells, Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland, Frosty the Snowman, ad nauseum) is filed as "Christmassy", even when it makes absolutely no mention of the holiday itself, the religion behind that holiday, or any of the traditions now associated with the holiday. But to associate Christmas with this particular song feels like crossing a line to me.

(I'm aware that I'm using "cultural appropration" in a non-standard way here. But is there a term for when one specific culture, in this case Christianity, appropriates things that were meant to have a general appeal and not be tied to one culture?)
Dec. 27th, 2016 11:40 pm (UTC)
I feel like Christian Supremacy might be closer to what you're looking for? Since the songs in question don't really have a culture to be appropriated from, IMO.
Dec. 27th, 2016 11:53 pm (UTC)
Seems to me they have cultural context the same way all songs do. But they're being pigeonholed into a smaller context than is rightfully theirs.
Dec. 27th, 2016 10:19 pm (UTC)
Yup. I saw a real-life story about this just today (fortunately not rape, but still), where a guy assumed (or said he did) repeated instances of "no" just meant "teasing."

Edited at 2016-12-27 10:20 pm (UTC)
Dec. 28th, 2016 12:39 am (UTC)

"Christmas Tonight" by Dave Barnes ft. Hillary Scott. Similar kind of sound, even a somewhat similar theme (the weather is terrible, we're supposed to go out) but her concerns are more on the end of "I don't want to disappoint our friends and we've already gotten all dressed up" vs his "it's shitty out, we can see our friends in January, they'll understand", and by the end she is actively planning their night in together with him. 

(The official music video is much more oogy, because he's actively sabotaging their/her attempts to leave.)

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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