Every single year, I have to defend this song because it takes constant heat. This year, I decided to publicly defend it because I’m so tired of cancel culture and it’s really not what you’ve been told it’s about. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is, was, and probably always will be my favorite Christmas song and I’m really tired of the hate it gets.
In the past few years, this song has sparked a lot of anger. Each year, there are accusations of rape and sexual assault because the male voice is forcing the female voice into something she’s not comfortable with, despite her saying no several times (which, she actually doesn’t). Sure, I can see this point of view. Is it extreme? Yes. As a woman who has been on the receiving end of extreme sexual pressure, I get it. I understand this point of view. But I want you to take a second look at this song and the time it was written in.
Let’s have a quick history lesson. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” was first written in 1944 (fun fact: 44 is my lucky number) by Frank Loesser, which he wrote for him and his wife to sing to guests during their housewarming party. It was used to indicate it was time for guests to leave and actually had nothing to do with Christmas. Loesser sold the rights to this song to MGM for a movie called Neptune’s Daughter in 1949, which royally pissed off his wife. She equated it to finding your husband in bed with another woman. There are hundreds of versions of this song but I argue that the most well known version is by Dean Martin and Marilyn Maxwell.
Now time for the good stuff. This song was written during a time when woman had very few rights. During this time, women didn’t get to do what they wanted. Women were born and raised to be some mans wife. That was it. Most importantly, before a woman got married, she had to present herself as a chaste, proper woman. Women couldn’t “hang out” with men. Women couldn’t spend time with men, alone, especially at his home. Women couldn’t choose to be sexually active. Men (and the woman’s parents… gross) got to chose when a woman was sexually active. Women couldn’t be with a man (before marriage) without ruining her reputation.
For me, that’s what the woman in this song is fighting against. What she wants vs what her society wants. The Patriarchy.
“I ought to say no, no, no sir”. Not “I am saying no no no sir”. She’s saying she’s always been told that she NEEDS to say no. That society has taught her that she shouldn’t be intimate with a man who is not her husband.
“But don’t you see? There’s bound to be talk tomorrow. At least there will be plenty implied.” She constantly brings up what other people will think (the neighbors, her aunt, her sister) and that if she doesn’t get home right away, everyone is up and waiting for her so they’ll know she was out all night at *gasp* a boys house!
She finds excuses to stay where she is (another drink, a cigarette). The whole debate about her saying “Say what’s in this drink?” isn’t as deep as people want it to be. When Jacob makes me a strong drink, I always say something to the extent of, “You’re trying to get me drunk”. Clearly, I’m joking (kinda, but he might be trying to get me drunk all the time). I take it as a flirty line or perhaps, he did pour her a stronger drink, not trying to get her black out drunk, but maybe get her into a feel good mood where she is able to stop thinking about her reputation… Which brings me to my next point.
I want to talk about the man in this song because he’s a dum dum. Like most men (don’t @ me). He’s not a rapist and he’s not trying to prey on her. He’s literally just dumb. During this time (1940s), men didn’t have to think about their reputation. They could sleep with whatever lady they wanted to and still be able to have a good wife lined up for them. The only person who had to be a virgin going into a marriage was a woman. If she wasn’t a virgin, she was considered a slut/whore. This dude has never had to worry about a reputation and very clearly doesn’t understand why this woman is saying no, when she wants to say yes. He’s always been able to carry out his desires, why can’t she? It’s two worlds colliding. His privileged world of “If I want to hook up, I can” and her world of, “If I have sex before marriage, no one will marry me and I’ll be completely ruined.” He didn’t have complicated things to think about. She did. She spent the entire song singing about how she would appear to others and how her actions would make others talk. He spent the entire song saying, “I have a thing. You have a thing. Why can’t we have a thing?” Is he ignorant? Yes. Is he trying to rape her? No.
I’ve been in her situation. What would people think of me if they knew my “number”? Would I find a good husband if he knew how many people I’ve been intimate with? What would my friends think? I’ve spent so much time letting other people be involved in my personal relationships. And let me tell you, it sucks. I know this song is from the 1940s and was literally written to talk guests into leaving a party (who hasn’t been there??), but I wish I could tell the woman in the song to do what she wants to do and stop letting everyone else dictate her life.
But since this song was literally written to get people to go home at the end of the party… You need to calm down.