Baby, It’s Consensual Outside

I’ve been seeing discussion recently about the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” It’s unsurprising, what with (a) it being the winter holiday season, and (b) there being a lot of discussion of rape culture. Yes, the song is troubling at best and rapey at worst (more on that after the video). And I don’t care that Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt reversed the gender roles: men deserve to have their sexual boundaries respected just as much as women, ignoring boundaries and treating it like a flirtatious game is fucked-up no matter what the genders are. But the main thing I want to say right now is this:

Have you heard the consensual version?

There’s a really cute, sweet, funny parody version of the song on YouTube by Chase Gregory, titled “Baby It’s Consensual Outside,” in which the guy respects the woman’s boundaries. I thought some of you might enjoy it.

I’ve transcribed the lyrics, for the deaf and hard of hearing (below the jump).

BABY, IT’S CONSENSUAL OUTSIDE
by Chase Gregory

I really can’t stay
Baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to go ‘way
Remember, it’s cold outside
This evening has been
Thanks, baby, for stopping in
So very nice
Was wonderful, to be precise
My mother will start to worry
Oh, then you’d better hurry
My father will be pacing the floor
Let me walk you out to the door
So really, I’d better scurry
That’s okay, please don’t worry
Well, maybe just a half a drink more
Only if you’re really quite sure

The neighbors might think
Baby, it’s bad out there
Say, what’s in this drink?
I’ll pay for your taxi fare
I wish I knew how
Your eyes are like starlight now
To break the spell
And here’s your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say no, no, no sir
Say it, we’ll end up closer
At least I’m gonna say that I tried
It’s okay, I’ll take it in stride
I really can’t stay
Baby I’ll hold out
And it’s cold outside/and it’s cold outside

I simply must go
Baby, it’s cold outside
The answer is no
Oh good, I think that’s your ride
This welcome has been
I’m lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm
Look out the window at that storm
My sister will be suspicious
Don’t want to seem malicious
My brother will be there at the door
Waiting for the girl I adore
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious
Man, this feels repetitious
Well, maybe just a half a drink more
Say “when,” so I know what to pour

I’ve got to go home
Baby, don’t freeze out there
Say, lend me your comb
It’s up to your knees out there
You’ve really been grand
I totally understand
But don’t you see
I know it isn’t up to me
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
Here’s some gloves you can borrow
At least there will be plenty implied
It’s not really mine to decide
I really can’t stay
I trust you, there’s no doubt [may be mangling the transcription of this line a bit – GC]
And it’s cold outside/and it’s cold outside

*****

So. About the rapeyness.

In response to the commonly-voiced objection that the woman in the song doesn’t really mean No, that she wants to say Yes but is worried about social disapproval (voiced here in these comments as well as many other places), I have this to say:

1: When women want to say say No (or indeed are saying No and aren’t having it accepted or listened to), they often place the blame on others. We’ve been socialized to think that saying No to what other people want is rude and mean and selfish — so we place the blame for the No on others. “I’d love to stay at the party, but I have work tomorrow.” Etc. As A. Noyd said, “If a guy is pressuring a woman for sex/companionship and she doesn’t want to stay with him, she often has to bring up other reasons, such as disapproval from family members making her life difficult, when her wishes alone aren’t being listened to.”

2: It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference what the reasons for her objections are. No means no. If she were saying No because she thinks sex will make her nose turn blue or that space aliens will invade if she says Yes — she’s still saying No. Over and over and over again.

3a: Yes, there probably are some women — and some men — who say No as part of a flirtatious game, to get their pursuers to pursue them. That is also part of rape culture. The idea that you really know someone wants you when they ignore your boundaries and keep pushing past your objections — this is also part of rape culture. (It’s also really sex-negative, reinforcing the idea that it’s bad and wrong to enthusiastically say Yes to sex when you want it.) I don’t like it when pop culture encourages, celebrates, and reinforces this idea.

3b: When pop culture reinforces the idea that ignoring boundaries is part of a flirtatious game, it doesn’t just encourage the recipients of attention to say No when they really mean Yes, and to think that if someone takes No for an answer it means they really don’t like them. It encourages pursuers to think that No means Yes, or that it means Maybe, or that it means “I want you to keep trying.” And that makes them more likely to push past someone else’s boundaries.

I’m just sayin’, is all.

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13 thoughts on “Baby, It’s Consensual Outside

  1. 1

    Thanks for this. I was just listening to this song yesterday as we put up our tree (Norah Jones, Willie Nelson) and I was thinking “This song is kind of rapey!”
    I’ve heard it before of course, but with all of the heightened awareness brought on by recent events and discussions I found myself really listening. I like the re-write.

  2. 3

    I don’t understand why people want to play the “no means yes” flirtation game. As in, the phenomenon where a person lies about their interest in order to get the person they’re interested in to pursue them.

    Firstly, yes, it’s really sketchy. It’s sketchy to pursue someone after they tell you they don’t want to be with you. Whatever story you make up in your mind about their true intentions, you’re still flatly ignoring the words that they say. Gross.

    Secondly, assuming that somebody really is playing the “pursue me” game, that’s just manipulation. It’s lying to someone in order to manipulate their behavior. It’s establishing *before any relationship even starts* that you will not be truthful, that you will use a person for your own satisfaction.

    If you’re being told no, there’s no reason not to take it as a no. They either truly mean it, or they’re lying scum. Either way, the only sensible course of action is to stay away.

  3. 4

    Huh. I always took the creepiness of this song as a given.

    But the song isn’t going anywhere. It’s been deemed a Christmas Song, which means that no matter how terrible, insulting, or poorly written it is it must be played everywhere at all times November-February. Example: Practically every Christmas Song.

  4. 5

    About time a stand was taken against what might well have been one of the most insidiously sexist and rapey songs of all time. This song had the effect of eliciting positive emotional responses (by drawing on holiday cheer and nostalgia) through a clearly problematic depiction of consent.

    We agree completely that even if the intent was to create an enjoyable song, the effect that it’s having is to normalize nonconsensual behavior in the mind of the listeners. Which is fucked up. Intent is not fucking magic and it doesn’t matter if they didn’t intend it to be rapey – because the reality is that it is. People who listen to it will naturally associate their positive and enjoyable reaction with the underlying problematic themes. They just might walk away with the idea that “no really means yes” and that nonconsensual sexual advances are not only normal but something women secretly desire.

    It’s just not worth the risk of (consciously or subconsciously) influencing others in negative ways all for the sake of a holiday song. Is it?

  5. 6

    I hear several different versions of that song a day at work.

    I should have bookmarked it, but I did see an interesting feminist defense of the song last year- the basic idea was that when considering the cultural context of when it was written, the male character wasn’t manipulating the female. Rather, he was providing her with excuses to use on the people who would criticize her for doing what she wanted to do anyways.

    Not entirely sure how much I buy that(if anyone has the link, it is something I’d like to revisit on my own blog), but even if it’s taken as a solid case- I’m not sure it helps much when playing the song in a modern context. Modern listeners just don’t have the context unless they’ve done actual research, and unlike the problematic language in, say, Huckleberry Finn, the historical context doesn’t come wrapped up in the same package as the seemingly problematic issues do. It shouldn’t have to take a several hundred word analysis to set the context for a song that only lasts a few minutes. At best, the song has aged very badly.

  6. 7

    That the ‘stalkee’s’ concerns seem to have nothing to do with what SHE might or might not want adds another level of discomfort.

    I performed this once in college. My duet partner blanked out and flubbed almost every single line. I was stuck either
    a) singing whatever came after the words she DID sing
    b) singing the correct line in the hope it would jog her memory

    ‘Say, what’s in this drink?’ is an appallingly creepy line nowadays. I suspect the Loesser was only alluding to how strong it was. But that’s a damn’ big issue too.

    No matter how cute the song, or how earnestly we spin it to make it less rapey, it still reflects a really nasty vein of ‘normal’ heterosexuality.

  7. 8

    @6 I think you might mean this – http://persephonemagazine.com/2010/12/listening-while-feminist-in-defense-of-baby-its-cold-outside/

    Though the context of the era in which the song was written was very different and is important to understanding what the author was reflecting, it may be too anachronistic to remain in the canon. Interesting, according to Wikipedia, Loesser wrote the song for he and his wife to perform, and when he later sold it to MGM (where it won an Oscar no less), she was upset.

  8. 9

    I read the link @8 last year. It pretty well convinced me that the song really wasn’t rapey when it written: not just “it was okay to be this much rapey” but actually not rapey . There probably were culturally understood references so that the listener understood that the woman understood that the man was offering her an opportunity to stay without risking being thought “easy”. But the thing is: unless we are discussing whether we should be cross at the writer it doesn’t matter if it was rapey then. The fact that we need a history level on why it wasn’t rapey means it is rapey now and people should stop recording or playing it.

  9. 10

    @8 – That’s the one, thanks. Bookmarked it this time.

    @9- Pretty much what I was going for with whether or not it’s appropriate now, just put a bit more clearly. I do think the song might have utility in some contexts, for instance a discussion of how cultural standards around womens behavior have changed. But playing it for general holiday cheer probably should stop.

  10. 13

    I have actually believed for years that this song is pretty rapey. The argument that standards were different then is no more a defence of this song than it is of Shakespeare’s anti-Semitism in “The Merchant of Venice,” It is now that we are experiencing this song not then.

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