BABY, IT'S COLD OUTSIDE: THE BLURRED LINE BETWEEN CONSENT AND COERCION
“Baby, it’s Cold Outside” has been a Christmas tradition since Frank Loesser, a famous Broadway composer, wrote it in 1944. While at first this song seems like it might be a classic tune about a couple enjoying a cozy night in, it takes a more serious turn into a man coercing a woman to stay with him when she wants to leave. This song is a prime example of what many define today as sexual assault.
A few of the most well-known lines of the song present the story of a woman asking her male counterpart what is “in her drink” after she repeatedly says “no.” There have been changes over the years to certain slang terms, including “Say, what’s in this drink” which in, 1944, was a joke meaning “not very much alcohol.” However, the lyrics are still problematic by today’s standards because, to be quite honest, it sounds like he’s trying to drug her.
The dubious and predatory nature of the dynamic in this song is even clearer in the original version, in which the woman was presented as a “mouse,” and the male as “wolf.”
We can clearly see that these song lyrics depict a situation of dubious consent. As the song continues, it’s clear the woman is not sure if she wants to stay, but decides to, after much debate. This is problematic because there’s a distinct difference between someone consenting with a resounding “yes” as opposed to a “sure, since you asked.”
The lyrics that were first written in “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” might have meant something different to people in 1944, but we still can and should recognize that something is not right about them in the present day.
In this present day, what we should encourage is the importance of firm consent. One example is the way two artists changed the song lyrics. These new additions show what consent is supposed to be: clear and simple. They’ve changed the more dubious and dangerous lyrics in response to the line “I really can’t stay” to “baby, I’m fine with that.” By making these changes, we are respecting survivors and tradition - just in a firmer way. And, that’s what the holidays should be about: appreciating tradition while recognizing how we can change our culture for the better.