The Date Rape Christmas Song

Christmas has always been a special time of year for me, a stable raft in a stormy life.  One of the things that I really love about it is the music.  The minute I start to hear Christmas music in late November, I am in the Christmas mood – happier, more generous, more likely to sing along out loud no matter who is listening or go through the whole day humming different songs.  I still remember getting a thick packet with the lyrics to a ton of Christmas songs at the Christmas party when my father was still a cop – I was probably no older than seven – and I am still upset that I lost that packet.

So I love "Baby, It’s Cold Outside" , even though I call it "The Date Rape Christmas Song" (The first part of each line is sung by a woman while the second part is sung by a man):

I really can’t stay – Baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to go away – Baby it’s cold outside
This evening has been – Been hoping that you’d drop in
So very nice – I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice
My mother will start to worry – Beautiful, what’s your hurry
My father will be pacing the floor – Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I’d better scurry – Beautiful, please don’t hurry
well Maybe just a half a drink more – Put some music on while I pour

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
I ought to say no, no, no, sir – Mind if I move a little closer
At least I’m gonna say that I tried – What’s the sense in hurting my pride
I really can’t stay – Baby don’t hold out
Ahh, but it’s cold outside

C’mon baby

I simply must go – Baby, it’s cold outside
The answer is no – Ooh baby, it’s cold outside
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 – Man, your lips look so delicious
My brother will be there at the door – Waves upon a tropical shore
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious – Gosh your lips look delicious
Well maybe just a half a drink more – Never such a blizzard before

I’ve got to go home – Oh, baby, you’ll freeze out there
Say, lend me your comb – It’s up to your knees out there
You’ve really been grand – Your eyes are like starlight now
But don’t you see – How can you do this thing to me
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow – Making my life long sorrow
At least there will be plenty implied – If you caught pneumonia and died
I really can’t stay – Get over that old out
Ahh, but it’s cold outside

Baby it’s cold outside

There are versions that don’t get the "Date Rape Christmas Song" nickname.  I have a version that is Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae in which McRae sounds like she isn’t taking Davis seriously at all and will happily step out into the cold night no matter what he says.  But even in that version, Davis shrieks "Baby, you’ll freeze out there" with such desparation that ManPants and I agreed that he sounds creepy. 

But even the strongest woman and weakest man couldn’t get around the song as it is written.  The man is still doing whatever he can to get the woman to stay in spite of her own repeated statement that she wishes to go.  The plaintive pleading is a classic example of coerciveness, and of course there is an unstated implication that what he truly desires is sex ("Lend me a comb"?  What have you been doing that you need a comb?). 

The worst line, in my opinion, is when she asks what’s in her drink.  I realize that this was written long before roofies existed, but even in those pre-Second Wave times, the phenomenon of getting a woman intoxicated in order to take advantage of her could not have been completely unfamiliar.  (Alcohol is a date rape drug too and, I would argue, is probably more likely to be used even today.)

This song is considered romantic, and yet I want nothing to do with a romanticism that constitutes men trying to get into women’s pants while women are expected to play hard-to-get.  The names of the two parts in the duet – the woman is "the Mouse", the man is "the Wolf" – make this all too clear.  But I don’t find being treated like an indecisive weakling with no mind of her own to be romantic. Does anyone these days?

It annoys me, too, that the woman is once again the gatekeeper, overly concerned about what others will think (she mentions her mother, her father, her neighbors, her sister, her brother, her aunt – while the only concern he shows is "if [she] got pneumonia and died") while the man is once again the smooth-talker in search of sex at any cost. 

It’s a tug-of-war of the sexes that I hate to see perpetuated, and yet I adore this song.

(Cross-posted on my blog, What If )

Join the Conversation