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.
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.