I've been thinking about the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and the allegations that have surfaced in recent years about it glorifying date rape. The more I think about it, the more I disagree.
"Baby, It's Cold Outside" (BICO for short) was written in 1944 by Frank Loesser and his wife, Lynne Garland. It is a call-and-response duet between a man and a woman retiring from a date to his bachelor pad where he tries to convince her to stay because, well, "Baby it's cold out there." My feeling is that it's just an innocent ditty about the push/pull game of seduction—as ancient as the first mammoth bone a cave-babe ever used to bonk the nose of a persistent Cro-Magnon suitor. But other people—let's call them BICO Truthers—disagree.
They call this "the date rape song" because the woman repeatedly declines his requests and at one point even says the word "no" three times in a row; such as we see in the following lyrics (her lines are in parentheses). (My sister will be suspicious) Gosh your lips look delicious / (My brother will be pacing the door) Waves upon a tropical shore / (My maiden aunt's mind is vicious) Gosh your lips are delicious... / (I ought to say 'no, no, no, sir') / ("Mind if I move in closer?").
Did you catch that? She said she "ought to" say no, which is the same thing as not saying no. I mean, saying "I ought to go to the gym today" doesn't mean I'm going. Not once in this song does she state or imply that she doesn't want to stay because she doesn't want to. She is only concerned about what her neighbors and family will think. Remember, we're talking 1944 here—a time when staying overnight with a man (sex or no sex) would be devastating to the rep of a young lady, but you know what? Screw those prigs and their repressive morality fascism. It is the same old double standard that has plagued women for centuries and if I were the guy in this song I'd have responded like this: "(My sister will be suspicious) / That prude don't even know what a kiss is / (My brother will be pacing to and fro) / The phony gets his handies from a pro / (My aunt can be so very vicious) / 'cause she hasn't been laid and she's fifty / (Oh my God you're so right, what buffoons) / Meet you with the drinks in my room."
But the lyric that really gets the BICO Truthers' gonads a-gaga is her line, "Say, what's in this drink?" which Truthers believe to mean that he spiked her cocktail with a Cosby-esque narcotic. Again, we have to consider the era in which this song was written.
"'Say, what's in this drink' is a well-used phrase that was common in movies of the time period," writes Slay Bell of the women's periodical Persephone Magazine. "The phrase generally referred to someone saying or doing something they thought they wouldn't in normal circumstances...But the joke is almost always that there is nothing in the drink. The drink is the excuse. The drink is the shield someone gets to hold up in front of them to protect from criticism."
It's just a theory, but it seems more plausible than the idea that these husband-and-wife composers inserted a line about drugging and raping a woman into their silly, romantic ditty which, by the way, won an Oscar for Best Original Song without anyone seeming to notice that it was about drugging and raping a woman.
One last remark. At the end of every version (that I know of), the man and the woman harmonize the title lyric—"Baby it's cooold out siiide"—twice before fade out. The fact that she harmonizes this line with him, instead of retorting it, signifies to the listener that she's going to stay. The harmony, in this case, represents consent. Not necessarily consent to sex, but she does consent to staying. Indeed she always consented to stay. I mean, she was free to go whenever she wanted. And the fact that she didn't—the fact that she stuck around to pettifog about it—simply means she wasn't ready to go and that this is one of those rare cases when "no"—oh God I can't believe I'm going to say this knowing the shit storm to follow—legitimately does not mean "no."
Now—of course—the minute he blocks her exit, or uses some form of duress (like if he's her boss and holds a promotion over her head) well then yes, may Satan drag the bastard by the phallus through seven levels of Hell before dumping him into a pit of molten Nazi flesh in the bowels of the eighth. But this ain't that. Because let's not forget what date rape is. Date rape is rape. The fact that it has the word "date" in front of it doesn't diminish it. Therefore, saying BICO is a song that glorifies date rape is the same as saying it glorifies rape and that is not only an insult to the song, its composers and those of us who love it, it is an insult to real rape victims whose attacks probably didn't sound anything like "Baby, It's Cold Outside."