Join 3,497 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Christmas Classics: Horrible Misogyny or Social Commentary?
December 6, 2011 2:11 PM   Subscribe

"Baby It's Cold Outside" is known as the Christmas Date Rape Song. Bitch Magazine wonders: does She & Him's gender-reversed version make it less creepy and less rape-y? Meanwhile, Persephone Magazine's "Listening While Feminist" has an alternative take on the holiday classic.
posted by asnider (385 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not sure if The She $ Him version is less creepy, but it certainly is worse.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:15 PM on December 6, 2011 [17 favorites]


I actually think Louis Armstrong's version manages to clear away the date rape-y vibe, but that might be because he keeps laughing.
posted by COBRA! at 2:17 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


So let’s talk about that drink. I’ve discussed solely looking at the lyrics of the song and its internal universe so far, but I think that the line “say, what’s in this drink” needs to be explained in a broader context to refute the idea that he spiked her drink. “Say, what’s in this drink” is a well-used phrase that was common in movies of the time period and isn’t really used in the same manner any longer. The phrase generally referred to someone saying or doing something they thought they wouldn’t in normal circumstances; it’s a nod to the idea that alcohol is “making” them do something unusual.

Exactly. I highly doubt Frank Loesser had rufies in mind when he penned that line.

This is my favorite version of this song. Oh you two!
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:19 PM on December 6, 2011 [29 favorites]


Seeds of Al-Qaeda!
posted by Burhanistan at 2:20 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]



I can see where modern minds might go to date rape, but folks 'of a certain age', where sexual impulses were hidden behind closed doors and innuendo, totally get where this song is coming from.

The Persephonie Magazine article has it right on the button.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:21 PM on December 6, 2011 [44 favorites]


And oh dear - that She & Him cut is simply awful.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:21 PM on December 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


Oh Lord. Here are the lyrics. The only line that could possibly be construed as "date rapey" is "Say, what's in this drink?", which comes off badly now, in a time of rohypnol, but can be interpreted entirely innocently.

It's a seduction song, written at a time when social conventions involved women playing hard to get. It was written by Frank Loesser as a duet to be performed with his wife, and was never intended for mass consumption (she was furious with him when he sold it). It was a party song that he sang often with his wife, back when parties typically included skits and entertainment from guests. And the lyrics never specify whether it is supposed to be a male singing the "wolf" part or not

In some instances, I think the criticism that this is sort of date rapey reflects changing attitudes, and is understandable, but in others I think the critics are being sort of ironic and comical about the subject, and, honestly, I think that minimizes the actual experience of rape. The last lines of this song are clearly expressions of consent.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:22 PM on December 6, 2011 [78 favorites]


When this song came up on Pandora while we were eating dinner the other day, my 4 year old--who didn't even really appear to be listening--turns to me and says, "Daddy, why won't he let her leave?"
posted by etc. at 2:23 PM on December 6, 2011 [43 favorites]


Man... wait till they get a hold of some of those Beetles songs.

Yeah.. the 'what's in this drink' line initially caught me askance, until I actually thought about it.

I kinda liked the Brian Setzer & Ann-Margret version.
posted by edgeways at 2:23 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]




I can see where modern minds might go to date rape, but folks 'of a certain age', where sexual impulses were hidden behind closed doors and innuendo, totally get where this song is coming from.


Yeah I see what they mean, that really seems to be assuming really nasty things about the intent of the lyricist, which I think a bit of good faith can largely dismiss.

Personally, I'd say that analysis is wildly off base. While I understand the necessity of "no means no" as a mantra, the song is supposed to show flirtation and temptation, not a coercive attack.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:24 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


They are a little bit late.

Baby, It's Cold Outside was used in the movie Neptune's Daugter in 1948: "The film featured two performances of the song: one by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams and the other by Red Skelton and Betty Garrett, the second of which has the roles of wolf and mouse reversed." I tracked down a clip of the female!wolf & male!mouse scene on youtube a while back and it was ok. I didn't' find a clip of Ricardo Montalban/Esther Williams scene to compare it to, though.
posted by nooneyouknow at 2:25 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Which is to say I guess, that Persephone Magazine is correct.
...in case you think I didn't read the damn article. :D
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:25 PM on December 6, 2011


I should have also noted that the Alan and Liza version I linked to does the reversal thing also, halfway through.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:26 PM on December 6, 2011


It's not a date rape song, it's a young female empowerment song:

[Female singer lyrics]
My sister will be suspicious
My brother will be there at the door
My maiden aunt's mind is vicious


Does she want to stay? Yes, but she feels she shouldn't. Why should she go? Family pressure. Ultimately she decides to stay. It was a progressive song that pervy guys can also enjoy. Where do people get this date rape stuff?

"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is the creepy Christmas song you're looking for. Kids don't know Santa isn't Dad so they think Mom's easy.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:26 PM on December 6, 2011 [84 favorites]


It's a seduction song, written at a time when social conventions involved women playing hard to get.

I can understand that the lyrics can indeed be interpreted as a somewhat strong persuasion. But I also can't shake the feeling that the woman knows exactly what she's doing all along.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:27 PM on December 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


While I understand the necessity of "no means no" as a mantra, the song is supposed to show flirtation and temptation, not a coercive attack.

Agreed. It comes across as more of a charm offensive to me. I think the idea that it is date rape is well off the mark.
posted by Brockles at 2:27 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: Less creepy and less rape-y.
posted by jimmythefish at 2:27 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Skelton/Garrett version.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:28 PM on December 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


So does this song actually have anything to do with Christmas?
posted by Hoopo at 2:28 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


When my son was 4, his favorite song was Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones. He never did ask me about the lyrics.
posted by The World Famous at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


But I also can't shake the feeling that the woman knows exactly what she's doing all along.

oh, I think so too. And part of what she's doing, it seems to me, is getting some GREAT COCKTAILS.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2011 [24 favorites]


From the article: The tension in the song comes from her own desire to stay and society’s expectations that she’ll go.

Exactly. I always got the impression she wanted him to convince her to stay. And roofies? I never thought that until I read it here. Damn, am I that old?
posted by JoanArkham at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Doesn't "what's in this drink" equate more to "wow, this drink is strong" rather than "why am I blacking out". Or am I totally misreading the song?
posted by Carillon at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


The lyrics definitely didn't age well. First, it definitely reads as having a certain "date rape-y" vibe... second, who even has a maiden aunt anymore? But that's reading it with modern mores - when it came out, the "no means no" conversation wasn't taking place on a cultural level.

My favorite version is from Glee - something about having both voices of the same gender levels the playing field in a way that there's no real power dynamic at play; it's just one member of a couple playing hard to get and the other... slipping roofies? Still no idea what's in that drink.
posted by sonika at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


The Tom Jones / Cerys Matthews version FTW. And date rape my arse.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Persephone article is spot on. There's no way to make that song fit into a date rape narrative unless you bring some of your own tools with you to the job.
posted by Naberius at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2011 [18 favorites]


I wrote a comic strip about this back in 2009. Nice to see everyone else is catching on.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 2:30 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


why bother picking apart this song under a feminist microscope when there are far more blatantly misogynistic lyrics in modern music?
posted by djseafood at 2:30 PM on December 6, 2011 [14 favorites]



Doesn't "what's in this drink" equate more to "wow, this drink is strong" rather than "why am I blacking out". Or am I totally misreading the song?
posted by Carillon at 2:29 PM on December 6 [+] [!]


Or more specifically:
"Why am I so giddy and lightheaded, surely it must be the drink."
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:31 PM on December 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'd love to hear two men do this song. Michael Buble and Rufus Wainwright, maybe.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:31 PM on December 6, 2011 [33 favorites]


"While subversive may have been what She & Him were going for with this cover, putting a 'new spin' on a song about a possibly drug-filled, boozy night of nonconsensual sexual activity by casting a woman as the would-be rapist still leaves you with a song about a possibly drug-filled, boozy night of nonconsensual sexual activity. "

Wait. Someone actually thought it was about date rape? I mean, we say that all the time around here, but I always thought everyone knew it was a joke.

I guess I just kind of assumed no one could possibly think a holiday mainstay was actually, really, seriously about rapists.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:31 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think, in addition to the idea of alcohol being used as a strategy to sidestep the stated wishes of a partner which is an absolute not ok thing, even the central theme of the song has come to be known as a theme of rape culture. The idea of playing hard to get, immortalized by Louis CK, as part of a seduction ritual was standard and is now recognized to be a really really bad thing that we shouldn't do anymore. We now expect boys to listen when girls say no, THIS IS A GOOD THING. Yes, it does put the onus on girls to be more forward and honest about their actual desires, BUT THIS IS ALSO A GOOD THING.

This song is representative of dying sexual mores, we should keep stabbing it.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:31 PM on December 6, 2011 [40 favorites]


I'd love to hear two men do this song.

See link in my previous comment.
posted by sonika at 2:32 PM on December 6, 2011


and oh, ew, Glee beat them to it. Ick.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:32 PM on December 6, 2011


why bother picking apart this song under a feminist microscope when there are far more blatantly misogynistic lyrics in modern music?
Because this is an article about "Baby It's Cold Outside."
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:32 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Doesn't "what's in this drink" equate more to "wow, this drink is strong" rather than "why am I blacking out". Or am I totally misreading the song?

It can mean a lot of things. I ask bartenders that question all the time. They rarely have dosed me, and when they do it has always been to shangai me to put me to work in the merchant navy.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:32 PM on December 6, 2011 [23 favorites]


I'm with the Persephone magazine interpretation. What's interesting about the "date rape" interpretation is that it's using modern taboos (albeit quite justified ones) to dismiss a song from a more sexist age that is all about female empowerment.
posted by ob at 2:33 PM on December 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


This whole thing is just a bit off the mark when it comes to interpreting this song, and I'm joining the chorus of people in this thread who are saying so.

So does this song actually have anything to do with Christmas?

No, it has to do with winter weather. Which is often associated with Christmas if you live north of the Equator. It's on a lot of Christmas albums and such, but it's not actually a Christmas song, any more than "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow", "Winter Wonderland", or "I Love The Winter Weather".
posted by hippybear at 2:33 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


back when parties typically included skits and entertainment from guests.

I was born in the wrong time.
posted by penduluum at 2:34 PM on December 6, 2011 [22 favorites]


The print-on-demand "merchandise" on sites like Urban Dictionary always cracks me up. I'm pretty sure a Christmas Date Rape Song coffee mug would never be an appropriate gift for anyone.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:35 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


You and me both, penduluum.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:35 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The definitive version, as far as I am concerned, is Ray Charles and Better Carter, and they play it as seduction, not date rape -- although they always said if you want to be a Raylette, you gotta let Ray.
posted by spitbull at 2:35 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Doesn't "what's in this drink" equate more to "wow, this drink is strong" rather than "why am I blacking out". Or am I totally misreading the song?

Songs need to be evaluated by the perspective of their time. You are correct in that the line is entirely about how strong the drink is.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:36 PM on December 6, 2011


Jeez, Betty Carter. Sometimes iOS spell check is a philistine.
posted by spitbull at 2:36 PM on December 6, 2011


You want a date-rape song, try Gershwin's "Do It Again":

I may say no, no, no, no, no
But do it again
My lips just ache
To have you take
The kiss that's waiting for you
You know if you do
You won't regret it
Come and get it.

I guess it's really a "what's going on in the head of the date rapist" song.
posted by yoink at 2:37 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


You link to Urban Dictionary like it's authoritative in any way whatsoever. Might as well link to the graffiti scrawled on the bathroom wall.
posted by crunchland at 2:37 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Barry Manilow & KT Oslin
posted by hippybear at 2:37 PM on December 6, 2011


second, who even has a maiden aunt anymore?

Nicko McBrain is my aunt. Does that count?
posted by The World Famous at 2:37 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Can I interest anyone in a plate of beans?
posted by Muddler at 2:38 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Besides, there are many much worse Christmas songs. I mean, how about the one where Grandma gets killed in a hit and run!
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:38 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


This older blog post gives some context of the social norms at the time. I thought it was an interesting analysis of the song.
posted by topher74 at 2:38 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not only would he not have been thinking of rufies, Loesser wrote it three years after prohibition ended. He may well have had in mind the context of drinking anything alcoholic ostensibly being illegal, adding another layer of innuendo to all the other stuff.
posted by XMLicious at 2:38 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd love to hear two men do this song.

See link in my previous comment.


Maybe one without a heapin' helpin' of autotune?
posted by Aizkolari at 2:39 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]




The idea of playing hard to get, immortalized by Louis CK yt , as part of a seduction ritual was standard and is now recognized to be a really really bad thing that we shouldn't do anymore. We now expect boys to listen when girls say no, THIS IS A GOOD THING. Yes, it does put the onus on girls to be more forward and honest about their actual desires, BUT THIS IS ALSO A GOOD THING.

This song is representative of dying sexual mores, we should keep stabbing it.


Actually the part about changing courtship rituals is really interesting, and worth talking about. I don't have much to add to that, because I mostly agree. It's worth remembering though, that just because something will simplify things and reduce grief doesn't mean that it's going to be easy to change.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:39 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hell, back in the 90s Holly Dunn even caught flack from the country music audience and industry for "Maybe I Mean Yes." Can't find a video or audio clip online. It was a hit.

When I say no I mean maybe.

Here's the chorus:
Baby don't you know me yet?
Nothin's worth havin' if it ain't a little hard to get.
So let me clarify so you won't have to try to guess.
When I say no I mean maybe, or maybe I mean yes.
posted by spitbull at 2:39 PM on December 6, 2011


Oooh, I wonder where else we can go with this:

LDB = child labor
Rudolph = animal cruelty
Grandma got run over... = elder abuse

I kid, I kid. 'Cold outside' is vaguely creepy, as is any song where someone's sex life is being decided for them. As stated above both the coercion by the family and the coercion by the boyfriend are a little upsetting, neither of them is rape or abuse.
posted by poe at 2:40 PM on December 6, 2011


searching for "date rape christmas song" returns pretty much only posts about "baby, it's cold outside." it's a bit disingenuous to jump on the feminists about it. it's a thought that's seemingly occurred to a lot of people.

i agree it's a seduction, fun little song and not a song about date rape. i would just be be sad to see this thread devolve into feminists don't have a sense of humor.
posted by nadawi at 2:40 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Besides, there are many much worse Christmas songs. I mean, how about the one where Grandma gets killed in a hit and run!

Or the one where Karen Carpenter says that she wants to have sex with burning logs.
posted by The World Famous at 2:41 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


The way that it makes sense as being creepy to me is if you take her reasons for leaving to be just as fake as his reasons for her staying. The non-creepy interpretation is that when she says she should go in order to uphold her reputation, that is the truth, she really wants to stay and have sex, whereas when he says she should stay because he's concerned about her well-being out in the storm, that's bullshit, she actually wants her to stay to have sex. The creepy interpretation is that her excuses are also bullshit, she doesn't want to have sex, but is too shy to say it outright and uses the whole reputation thing as an excuse, but he eventually coerces her into staying.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:41 PM on December 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


who even has a maiden aunt anymore?

There are some. Fewer now that lesbians can be out about it, though.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:41 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I liked the Persephone Magazine take, and now know what a maiden aunt is. Thanks, Metafilter! Now, can anyone provide a feminist take on "Wake Up, Little Susie?"
posted by drezdn at 2:42 PM on December 6, 2011


LDB = child labor
Rudolph = animal cruelty
Grandma got run over... = elder abuse


You should hear that one song about Batman's body odor. He can't help it, he's allergic to scents!
posted by Hoopo at 2:42 PM on December 6, 2011


Karen Carpenter says that she wants to have sex with burning logs.

I need a link!
posted by drezdn at 2:42 PM on December 6, 2011


Rudolph isn't about animal cruelty. It's about full-on societal bullying of the "other" until that other proves to be useful due to his otherness.

It's pretty horrible when you think about it. It's the equivalent of being beaten daily for being gay until you get a job being the set designer for the school musical and suddenly you're popular.
posted by hippybear at 2:42 PM on December 6, 2011 [42 favorites]


Oh Lord. Here are the lyrics. The only line that could possibly be construed as "date rapey" is "Say, what's in this drink?", which comes off badly now, in a time of rohypnol, but can be interpreted entirely innocently.

Thank you. It's tiresome every time around Christmas when the web seems to be inundated with 'did you know that songs about date-rape?' comments/articles/status updates, each one seemingly believing they're the first to expose the hidden, sinister meaning.

Enough I say!
posted by justgary at 2:43 PM on December 6, 2011


Hell, back in the 90s Holly Dunn even caught flack from the country music audience and industry for "Maybe I Mean Yes." Can't find a video or audio clip online. It was a hit.

When I say no I mean maybe.

Here's the chorus:
Baby don't you know me yet?
Nothin's worth havin' if it ain't a little hard to get.
So let me clarify so you won't have to try to guess.
When I say no I mean maybe, or maybe I mean yes.


JFC, she should have caught flack for that. Ick.
posted by kmz at 2:44 PM on December 6, 2011


At the time it was written, it would have been a Mickey, not a roofie.
posted by nomisxid at 2:44 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


OK, here's Christmas for you: Tom Waits' "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" (preceded by his version of "Silent Night").

Neko Case tears it up too.

A lot of people know this song. Those who don't, trust me you'll never forget it.
posted by spitbull at 2:44 PM on December 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Can we talk about "Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas" now?
posted by entropicamericana at 2:44 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm with Wendy Shalit on this song. The woman can choose to stay or not, but the parental excuse gives her an easy out if she wants to use it. Nowadays, no socially accepted parental excuse = more date rape.
posted by michaelh at 2:44 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Actually the part about changing courtship rituals is really interesting, and worth talking about. I don't have much to add to that, because I mostly agree. It's worth remembering though, that just because something will simplify things and reduce grief doesn't mean that it's going to be easy to change."

Thats the beautiful thing though, teaching our kids that no means no and that firmly established enthusiastic consent is essential seems to be working, we are starting to get the message in ways our grandmothers could only have dreamed of. That is profoundly cool.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:45 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks spitbull, like everything he does, that song is killer.
That's how I want my Christmas. Lonely, with a bottle of bourbon and my regrets.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:46 PM on December 6, 2011


I need a link!

The logs on the fire fill me with desire.

(Yes, that is the worst lyric in the history of humanity.)
posted by The World Famous at 2:46 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


So we can all still agree that "Brown Eyed Girl" is about anal sex, though. Right?
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:46 PM on December 6, 2011 [18 favorites]


the drink doesn't haven to be drugged to be date rape-y - strong cocktails can still be part of coercive date rape. again, not saying i agree with that interpretation, just, it's not as utterly outlandish as some are pretending.
posted by nadawi at 2:47 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


And leaving date rape behind, but following the trail of awful christmases:

Merle Haggard: "If We Make It Through December"

There was also Bill and Bonnie Hearne's wonderful "Christmas in a Honky Tonk" but I'll be damned if I can find it online.
posted by spitbull at 2:47 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's pretty horrible when you think about it. It's the equivalent of being beaten daily for being gay until you get a job being the set designer for the school musical and suddenly you're popular.

No, no, Hermie was gay. Rudolph just looked different.
posted by emjaybee at 2:47 PM on December 6, 2011


I feared the worst when I saw the post topic, but I'm really glad that the cooler heads are mostly prevailing. Bunny Ultramod's take on it exactly mine, along with the point that "what's in this drink" is a really common line to joke that you aren't really responsible for doing exactly what you are happily choosing to be doing.
posted by Miko at 2:48 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tom Waits' "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis"

Or hell, if you want to be a bit more enthusiastic about it, there's his duet with Peter Murphy.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:48 PM on December 6, 2011


So is there anyone who really, truly believes this song is about date rape? This isn't the first time I've heard this discussion, but I figured that interpretation of the song was supposed to be in jest. I mean, you could definitely analyze the the song and note how it's a reflection of society not wanting women to have sex, and on the flip side, expecting men to obtain sex despite that rule. However, I always interpreted serious claims of misogyny in the song to be like if we were reinterpreting "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" as a harmful threat to children. "You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not shout" and the reason is because Santa Claus is and omniscient being, and he silently judges you from his secret North Pole hideout with his little elf slaves. Then, annually, he will invade your town, break into your home and eat your food.

P.S. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is not about adultery.
posted by picklenickle at 2:48 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Karen Carpenter says that she wants to have sex with burning logs.

Natalie Wood?
posted by spitbull at 2:48 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Assume for a second that there's a woman in 1944 who really didn't want to stay the night at some dude's house, but who didn't want to come out and say "I don't want to stay and have sex with you". And also assume the guy in 1944 wanted her to stay and intended to get her drunk to wear down her defenses. He's not going to strong-arm her, he's just going to get her hammered.

Now, write a song about those two people. How would the lyrics be different from "Baby, It's Cold Outside"?
posted by 23skidoo at 2:48 PM on December 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


No, no, Hermie was gay. Rudolph just looked different.

The song is about Rudolph being bullied.
posted by hippybear at 2:50 PM on December 6, 2011


P.S. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is not about adultery.

No, it's about discovering your parents are into cosplay.
posted by emjaybee at 2:50 PM on December 6, 2011 [33 favorites]


Muddler: "Can I interest anyone in a plate of beans"

I don't know, let me think about it.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:51 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


P.S. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is not about adultery.

No, it's about discovering your parents are into cosplay.


No, it's about discovering your mom is Mrs. Claus and your dad didn't completely abandon you.
posted by michaelh at 2:52 PM on December 6, 2011


None of you people better watch Ninotchka.
posted by spitbull at 2:52 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's not going to strong-arm her, he's just going to get her hammered.

Now, write a song about those two people. How would the lyrics be different from "Baby, It's Cold Outside"?


I'm guessing the final lines of the song, which include "all right" and "do that again," would have been different.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:53 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The song is about Rudolph being bullied.
"Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" is usually taught as inspirational verse and a statement against prejudice and mockery: Rudolph is visibly marked and consequently discriminated against, yet he rises above the catcalls to achieve fame and success. Sounds great, right? Let's look a little closer. Rudolph's moment of redemption comes not as the cause of any consciousness-raising, but because his difference (superficial as it is) is shown to have utility to the corporate body. He is accepted by his peers not for his own merits, but because circumstances conspired to harness his idiosyncrasy and turn it into profit for his employers. What is the real lesson we take from the fable of Rudolph, boys and girls? ***Difference will be tolerated and celebrated only if it can be put to the service of the power structure.*** Otherwise, you're just a wacko, and you can forget about those reindeer games for good. Once again, Santa Claus is portrayed here as an unfeeling, self-absorbed cad -- he makes no intervention in Rudolph's persecution until he needs to save his own ass (at least the TV special got that part right). But does Rudolph get his moment to tell the boss to screw himself; that his hypocrisy won't be tolerated? No, he's the first one tethered to the sled, happy to take the whip of his former oppressor as long as he can feel both useful to the corporation and validated by his peers. If I had a kid, this would be about the last lesson I'd want to teach her. [via]
posted by mazola at 2:53 PM on December 6, 2011 [30 favorites]


Talk about over-thinking a plate of roofies...
posted by spilon at 2:54 PM on December 6, 2011


P.S. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is not about adultery.

No, it's about discovering your parents are into cosplay.

No, it's about discovering your mom is Mrs. Claus and your dad didn't completely abandon you.


No, it's about discovering that a bishop who violates his celibacy vows can still be elevated to sainthood by the Catholic church.
posted by The World Famous at 2:54 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ooooh. Willie Nelson: "The Last Thing I Needed" -- about getting left during the Christmas holiday season. One of his most under-rated songs, I think it's up there with his very best.

Last night you came home late
And I knew you'd been drinking
By that old mellow look on your face
But I thought "it don't matter"
Cuz it's the holiday season
And you fill such a big empty space
posted by spitbull at 2:55 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Let's just put Christmas Shoes on notice.

That song knows why.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:56 PM on December 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Yes, it's a date rape song and White Christmas is about white power and Frosty the Snow man is about cocaine abuse. Did you hear the story of Minnie the Moocher, she was a low down hoochie-coocher. That's certainly not a very pro feminist song either, Cab Calloway was undoubtedly a deplorable human being.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:56 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm no expert on the hidden meaning of Xmas songs, but I'd just like to say that "wassailing" sounds a bit kinky.
posted by stifford at 2:57 PM on December 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


So is there anyone who really, truly believes this song is about date rape?

Well it's not as if songs tend to have one completely obvious and interpretation with no possible way to get a different vibe from it. A lot of songs about complicated issues like love and sex can have complicated interpretations. I wouldn't say I really, truly believe Every Breath You Take is a song about a creepy stalker for instance, but it can certainly have that vibe.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:58 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Santa Baby creeps me out much more that Baby It's Cold Outside.
posted by vespabelle at 2:58 PM on December 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Well, Minnie is responsible for Smokey Joe kicking the gong around, so he may have had a point about her.

Hi di hi di hi di ho.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:59 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


wouldn't say I really, truly believe Every Breath You Take is a song about a creepy stalker for instance, but it can certainly have that vibe.

Sting on the song: "I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle, little love song."

He actually wrote it to be stalker-y.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:00 PM on December 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Well, Minnie is responsible for Smokey Joe kicking the gong around, so he may have had a point about her.

Hi di hi di hi di ho.
posted by Bunny Ultramod


Like hell. He was the one who took her to Chinatown and showed her how to kick the gong around. And anyway, everybody knew he was coke-y.
posted by COBRA! at 3:01 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


So... is it creepy I just told my co-workers this is my favorite christmas song?
posted by jonclegg at 3:01 PM on December 6, 2011


Did you hear the story of Minnie the Moocher, she was a low down hoochie-coocher.

Well, apparently Minnie and Santa had a bit of a thing going on.
posted by hippybear at 3:02 PM on December 6, 2011


The worst is Fire by Bruce Springsteen it really is about date rape:

I'm driving in my car
I turn on the radio
I'm pulling you close
You just say no
You say you don't like it
But girl I know you're a liar
'Cause when we kiss
Fire
posted by Ad hominem at 3:03 PM on December 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


My parents had this song on a Christmas record. The female lead’s tone is coy throughout. Maybe it's because I grew up soaking in the '50's, but it was pretty clear from the tone that the woman feels that she is obliged to leave or that she needs to show that, not that she really wants to.

Back then, if you went to a guy’s place for a drink, it generally wasn't about the drink, and you could expect a come-on. Gadzooks, you might even have wanted one. I don't think all that much has changed except that there's no need for the good girl act today.

People really did have consensual sex back then, but the woman was expected to play hard to get. Judging that expectation by today's standards is just silly. Some people need to watch more old movies!
posted by Currer Belfry at 3:03 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't say I really, truly believe Every Breath You Take is a song about a creepy stalker for instance, but it can certainly have that vibe.

But it is about a creepy stalker. Sting wrote that about being a creepy stalker of his exwife after they got divorced. If you think it's a love song, you're wrong.

"Sting later said he was disconcerted by how many people think the song is more positive than it is. He insists it's about the obsession with a lost lover, the jealousy and surveillance that follows. "One couple told me 'Oh we love that song; it was the main song played at our wedding!' I thought, 'Well, good luck.'"[5] When asked why he appears angry in the music video Sting told BBC Radio 2, "I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle, little love song."

On the other, (Good Riddance) Time of your Life by Green Day is about an amiable breakup and I refuse to believe otherwise.
posted by nooneyouknow at 3:03 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


He was the one who took her to Chinatown and showed her how to kick the gong around

I'm sorry, but he was sweating, cold and pale and he was looking for his frail -- HE was broke and all his junk ran out. Minnie was behind a curtain, smoking up a storm, where she always was.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:04 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since we're also compiling Christmas songs with negative implications, let's not forget the greatest Christmas song ever recorded. Recorded, naturally, by The Ramones.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:05 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


@Ad hominem

Springsteen tends toward fairly antiquated depictions of gender. Blasdelb's previous comment pretty much nails that one as well. It doesn't have to be malicious to be problematic.

Honestly, a lot of us could afford to spend less time being snarky and dismissive and more time considering these things. The linked rebuttal thought about what it was arguing against, and it builds a much stronger case that way than this kind of strawman crap:

"Yes, it's a date rape song and White Christmas is about white power and Frosty the Snow man is about cocaine abuse."
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:06 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh, and also the second greatest Christmas song ever recorded. This one by, of course, the Pogues.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:06 PM on December 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


Even if the song were truly about rape, I'm not sure what that would mean. To portray something is not to condone it. We write and make art about horrific things all the time, no? I mean, the song never says "and this is how sex ought to come about."
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:06 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"It's a seduction song, written at a time when social conventions involved women playing hard to get.

I can understand that the lyrics can indeed be interpreted as a somewhat strong persuasion. But I also can't shake the feeling that the woman knows exactly what she's doing all along.
"

One thing that I think is important to keep in mind is how hard it must be for a couple to pull this of as a duet without just projecting the creepy. When done 'properly', neither party is communicating honestly with the other, they each have goals they arn't stating, and the male partner is actively disrespecting the expressly stated wishes of the female partner. Even when it is sung in such a way as it is absolutely clear in the subtext that both parties want sex and wanted it from the beginning, the song still trumpets another central pillar of rape culture, that arousal = consent. The male partner is, absent subtext, actively strong-arming the female partner into staying and the sexual activity that entails. To gauge her attitude towards consent he plainly disregards her stated wishes and relies instead on his appraisal of her arousal/inner feelings in order to make up her mind for her. THIS IS A NOT OK MESSAGE, even if it becomes clear-ish from talented subtext that she is trying to guide him through that making up of her mind for her.

What the song does is encourage men and boys to disregard the stated wishes of women and girls regarding sex. This is never ok, no matter how romantic it might seem to old people.

"So... is it creepy I just told my co-workers this is my favorite christmas song?"

It would creep the fuck out of me
posted by Blasdelb at 3:07 PM on December 6, 2011 [28 favorites]


Bitch Magazine wonders: does She & Him's gender-reversed version make it less creepy and less rape-y?

Miss Piggy beat them to the punch by a couple decades there.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:07 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


They are stories. The songs are not the direct experiences or feelings of the singer.

Shit, let's get into hip hop.
posted by spitbull at 3:08 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


The song is about Rudolph being bullied.

Tris McCall is a darned good music writer.
posted by mintcake! at 3:08 PM on December 6, 2011


I don't think that Pogues song has very positive attitudes towards women or homosexuals. And they should be more sympathetic towards people struggling with heroin addiction.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:08 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


This far in and no one mentioned that Adam Curtis thinks this song caused 9/11?
posted by empath at 3:09 PM on December 6, 2011


Say what?
posted by spitbull at 3:10 PM on December 6, 2011


"Even if the song were truly about rape, I'm not sure what that would mean. To portray something is not to condone it. We write and make art about horrific things all the time, no? I mean, the song never says "and this is how sex ought to come about."

Even if this song was not written about rape it doesn't do such a great job of not looking like it, and even if it is just an example of something horrific then that example should still absolutely be challenged as something not ok.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:10 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Miss Piggy beat them to the punch by a couple decades there.

Sadly, it is not included on the best Christmas album ever.
posted by drezdn at 3:11 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


By that measure, Dostoevsky was a champion of cold-blooded murder.
posted by spitbull at 3:12 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


They rarely have dosed me, and when they do it has always been to shangai me to put me to work in the merchant navy.

Lucky. They just keep slipping the King's shilling into the bottom of my glass, and then the cheap bastards always want the shilling back.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:13 PM on December 6, 2011


The difference is that Dostoevsky beat us all to the punch
posted by Blasdelb at 3:13 PM on December 6, 2011


Mmm, this is a tasty milkshake.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 3:15 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apparently midwives learn to notice when it is cold outside - because they are going to get really busy nine months later - strong cocktails or not. The cold UK weather in December 2010 apparently led to a 20% increase in births the following August.
posted by rongorongo at 3:16 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


But it is about a creepy stalker. Sting wrote that about being a creepy stalker of his exwife after they got divorced. If you think it's a love song, you're wrong.

I don't want to get into the whole authorial intent argument, but yes I knew that Sting wrote it about his ex. My point is that many people don't see it as a creepy stalker song, and others do. It probably would not have been released as a hit single for a popular band if the main feeling people got from it was that Sting was a creep obsessed with his ex. You can call those people wrong because they don't interpret the feelings in the song the same way Sting did, but the fact that people can unironically think of the song as being about non-creepy true love is proof that the same song can be considered nice and harmless or creepy and dark depending on context and the way the listener interprets it.

A lot of covers give a song completely different meanings just by the way the song is covered, such as Johnny Cash's cover of Hurt. The fact that a lot of the lyrics had personal meaning for Johnny Cash that did not exist for Trent Reznor does not mean Johnny Cash was an idiot who didn't understand the true meaning of the song, and the fact that each listener hearing either version might feel different personal emotions does not mean they aren't getting what the song is really about.
posted by burnmp3s at 3:16 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


It is really refreshing to see a feminist critique that examines the context of the entire song, culture and even the history of the specific phrase that caused so much frowning.

And I hate that that is refreshing. It should be the norm rather than the exception. Or maybe I just don't read the right stuff.

Okay, now I'm sure I'll hear All I Want for Christmas Is You on the drive home and feel like watching Love, Actually.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:17 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, I take it back! I want my link text to be.

"That Bacardi flavoring certainly makes a difference, doesn't it?"

"Oh yeah, nine times out of ten."

posted by villanelles at dawn at 3:18 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, now I'm sure I'll hear All I Want for Christmas Is You on the drive home and feel like watching Love, Actually.

Well, if you're going to watch Love, Actually, you can't leave out the brilliant song written for the film.
posted by hippybear at 3:20 PM on December 6, 2011


(And did you know that All I Want For Christmas was actually written by Mariah Carey? That woman has TALENT!)
posted by hippybear at 3:22 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


And did you know that All I Want For Christmas was actually written by Mariah Carey?

My mind is blown.
posted by selenized at 3:24 PM on December 6, 2011


(And did you know that All I Want For Christmas was actually written by Mariah Carey? That woman has TALENT!)

I actually just googled the song history and learned that. I thought she had covered it, but it's all hers. Good work, Mariah!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:24 PM on December 6, 2011


Good work, Mariah!

Without a doubt. Certainly makes up for that dog-whistle vocalization she does in the last 20 seconds of "Emotions".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:27 PM on December 6, 2011


I dunno. I remember first actually paying attention to the lyrics last year around this time and singing my own alternate lyrics over them, like, "but Baby the doors are locked..." I think that in its context is was cutely winking and knowing, in a modern context it is creepy as fuck. Still a beautiful song musically, and with its proper context one that I have no problem with, but I still cringe a bit when I hear it.

Then again, my all-time favorite Christmas song is perhaps the only one with the words, "you cheap lousy faggot" in it, so maybe I'm just weird.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:28 PM on December 6, 2011


It's a scientific fact that the best Christmas song is "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).
posted by villanelles at dawn at 3:30 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


You can call those people wrong because they don't interpret the feelings in the song the same way Sting did, but the fact that people can unironically think of the song as being about non-creepy true love is proof that the same song can be considered nice and harmless or creepy and dark depending on context and the way the listener interprets it.

Or it's proof that creepy stalkers have absolutely no idea that they are creepy stalkers. Anyway, I was mostly being tongue in cheek there as I posted about my 'incorrect' interpretation of "Good Riddance/Time of your Life".
posted by nooneyouknow at 3:30 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Minnie was behind a curtain, smoking up a storm, where she always was.

Whatever her faults, it is indisputable that she had a heart as big as a whale.
posted by elizardbits at 3:32 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a scientific fact that the best Christmas song is "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).

I'll grant you that's a great song, but you've linked the wrong version. This is the one you meant to link.
posted by hippybear at 3:33 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


i don't care if the singer is actually a boy, teenage dirtbag is the sweetest high school lesbian song of all time.
posted by nadawi at 3:34 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


my all-time favorite Christmas song is perhaps the only one with the words, "you cheap lousy faggot" in it, so maybe I'm just weird.

Hey! If the shoe fits...

Wow, new shoes! How thoughtful!
posted by hippybear at 3:35 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ooh! Ooh! Is this where I get to share this All I Want For Christmas dance routine?
posted by ourobouros at 3:35 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hell, back in the 90s Holly Dunn even caught flack from the country music audience and industry for "Maybe I Mean Yes." Can't find a video or audio clip online.

Holly Dunn also sang a song that contains the line "Daddy's hands weren't always gentle, but I've come to understand, there was always love in Daddy's hands." The hands she describes as "hard as steel, when I've done wrong." Earlier in the song.

Her relationship to abuse seems...complicated. Also, my knowledge of the lyrics to "Daddy's Hands" has finally come up in conversation.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:36 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Doesn't 'what's in this drink' equate more to 'wow, this drink is strong' rather than 'why am I blacking out'. Or am I totally misreading the song?"

"It can mean a lot of things. I ask bartenders that question all the time. They rarely have dosed me, and when they do it has always been to shangai me to put me to work in the merchant navy.
"

It is a really cool thing that this can be your greatest concern in regards to the strength or possible adulteration of your drinks in a bar. Many of the rest of us feel the need to be able to accurately gauge the effect a drink will have on us because a shocking number of men think drunkenness can replace consent and our legal system regularly proves them shockingly right. I'd also be willing to bet you've never meaningfully feared being roofied and, while it likely isn't what the song is about, that remains an accident of your genitals and orientation and makes for a sad thing to wave around in mixed company.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:37 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


teenage dirtbag is the sweetest high school lesbian song of all time

that will always be a love song from Ray Person to Brad Colbert as far as I'm concerned.
posted by elizardbits at 3:38 PM on December 6, 2011


I'll grant you that's a great song, but you've linked the wrong version. This is the one you meant to link. yt

I'm pretty sure that even the world-saving ego of Bono is not deluded enough to think he has anything on Darlene Love.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 3:39 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Winter Wonderland would have to be my favorite Christmas song that isn't a beer commercial.

(I'm sorry, alright? But that commercial always gets me.)
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:40 PM on December 6, 2011


it's easy to read abuse into "daddy's hands", but from the time i was a little girl, it seemed to perfectly describe my utterly loving relationship with my at the time authoritarian father.

that's the great things about music, it can mean all sorts of things.
posted by nadawi at 3:41 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the values dissonance departement (TVtropes!), here's a traditional French nursery rhyme about gang rape. Lyrics are in French but the animation is... somehow graphic (see 1:15 to 1:30). And yes, while the song is old (from the 1700?) the animation above is from a recent DVD targeted at children.
posted by elgilito at 3:43 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's all in the choices the singers make, which lyrics to use and which to leave out, as well as the tone in which it is sung. There's nothing really wrong with the lyrics to "Santa Baby" and I like Eartha Kitt but her (arguably definitive) version creeps me right out. An omniscient elderly man who judges whether people are "naughty," sneaks into your house at night and is all about the children, is a weird concept to sexualize. I get that it is a joke for adults but will still lean over and hit "skip" if it starts up.
posted by Morrigan at 3:48 PM on December 6, 2011


the song still trumpets another central pillar of rape culture, that arousal = consent.

I would like to take this opportunity to propose localroger's corollary to Godwin's Law, which is: Any discussion of feminist topics is over when the phrase rape culture is used.

So with this comment I declare the thread Rogered.
posted by localroger at 3:48 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Doris Day, A Guy is a Guy. Try that today and see if you can avoid a TRO.
posted by dhartung at 3:49 PM on December 6, 2011


Teenage Dirtbag is actually a great song for multiple interpretations. For instance, is the girl in the last verse Noelle, in which case there is more to her personality than he at first saw, or another girl who had heretofor been invisible to him as he was to Noelle?

I see it as the latter, but that was probably not the intent.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:50 PM on December 6, 2011


Also, I can't miss an opportunity to link this charming Christmas classic featuring cute animals.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:51 PM on December 6, 2011


Debating the meaning of lyrics written 75 years ago? Just another day on the internet in 2011.
posted by crunchland at 3:52 PM on December 6, 2011


From the values dissonance departement (TVtropes!), here's a traditional French nursery rhyme about gang rape. Lyrics are in French but the animation is... somehow graphic (see 1:15 to 1:30). And yes, while the song is old (from the 1700?) the animation above is from a recent DVD targeted at children.

Whoa that is bad. The hand-rubbing thing while the tranquilizer'ed singer croons about how she's not going to say what the fourth one did is really over the top. What exactly are little kids supposed to think is going on there?
posted by winna at 3:52 PM on December 6, 2011


I'd also be willing to bet you've never meaningfully feared being roofied and, while it likely isn't what the song is about, that remains an accident of your genitals and orientation and makes for a sad thing to wave around in mixed company.

Thanks for saying this. When I was doing training for rape crisis intervention we had to learn a lot about the after effects of the date rape drug(s) and about how sadly common their use is in NYC. Depressing and frightening.

I mean, LOL!!! Silly women thinking about rape!!! How silly!!!
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:53 PM on December 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Here's Adam Curtis on "Baby It's Cold Outside".

Specifically about that song.
posted by empath at 3:53 PM on December 6, 2011


People discussing stuff? On the Internet? HOW DARE THEY
posted by kmz at 3:53 PM on December 6, 2011


A king-size (and, to my mind, definitive) version
posted by La Cieca at 3:53 PM on December 6, 2011


Oh no! The original link to my Christmas classic featuring cute animals has died.

Fortunately, THERE IS ANOTHER.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:53 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]



"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is the creepy Christmas song you're looking for. Kids don't know Santa isn't Dad so they think Mom's easy.


I grew up in a single parent family where mom was Santa Claus, not my absent dad, so I really didn't get the idea that Santa was supposed to be her husband - I always thought it was Santa cheating on Mrs Claus.
posted by jb at 3:55 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Many of the rest of us feel the need to be able to accurately gauge the effect a drink will have on us because a shocking number of men think drunkenness can replace consent and our legal system regularly proves them shockingly right.

I am curious as to why you felt I needed that lecture. At no point did I present an argument to the contrary.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:58 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would like to take this opportunity to propose localroger's corollary to Godwin's Law, which is: Any discussion of feminist topics is over when the phrase rape culture is used.

Oh yes, because rape culture is obviously just soooooooo irrelevant to feminism.

The equivalent Godwin formulation would be "any discussion of early 1940s European politics is over when Hitler is mentioned!"
posted by kmz at 3:58 PM on December 6, 2011 [25 favorites]


Spitbull & Stagger Lee, THANK YOU. I have always put that Tom Waits song on my Christmas playlists, and my husband, TOM WAITS SUPERFAN, gets so grumpy. He argues that it is not a Christmas song just because it mentions Christmas, and of course he's right because he is a TOM WAITS SUPERFAN. Pardon me, I must go and tell him that the Internet says he's wrong...(also thanks for the Neko Case & Peter Murphy versions; I <3 Christmas music to the max!)
posted by Fui Non Sum at 3:58 PM on December 6, 2011


no kmz, the reason is that the phrase "rape culture" is inflammatory and ill-descriptive of a lot of things it is used to refer to -- the instance I quoted being a perfect example -- and it is exactly like comparing internet trolls to Hitler to use the word "rape" to refer to, for example, any sane deconstruction of this song.
posted by localroger at 4:03 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


who even has a maiden aunt anymore?

my nephews. and my mind isn't vicious - it would be better described as sick. in a good way.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:04 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


"I would like to take this opportunity to propose localroger's corollary to Godwin's Law, which is: Any discussion of feminist topics is over when the phrase rape culture is used.

So with this comment I declare the thread Rogered.
"

Let me get this straight, so discussing the cultural mores that support an environment where rape becomes possible, in a thread about how a song seems to be supportively depicting rape, is analogous to how in any thread about politics someone ends up using Hitler in ill-formed rhetoric?

Please, you flatter yourself, but allow me to join you. I too think this thread has been Rogered. As in that point in every thread even tangentially related to feminism where it gets swamped by dudes projecting a carefully maintained willful ignorance of feminist ideas.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:07 PM on December 6, 2011 [32 favorites]


empath: Here's Adam Curtis on "Baby It's Cold Outside".

The impact of that passage on Qutb is somewhat lessened by the absolute driveling nonsense about Leo Strauss that follows it. Seriously, watching that was what taught me that Adam Curtis is less a historian and more an entertainer.
posted by koeselitz at 4:13 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I am curious as to why you felt I needed that lecture. At no point did I present an argument to the contrary."

If you really can't see why joking about slipping things in people's drinks in a thread where we're discussing The Christmas Date Rape Song might be unpleasant or unwelcome, I really don't know what I can say to satisfy your curiosity.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:14 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now, can anyone provide a feminist take on "Wake Up, Little Susie?"

It empowers women to fall asleep during boring movies.
posted by Zed at 4:17 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I got you all beat: Have Some Madiera, M'Dear
posted by nicwolff at 4:18 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


So many vagaries of interpretation leads to so many possibilities for missed communication. This is why my favorite Christmas carol only has three words. Jingle. Rock. Bell. Read into that, I dares ya.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:19 PM on December 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


Date rape or not, now I'm all spooked that my fourth-grade class sang this song for our parents for Christmas 1992. (And all the girls sang the "really can't stay" lines, and all the boys sang "baby it's cold outside.") And the meaning of the text never even registered with me!
posted by ms.codex at 4:20 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really don't know what I can say to satisfy your curiosity.

And if you don't know why causally reframing a joke about bartenders putting things in my drink, rather than "peoples," in order to make it as unsympathetically as possible, isn't playing cricket, than I don't know what to say in response.

I agree that date rape is a serious subject, and that drunkeness is often an excuse for sexual violence. Your response to me seemed to indicate that you felt that I might not know this, and needed it explained to me forcefully. We do not have an argument here, and yet you are coming at me like we do.

I suggest there are better ways to have this discussion, and one of them is presuming good faith.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:20 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is just another indication that the left is definitely waging war on Christmas!
posted by crunchland at 4:24 PM on December 6, 2011


This, along with a bunch of others fifties era Christmas music was playing in the store when I went out to buy a suit the other day. Part of me noticed that yeah, it's got a sort of skeevie vibe to it, but I was too busy keeping an eye out for super mutants and rad scorpions to really analyze it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:29 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


So long as we all agree that Johnny Mathis' version of Sleigh Ride blows chunks, I'm good.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:31 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The linked rebuttal thought about what it was arguing against, and it builds a much stronger case that way than this kind of strawman crap:

And the problem is you can make that argument for almost anything. I picked White Christmas because it was seen as slightly odd/ironic when sung by Louis Armstrong, who was seen as an Uncle Tom by some of the more "serious" musicians who came just after him. Just because an argument is well thought out doesn't mean it's right, or even worth spending time considering. Louis Armstrong was a brilliant musician who lived his life on his own terms and seemed to have a pretty good time doing it. Is he an Uncle Tom or just nice guy who happened to fit a certain stereotype?

As for whether the "whats in this" is referring to a date rape drug, keep in mind this was long before the term date rape or anything like roofies existed. In the context of the song, I doubt either character was talking about being "slipped a mickey", which would have been closest common phrase at the time (and that was used by gangsters on private detectives who got too nosy). So, if there's anything here, it's only in a modern context and not something inherent to the song.

Sp please pardon my strawman dismissal of the topic as whole, but upon further reflection, it still looks like there's no there there.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:32 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


So long as we all agree that Johnny Mathis' version of Sleigh Ride blows chunks, I'm good.

This is so bad it's almost good.

Almost.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:33 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Debating the meaning of lyrics written 75 years ago? Just another day on the internet in 2011.

our mothers gave us valid advice about this - don't put beans in your ears
posted by pyramid termite at 4:36 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought I hated Christmas music until recently when I discovered that I only hate the 40 or so overplayed versions you hear on standard broadcast radio and in-store playlists. Who can bear hearing the same 40 songs every December? Most people, evidently.
posted by Morrigan at 4:44 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I'm pretty sure I'm a maiden aunt, myself.)

I don't think it matters that roofies were not in common use when the song was written, since plain old alcohol was then and is now used in a similar way.
posted by Karmakaze at 4:46 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


And that don we now our gay apparel was a whole gay pride song. Fa-la-la-fa-la-la-fuh-ged-about-it.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:46 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since we're going for Christmas Songs and the lessons they teach us...

Merry Christmas from the Family

Mom got drunk and dad got drunk at our Christmas party
We were drinking champagne punch and homemade eggnog
Little sister brought her new boyfriend
He was a Mexican
We didn't know what to think of him until he sang
Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad

Brother Ken brought his kids with him
The three from his first wife Lynn
And the two identical twins from his second wife Mary-Nell
Of course he brought his new wife Kay
Who talks all about AA
Chain smoking while the stereo plays Noel, Noel
The First Noel

Carve the turkey turn the ball game on
It's Bloody Marys...
Cause we all want one!
Send somebody to the Stop 'N Go
We need some celery and a can of fake snow
A bag of lemons and some Diet Sprites
A box of Tampons, some Salem Lights
Halelluja, everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the Family
posted by Seeba at 4:48 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


"And if you don't know why causally reframing a joke about bartenders putting things in my drink, rather than "peoples," in order to make it as unsympathetically as possible, isn't playing cricket, than I don't know what to say in response.

I agree that date rape is a serious subject, and that drunkeness is often an excuse for sexual violence. Your response to me seemed to indicate that you felt that I might not know this, and needed it explained to me forcefully. We do not have an argument here, and yet you are coming at me like we do.

I suggest there are better ways to have this discussion, and one of them is presuming good faith.
"

I'm not sure what is more sympathetic or funny about someone drugging your drink specifically in the joke, or hell, where good faith even comes into jokes about date rape drugs in a forum where there are people who have experienced them. That is especially since you seem to understand how serious it is.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:50 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


So date rape was a thing back then. Does that mean this song deserves a pass today?

It's a song about a woman who keeps saying "no" and a man who keeps saying "c'mon, you know you want it" and eventually she gives in. That's coercive sex. The fact that it was common - nay, accepted - nay, joked about in public - doesn't make it any less wrong.

A lot of things about the 40s were normal then, and are not now. That's a good thing.

Unfortunately, "Baby It's Cold Outside" is still not generally recognized as being date-rape-y, which is why it still gets a lot of airtime during the holiday season. Eventually it will go in the same "This Is Problematic And Probably Doesn't Belong On The Air Without Comment" bin as Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the world will be a better place.
posted by ErikaB at 4:53 PM on December 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


I thought I hated Christmas music until recently when I discovered that I only hate the 40 or so overplayed versions you hear on standard broadcast radio and in-store playlists.

I'm not really into Christmas in general, but I love Christmas music and have been collecting it for years.

Every year I try to put together a quality playlist of songs, many familiar, some not so much, which are in versions which are never heard in stores or on the radio, and give it out to friends and family.

They're nearly always successful. People like not hearing the same versions over and over. And some of the renditions are downright insightful.

I suppose I could post one or two of my playlists to my Dropbox if people here really want to hear them.
posted by hippybear at 4:59 PM on December 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


Let me get this straight, so discussing the cultural mores that support an environment where rape becomes possible, in a thread about how a song seems to be supportively depicting rape, is analogous to how in any thread about politics someone ends up using Hitler in ill-formed rhetoric?

Well see, this is exactly what I was talking about; right around the point the "rape culture" card is pulled it becomes impossible to have a discussion about anything, because if you divert from the politically correct line by even one degree, you're a penis worshiping anti-woman troglodyte.

The actual problem with the phrase "rape culture" is that as soon as you say "X is part of the rape culture," no matter what X is, you're no longer really discussing X, you're discussing RAPEY X. It's a cheap rhetorical flourish to push the Overton Window off a cliff in your own direction without actually advancing an argument.

Let me be plainer: IF YOU SEE RAPE IN THIS SONG, THE RAPE IS NOT IN THE SONG, IT IS IN YOUR HEAD. If you want to lean on the line about "what's in this drink" it speaks not to the ill intent of the lyricist, but to your own stupidity about how social mores change and how people have to adapt to live within them. This is ALWAYS true, and will even be true of the Perfect Feminist Society that you would build if you had the cash and followers to go Galt and set it up.

And of course, you're free to use your own version of "Rogering" the thread too. It's appropriate, since my parents helpfully gave me a name which I eagerly looked up around the age of six in my parents' Collegiate Dictionary to learn it meant I was "skilled with the spear."
posted by localroger at 5:00 PM on December 6, 2011 [18 favorites]


That's coercive sex.

Coercion specifically means the use or threat of force. Attempts at persuasion may be unwelcome, but they are not coercive, by definition.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:03 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm no expert on the hidden meaning of Xmas songs, but I'd just like to say that "wassailing" sounds a little kinky

according to some geocities website I read a million years ago, the traditional toast is

toaster: "Was hail!"
assembled partiers: "Drink hail!"

Which is pretty metal. Or at least it seemed so while drinking hot spiced Julio Gallo fortified with a pint of brandy. Floor was comfy that party.
posted by Diablevert at 5:04 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


localrogerThe actual problem with the phrase "rape culture" is that as soon as you say "X is part of the rape culture," no matter what X is, you're no longer really discussing X, you're discussing RAPEY X. It's a cheap rhetorical flourish to push the Overton Window off a cliff in your own direction without actually advancing an argument.

Let me be plainer: IF YOU SEE RAPE IN THIS SONG, THE RAPE IS NOT IN THE SONG, IT IS IN YOUR HEAD.
"

You know, I think this says more about what's in your head than it does about the validity of rape culture as a concept.
posted by Karmakaze at 5:06 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Coercion specifically means the use or threat of force. Attempts at persuasion may be unwelcome, but they are not coercive, by definition."

I bet you've never had someone bigger than you persistently try to persuade you to have sex. Don't imagine some small lady trying to influence your decision making, imagine Ahhnold in his prime or a nice big friendly biker dude cornering you and trying out his spiel.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:08 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


karmakaze, I am now going to officially quit the thread and derail, but I cannot resist the urge to come back atcha with a pot-kettle-black.
posted by localroger at 5:09 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


imagine Ahhnold in his prime or a nice big friendly biker dude cornering you and trying out his spiel.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in my bunk.
posted by hippybear at 5:09 PM on December 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Well see, this is exactly what I was talking about; right around the point the "rape culture" card is pulled it becomes impossible to have a discussion about anything, because if you divert from the politically correct line by even one degree, you're a penis worshiping anti-woman troglodyte.

Actually, people were having a fine discussion about the song - some put forward a well-reasoned argument that it wasn't necessarily about rape, others argued that despite the positive interpretation it still comes from outdated social and sexual norms. We were having a perfectly fine discussion, and now you've come and put words in people's mouths (nobody called anyone an anti-woman troglodyte).

I don't think this thread is as spiteful as you think it is.
posted by twirlypen at 5:09 PM on December 6, 2011 [16 favorites]


Enough fighting among ourselves: I'm handing out torches and pitchforks for the Justin Bieber Xmas song thread that just opened a few doors down.

Allons enfants!
posted by Kinbote at 5:11 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


It does concern me that people have a hard time understanding the difference between the actual date rape of the past (which of course there was) and the knowing plays with seduction which women did very frequently (which there also was). If you're unable to discern the differences it would help to read and view more first-person accounts as well as film and fiction from periods before the 1960s. Was there "rape culture?" Sure. AT the same time, if you were a "nice girl" who also wanted to have sex, you had to make a show of resistance. You really did. Don't believe us? Fine. Ask your grandma or your great-aunts. Or read some women's history about the complexities of living within a gender matrix in which expressions of lust and even simple agreeableness to sexual activity were fraught with potential pitfalls that could brand you in ways from which you simply could not recover.

The song comes from a time in which all this was true at once. That doesn't make this song about date rape. It makes this song about some of the complex ways men and women interacted when gender standards and expectations were quite different than today. And ultimately, the woman is acquiescing here of her own accord. She's the one who elects to stay for half a delicious drink and half a cigarette more. She's the one who thinks through how her acquaintances are going to view her choices. She still stays. Because this, for her, was an acceptable way to express lust and willingness. Not because someone drugged her and barred her escape.

It's a great song, very catchy, and a nice duet for two. I don't plan to stop liking it.
posted by Miko at 5:12 PM on December 6, 2011 [78 favorites]


Let me be plainer: IF YOU SEE RAPE IN THIS SONG, THE RAPE IS NOT IN THE SONG, IT IS IN YOUR HEAD. If you want to lean on the line about "what's in this drink" it speaks not to the ill intent of the lyricist, but to your own stupidity about how social mores change and how people have to adapt to live within them. This is ALWAYS true, and will even be true of the Perfect Feminist Society that you would build if you had the cash and followers to go Galt and set it up.

What an awful, over-the-top, and uncalled-for thing to say about people who interpret a song differently than you do. It's really not that hard to interpret this song in a rapey way.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:13 PM on December 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


I bet you've never had someone bigger than you persistently try to persuade you to have sex.

I have had abundant experience of that, and stand by the distinction I offered above.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:15 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


AT the same time, if you were a "nice girl" who also wanted to have sex, you had to make a show of resistance. You really did. Don't believe us? Fine. Ask your grandma or your great-aunts.

What if you were a nice girl who didn't want to have sex? Wouldn't you make the same show of resistance?
posted by 23skidoo at 5:16 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Let me be plainer: IF YOU SEE RAPE IN THIS SONG, THE RAPE IS NOT IN THE SONG, IT IS IN YOUR HEAD."

Wow. Localroger I agree with you that feminist speak becomes it's own language and despite believe in female and human rights and causes I get confused by the language and what ideology is what and try to stick to compassion for humanity as the root and injustice or suffering occeruing to specefic people as all part of the process of working against suffering.

But seriously this was hurtful. If it's all in her head she has a lot to deal with and that's pretty harsh to tell someone their fears of rape are related to their stupidity.

Here's the thing, tonic immobility, a state in which many nonhuman animals experience fear that induces a mobile state has been observed in some form in humans mostly related to sexual abuse. The reality is that many people find sexual advances both arousing and scary and feel shut down.

Many people see silence as consent and therefore keep going even if the partner is experiences dissociation or terror or shame or shutting down inside.

The movement to establish enthusiastic consent is just so incredibly meaningful because it clears up a lot of confusing situations that can be extremely painful for human beings. I like that movement being mentioned and I don't want you to shut it down by saying feminism ideas are sucky.

I don't use the words "rape culture" because I respect they make some people feel othered and outside of the conversation, but seriously, enthusiastic consent is SO the way to go.
posted by xarnop at 5:17 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


So really I'd better scurry . . . but maybe just a half a drink more

. . .

I ought to say "no, no, no sir" . . . at least I'm gonna say that I tried


I disagree that the woman/ resistant part is clearly showing she wants to leave.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:18 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The actual problem with the phrase "rape culture" is that as soon as you say "X is part of the rape culture," no matter what X is, you're no longer really discussing X, you're discussing RAPEY X. It's a cheap rhetorical flourish to push the Overton Window off a cliff in your own direction without actually advancing an argument.

Rape culture does exist, and it's a very useful term used to describe the ways - some less obvious than others - that rape is condoned, ignored or encouraged in our society. I think that you're being a bit snippy and dismissive here, and ought to consider that not everyone trying to talk about sex issues with you is trying to win an internet belching contest; that some people really are using this term to encourage insight and understanding.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:23 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


It makes this song about some of the complex ways men and women interacted when gender standards and expectations were quite different than today.

You are absolutely right, but that doesn't really change the fact that most people do not delve even remotely this deeply into the sociological background of their christmas-y songs. All the careful explaining in the world about gender norms half a century ago isn't going to change the visceral response some people have today about anything that gives them a creepy feeling regarding coercive sexual behaviors. And at the end of the day, there is no place from which I will ever be comfortable telling someone of any gender that they're wrong for feeling uncomfortable about something that triggers them, regardless of whether or not I am able to perceive the same threat.

It's sort of a lose-lose situation, I guess.
posted by elizardbits at 5:25 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Miko, you're absolutely right, but I'd ask you, don't you think a culture where women were expected to visibly deny consent to sex even when it was there, and where men were expected to ignore visible denials of consent might contribute to at least an increase in the incidence of rape? That is much less contribute to the problems of identifying and punishing rape when it did happen?

This is rape culture! You've just eloquently described many of the insidious ways in which it operated back in the day that it doesn't now. That difference between then and now is something that needs to be acknowledged with this song whenever it is aired because it existed in a world so different and so much more horrible than the one we live in today.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:27 PM on December 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


From the Metafilter archives... Creepy Christmas Carols.

I'm pretty sure we've also discussed this particular song before, but I can't find it.
posted by drezdn at 5:30 PM on December 6, 2011


Persuasive sex is a different thing than rape. I don't see them as the same thing. But the truth is a lot of people DO have a hard time being able to tell the difference. And these kinds of plays between desire and resistance and seduction are part of forces that can be involved in rape happening and also in sex that really hurts people regardless of if you want to call it rape or not.

This song is just a song and it's nothing but an interesting opporunity to discuss whatever people want to discuss here. I think the line between seduction/persuasion/coercion/force-- overriding another person is a state of confusion about whether to agree to have sex or not with words and pressure...

This seems problematic to me. If someone is confused about whether they want to have sex it doesn't seem kind to try to talk them into it in a high pressure let's do this right now sort of way. I recognize that many vulnerable people who have attachment issues and past abuse issues can be persuaded in this manner and that you can find ways of achieveing this state of humiliation and submission that could be "legal" but I find it a cruel practice.

I think the culture of persuading still happens so it's worth talking about how that culture works, who actually wants to be in it and how it affects people who don't want to be persuaded in pushy ways to submit to sexual activities when they have to go to work and be out in public.
posted by xarnop at 5:31 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


"It's appropriate, since my parents helpfully gave me a name which I eagerly looked up around the age of six in my parents' Collegiate Dictionary to learn it meant I was "skilled with the spear.""

I suppose it makes sense that if all you've got is a hammer...
posted by Blasdelb at 5:31 PM on December 6, 2011


That difference between then and now is something that needs to be acknowledged with this song whenever it is aired because it existed in a world so different and so much more horrible than the one we live in today.

I think a lot of people do acknowledge that, though, by forgiving it for its own in-context innocence and ignorance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:32 PM on December 6, 2011


What if you were a nice girl who didn't want to have sex? Wouldn't you make the same show of resistance?

Often quite a similar one. Which was the source of a great many problems, and the reason why, in the past twenty or thirty years of talking about this as a culture, feminists have tried, rightly and valiantly, to inculcate a culture of A) No Means No, and B) It's Okay to Want To Fuck.

But Miko's right. The past was different, and the expectation of a show of resistance was there and was deeply ingrained. It seems to me therefore that the song poses two questions: which is this an example of, an does it undermine today's progress to enjoy/approve an example of the "token resistance" attitude?

I think it's pretty clear the woman in the song is tokenist, despite the fact that a mere reading of the words could go either way, and that's because of the simple fact of the tone in which the song is sung, and the fact that the singers join in harmony at the end. The words on the page could go either way. But the song's being sung in one, and I think it'd be reckless and silly to dismiss that when the great power of music as an art form is its ability to evoke emotion.

Which leads, a bit tangentially perhaps, to the second question. I confess I'm a bit ambivalent there. I suffer no illusions that we've conquered misogyny, or that rape isn't still a huge problem, and encouraging both attitudes A and B above are still necessary to help change that. Acknowledging the complexity of the past in this way does risk undermining progress.

But: The past was complicated, as Miko points out. That's true, and by acknowledging it we can have access to many of it flawed beauties. Like this song. I think that's worthwhile.

Betty Carter/Ray Charles, btw. Definitely.
posted by Diablevert at 5:35 PM on December 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Rudolph isn't about animal cruelty. It's about full-on societal bullying of the "other" until that other proves to be useful due to his otherness.
 "Yeah, I like Rudolph," said Sally.

 "Then you're both assholes," Ed told us. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a totally fucked-up story."

 "Gimme a break," Sally said.

 "I'm serious," Ed said. "I've been thinking about it." He took a swig from his rum bottle, then a swig from the Coke can in his other hand. "I'm serious. First Santa cuts Rudolph from the reindeer team 'cause he's handicapped, he's got this electronic nose, right, and the next thing you know, everyone's down on Rudolph, his parents, his girlfriend, all the shithead reindeers. Am I right?"

 "Yeah," I said. "So what?"

 "So Rudolph runs away and hooks up with the misfits, who are completely excellent, but he has to leave their island because of the Abominable Snowman, right? So after putting Rudolph through all this crap, Santa has the gall to go back to him and beg him to guide the sleigh, because it's foggy out, and all of a sudden the electronic nose is this big bonus item. Now Buddy, if you're Rudolph, what do you do?"

 "You're a reindeer," I said. "It's not like you have much choice."

 "See," he said. "You're a chickenshit, just like Rudolph. But if it was up to me, I'd say, 'Suck my moosecock, Santa, I wouldn't guide your sleigh tonight for a million bucks, you fat shit.' "
Tom Perrotta, Bad Haircut
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 5:35 PM on December 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Rudolph is really about America's resistance to/and final acceptance of the electronic age.
posted by drezdn at 5:38 PM on December 6, 2011


But: The past was complicated, as Miko points out. That's true, and by acknowledging it we can have access to many of it flawed beauties. Like this song. I think that's worthwhile.

I do think we live in danger of completely sanitizing and editing much out of our past if we continually interpret decades-old material in light of modern norms.
posted by hippybear at 5:40 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Witness the recent re-editing of Huckleberry Finn, which was widely panned here on MetaFilter for ignoring historical context with its reissue.
posted by hippybear at 5:41 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Rudolph's fucked-up-ness even got a mention in the anime Azumanga Daioh. This was brought up when a group of friends are out Christmas shopping, and one of them mentions the story of Rudolph, observing, "Telling him 'your red nose will be useful in the fog' ... what a terrible thing to say. That's like telling a bald guy, 'your shiny head would be useful in a dark room.'"
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:41 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is there a parallel here to the use of racial epithets in Huckleberry Finn? In the time period in which it's set, Huck is using normal language to address Jim, but in more recent times, it's seen as incredibly offensive vocabulary.

We can draw two different conclusions based on Twain's work:
1. To our modern ears, using nigger signifies a racist work because it's a racist word with terrible racist connotations. This is how Huck Finn ends up on banned book lists.
2. Twain was using the language of the time in a work that elucidates the cultural context in which it's set, and offers a perspective in to how those characters reacted to the racist culture in which they lived.

For the song, then, we can also draw different conclusions:
1. To our modern ears, this sure sounds a lot like date rape, or at the very least coercive sex (if you draw that distinction). The song is a bad example of how we should behave, so we should discuss it in suitably derogatory terms ("The Christmas Date Rape Song") or eschew it altogether, because it's a song celebrating rape culture.
2. The song was written using the cultural norms about female behavior at the time, and we should use it to understand what was previously expected of women, especially noting that the expected behavior tended to conflate faked denial of consent with actual denial of consent.

Is that a useful framework?

(On preview: Jinx, hippybear!)
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:43 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that the folks who find offense with this song probably celebrate "Winter Celebration", rather than Christmas; it's an unbridgeable cultural disconnect that reminds me of the priggish atmosphere of my undergrad years, back in the early 90s.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:45 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's like telling a bald guy, 'your shiny head would be useful in a dark room.'"

Computer programmers call that "Forehead++".
posted by hippybear at 5:45 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


ATTENTION: Can we please have a moment of silence for our retail-working brothers and sisters who have to listen to the same 12 goddamn songs from the one goddamn holiday CD their douchebag cheapskate boss was willing to buy, for eight solid goddamn hours at a fucking stretch, all at goddamn fucking minimum wage? Thank you.
posted by maxwelton at 5:52 PM on December 6, 2011 [33 favorites]


That difference between then and now is something that needs to be acknowledged with this song whenever it is aired because it existed in a world so different and so much more horrible than the one we live in today.

Great, now that we're back on topic: I don't know. I'm not sure giving everything the hermeneutic rundown whenever a piece of art is played or performed is the right way to go. Should every movie that uses Carmina Burana have some sort of disclaimer about shifting mores surrounding pedophilia? Maybe that's hyperbolic, so insert your artwork of choice that was made from/about/whatever something that we view in a not-so-great light in our current times.

People get so riled up about this song in particular because it's a sort of standard holiday type song that gets a lot of air play around this time of year, but approaching this situation with a sort of categorical imperative mind frame casts the situation in a different light I think.

One thing that can be done is that when the song is remade, the ambiguity of the situation can be fixed and the appeal broadened. If you listen to the Liza Minnelli and Alan Cumming version from the top of the thread, there is this great added bit in the middle where Alan Cumming says basically, "Ok, yeah, go go. That's fine. No problem." And Liza then goes, "Oh, but Alan, really? Are you mad?" And Alan goes "No, no not at all." And then Liza is like, well I really do want to stay, and then they switch parts. It puts the typically female role of the song solidly into the dated flirting territory. It's a creative way to strip the song of its perceived rapeyness, and the radio announcer doesn't have to say, "now kids, when you hear the line about something being in the drink, this was an idiom back in the day, blah blah blah."
posted by Lutoslawski at 5:53 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


localroger has a good point buried in his mean-spirited derail: "rape culture" is something you talk about when you are trying to find the part of something that contributes to the set of attitudes that in turn contribute to the passive acceptance of rape. There are many, many parts of that kind of discussion where an unstated assumption may change everything: precisely what attitudes are problematic, and how? What does it mean to "contribute" to that particular attitude, in the absence of easy answers like "encouraging a particular person or audience to adopt that attitude"?

I see these questions as being literary in nature. Since that term "rape culture" comes with no particular standards about what should or shouldn't be included, it's really a thematic element used to suggest a mindset to the listener and lead the conversation in a particular direction. There's nothing really wrong with either of those things, but it's hard to do either in the best of circumstances. Even when you're writing an essay with a feminist audience in mind it's easy for your readers to interpret your argument a little more concretely than you'd intended, and so we have people who really tried to engage with this type of criticism who came away honestly convinced that "the patriarchy" refers to a set of political and social leaders.

"Rape culture" is not very good as anything other than a thematic element. It doesn't communicate anything in particular if you just say that a thing contributes to rape culture. We live in a rape culture; everything that happens here "contributes" to it in some sense. Or, if you don't subscribe to that interpretation of the phrase, know that your interpretation is not the obvious one, because there is no obvious one.

If you're trying to communicate efficiently, and you're not going to define all your specialized terms at the outset, it's probably better to just say what about this song you personally find creepy, and do an aesthetic critique from there. Having described its effect on you, you may be able to generalize your experience to that of others.

Perhaps the experience is shared widely enough that you can start to say that the song "is" creepy and "has" rape-ish undertones. Cultural symbols only get their meaning by consensus, so that's what you're going for.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:53 PM on December 6, 2011


Hey, KokuRyu, it's actually pretty common to say that one entertainment product or another has unfortunate implications, and then go right on enjoying it.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:01 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I want to point out that I myself have a maiden aunt and was asking the question tongue-in-cheek as a rhetorical kind of jest like thing. The end.
posted by sonika at 6:01 PM on December 6, 2011


ATTENTION: Can we please have a moment of silence for our retail-working brothers and sisters who have to listen to the same 12 goddamn songs from the one goddamn holiday CD their douchebag cheapskate boss was willing to buy, for eight solid goddamn hours at a fucking stretch, all at goddamn fucking minimum wage? Thank you.

I had a friend who once walked off of his shift at Cinnabun because he could not tolerate yet another instrumental rendition of "The 12 Days of Christmas".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:03 PM on December 6, 2011


The award for creepiest and perviest Christmas song (deliberately so) goes to the Goodies' 'Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me'.
posted by andraste at 6:03 PM on December 6, 2011


What if you were a nice girl who didn't want to have sex?

You leave, instead of sitting around accepting more drinks and making coy remarks.

don't you think a culture where women were expected to visibly deny consent to sex even when it was there, and where men were expected to ignore visible denials of consent might contribute to at least an increase in the incidence of rape?

About this, I am really not sure. What do we know about the incidence of rape today vs. 50-60 years ago? So hard to compare apples to apples here. For one thing, in most places it was simply impossible for a married woman to charge her husband with rape, no matter the circumstances. There were also many factors mitigating against rape behavior that existed then that don't exist now. Before agreeing with this speculation I would want to see some usable data, and I suspect that data is pretty difficult for lots of easy-to-pinpoint reasons. So while the reporting of rape may have gone up, the punishment of rape may have gone up, and the grounds for a charge of rape may have been expanded, I'm really not sure we can say with any confidence that the incidence of rape is less or more today than in the past. There may be some reliable research on this that I'm not aware of, but I wouldn't make a determination about how I feel about it in the absence of such research.

That is much less contribute to the problems of identifying and punishing rape when it did happen?

Here I think is safer ground; still, I'm not sure that we have really effectively solved this issue of identifying when rape has happened. We probably have a less permissive/silencing culture today as far as suppressing accusations of rape, but that's exactly my point. Things have really changed as far as what women can expect to do and say publicly without negative social consequences.

If all this is to get me to say "Elements in the culture made rape seem more permissible for men and shameful for women in the past" you have my agreement. That, though, does not mean that every instance in which people engaged in the kind of conversation in the song was about rape.

It's probably hard to understand a time when "Say, what's in this drink" was funny, but it was black humor even then. People in the 40s and 50s grew up with the awareness of the Mickey Finn as a real threat, and were referring to that. It was perceived as a threat to men as well as to women, though, and the threat was often robbery, not rape. We've got plenty of darker jokes today. And plenty of more direct and explicit references to actual rape.

I'm sincerely sorry if the song bothers some people. But, as someone above noted, it's probably not going anywhere,and perhaps greater understanding in context would take away some of the perceived sting. If the song bothers you, I imagine it's very hard to read books, watch films, or enjoy music from before the 1970s, of any kind. That is a hard road because pop culture is full of references to the way things used to be, and much of the content is still really good.

If I could wish a Christmas song off the planet, it would be the execrableDominic the Donkey, but I don't think I'm going to be successful.

Rosemary's Baby (1968):
Rosemary Woodhouse: What's in this drink?
Minnie Castevet: Snips and snails and puppy dog's tails.
Rosemary Woodhouse: Oh? And what if we wanted a girl?
Minnie Castevet: Do you?
Rosemary Woodhouse: Well, it would be nice if the first one was a boy.
posted by Miko at 6:04 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well my, if The Urban Dictionary and some blog with "Bitch" in the title say this song is about date rape then it must be so rolls eyes

Next on Geraldo! .....
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:06 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


You leave, instead of sitting around accepting more drinks and making coy remarks.

Oh, heh, I can see it coming. No, I'm not saying that you deserved to get raped if you didn't leave. I'm saying that women had to be, and were, clear and firm if they didn't want to have sex, as they do today. And if they didn't think their request was being honored, they had to do what they needed to do to get out of the situation.

The decision to play back and forth with coy remarks was a decision to participate in a sexualized exchange, and women for the most part (unless naive) knew that when they chose to engage in it. That didn't mean they expected it would lead to sex, but they understood what they were doing, just as we do today when we banter like this.
posted by Miko at 6:09 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"What if you were a nice girl who didn't want to have sex?

You leave, instead of sitting around accepting more drinks and making coy remarks."

But this sort of leaves the impression that if a woman has drinks with and flirts with a man it automatically means she is consenting to sex.

Can't a woman want to flirt with a man and possibly want to have sex with him at some point, or possibly not depending on whether they might be a good match or not, and not want to have sex with him on that occasion? Is flirting and socializing inherently consenting to sexual activity?
I ask sincerely, I don't go on dates because I pressume you're right, but I wish this wasn't the assumption because I wish it were possible to get to know a man without pushy sexual advances with a lot of pressure to consent to sex immediately on that particular evening being the assumed behavior of a man if I go on a date or have a conversation.
posted by xarnop at 6:09 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great, now I'm going to have Dominic the Donkey in my head for the rest of the holiday season. Every year, I try my best to forget that that song even exists and every year - it finds me. Mostly because my husband loves the hell out of it for reasons passing understanding.

HEE HAW.
posted by sonika at 6:10 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


If I could wish a Christmas song off the planet, it would be the execrableDominic the Donkey yt , but I don't think I'm going to be successful.

WHAT HAVE I JUST LISTENED TO!? You have ruined my life.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:12 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeah, saw it coming xarnop.

I wish it were possible to get to know a man without pushy sexual advances with a lot of pressure to consent to sex immediately on that particular evening being the assumed behavior of a man if I go on a date or have a conversation.

...it is possible, and it always was possible.
posted by Miko at 6:12 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, folks. I've held off for as long as I could. For the last ten years, I have sent out a Christmas Mix CD as a card (some lucky MeFites have gotten some or all of them). To put together the 20 or so songs each year, I go through HUNDREDS of songs and albums to pick the ones I want.

And I can say DEFINITIVELY that the creepiest Christmas Song is Judy Collins's version of the Cherry Tree Carol.

In this song:
* Joseph verbally bitchslaps the Virgin Mary by telling her to go run to her baby-daddy
* The Christ-child in Mary's womb speaks to her
* Baby Jesus commands trees to fall at the feet of Mary
* Mary mocks Joseph by showing him her power
* A young Jesus tells Mary that He will one day "be as dead mother as the stones are in the wall" and the "stones in the street shall sorrow for me"

It's the song my wife hates more than anything. She'd flee our home, but baby, it's cold outside.
posted by ColdChef at 6:13 PM on December 6, 2011 [21 favorites]


I'm more disturbed that all of the Boney M female vocal tracks were actually sung by one man.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:14 PM on December 6, 2011


Characters in a song cannot commit actual crimes.
posted by spitbull at 6:14 PM on December 6, 2011


Doesn't look like anybody's yet mentioned this version of the song which was part of a Gap ad campaign from a few years ago. It has the male / female roles reversed, and Rainn Wilson & Selma Blair ham it up pretty good.
posted by Potsy at 6:15 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also this song pales in comparison to "Hold still, close your eyes girl, I wanna fucking tear you apart" or "Let me get close to you, you wouldn't want me have to hurt you to" or "She pulls her covers tighter, I press against the door, I will be with her tonight"

but I figure with media it's not so much that it gets created or viewed, but how we view it and discuss it. In that sense it provides great opportunities to discuss social phenomena which is in reality a good thing, no?

"...it is possible, and it always was possible."
I'm sure your meaning is clearer than it appears to me, but I;m genuinely not sure what you're trying to say here?
posted by xarnop at 6:15 PM on December 6, 2011


ColdChef's CD last year was pretty damn awesome, though it made me realize that I'm going to have to hear "This Christmas, Grandma cooked the dog!" more times than I can count once my son gets old enough to have holiday music related listening preferences.
posted by sonika at 6:18 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're lucky. The year before, the big finale was "I Farted On Santa's Lap, Now Christmas Is Gonna Stink For Me."
posted by ColdChef at 6:19 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


And I can say DEFINITIVELY that the creepiest Christmas Song is Judy Collins's version of the Cherry Tree Carol.

This is one of the strangest songs I have ever heard. And I spend a lot of time on ubuweb. Also, I was listening and was thinking to myself, "god good, what is this like a 12 minute song?" honestly thinking it had been at least around 10 minutes. I switched back to the youtube page and it had been 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:20 PM on December 6, 2011


You're welcome.
posted by ColdChef at 6:21 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do think we live in danger of completely sanitizing and editing much out of our past if we continually interpret decades-old material in light of modern norms.

I don't think there's any need to "sanitize" anything -- but there's every need to continuously reevaluate music, books, etc, in light of modern norms. There's a reason that Tintin is still beloved, because Herge made kickass art, but at the same time we have pretty much allowed books like Tintin in the Congo to drift into the backeddies of our bookshelves, because the repellent parts outweigh the wonderfulness.

Personally, I really detest the song in this FPP, and I find its story of coercive/coquettish sexuality really dissonant today. But I'm also aware that it was made in a different era, that it can be read in a very light-hearted way without that baggage, and that many, many people still subscribe to a "no means maybe" model of sexual behavior. There's no contradiction there -- both coexist in the same culture without any head explosions happening.
posted by Forktine at 6:22 PM on December 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


The criticism of this song is way off base. It's clear in the context of the song that the person saying "what's in this drink" is saying "boy, I sure am getting high", and trying to attribute their growing desire to alcohol--with a sort of humorous insincerity.

On the other hand... the song "Thank Heavens for Little Girls" is positively CREEPY, especially when sung by an aging lothario.
posted by mondo dentro at 6:29 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


winna: The hand-rubbing thing while the tranquilizer'ed singer croons about how she's not going to say what the fourth one did is really over the top. What exactly are little kids supposed to think is going on there?

Probably death, or "a fate worse than death" left to one's imagination. Anyway while not enough of my high school French survives to make out the ending I do note that Lariette's friends pick up scythes, which is (in fairy tale terms) heartening :-)
posted by localroger at 6:32 PM on December 6, 2011


all at goddamn fucking minimum wage*?

Yeah! I get a moment of silence.

*I didn't realize I was making minimum wage at my job until the other day. The really sad thing is that I worked at the place previously and started there at more than what I make now (with six additional years of experience in the "industry"). Such is the life of a seasonal employee/SAHD.
posted by drezdn at 6:34 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the song bothers you, I imagine it's very hard to read books, watch films, or enjoy music from before the 1970s, of any kind.

The song bothers people for very specific reasons that are not present in most pre-1970 books, films and music. I imagine people who are bothered by this song have no problem liking things solely because they came from a different era.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:37 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Doesn't look like anybody's yet mentioned this version yt of the song which was part of a Gap ad campaign from a few years ago. It has the male / female roles reversed, and Rainn Wilson & Selma Blair ham it up pretty good.

Rape's funny when it's Rainn Wilson!

(Actually, I like the nice, firm "no" at the end.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:39 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Adelaide: The doctor thinks my cold might possibly be caused by psychology.
Nathan: Ah, how does he know you got psychology?
Adelaide: Nathan, everybody has got it. And female psychology explains why certain types of girls do certain types of things.

Just for a little context, something else by the great Frank Loesser.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:43 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The song bothers people for very specific reasons that are not present in most pre-1970 books, films and music.

Sexism, double standards and other things endemic to what is called "rape culture" are present in the most foundational ways in most such media, in that they are set in and describe a world in which women do not have full political and social agency.

We just had a conversation in another thread here today about themes of domestic abuse in Beatles songs.

I find sexism part of the very air of almost all media created before recent decades. It was the water we swam in. I'm still an aficionado of Golden Age cinema, though, even though I can't ignore the fact that the most basic plot elements would not even work today because the very mechanisms the storytelling relies on are built on the presumption of lack of direct, explicit, clear female agency.
posted by Miko at 6:43 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


One of these days...
posted by KokuRyu at 6:46 PM on December 6, 2011


As GallonOfAlan posted above, the version by Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews is outstanding, especially given that Cerys has an incredibly sexy and playful voice, and of course nothing needs be said about Tom Jones. Here is the live version of the song and here is the official video.

Other favorites:

Holy $#!* It's Christmas (NSFW)
White Christmas (The Drifters...animated!)
12 Days of Christmas (Allan Sherman)
posted by Quasimike at 6:46 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I sang this song with my wife as a duet in a studio recital.

Some covers are creepy, some are coy, some are just dumb. A lot of the final assessment comes down to how the key "what's in this drink" line is sung by the guest, and whether the host's imprecations ever get even the slightest tinge of desperate.

We played it sweet and silly and it was a lot of fun.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:00 PM on December 6, 2011


Well my, if The Urban Dictionary and some blog with "Bitch" in the title say this song is about date rape then it must be so rolls eyes

I'll acknowledge the that Urban Dictionary link was a bit of a cheap way of summarizing the well-worn meme with which this post deals. Bitch is a pretty well respected feminist magazine, though, so I'm going to disagree with your insinuation that it is not a reputable source simply because you don't like its title.

I'm not really sure about the protocol around "defending" my own FPP, so someone please let me know if this is out of line.
posted by asnider at 7:12 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


And I can say DEFINITIVELY that the creepiest Christmas Song is Judy Collins's version of the Cherry Tree Carol.

I kind of like Sting's take. But that could just be because it's Sting.

I'll be quiet now.

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:20 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, I would have been hard pressed to see any sort of sex in this song at all. All we really know is that they were alone for a night by the fire and they are worried about what friends and family would think. I'm just saddened that there are people who see the world as so hostile that this wonderful playful song triggers such a bad vibe.

Maybe it is the incredibly loving way my parents would sing it back and forth to each other whenever we'd have bad winter weather throughout my youth, but I simply can't fathom seeing it any other way.
posted by meinvt at 7:57 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


needs to be acknowledged with this song whenever it is aired because it existed in a world so different and so much more horrible than the one we live in today.

So the world that produced "Baby It's Cold Outside" is 'so much more horrible' than today's world, where you can hardly turn on the radio without hearing some rapper go on about bitches and hos or an R&B singer going on about how she'll only have sex if the dude has lots of money. All right then.

Violent crimes of all types are higher today than in the 1940s-50s, I suspect the same might be true of rape. (Although it's hard to say, admittedly, as I'm sure it was an underreported crime). There are more things that make a culture pleasant or horrible than peoples' willingness to be strident about feminist ideology.
posted by zipadee at 8:00 PM on December 6, 2011


It was the water we swam in. I'm still an aficionado of Golden Age cinema, though, even though I can't ignore the fact that the most basic plot elements would not even work today because the very mechanisms the storytelling relies on are built on the presumption of lack of direct, explicit, clear female agency.

As a fan of MGM musicals, I was thinking about this "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers." The movie has characters do some seriously outdated (even at the time of filming) things, but after acknowledging that, I still enjoy the dance numbers and songs.
posted by drezdn at 8:05 PM on December 6, 2011


Billy Idol turns "Jingle Bell Rock" into a grisly anthem about the molestation of a pop standard in exchange for a pittance of coke money, from what I can tell.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:06 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think I've never heard this song. I'm reluctant to click on one of the links to confirm, because of a strange feeling that it would somehow be a travesty to stop it from being true by checking whether it's true or not.

I have been seeing various quotes of the title in recent weeks, some of which in context made it clear that it was a song, but until seeing this post, I was guessing that it was a recent pop song that I was unfamiliar with.

One of the references was that a friend recently posted a picture of her newborn baby swaddled in a snowsuit, and captioned it "Baby it's cold outside!". Having now read the lyrics, uh, that's disturbing, date rape or not.

Anyway, best Christmas song ever.
posted by Flunkie at 8:11 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is one of the strangest songs I have ever heard. And I spend a lot of time on ubuweb. Also, I was listening and was thinking to myself, "god good, what is this like a 12 minute song?"

RAMADAN, LOTS OF FUN, LOTS OF PRAYING WITH NO BREAKFAST
posted by middleclasstool at 8:13 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Violent crimes of all types are higher today than in the 1940s-50s

This strikes me as untrue. Do you have the data to back this up?
posted by asnider at 8:17 PM on December 6, 2011


RAMADAN, LOTS OF FUN, LOTS OF PRAYING WITH NO BREAKFAST

That's ridiculous. Iftar is one of the most important things about Ramadan, as it gives those observing it the fuel needed to make it until the nighttime meal.

This is insensitive, and makes me feel like I've been anti-muslim coercive-sex raped.
posted by hippybear at 8:21 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even if you meant sariph and not iftar, it's equally offensive.
posted by hippybear at 8:22 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, since literally nobody was clamoring for them, here they are.

Two Christmas Music mixes, plus one Un-Xmas mix. In mp3 format. They should sequence themselves in something like VLC, although I don't know how they'll import to iTunes because I didn't have the heart to rename all the original album names to my own.

Enjoy!

I'll leave these up until the end of the year, so download whenever you want. They're good, in my most humble opinion.
posted by hippybear at 8:28 PM on December 6, 2011 [15 favorites]


Damn, I missed reading this thread when it went up because I was off dancing to a "All I Want For Christmas Is You" routine. Really.

Anyway, I think this song can really be interpreted either way, and what it boils down to is the performances of the wolf and mouse. Especially how creepy the wolf is being, or how in the mouse is on the joke/act. And I don't care, I like the Glee version since (a) yes, two dudes is enjoyable, and (b) the mouse is clearly in on the joke while the wolf isn't being too creepy. Win-win.

I desperately want ColdChef's mixes, and am downloading hippybear's right now. I used to do horrible holiday mixes-- or non-horrible, really I just look for anything that's a new(er) Christmas song-- and I really should get back to it.

And now I'm going to go click on every link in this thread! WHEE!
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:31 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I knew I had this song in my collection because I'm quite fond of it. Sure enough. I have the Johnny Mercer & Meg Whiting version which is a fun, Hollywood Musical-style version.

I'm looking at my Dr. Demento Christmas collection to see if there is anything over-the-top weird that hasn't been mentioned.

I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus

I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
Christmas Dragnet
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:32 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


meinvt: "I'm just saddened that there are people who see the world as so hostile..."

I understand your general sentiment, but it's not that there are people who see the world as being hostile, it's that there are people to whom the world has been so hostile.
posted by Phire at 8:50 PM on December 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


As a fan of MGM musicals, I was thinking about this "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers."

I've always wanted to do a staged reading of Seven Brides, like the kind where everyone comes to the theatre and there aren't any sets or anything, but the whole book is read and sung through with the actors just on stage with music stands and the script. No one is in costume, just like nice suits and dresses. I just think a guy on stage, holding the book, wearing a tie, singing "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" as if it were like a preview for a new work would be the best thing ever.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:52 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


For people who are saying roofies didn't exist in the 40s, have you ever heard of being slipped a mickey?

(Not that I think the song is about that.)
posted by empath at 8:52 PM on December 6, 2011


This strikes me as untrue. Do you have the data to back this up?

I can't find the figures on the net, but it's fairly well known that in the U.S. the middle of the 20th century had extremely low violent crime rates. They started rising sharply around the mid 1960s (then murder rates started dropping again in the late 90s, which was a big surprise). This data tool will let you list FBI national crime data back to 1960, but unfortunately not before. The total violent crime rate today is two and a half times the rate in 1960, and the reported forcible rape rate is about three times higher. To my great surprise, murder rates appear to be back to their 1960 level.
posted by zipadee at 8:53 PM on December 6, 2011


Well, since literally nobody was clamoring for them, here they are.

Thanks! I totally meant to clamor for it, but I forgot. Then I remembered but I thought you probably left the thread and was idly considering memailing you.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:54 PM on December 6, 2011


The total violent crime rate today is two and a half times the rate in 1960, and the reported forcible rape rate is about three times higher.

Yeah, but things like marital rape and other commonly un-reported rapes aren't counted.
posted by empath at 8:54 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Say what you want about Ice T's "Let's Get Buck Naked and Fuck", at least its intent is clear.

Destined to become a new holiday classic!
posted by mazola at 9:23 PM on December 6, 2011


zipadee: “The total violent crime rate today is two and a half times the rate in 1960, and the reported forcible rape rate is about three times higher. To my great surprise, murder rates appear to be back to their 1960 level.”

This is just about true:

Wikipedia: “In the United States, murder rates have been higher and have fluctuated. They fell below 2 per 100,000 by 1900, rose during the first half of the century, dropped in the years following World War II, bottomed out at 4.0 in 1957 before rising again. The rate stayed in 9 to 10 range most of the period from 1972 to 1994, before falling to 5 in present times.”

... however, you can note that the murder rate was apparently higher in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s than it is now, and that it peaked during Prohibition.

One should note that murder rate is not by any stretch a direct measure of crime necessarily; but it seems to be the case that crime really did reach something of a peak in the 1930s and 1940s. But yes, it's been much higher.

I think people who believe it's lower are probably thinking of the fact that crime has dropped dramatically since 1990, and a lot of folks have spent a lot of time coming up with reasons (some crazy) for why this might be.
posted by koeselitz at 9:32 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, since literally nobody was clamoring for them, here they are.

Thanks! I totally meant to clamor for it, but I forgot. Then I remembered but I thought you probably left the thread and was idly considering memailing you.


For what it's worth: ditto.
posted by asnider at 9:44 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


When my son was 4, his favorite song was Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones. He never did ask me about the lyrics.

Mine preferred Tom Waits' "God's Away On Business."

Reading this discussion makes me think that half of the thread has never had fun flirting with someone they're already in a relationship with; I don't know why, but I always (as an adult) interpreted the song to be about two people in a committed relationship who aren't married yet, and live in a time when they aren't "supposed" to be sleeping together (and certainly aren't living together,) and so they flirt and tease each other with an elaborate social dance to enjoy the pleasure of flaunting the forbidden nature of their romance...and then jump each other enthusiastically. Just like they did the week before.

Also: when do we get an analysis of Oingo Boingo's "(I Like) Little Girls"?
posted by davejay at 9:57 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


As a fan of MGM musicals, I was thinking about this "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers." The movie has characters do some seriously outdated (even at the time of filming) things, but after acknowledging that, I still enjoy the dance numbers and songs.

I adored Seven Brides for Seven Brothers when I was younger, but it's unwatchable now because of the premise. 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' is pretty much in the same category, with the exception of the Built For The Sea version. The Built For The Sea version is great because it is altered so it's solely the internal monologue of the woman and her inner conflict about whether or not to stay. And I love it dearly it all its dreamy meditativeness.
posted by winna at 10:12 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I guess you could make the argument that things were better in the 1940s-1950s, provided you amended that with "for an adult heterosexual white male, and provided they weren't fighting in either WW2 or Korea, or were openly communist". Then sure, they weren't at all more horrible times to live in.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:36 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Are you freaking kidding me? This is my and my husband's favorite Christmas song. It's about seduction, flirtation, and doing something naughty and against societal norms - an unmarried woman having a lay at a man's house.

It isn't about roofies or date rape.

I swear people will find something wrong with everything.
posted by Malice at 11:51 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Say, what's in this drink"

For what it's worth, the FPP's "Listening While Feminist" link explains the context of this comment - to whit, this was a common slang phrase that was used to humorously give one's self permission to behave in a drunken fashion.

I'm trying to think of a contemporary equivalent, but I don't know that we have anything more clever than "I'm so wasted," as employed after one beer.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:26 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


For people who are saying roofies didn't exist in the 40s, have you ever heard of being slipped a mickey?

Also, of course, it's well known that cave men would bash their prospective mates over the head with a club before dragging them off by their hair, a form of date rape vividly depicted on the popular children's cartoon The Flintstones. The wooziness the woman in the song is attributing to her drink may well have been the result of the man striking her over the head with a large candy cane in a fit of patriarchal domination.
posted by XMLicious at 12:53 AM on December 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


It seems to me that most (though not all) of the lyrics to the song would work equally well if the "male" part was not her lover, but instead the "devil on her shoulder," so to speak. (like Jiminy Cricket if he had a pair) It's clear from the get-go that her objections to staying are NOT due to her own proclivities, but instead center around what other people will think. So it's quite conceivable that she could be rationalizing the whole thing on her own.

Rather than simply reversing the gender roles, I wonder what would happen if they juxtaposed "whose house they're at," and instead made a scenario where the guy refused to leave?
posted by ShutterBun at 12:55 AM on December 7, 2011


Metafilter: Arguing about arguing.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:40 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frankly, this is ridiculous.

You want creepy, rape-y song lyrics? What about these two lines in "Jailhouse Rock"?

"Number forty-seven said to number three
You are the cutest jailbird I ever did see."


However, in the creepy stakes it gets beaten by a long distance by a song often mistakenly understood as romantic, namely "I'll Be Watching You". Nice melody, but the lyrics creep me out.
posted by Skeptic at 1:46 AM on December 7, 2011


Don't forget Charlene.
posted by XMLicious at 1:56 AM on December 7, 2011


I do not for one minute believe that there are more rapes on a per capita basis in the US today (define rape almost any way you want) than in the 1940s. I suspect if anything it's the contrary.
posted by spitbull at 4:02 AM on December 7, 2011


Skeptic: That's called proto-snark, of the sort frequently delivered by Leiber and Stoller. It's a virtual trademark.
posted by raysmj at 5:17 AM on December 7, 2011


Talk about beanplating. Why couldn't the guy have stayed on the couch?

Are Women's Studies majors eligible for taxpayer-guaranteed student loans too?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:29 AM on December 7, 2011


Metafilter: like Jiminy Cricket if he had a pair.
posted by ifjuly at 5:35 AM on December 7, 2011


I do not for one minute believe that there are more rapes on a per capita basis in the US today (define rape almost any way you want) than in the 1940s. I suspect if anything it's the contrary.

And I suspect that there might not be an enormous difference, adjusted for population.

It's going to be impossible to prove due to the differences in legislation and the underreporting of rape (which of course still happens, just most likely not as often as in the past). The US crime rate chart shows rape increasing to highs of five times or so the 1960 levels while the population only doubled. Is this only a chance frequency of reporting? Could that account for peaks in the 1990s and 2000s? Or could it genuinely reflect increasing frequencies of rape? Could increasing alcohol consumption and reducing the overall level of cultural 'chaperoning' for young men and women have created conditions more favorable to rape? Some sources say that 59% of rapes are still not reported - if we consider those, does that shed a different light on our assumptions about rape pre-1960?

I just don't think it's a simple question. Rape is a perennial problem and though I think we have made some valuable strides, I just don't know that we can declare it is more or less common, especially compared with eras we can't measure and sample in the same ways we do today.
posted by Miko at 5:37 AM on December 7, 2011


> I don't think there's any need to "sanitize" anything -- but there's every need to continuously reevaluate music, books, etc, in light of modern norms.

This. I get so sick of people thinking if you want to evaluate some good ol' thing from the past through modern lenses as a thought exercise/social-cultural mine, you are implicitly trying to eradicate the past. Far from it. It's similar to the tiresome "you're overthinking it, why you wanna do that" calls of beanplating. If you don't want to do it, that's fine, but being like "nobody else should bother either and if you want to you're being silly or shrill" is so ugh.
posted by ifjuly at 5:37 AM on December 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


The song bothers people for very specific reasons that are not present in most pre-1970 books, films and music.

Sexism, double standards and other things endemic to what is called "rape culture" are present in the most foundational ways in most such media, in that they are set in and describe a world in which women do not have full political and social agency.

Sexism, double standards and unempowered women aren't what make people think "date rape" when they hear this song. It's the woman saying "no" over and over again, the man saying "yes" over and over again, and the "what's in this drink" line. If sexism, double-standards and unempowered women were all it took to make people think of date rape, then EVERY old song, movie and book would be associated with date-rape, and that is simply not the case.

It's great if people like this song, and it's great if they want to help people understand the real meaning of the song. But liking a song shouldn't blind you to the reality that the people who hear this as a song about date-rape have really obvious and simple-to-understand reasons for doing so.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:40 AM on December 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Actually, I bet the overall incidents of rape went down in the US in the 1940s, because more than 10 million men between ages 18 and 30 were enlisted in the service and removed from their communities between 1941 and 1945. I suspect incidents of rape also went up in the towns where they were living on bases and of course in the field.

On the other hand, then everybody came back and you had all the domestic upset we hear reflected in honky tonk lyrics as men tried to reclaim their places in a society that had reorganized around their absence. that might have resulted in a spike in violence and maybe for the whole decade we'd see it average out to something more like the rates during non-war times.

Hard to know!
posted by Miko at 5:41 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm looking at my Dr. Demento Christmas collection to see if there is anything over-the-top weird that hasn't been mentioned.

I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus


This song is amusing on its own, but I still remember the hilarious way it was released (to the wider NY market - I have no idea who knew the song previously).

It was the heady day of the dawn of the "Morning Zoo" DJ genre and NY was the primordial ooze from which these wacky beings emerged. Long before they would become a cliche of prank calling sound f/x board operators, they were actually funny as they basically had complete creative freedom due to their unprecedented popularity/ratings dominance/firehose of money. Also I was like 13 so that helped.

One starts the intro to this song with a very serious warning about how controversial this song might be (1983, remember) and the other DJ busts in imploring the listeners to turn the song off right away if they find it offensive. Just turn it off and call in if you don't like it.

So they play the song, in which a kid with a funny voice sees Daddy kissing Santa Claus, getting him drunk on wine, feeling him up, then finally they both undress and he realizes it is mommy in disguise!

But of course, anyone who was going to be offended never got to the ending. I think they rode the shitstorm they created for the next week at least.

It's kind of hard to visualize the context of how much outrage there could be - hey it's NYC not one of those uptight markets! But consider - over ten years later (1995) when Jill Sobule released I Kissed A Girl there was a big outrage and it was pulled from daytime rotation on some NY Top 40 stations (and elsewhere).
posted by mikepop at 6:28 AM on December 7, 2011


It's the woman saying "no" over and over again, the man saying "yes" over and over again, and the "what's in this drink" line.

But she isn't saying no. Nowhere in the actual lyrics of the song does she ever once say "no". She's saying "I ought to say no". And what that means is entirely in the delivery. What "No" means is clear and unambiguous. But there are several possible readings of "I ought to say no": And that's just off the top of my head. As the third has faded because there is a lot less social pressure on women not to appear to be easy, the first has become a lot more obvious.
posted by Francis at 6:32 AM on December 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Nowhere in the actual lyrics of the song does she ever once say "no".

False, she comes right out and says "the answer is no". I understand the nuances of it all and blahblahblah, but she actually does say "the answer is no". The date-rape-hearers aren't just imagining that.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:47 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I get so sick of people thinking if you want to evaluate some good ol' thing from the past through modern lenses as a thought exercise/social-cultural mine, you are implicitly trying to eradicate the past.

All well and good. A measure of the quality of a piece of art is its surviving the translation into a different cultural context. I suppose length and quality of this thread would indicate that this song has a certain - um - resonance that invites multiple interpretations, and that might be a point in its favor as an enduring cultural artifact.

Still, I'm slightly bothered that we're even having this discussion, about what always sounded to me like a fairly harmless ditty about consensual seduction. I feel like I've walked into a parallel universe where women are so used to feeling endangered and/or objectified that they can't see a little humorous flirtation without crying "rape".

In other words, it's not the lyric that's at fault. It's the culture that normalizes an interpretation that casts the woman as a victim rather than a consenting adult. I find this much more disturbing than any incarnation of the song itself.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 7:05 AM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


this thread would indicate that this song has a certain - um - resonance that invites multiple interpretations, and that might be a point in its favor as an enduring cultural artifact.

And I think the resonance is something timeless: the role of playfulness, playacting, teasing and seduction in healthy and consensual flirtation. That has not gone away (in my opinion, it should not go away even if we were able to will it away, which I don't think we are), and that's why those of us who read more than a literal, one-dimensional refusal into the song still really enjoy it.
posted by Miko at 7:12 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


False, she comes right out and says "the answer is no". I understand the nuances of it all and blahblahblah, but she actually does say "the answer is no". The date-rape-hearers aren't just imagining that.

Glenn Beck agrees.
posted by empath at 7:24 AM on December 7, 2011


Wow, I'm shocked--not one reference to this awesome version, from the heroine of "Alien" and a former New York Doll!
posted by kinnakeet at 7:27 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, the date-rape-hearers aren't just imagining that. But the non-date-rape-hearers aren't imagining that the VAST majority of her statements relate to what she should do, not what she wants, or that the only reason "What's in this drink?" is there in the first place is most likely that it rhymes with "the neighbors might think."

The basic pattern of the song is that she makes a reference to social convention or politeness or other people's expectations: you've been so kind but I really ought to leave, my parents will say this, my brother will do that, my aunt will gossip about me, people will talk, I shouldn't. The message is overwhelmingly, "If I stay, people will say I'm a slut." There are other lines, but that is her overwhelming message.

Very explicitly, she says, "I ought to say no, no, no, sir / at least I'm gonna say that I tried." She is herself pointing out the differences between what she ought to do and what she wants to do and expressing her fears about what social judgment will be dropped upon her. His responses are about the what will actually feel good and be fun: It's cold out there and warm in here, there's a storm, you'll never get a cab anyway, there's a roaring fire, I'll hold your hand, I think you're beautiful. Her concerns are about what's outside of the two of them, and his responses are about what's inside the room with them, if you want to get ridiculously overanalytical about it. And in that sense, in which he's encouraging her to follow what she wants rather than the judgment she thinks people like her aunt will dump on her head, I've always found it kind of freeing.

And very, very early, she equivocates: "Maybe just a half a drink more."

Obviously, you could perform it and stage it so that he's blocking the door and preventing her from leaving; you could perform it so that she clearly really wants to leave, but that's not in the text, to me. What's in the text has always been, to me, a little flirtation that involves, like many little flirtations, a touch of teasing persuasion. I mean, you could read it as coercive, but I never have.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:34 AM on December 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


The notion that "Baby It's Cold Outside" is "date-rapey" is unalloyed claptrap. What strikes me as anti-feminist about the song is the notion, which many on this thread have pointed out, that she feels she needs to play hard to get, and that she faces social stigma if she stays.

But it's clearly playing. The giveaway is that on the choruses, they harmonize "baby, it's cold outside." She doesn't want to go. I'm as happy as anyone that we don't have to go through such silly and ambiguous rituals in order to get busy, but seductive play wouldn't exist without a little ambiguity, and mature people ought to be able to understand and even embrace the fact.

I fail to understand how it can be obvious that the traditionally male voice's "Baby, it's cold outside" is clearly not genuine concern about the weather, but rather a thinly disguised sexual proposition, and not be obvious that the traditionally female voice's demurrals are strictly pro forma. If one is going to take her protests literally, then one should be forced to read his as literal concern about the weather -- but no one does, do they? And why should they? She wants to stay; it's as simple as that.

As for the "what's in this drink" line, I'm not the first in this thread to point out that back then -- when "martini" wasn't ever preceded by the word "chocolate" -- cocktail culture meant that people drank strong drinks.

And very, very early, she equivocates: "Maybe just a half a drink more."

And then later she equivocates again: Maybe just a half a cup more. They've moved beyond drinking, and are having coffee or cocoa.

She doesn't want to go, and she's engaging -- whether for cultural reasons or personal ones -- in flirtatious play-acting. Yes, her choosing to do so undermines the modern concept of "no means no," but it strikes me as strange that anyone interested in a woman's agency would refuse to allow her that choice.

What's in the text has always been, to me, a little flirtation that involves, like many little flirtations, a touch of teasing persuasion. I mean, you could read it as coercive, but I never have.

Shorter me: Yes, this.
posted by Gelatin at 8:05 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


By the way, I encourage you to seek out -- it's on Spotify, if you're into that -- the Lou Rawls/Dianne Reeves version, which is lovely and funny.

(And which, to give credit where it is due, Michele Norris recommended to me yesterday on Twitter, because she's a rad lady.)
posted by Linda_Holmes at 8:16 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


One thing the date-rape critics seem to be concentrating mostly on the words - but the music is also important and that does not seem to be supporting their argument so well. Have a listen to the version kinnakeet posted above for example. The song is a conversation - and while there is conflict between the two singers they are singing a duet together in the same key at the same time, with the same rhyming structure and even with a little harmony. The final line "baby its cold outside" is delivered in major key by both singers.
posted by rongorongo at 8:17 AM on December 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think, as with most arguments, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

It is true that this specific song seems to indicate that the woman is fairly willing to stay with the guy, and is only protesting because of societal expectations (for the reasons laid out above, by others more eloquent than me).

However -- that does not necessarily make the "date rape" or "rape culture" accusations "absolute claptrap" either. This specific song, maybe -- but the kind of societal expectations that CREATED this song also contributed to the "she's only saying 'no' because she's playing hard to get" mindset, which itself in turn leads to "date rape."

So I don't necessarily see this song as CREATING a date-rape culture -- I see it as being a cousin OF date-rape culture. This song, and rape culture, share a common cultural ancestor the way homo sapiens and Pan Troglodytes share a common evolutionary ancestor. In a sense, "this song causes rape culture" is kind of like "people are descended from apes"; the truth is more like "the same mindset is an ancestor of both this song, and of rape culture". While that may be true, chimps and humans are still pretty damn different, just as this song and rape are different.

But still related, so the accusations of "claptrap" aren't quite fair. But nor are the "this is about date rape" accusations either.

My four cents (I charge extra when I haven't had enough coffee yet).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on December 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yes, the date-rape-hearers aren't just imagining that. But the non-date-rape-hearers aren't imagining that the VAST majority of her statements relate to what she should do, not what she wants

Of course, but since the majority of the lyrics don't mention what she wants at all (other than refills on her drink), it's easy to spin it either way. And I think most people even today use "I should go" over "I want to go" when placed in tricky situations where they don't want to hurt someone's feelings, so her passing the buck on her motivations for trying to leave isn't going to be super obvious to all modern listeners.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:38 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


This specific song, maybe -- but the kind of societal expectations that CREATED this song also contributed to the "she's only saying 'no' because she's playing hard to get" mindset, which itself in turn leads to "date rape."

If you're referring to my post, I made that very point right after using the word "claptrap":
What strikes me as anti-feminist about the song is the notion, which many on this thread have pointed out, that she feels she needs to play hard to get, and that she faces social stigma if she stays.
Yes, the song has its roots in a culture that didn't value the consent of a woman to sexual activity, whether it was negative or affirmative, and I said I was happy that we're moving away from those values. But I still contend -- and it seems we agree -- that there's nothing actually nonconsensual going on in that song, which to my mind does make accusations of "date rape" claptrap.

And I still contend that since the interaction in the song has the enthusiastic participation of both parties, it's just as anti-feminist to say that she shouldn't be allowed to enjoy participating in a seduction, even one that might appear ambiguous to an outside, that she clearly enjoys participating in.
posted by Gelatin at 8:39 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ooooh. Willie Nelson: "The Last Thing I Needed" -- about getting left during the Christmas holiday season. One of his most under-rated songs, I think it's up there with his very best.

I discovered only this year that Willie Nelson wrote "Pretty Paper," the Roy Orbison performance of which gets a lot of play this time of year.
posted by Gelatin at 8:47 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do think we live in danger of completely sanitizing and editing much out of our past if we continually interpret decades-old material in light of modern norms.

Witness the recent re-editing of Huckleberry Finn, which was widely panned here on MetaFilter for ignoring historical context with its reissue.


How could you ever hope to read Huckleberry Finn without interpreting it in light of modern norms? There's no reasonable way to expect say a modern high school student to completely disregard their own life experiences and view the novel from the perspective of primary audience of the book back in the 1880s. Someone who grows up today can't suddenly turn off the parts of themselves that make them react differently to the concept of slavery than someone would have over 100 years ago. The problem with the re-edit is that it's a cop-out to remove the most obviously offensive aspect of the novel rather than keeping the novel as it is.

Bowdlerizing is not the answer, but neither is ignoring things that have become offensive or pretending that historical context somehow protects a work from being problematic for a modern audience. Modern context is going to be the lens we view a work from no matter what we do, even if we try to create a historical mental context to view it from. Many people in this thread have referenced the idea that the song only makes sense if you view it in the cultural context where it was appropriate for a women to feign disinterest in sex rather than overtly show interest, but none of us actually know what it's like to be a young adult woman in the 1930s in this sort of situation, it's always going to be a mixture of our own current point of view and the vague recollections and assumptions about what such a situation would have been like.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:48 AM on December 7, 2011


But I still contend -- and it seems we agree -- that there's nothing actually nonconsensual going on in that song, which to my mind does make accusations of "date rape" claptrap.

The problem I think you're facing, though, is that dismissing it out of hand is coming across like "monkeys and people are completely different animals so the notion that they're related is nonsense."

"Inaccurate," yes; "claptrap" may be too strong a word, is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


A measure of the quality of a piece of art is its surviving the translation into a different cultural context.

That sounds impressive but in fact you just made it up, based on nothing.
posted by modernnomad at 8:57 AM on December 7, 2011


The problem I think you're facing, though, is that dismissing it out of hand is coming across like "monkeys and people are completely different animals so the notion that they're related is nonsense."

I'm sorry if I'm coming across that way, but yes, I do dismiss the "date rape" notion out of hand, and with respect, I don't subscribe to your analogy. There's piles of evidence regarding evolution. There's evidence in the song -- the fact that they sing together on the chorus, for example -- that she's consenting to everything that happens, including the very byplay that's depicted in the song. There's precious little evidence, especially when the song is considered in the context of the time that it was written, that she isn't -- as others have pointed out, she says she ought to say "no no no sir," but she doesn't say it, and the "ought" implies that she isn't going to. (If the song was written today, my opinion might be different.)

"Inaccurate" just isn't quite strong enough to describe my rejection of the concept that this song is about date rape. Maybe we could compromise on something like "nonsense;" if so, I'll cheerfully stand corrected.
posted by Gelatin at 9:06 AM on December 7, 2011


...none of us actually know what it's like to be a young adult woman in the 1930s in this sort of situation, it's always going to be a mixture of our own current point of view and the vague recollections and assumptions...

Some of us are coming at with quite a bit more background of concrete data, scholarship, and historical context than "vague recollections and assumptions." We're not all projecting our contemporary mores or personal opinions onto the past to an exactly equal degree. Some people have studied the past deeply enough and in enough ways to be able to speak with more authority about it than others, and it's not good for the argument to imagine we're all bringing an equivalent fund of information to the table here. That's not the case. There's a lot of ahistoricity here, but also a number of voices coming from a pretty informed and well-supported perspective.

If one is going to take her protests literally, then one should be forced to read his as literal concern about the weather

That is an excellent point. He is deeply concerned that while searching for unavailable public transportation in a blizzard, she will "catch pneumonia and die." In an age before effectively administered antibiotic therapy, this was not an unreasonable fear. His concern is for her health and safety, and the prevention of life-threatening opportunistic illness, nothing more.
posted by Miko at 9:11 AM on December 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


(If the song was written today, my opinion might be different.)


Many songs written today are a thousand times more directly, openly, gleefully misogynistic. It's odd that this energy is spent on this of all songs.
posted by Miko at 9:12 AM on December 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Most so-called "romantic" songs are creepy in this and other manners. Overall, the language of relationships in popular culture depends on notions of exclusivity, ownership and obsessiveness.

It is a bit anachronistic (but, probably valid in many ways) to pick out one of those songs to criticize this. I guess that's the nature of the dialectic.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:15 AM on December 7, 2011


I swear to goddess this is true: once, when living in a very grad school neighborhood in a very university town, I saw the following bumper sticker on the back of a dodge dart:

"Racism and Sexism in the 19th Century Must Stop Now!"
posted by spitbull at 9:27 AM on December 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


if this song had anything to do with rape, the total of two lines of lyrics would cut it down to like 15 seconds.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:43 AM on December 7, 2011


i really can't stay
baby, you don't have full political and social agency

posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:47 AM on December 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


We're not all projecting our contemporary mores or personal opinions onto the past to an exactly equal degree

I didn't mean to suggest that it's impossible to heavily research a certain cultural period and get a large amount of understanding of what it was like for people living in it and use that to inform a detailed analysis of a work from that era. And I completely agree with you that some people will view the song from a more historical perspective and some won't. My point is that when an average person listens to a classic Christmas song, the sorts of feelings they have about it and the way the narrative elements play out in their head is mostly due to their own personal perspective. And it's not just because of cultural differences, I'm sure a woman listening to the song in 1940 who was raped by a male acquaintance in a situation similar to the one in the song would have had a very different feelings about it than one who had a date with their future husband in a similar situation. Part of why songs work, and part of the reason why song lyrics tend to be vague and metaphorical rather than concrete and literal, is that songs help capture emotions and concepts that people identify with in their own lives. Many people in the thread are suggesting that viewing a work through one's own personal perspective is wrong, whereas viewing a work through a constructed objective historical perspective is correct. In my opinion there is not one particular valid way to view and appreciate a work like this song.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:59 AM on December 7, 2011


And at the end of the day, there is no place from which I will ever be comfortable telling someone of any gender that they're wrong for feeling uncomfortable about something that triggers them, regardless of whether or not I am able to perceive the same threat.
All right, in light of this comment I'm going to go ahead and withdraw the word "Claptrap." I don't think the text or melody of the song supports the "date rape" interpetation, but I don't want to imply at all that someone who finds it triggering is way off base.
posted by Gelatin at 10:02 AM on December 7, 2011


but she actually does say "the answer is no". The date-rape-hearers aren't just imagining that.

You're right. Buried in the third verse - I'd only checked the first two line by line. And it both comes after after "I ought to say no, no, no, sir "... "At least I'm gonna say that I tried " and tied in with the lines about what her family will think rather than what she does. Still, mea culpa.

As for why it's picked out, I've heard a couple of seriously creepy versions of that song whre I was thinking of date rape. (Not counting the Miss Piggy one). But the creepiness is in the rendition and the change in mores rather than deliberate to the song. As I mentioned before it really isn't in the Cerys Matthews/Tom Jones one. I wonder if this is one of those songs which your opinion of depends on which version you heard first.
posted by Francis at 10:05 AM on December 7, 2011


False, she comes right out and says "the answer is no". I understand the nuances of it all and blahblahblah, but she actually does say "the answer is no". The date-rape-hearers aren't just imagining that.

But she doesn't say that until the end, does she? And then the song ends? *fires up Spotify ...*

The song definitely exploses the American cultural norms of the '50s or whenever it was written, but I don't think it's inappropriate for modern audiences.

The intent I always implied from the song is that the woman would like to stay longer (maybe one more cigarette, my aunt, etc.), but public perceptions and moral standards preclude that sort of behavior. The man, while obviously willing to completely destroy the reputation of the woman for a whim, doesn't come off as a rapist. Perhaps if his answer to "lend me a coat" was "all my coats are at the cleaners" ...

It's the difference between changing the subject or avoiding a question and straightout lying. As noted above, it's all in the presentation. It certainly *could* be performed and interpreted as creepy and pro-forced sex for women, but I don't think the lyrics insist on that.

As for "what's in this drink?" as others above, I always took that to mean, "hey, what did you put in this?" as in it's particularly good or strong, etc.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:31 AM on December 7, 2011


I'd love to hear two men do this song.

Will Bing Crosby and Jimmy Stewart do?
posted by Kalthare at 10:37 AM on December 7, 2011


By the way, speaking of dysfunctional Xmas songs, I'm surprised no one has mentioned The Kinks' awesome Father Christmas.
posted by Gelatin at 10:39 AM on December 7, 2011


P.S. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is not about adultery.
...
No, it's about discovering that a bishop who violates his celibacy vows can still be elevated to sainthood by the Catholic church.


The World Famous, Saint Nicholas probably never took such a vow. He lived in the 4th-c A.D., long before the Church strictly enforced the idea (especially for higher-ups like bishops).


So long as we all agree that Johnny Mathis' version of Sleigh Ride blows chunks, I'm good.

EmpressCallipygos, FTFY.


And, for the record, "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" is not about gay lust. It's important to understand the context in which it was written.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:17 AM on December 7, 2011


The World Famous, Saint Nicholas probably never took such a vow. He lived in the 4th-c A.D., long before the Church strictly enforced the idea (especially for higher-ups like bishops).

SANTA CLAUS IS DEAD??!?!?!???!!????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????????!!?
posted by The World Famous at 11:50 AM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


In my opinion there is not one particular valid way to view and appreciate a work like this song.

I agree in the postmodern sense that there are innumerable valid ways to view anything, but in the context of the rhetoric in this thread, making the claim "the song is about date rape" is making a fact claim, not an opinion claim (that would be more like "this song reminds me of date rape") so it's legitimate to have a discussion in which evidence trumps personal opinion as the means of resolving the argument. Opinion arguments can't resolve questions about fact claims.

And if it's merely a difference of opinion, then we have the discussion about the opinions, and some people can like the song, and some can not like the song, without either being accused of "playing the victim," being "politically correct," or "supporting rape culture."
posted by Miko at 12:03 PM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


He hit me and it felt like a plate of beans in the kisser.
posted by Decani at 12:29 PM on December 7, 2011


So long as we all agree that Johnny Mathis' [rest crossed out] blows chunks, I'm good.

EmpressCallipygos, FTFY.


When I was a kid my other owned only three Christmas albums: Johnny Mathis', Barbara Streisand's, and the Beach Boys'. She played them to absolute death until the entire family got sick of them when I was twelve. I have since made my peace with the Beach Boys and Barbara -- but not Johnny.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:30 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also... Come Outside.

Cam orn, li'ul doll! Yew nar yew wannit!

Ah, they don't write 'em like this anymore. Fun fact! The girl in this is none other than Wendy Richard - Miss Brahms from the execrable yet strangely-loved-by-you-funny-yanks, "Are You Being Served?"

Seriously though, I'll slap and tickle you in a minute.
posted by Decani at 12:33 PM on December 7, 2011


making the claim "the song is about date rape" is making a fact claim, not an opinion claim (that would be more like "this song reminds me of date rape") so it's legitimate to have a discussion in which evidence trumps personal opinion as the means of resolving the argument. Opinion arguments can't resolve questions about fact claims.

Who in this thread is making the claim "the song is about date rape"? Many people in this thread have emphatically claimed that the song is not about date rape, but not any the other way around, unless I missed something. Blasdelb was probably making the strongest claims on the other side in this thread, but even then it was with claims like "the central theme of the song has come to be known as a theme of rape culture" rather than saying that the song is about rape and no other interpretation is possible. When people talk about the song being "creepy and rape-y" like the quote in the post itself they are talking about their personal reaction to the song, they are not making an objective claim that can be resolved by careful examination of facts. And making the discussion revolve around whether or not the song is "about rape" is an either/or framing of the discussion that promotes taking sides rather than exploring different aspects of the song and making more specific claims.

And if it's merely a difference of opinion, then we have the discussion about the opinions, and some people can like the song, and some can not like the song, without either being accused of "playing the victim," being "politically correct," or "supporting rape culture."

First of all it's not a question of liking or not liking the song. You can like a song and still have nuanced opinions about it. And anyway the kind of threads that involve accusations of being politically correct or supporting rape culture are always about opinions. There are always going to be people on both sides saying "No, I'm the one who is correct and your opinion is the invalid one."
posted by burnmp3s at 12:44 PM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


"what she should do, not what she wants"

I think this dilemma could exist even without fear of social shame. For example a person could feel aroused and desire someones love and connection, but know that they really want a long term real relationship and that participating in physical intimacy with another person will make those feelings deeper and stronger and cause feelings of sorrow afterwards and know that that kind of pain will be harmful to them.

Just an alternate possibility while we're examining the plate of beans.
posted by xarnop at 12:45 PM on December 7, 2011


Who in this thread is making the claim "the song is about date rape"?

Well, Blasdelb, most prominently, who didn't just say it was part of rape culture but that it was actually a depiction of coerced sex, and ErikaB, that I can see. It's also the assumption of the Bitch article in the FPP, and so, as a claim, it runs through the entire discussion.

First of all it's not a question of liking or not liking the song. You can like a song and still have nuanced opinions about it.

Well, sure! But I don't see this being voiced too often here. I like it and I have nuanced opinions about it.

the kind of threads that involve accusations of being politically correct or supporting rape culture are always about opinions. There are always going to be people on both sides saying "No, I'm the one who is correct and your opinion is the invalid one."

This why so often the discussions are kind of an exercise in going nowhere ("you're wrong! no you're wrong!"), so I don't see this as a plus. If we end by saying "well, it's all just opinions and all opinions have the same validity!" then we've had contention but no evolution. But in fact, those kinds of threads really aren't always about opinions. They can just as easily be, and often are, also about evidence, which can be used to influence opinion through the use of rhetoric, which as a process can be transformative. But a sharing of opinions alone makes for a pretty unsatisfying discussion, of the kind you find on local news sites, where everyone's talking but nobody's really having a conversation.
posted by Miko at 1:38 PM on December 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think the main takeaway I have from this thread results from giving some thought to why some people do hear implications of rape in this song. And that is just the sorrow that it's a thought that has ever had to enter into someone's head. It's a sorrow I often feel about the misery that interpersonal relations can be sometimes: that they can't be considered a safe zone, even though we approach them with hope and need and desire and lots of positive aspirations. It's just plain too bad that we have a world in which the existence of rape ends up tainting even depictions of playful seduction and faux resistance.

To me, the sadness is not that bits of pop culture like this cause rape or create rape culture and so must be annihilated. It's that rape and rape culture contaminates what could otherwise be the unalloyed enjoyment of songs like this.
posted by Miko at 1:46 PM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


This why so often the discussions are kind of an exercise in going nowhere ("you're wrong! no you're wrong!"), so I don't see this as a plus

How exactly would you like these kinds of threads to go then? What kinds of factual evidence would you like to see produced by the people who feel that the song has creepy or problematic elements? Some of your other comments seem to me to suggest that you don't think this topic deserves any discussion at all.

To me, the sadness is not that bits of pop culture like this cause rape or create rape culture and so must be annihilated. It's that rape and rape culture contaminates what could otherwise be the unalloyed enjoyment of songs like this.

I think you only feel this way because you don't feel that the song perpetuates rape culture in the way that Blasdelb was talking about. Otherwise, if you did, why would it make sense to feel worse about songs not being enjoyable due to rape than about songs contributing to actual rape? To me, people not liking certain songs is much less important in general than issues around consent and sexual norms. Although I agree that it would be nice if everyone could be free to never worry or think about issues of consent.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:10 PM on December 7, 2011


It's also the assumption of the Bitch article in the FPP, and so, as a claim, it runs through the entire discussion.

No, it doesn't. It's all up in the Bitch article, but there is no evidence that it is running through this entire discussion. The Bitch article makes this a thread about whether OR NOT it's a song about date rape, and most people seem to just be saying something along the lines that it reminds them of date rape, not that the author wrote an account of date rape.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:01 PM on December 7, 2011


I’ve never heard the date rape theory, think it’s stupid, completely ignores history, human nature, and the real world, and says a lot about the person offended. I’m sorry that there are people that live in that sort of state of mind. Glenn Beck believes it, so there you go.

The serious problem is that claiming this song is about date rape is the kind of thing that makes most people dismiss everything you say after that, and the subject entirely. See PETA, or the Republican Party. Killing you’re own cause to prove that you’re the most over the top committed/most sensitive/most ___.
posted by bongo_x at 3:02 PM on December 7, 2011


most people = most people who are creeped out by the song
posted by 23skidoo at 3:04 PM on December 7, 2011


How exactly would you like these kinds of threads to go then?

WE've had loads of gender/rape threads that have gone much better, and loads that have gone much worse. I like the ones that effect some change in knowledge, understanding, or perspective on the part of at least some people in the thread, so that's how I like them to go.

Some of your other comments seem to me to suggest that you don't think this topic deserves any discussion at all.

Well, people can certainly discuss what they feel like discussing. But I don't think the discussion of this song is very important at all, no, in the grand scheme of social issues that could benefit from focused discussion. I don't think the culture is going to move one whit in one direction or the other because of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" or any amount of blog posting or discussion about it.

No, it doesn't. It's all up in the Bitch article, but there is no evidence that it is running through this entire discussion

The way I read MetaFilter is to first, read the stuff in the link. Links contain points of view, and in the discussion, people can agree with, counter, or talk tangentially about the points of view in the link or links, and in addition, introduce their own points of view. It's not unreasonable for me to be arguing against a point of view expressed in the front page post, because that is part of what happens in MetaFilter. The evidence that this is part of the discussion is the link itself, containing this point of view, and the handful of comments I linked endorsing the point of view in the Bitch piece.

Besides, if we're not talking about the song being interpreted by at least some people as about date rape, then what are we talking about? What topic remains? I seem to see people saying both "it's all interpretation, the song can be about anything to any individual, it's just opinions, all good" and "this song perpetuates rape culture." Which? If this discussion is one of opinion, is my opinion that the song is sexy and about mutual teasing and flirtation less valid than someone else's opinion that it's about rape culture? Because if this is a discussion of opinion, then no, it's not less valid according to the stipulation. But if this is a discussion of whether the claim "This song perpetuates rape culture" is a valid claim, then it's fair to contest the claim and ask for some arguments about the claim.

I've said I think debating the merits or demerits of this song has a low level of importance to me. Would you say it has a high or very high level of importance to you? To society at large? This song specifically?

Or are you just looking for somebody to fight with about something, and this'll do?
posted by Miko at 3:24 PM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Who in this thread is making the claim "the song is about date rape"?"

"Well, Blasdelb, most prominently, who didn't just say it was part of rape culture but that it was actually a depiction of coerced sex,"


That isn't really the claim I have been making, and I haven't said that the song is actually a depiction of coerced sex. The claim I have made is that from the text of the song it is nearly indistinguishable from date rape except with subtext that must be applied with considerable talent by the singers. That, additionally, the central themes of women being expected to never say yes as well as female sexual shame, men not taking no for an answer as well as not listening to the stated desires of women, and alcohol as a tool for changing a no answer in the song spring from an incredibly problematic and THANK GOD changing pieces of our sexual mores we might as well call rape culture.

What I have been saying is that the narrative of the song is one that, in a modern context, absolutely at least points towards coercive sex, and that the fact that people are now seeing narratives like this in that way IS A REALLY FUCKING GOOD THING. Narratives like the one in the song are ripe for both genuine and supposed confusion, that we seem to be abandoning it in favor of more direct ones is AMAZING.

Not that anyone has asked me, but I actually really like it as a song and agree that it is a shame that such a work of art is so tainted, I just prefer the Rainn Wilson version that elegantly disarms the whole fucked up dynamic with a single well delivered word at the end.

On preview, the song itself doesn't mean much to me, its even part of my holiday nostalgia, but understanding and communicating the problems with the dynamics that it represents is in fact really important to me.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:39 PM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


The claim I have made is that from the text of the song it is nearly indistinguishable from date rape except with subtext that must be applied with considerable talent by the singers.

I'd say the subtext is supplied not only by the singers, but by listeners and their understanding of the broader cultural context. Would you say this subtext is unimportant, and only the text matters?
posted by Miko at 3:44 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Narratives like the one in the song are ripe for both genuine and supposed confusion, that we seem to be abandoning it in favor of more direct ones is AMAZING.

Also, I don't share the idea that this is an unalloyed good thing. I, for one, want to include teasing, playacting, and ambiguity in my consensual sex life. For me, this can be a fun and exciting kind of interaction with a partner, and I know I am not alone in that, even among feminists. So I don't necessarily think that excising narratives like this from a contemporary sexual context is clearly and always a good thing. I think that disallowing women to partake in this kind of play when they decide to engage in it would impose a harsh and arbitrary external limit on interpersonal sexual expression.
posted by Miko at 4:00 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't said that the song is actually a depiction of coerced sex

I have been saying...that the narrative of the song is one that, in a modern context, absolutely at least points towards coercive sex


The difference between "pointing toward" and "depicting" coerced sex is unclear to me and, I think, may not be meaningful.
posted by Miko at 4:03 PM on December 7, 2011


It's not unreasonable for me to be arguing against a point of view expressed in the front page post, because that is part of what happens in MetaFilter.

No, that's not unreasonable. But it is unreasonable to suggest that the thread is about defending (or denying) that this song is written about a depiction of a date rape, when most people in the thread aren't making that claim. It's really alot of comments like "This song reminds me of date rape, and here's why", and there's not anything wrong with a thread like that. It doesn't have to be all about definitive answers.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:23 PM on December 7, 2011


"I'd say the subtext is supplied not only by the singers, but by listeners and their understanding of the broader cultural context. Would you say this subtext is unimportant, and only the text matters?"

I think the general academic consensus with these sorts of things is that both are important. The point was made somewhere upthread, and I am unfortunately having trouble finding it in these 340 comments, that there is a significant portion of listeners in our population for whom imposed circumstance has forever tainted the subtext of this song. I would agree with the comment, wherever it is, that it is wrong to insist that their impression of the song is anything but totally valid, especially with the inherent similarities between the narrative of the song and that of so many rapes.

Really, I get how, for someone of a certain era, this was a song about a woman disregarding a life a family was trying to impose on her in favor the night with a gentleman friend that she wanted for herself. I get that. However, the fact remains that it brings with it across all of these decades a hell of a lot of baggage that feminism has fought tooth and nail for really good reasons, that in this day and age really do need to be unpacked whenever it is brought out. Similar to how Tintin in the Congo* does despite the beautiful artwork.

on preview,
That we are socializing new generations of youngsters without the kinds of sexual repression and inability to accurately communicate feelings in such a way as that dangerous social dances like this one are unnecessary, or at least can have safer contexts, is a great thing.

I too enjoy teasing, playacting, and pretend ambiguity in my own sex life, but they always exist in an environment of fundamental and communicated consent with clear avenues to rescind that consent. This is what safe words and awkward conversations before hand are all about. Excising not clearly consensual sex from contemporary society doesn't mean excising these narratives; but it does mean talking about them, understanding their dangers, and building appropriate cultural safeguards to prevent horrific things from happening. MetaFilter is perfectly happy to form strong cultural expectations that people wear seatbelts, expecting people to obtain meaningful, clear (and even better enthusiastic) consent before engaging in sex is at its worst no different. This song portrays unilaterally constructed consent, which we absolutely should see as an invalid and not enough, absent of course more context like safewords and awkward conversations or at least clear mutual understanding.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:53 PM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I seem to see people saying both "it's all interpretation, the song can be about anything to any individual, it's just opinions, all good" and "this song perpetuates rape culture." Which?

To be clear I never said that a song can be "about anything", my point was that what a song is "about" for any given person depends on that person's perspective and experiences, and it was part of an overall argument that there is not one single correct view of a song.

Or are you just looking for somebody to fight with about something, and this'll do?

I don't have a lot more to say that I haven't already said here, but to me at least this isn't a fight at all. I've posted more comments in this thread than I usually do because it's an interesting topic in my opinion and people have been making interesting point.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:24 PM on December 7, 2011


I remember a time when when the Flintstones theme song didn't contain any references to the characters' sexual orientation. But, times have changed and now we know what a "gay old time" really means, whether the songwriters meant it that way or not.
posted by The World Famous at 5:27 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I think that disallowing women to partake in this kind of play when they decide to engage in it would impose a harsh and arbitrary external limit on interpersonal sexual expression."

Well now we're getting interesting. The problem with teaching men (or anyone) that "Some women like you to make moves on them and persuade them and if they are flirting with you and hesitant you should persuade them into sexual interaction"

is that many women DON'T realize that having a conversation, flirting, hving drinks means they are asking to be persuaded into sex.

So do we want to keep it as cultural norm despite that it is a breeding ground for miscommunication for the benefit of the women who are lucky enough to be around a peer group of men that knows how to persuade while being thoughtful and aware of how their actions are playing out-- OR women who know they want want sex so being persuaded is just a fun part of the experience?

Is it necessary to keep hesitance as a sign of needing persuasion in our sexual dynamics?
posted by xarnop at 6:00 PM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


is that many women DON'T realize that having a conversation, flirting, hving drinks means they are asking to be persuaded into sex.

So, is it your position that the imaginary character in this song, who is being persuaded to stay longer based on the premise that it is cold outside, does not realize that it is not going to get any warmer until morning?
posted by The World Famous at 6:17 PM on December 7, 2011


No more than the fictional male character anticipates having to articulate the meaningand intensity of their relationship following any CA noodling that may or may not be about to take place in the foreseeable future (as the term 'future' is understood in the characters' default chronological frame of reference).
posted by anigbrowl at 6:59 PM on December 7, 2011


Fucking autocorrect.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:00 PM on December 7, 2011


CA noodling -- the great pasta industry of the inland empire.
posted by hippybear at 7:08 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I too enjoy teasing, playacting, and pretend ambiguity in my own sex life, but they always exist in an environment of fundamental and communicated consent with clear avenues to rescind that consent.

Me too, and that's what I see going on in this song. What would lead anyone to believe that isn't what's going on in the song?

What cues do you use to tell you when you have an underlying communicated consent to interact this way with a partner?

This is why the subtext does matter. For some people, this subetext has indeed been tainted by the crime of rape. For others, the subtext is one of expressing welcome sexual interest in a partner, wit, and cleverness. If both are equally valid, both are equally valid.

However, I would say the subtext of rape is not contained in the inflections, lyrics, word and phrase choice, melody, arrangement, or even most performances of the song, for all the reasons elaborated in the thread (authorship, intent, original context, evidence from close reading). It's just not there in the song; the subtext is one of seduction. The subtext of rape, for those who see it there, is provided by comparing the song with other events outside the world of the song in its original context.

Another thread of meaning coming from outside the world of the song is that of listening to its narrative while simultaneously comparing it with narratives about rape coming from second and third wave feminism, or listening to it while simultaneously critically considering the social posture demanded of women in the mid-20th century. Those threads are interesting and valid to discuss but are not contained in the song either. They can be brought into awareness via performance choices which is sometimes interesting, but without them, the song could still exist and describe a narrative that makes sense. Without rape even existing at all, the song could still exist and would make sense.

To elaborate, the narrative does not require or even demand a subtext of rape to make sense. the narrative can exist independently of the existence of rape. In fact, imagine for a second that the subtext of the song, saturating the song with or without conscious intent, were actually rape. In that case the song would make much less sense. The song as it's written takes its time establishing character, setting, and plot (he's persuading, she's worried about how it will look to others), and the interaction builds to a climax. The climax is not forcible rape, but the successful consensual continued dalliance of the lovers. The dramatic arc hangs on the pivotal moment of the woman's decision to stay or go - the woman's decision. Not the man's decision to force her, but her willing acquiesence. If there's no such pivotal moment, there can be no sensible resolution to the story. If she has no opportunity to decide for herself, the long lead-up becomes unnecessary and nonsensical because the two halves of the story no longer relate.

I know plenty of songs where there is a rape or a murder (Scots/Irish/Appalachian ballads). The man lures, the woman protests. So far it sounds similar. A concern for the woman is introduced through a detail drawing attention to her powerlessness. He then gets her into an isolated situation and gloats about her relative powerlessness. The act of murder or rape (or sometimes childbirth) is the pivotal moment; the mournful aftermath in which a lesson is usually stated or at least implied is the denouement.

We don't have any such tropes here. That's a different idiom, but it serves as the example that it's whatever is at the end of the narrative arc which justifies the buildup. If we don't have a woman's powerlessness, we don't have a murder ballad. In "Baby it's Cold Outside," if we don't have the woman's decisionmaking power, we don't have a way to justify the buildup or understand the resolution. For it to make sense as a rape song, more narrative structure about the forced act, the relative powerlessness or the aftermath would be needed.

That's all probably not what you're saying if your argument is "but it contributes to the broader culture which makes rape seem more acceptable." I think that as a broad cultural issue is important. I don't think it's anywhere near as important as not raping people, though. And I don't think it's important enough to interfere with my enjoyment, ironic or otherwise, of material I know reflects dated perspectives and mores but is entertaining or enjoyable for its other qualities.

dangerous social dances like this one are unnecessary

I just will not be able to agree that this kind of interchange is "dangerous" or "unnecessary." This, for many people, is not dangerous but entirely normal and worthy of celebration. Nothing about teasing and seduction is in any way dangerousunless someone is trying to rape you. That is dangerous.
posted by Miko at 7:24 PM on December 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


I've enjoyed this discussion and just want to state for the record that despite my posting of my WTF reaction upon listening to this song in a previous thread that I do understand nuances and the context of history. Also, it's really a great piece of music.

That said, here's another version for the "creepy" pile.
posted by mikepop at 5:59 AM on December 8, 2011


You're all missing the most obvious and reasonable interpretation.

After the reluctant singer (Z) arrived at the "baby it's cold outside" singer's house (Y), the sun burnt out completely. Luckily, Y predicted such an event would happen and had insulted their house and built special warming equipment. Y also received a text message alerting them to the sun's demise.

So when Y sings "baby, it's cold outside," they are soft pedaling the fact that their house is most likely the only place in the world where life can still exist.
posted by drezdn at 6:24 AM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


(authorship, intent, original context, evidence from close reading)

You may take these as your standard of whether a text means something if you like. I suppose they're as valid as any standard. That standard is good for studying art history. It puts you in a better position to appreciate how people related to the art in that moment in time.

The song's still on the radio, though. Whether the writer intended it or not, it's come to imply date rape to a lot of people. If your arbitrary standard of meaning is valid then so is theirs.

A song's meaning isn't set in stone when the writer says they're done with it. Nor when the performers interpret it, because there will be other performances with different meanings. So why should the meaning stop changing when its original context is gone?
posted by LogicalDash at 8:08 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember a time when when the Flintstones theme song didn't contain any references to the characters' sexual orientation. But, times have changed and now we know what a "gay old time" really means, whether the songwriters meant it that way or not.

My daughter loves Christmas music right now--I've been singing her "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as a lullaby a bit (her real faves are Rudolph and the 12 Days (of course)), and I chuckle juvenilely inside at what "making the Yuletide gay" might entail.

HYaMLC is one of my favorite sad Christmas songs. The original lyrics are even better, and Judy Garland, well.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:56 AM on December 8, 2011


As GallonOfAlan posted above, the version by Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews is outstanding, especially given that Cerys has an incredibly sexy and playful voice, and of course nothing needs be said about Tom Jones.

Perhaps nothing needs be said, but interestingly enough (to me), Cerys also sang on the Space single "The Ballad of Tom Jones" a year before.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:09 AM on December 8, 2011


You may take these as your standard of whether a text means something if you like.

There is a specific definition of the term "subtext" in literature though, and that's what I'm working with here. It's not arbitrary, it's a way of thinking about text in literary theory (you can argue that's arbitrary too, and then it's turtles all the way down, but I'm drawing on a framework for approaching texts, not just making stuff up). It's the implied meaning of what is written. It can be supplied by the author consciously or unconsciously, but it is supplied by the writer, not the reader.

Part of the disconnect might be that there's also another social sciences/history definition of "subtext" which is more sort of social trends or memes, like the subtext of racial oppression in the US. If you think about a subtext as something existing independently outside of works of art but finding expression through them, you can identify a subtext of patriarchy, gender-based power and behavior differentials and constraint on women's sexuality in the song. Sure, agreed.

When an author leaves room in a text for people to supply meanings that aren't explicit or implied, inferences - interpretations develop. These interpretations can be more or less affected by the text, by theoretical orientations or lenses, or by personal experience. While we tend to casually say that all interpretations are "valid," I think what we really mean most often by using that term is that an individual has perceptions which feel genuine to them, and a personal interpretation happens. The interpretation is real and it exists, but that's a little different technically from saying it's "valid." Some interpretations are more supportable using evidence in the text or subtext, some are less supportable using that evidence and need to rely on evidence external to the text - such as personal experience or historical context.

I've never stopped arguing that the song should first be understood in its original historical context, and applying that view I don't think there's anything in the text to indicate a rape scenario. There is indeed stuff in some people's minds and life experience today that may call to mind a rape scenario, but those interpretations are external to the text. It is possible for people who don't construct that interpretation to listen to it and enjoy it precisely because there is no content written into the song, or available in the song's subtext or historical context, specifically about rape.

I don't doubt that people listen to this and hear rape, as I don't doubt that pop culture and current events discussion is a minefield for anyone who has developed a great sensitivity to things that remind them of rape or sexual assault, because indeed, this culture is patriarchal and power-obsessed and rape and sexual assault happen and are alluded to everywhere, and the intersection between intimacy and violation of space is not well defined. It's a cause for sorrow that so many things, from what to other people may seem like innocuous ordinary interactions to the egregious excesses of horror films or pop music, leave room open for these interpretations, hint at them, or even joyfully indulge in them. I don't doubt it at all that it becomes possible to see these references and indications in all kinds of otherwise innocuous media. But the possibility of that interpretation is not always a valid indictment of the media themselves, especially where there isn't much evidence for that as the intent.

Also, performance is its own kind of authorship, and as we've seen in the myriad versions of the song here, performers can supply new subtext to the text through inflection, costume, staging, arrangement, etc. You could take it in any direction and if you want to add the subtext of rape or negotiating consent using a contemporary lens, as in the Gap commercial, you sure can. But that subtext is supplied in performance choices, not in the song or its original context. Some versions can be creepy and connote rape in their subtext, while others can not add that subtext at all. The fact that it's totally not necessary to understanding the narrative of the song is itself evidence that the interpretation must be supplied.

I have found this thread pretty interesting after all because it's caused me to stumble across some problematics in much feminist ideology about rape and sexuality that are probably best discussed eslewhere, and which we just never seem to have a safe space to acknowledge. I worry, for instance, that there are aspects of the insistence that only clear and direct communication of consent is an acceptable approach for women in sexual relationships can be thought of as today's version of "well, don't wear skimpy clothes or walk alone at night" in that it once again imputes the risk of rape to female behavior instead of the aggressor's choice to commit rape. The role of communication of consent to sexual behavior is hugely important but also an area in which miscommunication is rife. Still, is the solution to police the communication of women to the point where we simply can't acknowledge that there are often textual ambiguities contained within the negotiation of consent? Why are we still focused on women's responsibility to say and do just the right things to avoid being raped, and model the negotiation of consent rather than focusing on men's responsibility not to be a rapist? I think that the very idea "it's hard to define rape exactly because it can be such a gray area, so consent must be legalistically specific" is probably one of the fundamental preconditions that's supportive of rape culture (rape is really not hard to define).

I suspect I'll continue to think about this for a while and thanks for the provocation.
posted by Miko at 9:10 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never stopped arguing that the song should first be understood in its original historical context, and applying that view I don't think there's anything in the text to indicate a rape scenario. There is indeed stuff in some people's minds and life experience today that may call to mind a rape scenario, but those interpretations are external to the text.

Most people don't respond to songs analytically nor historically, nor should they have to. You shouldn't have to hold off on deciding whether a song is creepy or not until you make sure you understand the historical context. You hear a song on a radio, and it makes you think of things. That's a perfectly good way to understand and interact with music.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:00 AM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought the "performance is its own kind of authorship" paragraph sort of covered that, didn't it?
posted by The World Famous at 11:50 AM on December 8, 2011


"rape is really not hard to define..."

Except that in discussions of what the lines between persuasion/coercion/force/seduction/bad sex/exploitive sex there tend to be a lot of people with firm opinions about what rape OBVIOUSLY is and that the lines are OBVIOUSLY clear and yet all the same people who say rape is obvious to determine all seem to have different opinions.

Is it OBVIOUSLY rape or not rape if you have sex with a ridiculously drunk person?
Is it OBVIOUSLY rape or not rape if you have sex with someone who is unresponsive and shut down but doesn't actively say no?
Is it OBVIOUSLY rapeor not rape if in the same scenario the person is crying and the sex continues?
Is it OBVIOUSLY rape or not rape if someone says that they don't want to have sex and another person launches into a verbal persuasion compaign to convince the other to submit to sex they don't want until the other submits?
Is it OBVIOUSLY rape or not rape if that persuasion campaign includes deliberate attempts to to physically touch someone who has already said they weren't interested and cause them to feel arousal and attempt to break down their ability to physically respond by making them feel aroused and ashamed and shut down?
Is it OBVIOUSLY rape or not rape if you are having sex with a consenting but intoxicated long term partner and they fall asleep during sex and you keep going?
Is it OBVIOUSLY rape or not rape if someone attempts to persuade another into sex by seeing that they have mental health issues and no friends and telling them that it's only fair for them to let people have sex with them because otherwise no one will want to be their friend?


Some people say none of these things are rape. These are communication issues. Some people say all these things are rape. Whether they are rape issues or commuincation issues I think it's a good idea for people to keep them on the table for discussion until we CAN agree on what rape obviously is or isn't. Lot's of individual people think rape is easy to define-- yet they all give different "clear" definitions.

I really don't think there is anything obvious about it. Maybe that's a problem. Which is why rather than a "prevent rape" focus, I would like to see us encourage people to check in with their partners, to look out for each other, and to try to practice enthusiastic consent.

Like why would we care if someone has a horrific soul destroying sexual experience so long as the word "no" was used but suddenly blame them entirely if they couldn't muster up the word no? Is the guy willing to have this kind of awful sex even with a woman who is on the verge of tears really unable to notice that his partner is trying to curl up in a ball and disappear and immobile during sex? Like, maybe we should help people realize that unless you planed your sex to be like that (if this is your kink or whatever), this is probably a problem?

Maybe the goal should be to help people care about the well beings of their partners during sex?
posted by xarnop at 11:55 AM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


But the possibility of that interpretation is not always a valid indictment of the media themselves, especially where there isn't much evidence for that as the intent.

OK, why not?

I mean, I guess it depends on what you're trying to indict, and what for. I probably can't indict the original composer, lyricist, performer, etc. for the unfortunate implications. I'm not even sure what it means to indict the song itself; it is some notes and some words, how can it be to blame for anything? But the thing that happens when people hear this on the radio is maybe not the sort of thing that radiocasters should be encouraging.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:40 PM on December 8, 2011


But the thing that happens when people hear this on the radio is maybe not the sort of thing that radiocasters should be encouraging.

What thing is that, specifically?
posted by The World Famous at 12:53 PM on December 8, 2011


The thing that people complain about when they say the song is about date rape. That experience.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:25 PM on December 8, 2011


So, radiocasters should not be encouraging people to complain that they think the song is about date rape? I agree. Radiocasters should just play the song and ignore people who don't seem to be either capable of or interested in actually listening to the song.
posted by The World Famous at 1:26 PM on December 8, 2011


Man, if you don't think there's anything vaguely reasonable about all these complaints, how did you get this far in the thread?
posted by LogicalDash at 1:39 PM on December 8, 2011


Man, if you don't think there's anything vaguely reasonable about all these complaints, how did you get this far in the thread?

I'm not allowed to read unreasonable complaints?
posted by The World Famous at 1:39 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Two issues here -
There is relative-historical/cultural context.
According to the context of the time, many of the trigger words (what's in this drink?) were not triggery, and secondly it was not considered particularly 'rapey' at the time.

There is the comparative-historical/cultural context
Is having a woman being culturally forced to put up a 'mock defense' to entirely consensual sexual relations, encouraging of rape culture? Yes, yes it is.
And here we can see that the 1960's had far more of a rape culture, in the same way that the 1960's also had far more of a racist culture.

Do I have to point out the many, many ways in which the 1960s were racist?

Exactly. It's not so much the song, as, eek, look how creepy those times were! And as time goes on, it will become more and more unacceptable, the same way that Gollywog dolls etc are creepy now.

It is still good to be aware of the cultural differences of a particular decade. It's not understanding how far we have come, that really holds back movements against bigotry, whether that is racism, sexism, or homophobia. When feminism is redefined, so that women claim that they aren't, it is often because we do not realised how far we have come in a generation or two, and that anything that moves that quickly, can also move back that quickly.
posted by Elysum at 7:08 PM on December 8, 2011


Exactly. It's not so much the song, as, eek, look how creepy those times were! And as time goes on, it will become more and more unacceptable, the same way that Gollywog dolls etc are creepy now.

No, it won't. Because flirtation will never go out of style, and it's got one, arguably, mildly-creepy-to-contemporary ears line in the context of a song that's clearly about a relationship between two consenting adults whose wit and charm have maintained it in popularity for not 50, not 60, but 75 years.
posted by Diablevert at 7:19 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


And, Diablevert, having stayed out of this to cool down, I will now return to say: If the song were written today, it might be the very same line for line except that a different word would be chosen to rhyme with "think."

Meanwhile, a lot more songs would be being frantically rewritten to get rid of the "gay."
posted by localroger at 7:37 PM on December 8, 2011


I really don't think there is anything obvious about it. Maybe that's a problem. Which is why rather than a "prevent rape" focus, I would like to see us encourage people to check in with their partners, to look out for each other, and to try to practice enthusiastic consent.

Maybe the goal should be to help people care about the well beings of their partners during sex?

Sure, yes, that's a great goal of course and the ideal for all sexual interactions. But are we getting there by this road?

Your pointing out that there isn't a lot of agreement about the definition of rape is exactly right. It's not hard to define, in that it's not difficult to construct a definition, but you're right that it is hard to get agreement about what fits within the definition and doesn't, and whether the definition should be ever wider, even though I think when it comes to rape cases or allegations there is probably about 80% agreement on 80% of the issues. As with many things, it's probably the liminal zone that makes the whole issue seem more complicated than it is for the majority of incidences.

I think we'd probably actually be better off if we were willing to draw a harder line, but a lot of the ideology around the topic argues against that. No matter what the bright line, it would leave some incidents out that some people would still strongly argue is rape. As is the nature of bright lines.

But arguing for a definition that's broad and attempts to contain all liminal cases doesn't solve the "communication issues" problem. If someone has general problems with communication, are they ever able to send, receive, and properly parse cues - verbal or otherwise - of consent? What are the 'rules' if a partner falls asleep mid-act? Can people ever, ever have sex if they've been drinking? What if it's with a life partner on New Year's Eve? What about developmentally disabled people - can they give or accept consent? Depending on what cognitive criteria? Does a cognitive differential matter there? What about the memory-impaired? What about episodic mental illness? What if it's controlled with medication?

These are among the problematics I'm speaking of. In trying to generalize the concept of "rape" to a variety of experiences in which there's serious ambiguity and other complicating conditions, and in insisting on a particular type of consent given in a particular, sober, mentally healthy and otherwise unimpeded state of mind, we paint ourselves into a bit of a corner and that corner excludes some people based on cognitive and mental qualifiers and also excludes lots of common and benign and nonpathological human behavior, too.

Some of what it excludes is also a lot of really lousy, stupid, cruel, jerky, and harmful behavior that may fall short of a theoretical 80% definition of rape, and that is something lots of people are uncomfortable with too. If it's not rape, can it still be bad? I say yes, but we have maybe not developed any good tools for dealing with kind of interaction, getting better at preventing it, educating against it, and recovering from it.

I'm not saying all this is not a serious social problem. I am saying that our present constructions of "rape" and "consent" are probably pretty inadequate to the tasks we're asking them to do, and that in our focus on women as masters and managers of consent we're again asking them to work harder at not being raped than we're asking men to work at not raping.
posted by Miko at 8:50 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Some of what it excludes is also a lot of really lousy, stupid, cruel, jerky, and harmful behavior that may fall short of a theoretical 80% definition of rape, and that is something lots of people are uncomfortable with too. If it's not rape, can it still be bad? I say yes, but we have maybe not developed any good tools for dealing with kind of interaction, getting better at preventing it, educating against it, and recovering from it.

I'm not saying all this is not a serious social problem. I am saying that our present constructions of "rape" and "consent" are probably pretty inadequate to the tasks we're asking them to do, and that in our focus on women as masters and managers of consent we're again asking them to work harder at not being raped than we're asking men to work at not raping."

Right, men exploiting vulnerable women so long as the word "no" is not used is in fact quite celebrated in US culture, right up there with football and Jesus.

The energetics of rape, the entire full horrific experience of someone attempting to cause horrible sexual harm to your being and enjoying seeing your suffering--- the entire experience is legal so long as the word no is not used. Submissive response equals not rape. In truth we don't actually care if women have the experience of being destroyed sexually, we just care whether they asserted themselves appropriately enough that their terrible experience can be fit into the category of rape and the person who did it to them should be legally penalized. How women are destroyed after sexual experiences or how intentionally destructive men behave with their women is not of concern to us. The only concern is whether she used the socially acceptable version of rejecting the sexual exploitation allowing her the protection of the law. Which is why the word no should be enough.

This is why what men are allowed to say and do to illicit a submissive response in a woman who has indicated in words or body language that THE ANSWER IS NO-- makes a really big fucking deal.

If the word no is not enough to save you from sexual exploitation what can? How much do you have to fight for the law to protect you? No should be enough, but yet many people don't realize that woman can be having a horrible experience even if they are responding submissively or not fighting back.

If she says no that should be taken seriously even though it has the unfortunate effect of meaning that if this situation played out today the guy would need to say "Oh, well you sure are turning me on, I'd love to have sex but if your answer is no I don't want to engage you anymore" requiring the woman to say either "Yeah, I really actually like you and do want to stay because you are hot and I like your attention but I really am feeling not sure about this and want to get to know you more if you're game"
or "Oops, I totally DO want sex, TAKE ME!"

Or whatever.

There is no reason this song should be taken off the radio, if Nirvana's rape me can be blasted all over the place (a song which has been used by people actually raping people!) then I see no reason this should be edited for being a harmless flirtation song with no rape in it that DOES in fact contain a problematic element in that it presents a situation of consensual sex in which the word no was used. I am not a fan of censorship and when you're listening to music I dont think anyone needs to be politically corrent about however they like to enjoy it.

All it is to me is a talking point for a societal problem we haven't really figured out.
posted by xarnop at 6:39 AM on December 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


A perennial favorite in our home: Shouldn't Have Given Him a Gun For Christmas. Dig the Rob Halford scream around 2:45.

Also, a vague memory from Christmas past: an obscure song from an obscure punk-mas compilation. I'm pretty sure it was called Cut Your Head on Christmas, but I can't remember who performed it. Anybody have a memory of this?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:24 AM on December 9, 2011


"I have found this thread pretty interesting after all because it's caused me to stumble across some problematics in much feminist ideology about rape and sexuality that are probably best discussed eslewhere, and which we just never seem to have a safe space to acknowledge. I worry, for instance, that there are aspects of the insistence that only clear and direct communication of consent is an acceptable approach for women in sexual relationships can be thought of as today's version of "well, don't wear skimpy clothes or walk alone at night" in that it once again imputes the risk of rape to female behavior instead of the aggressor's choice to commit rape. The role of communication of consent to sexual behavior is hugely important but also an area in which miscommunication is rife. Still, is the solution to police the communication of women to the point where we simply can't acknowledge that there are often textual ambiguities contained within the negotiation of consent? Why are we still focused on women's responsibility to say and do just the right things to avoid being raped, and model the negotiation of consent rather than focusing on men's responsibility not to be a rapist? I think that the very idea "it's hard to define rape exactly because it can be such a gray area, so consent must be legalistically specific" is probably one of the fundamental preconditions that's supportive of rape culture (rape is really not hard to define)."

I think there is an important distinction between the modern feminist expectation of consent and older expectations of visible chastity that you've missed. The default state that anyone interested in having sex with anyone else should have is that is they they are not consenting to have sex. It then becomes the responsibility of each partner interested in having sex to establish the clearly communicated consent of each other partner. Part of the whole point is, since the expectation is that interested parties should never engage in sex without communicated consent, uninterested parties have no responsibility to negotiate or even turn down sex.

The male singer fails to ever clearly establish consent in the song, in addition to ignoring the female singer saying no. Since he is establishing his own consent in the asking, the onus is on him to establish her consent before continuing. Louis C.K. excellently models what we should now expect him to have done here, assuming of course a modern context.

What this does do is expect all partners interested in having sex to do is both establish their partner's consent as well as consent themselves. This responsibility is only meaningful for someone interested in having sex. The answer is to stop having sex with people unwilling to clearly communicate consent, and prosecute people unable to establish their partner's.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:27 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


The male singer fails to ever clearly establish consent in the song

If you're only going by the text of the song, completely ignoring what's implied, sure. And if you're only going to do that, they never actually had sex.
posted by empath at 3:09 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


The answer is to stop having sex with people unwilling to clearly communicate consent

...not too unreasonable in some senses, but continues on to...

and prosecute people unable to establish their partner's.

Well, then your first suggestion doesn't go nearly far enough. When the courts get involved they need evidence, and merely hearing your partner express consent doesn't help when nobody else heard it. So you need to record consent. And you really need the consent to be notarized, to establish that it was given freely and won't be revoked in the middle of things. And copies should be filed with the appropriate government agency to make sure my partner doesn't grab the consent form and try to destroy it.

And as for the act itself it clearly needs to be recorded, for the same reason we put dashboard cameras in cop cars; if my consent specifies that you not touch my X, and you touch my X, it's back to one-said-theother-said (got to be plain that it might not just be a he and a she, you know) should I decide to prosecute.

Really, given the complexity that the negotiations can attain (When does the consent expire? And we haven't even gotten to things like BDSM yet) each partner should really also have a lawyer in the room just to be sure. Because as in this discussion, words in a binding agreement often don't mean the same thing they do in normal English.
posted by localroger at 3:27 PM on December 10, 2011


Well, glad we're not being hyperbolic or anything.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:06 PM on December 10, 2011


Well, glad we're not being hyperbolic or anything.

Because of course the original assertion that the song is about date rape isn't hyperbolic at all.
posted by localroger at 6:26 PM on December 10, 2011


And by the way, what the fuck does "hyperbolic" actually mean?
posted by localroger at 6:31 PM on December 10, 2011


Hyperbolic refers to something related to or in shape of hyperbola (a type of curve), or to something employing the literary device of hyperbole (overstatement or plausible exaggeration).
posted by nadawi at 8:07 PM on December 10, 2011


The default state that anyone interested in having sex with anyone else should have is that is they they are not consenting to have sex. It then becomes the responsibility of each partner interested in having sex to establish the clearly communicated consent of each other partner.

I don't really disagree with this. It places the responsibility in the right location. My argument, though, is that we have absolutely no agreement as to what constitutes clearly communicated consent unless we rely on a definition which requires specific verbal and/or physically demonstrated refusal which completely excludes a behavioral subtext, and that's not always how things go in real life. Some people cannot even provide this type of communication when they are in full consent, and most of us skip it once we've established a general expectation of consent in a given relationship. The absence of this verbal demonstration of consent prior to a sex act alone does not and should not constitute rape.

Part of the whole point is, since the expectation is that interested parties should never engage in sex without communicated consent, uninterested parties have no responsibility to negotiate or even turn down sex.

That's not how the law currently sees it, unfortunately. If you do and say nothing, whether or not it's your responsibility, and the person interested in sex proceeds and has sex with you, your charge of rape will not be well supported. I tend to think this is the wrong thing, which is what I was describing - we should pay less attention to the indications of consent or lack thereof, and more attention the behaviors of the person interested in pursuing the sex. The interested party should be held responsible for not establishing consent. However, if we want to defend the right of the uninterested party not to have to turn down sex at all, we open up the possibility that any sexual encounter could be labelled as rape after the fact. How would you tell the difference?

Unless we agree what consent looks like, whether it includes 'magic words' which must be invoked, whether only the verbalization matters or the surrounding context of the words matters as well, and who's able to give it based on cognitive criteria or conditions of intimidation, we aren't able to be sure, as third parties, whether consent was established. The central problem of rape prosecution. This is why verbalized consent is a difficult place on which to rest the idea of what is/isn't rape.

There are many, many sexual situations every single day in the real lives of countless people in which verbal consent is never given. Only a very tiny fraction of those are anything that might fall under the designation of 'rape.' It doesn't make sense to treat all of those incidences as if they are rape.

This expectation of the consent interaction isn't working. Legal definitions of rape don't, in fact, rely solely on this discussion about consent, and for good reason. It is not a simple, clear, or reliably consistent area of human communication.

The male singer fails to ever clearly establish consent in the song, in addition to ignoring the female singer saying no. Louis C.K. excellently models what we should now expect him to have done here , assuming of course a modern context.

As you know because we've plowed this ground before, I think this is completely wrong. Just not supportable using the evidence of the text. He indeed establishes consent, throughout the entire song - this is his project and provides the structure of the song. She hints at the possibility of her consent continuously. She agrees to stay. She accepts the advances as they arrive. We know consent has been reached because she stays and we hear contented sounds. People up and down this thread have described how she clearly communicates consent. Further evidence is in the implications of tone, the evolution of her discussion, the specific kinds of objections she raises and the fact that they are not material to her own desires, the musical evidence of harmony and unison, and the canoodling sounds at the end. If that's not consent, we don't have a good agreement about what consent looks and sounds like (which is the problem). The most valid interpretation of the song, based on all this evidence, is that she is voluntarily and happily consenting to stay and continue the sexual activity.

You say that this would run differently "assuming a modern context." I say it doesn't. The Louis CK example is not equivalent, because we have no reason to think the woman in "Baby, It's Cold" is expecting the illusion of being raped. Her wishes are not overruled. Something different is going on in that situation. "Baby It's Cold" does not end with a rape. We actually don't know what happens, other than she doesn't leave and we hear making-out noises.

Meanwhile, the conversation in the song could (and basically does) happen today. The consent is not directly communicated by what people are saying - that's the cleverness of the song. The consent is in the subtext, in the behavior we are imagining as we listen, which the songwriters knowingly implied in their language, phrasing, and musical cues. They didn't spell it out, because that would be not at all interesting to listen to and the song's humor and tease would utterly evaporate.

This promotion of a verbal-only specific display of consent i a response to a specific request for sexual activity, without consideration of other conditions, will continue to be problematic. That's why the law doesn't focus on it as a sole indication.

I don't disagree that the onus is on the more interested party to proceed only when consent is established, but I stop short of the idea that we can prescribe in a narrow and specific way how that consent should look and sound.
posted by Miko at 8:24 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb, it seems kind of like you're supporting a "yes means yes" standard but at the same time are unwilling to let go of the point "but the word 'no' appeared in the conversation in the song so that must really mean 'no.'" The two positions just don't reconcile.

I still think there are some sticking points with the focus on how consent is verbalized out there in the general world, but my main point in the thread is that there is abundant reason to believe, and little reason not to believe, that the song depicts a situation of mutual consent.
posted by Miko at 8:47 PM on December 10, 2011


[relevant Yes Means Yes post]
posted by Miko at 8:48 PM on December 10, 2011


"My argument, though, is that we have absolutely no agreement as to what constitutes clearly communicated consent unless we rely on a definition which requires specific verbal and/or physically demonstrated refusal which completely excludes a behavioral subtext, and that's not always how things go in real life."

I'm not suggesting that there should be some absolute set of cues to indicate either consent or not consent; simply that any party interested in engaging in sex has a responsibility to obtain clearly communicated affirmative consent from every other involved party. Of course failing in this responsibility should not automatically paint a sexual act as non-consensual, though it sure doesn't help, and it surely should be seen as a not OK thing. If only judging from how many people in this thread have gotten a rapey vibe from the song, I don't think it is that much of a stretch to suggest that consent was not clearly communicated.

I am not anything like a lawyer, but my understanding is that, in the US, state laws against sexual assault and rape are wildly inconsistent and often bizarrely archaic. Of course not every instance of sexual assault is, or should be, prosecutable but our expectations about consent don't need to always be backed up by the force of law to have weight. If we can build a system of sexual mores that requires clearly communicated affirmative consent as a absolute necessity, I don't think it is a stretch to say that it would make all of our lives and prosecutors' jobs easier. We are already headed towards this goal and have already made strides that would have seemed absurd to our grandmothers when the song was written. (Thanks for the post btw, that is excellent)

I don't think the idea that sex can be rape even with a yes in the presence of intimidation, particular power structures, or the absence of the cognitive ability to provide a meaningful yes should invalidate the power of no or the need for a meaningful yes. I'm not saying this song depicts rape, I am saying that this song depicts inexcusable, if common for the age, confusion that does and should feel kinda rapey in a way that is very much worth unpacking.

It might just be that I grew up socialized to take the word no incredibly seriously and to be sensitive to the power dynamics inherent to why someone I could bench press might not feel comfortable saying no to me alone in a house surrounded by bad weather, but I think that nowadays at least we should expect more of the man in the song. The way it played out, the difference between mutually guided seduction and a partner aggressively not taking no for an answer from a vulnerable guest relies on speculation about intonation and subtle shades of meaning that are unclear at best. I am getting caught up in the fact that out of 30 lines 2 tell him no directly, but also that 10 tell him directly that she wants to leave, 6 state reasons why she wants to leave, another 1 expresses concern about the strength of her drink, another 8 talk about the evening in past tense, and the other 3 are non-committal at best. Meanwhile he fails to even acknowledge the concerns she raises, mostly talks at her, and when he isn't discussing the weather he mostly just talks about himself and how terrible she is being to him.*

"You say that this would run differently "assuming a modern context." I say it doesn't. The Louis CK example is not equivalent, because we have no reason to think the woman in "Baby, It's Cold" is expecting the illusion of being raped. Her wishes are not overruled. Something different is going on in that situation. "Baby It's Cold" does not end with a rape. We actually don't know what happens, other than she doesn't leave and we hear making-out noises."

Are you suggesting that the expectations to make a show of resistance and never publicly admit to agreeableness or arousal, that the "nice girls" among our grandmothers and great grandmothers, lived under bore absolutely no resemblance to an expectation for an illusion of rape? We really can't know that her wishes wern't overruled because we can't really know what they were. However, she does clearly and repeatedly state that she doesn't want to spend the night

My goal isn't to promote a verbal-only standard of consent, but it is to suggest that if consent even seems to be verbally refused then there should be an expectation that consent must be explicitly verbally provided before anything else happens.

I'm not asking for a prescribed ritual, just clarity, whatever that might mean in context.

*I really can't stay
I've got to go away
This evening has been
So very nice
My mother will start worry
My father will be pacing the floor
So really i'd better scurry
but maybe just a half a drink more
the neighbors might faint
say what's in this drink
I wish i knew how
to break this spell
I ought to say "no, no, no sir"
at least i'm gonna say that i tried
I really can't stay

Baby its cold outside (Common Refrain)

I simply must go
the answer is no
your welcome has been
so nice and warm
my sister will be suspicious
my brother will be there at the door
my maiden aunts mind is vicious
but maybe just a cigarette more
I've gotta get home
say lend me a coat
you've really been grand
but don't you see?
there's bound to be talk tomorrow
at least there will be plenty implied
I really can't stay

Baby its cold outside (Common Refrain)

posted by Blasdelb at 12:19 AM on December 11, 2011


I'm not suggesting that there should be some absolute set of cues to indicate either consent or not consent; simply that any party interested in engaging in sex has a responsibility to obtain clearly communicated affirmative consent from every other involved party.

Sure.

Of course failing in this responsibility should not automatically paint a sexual act as non-consensual,

Right.

though it sure doesn't help, and it surely should be seen as a not OK thing

Nope. It can be perfectly OK.

if consent even seems to be verbally refused then there should be an expectation that consent must be explicitly verbally provided before anything else happens.

I disagree with this.

I don't think it is a stretch to say that it would make all of our lives and prosecutors' jobs easier

But in reality it doesn't make it easier. Perhaps it seems like it on the surface, but in states with the verbal consent standards written into the law, the argument then shifts to the focus on consent vs. non-consent and how it verbalized or expressed, which is where the victim ends up under the microscope. Did she say yes? No? Did she act like she meant it? Did she say it forcefully? Clearly, or mutter it? Did she just cry or freeze? Did she struggle? Push back? What else did she say? Did anyone else hear it? Is it enough to say no or must one also resist? The victim is essentially put on the defense and has to attempt to prove that her nonconsent was given clearly enough, in the right language, and visibily and audibly enough to meet an abitrary standard. This is where it is problematic.

It might just be that I grew up socialized to take the word no incredibly seriously

Probably - this socialization context has everything to do with how people theorize about what consent looks like and how it "should" be given. There is an enormous class and education level aspect to the idea of standards of verbal consent.

a partner aggressively not taking no for an answer from a vulnerable guest relies on speculation about intonation and subtle shades of meaning that are unclear at best

Why do you imagine he's doing anything? He's saying flattering words, warming her hands, pouring a drink, and asking if he can move in closer (she doesn't say no to that). I don't perceive aggression. She's not really giving no for an answer. She's staying and continuing the conversation with thin excuses that we understand don't relate to her own feelings. Why do you think she's vulnerable? I don't read her character as vulnerable. She's pretty much in control - he's attempting to persuade, but the song rests on and points to her decisionmaking agency. There's no need to take the weather concerns and lack of a cab any more literally than we take her objections. Both are exaggerating - he's exaggerating the obstacles and she's exaggerating her concerns. Yes, this is subtext, yes it relies on intonation and shades of meaning, but it's not unclear in any way.

I don't attribute the interpretations of some people that it's got a 'rapey' vibe to unclearness, as I've said repeatedly. Most people aren't hearing it this way, and those that do are promiting interpretations that of necessity rely on evidence or associations external to this song.

And your interpretation of the song depends entirely on wilfully discarding all of the subtext, making assumptions about power dynamics that also aren't explicitly described, and completely throwing out this:

Baby its cold outside (Common Refrain)

Which trumps everything else. I can see that some people don't want to acknowledge this. I can't accept it as a good argument about the meaning of the song, though.

It's funny to be arguing this at all and I'm definitely taking a critical role - I won't call it Devil's Advocate because I don't feel I'm advocating for anything unjust. I just think that there are problems in the way we sometimes imagine the interaction of consent and that trying to use the construction of "rape" to cover the interaction in this song is the kind of overreaching that weakens the overall stance against the actions on which we can find near-universal agreement constitute rape.
posted by Miko at 7:58 AM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


« Older Former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove edited The Pen...  |  Amalgamation, an animation by ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments