Isn’t it enough that the Always Correct Left has created an environment where we, in our gender fluidity, are now constantly and carefully dodging a minefield of emotional triggers? No. In recent years, a segment of the conservative population has begun to adopt the Left’s habit of subjectively “reading into” most any situation and then suffering their own reactionary trigger responses.
The flavor of the season seems to be a lame, paranoid interpretation of the classic holiday tune “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” which first appeared in the 1949 film, “Neptune’s Daughter.” What’s most interesting is that in this case, both the Left and the Right seem to have pushed each other so far to extremes that they have met up at the 180-degree mark to shake hands in agreement: a 1940s song with flirting and a little sexual innuendo must be scrubbed from all playlists.
Plenty of folks are arguing and even unfriending one another on Facebook over what is deemed as insensitive enjoyment of this holiday classic, with a declaration that it is a “creepy” theme song for rape culture. We are told that in the 1940s, women were not yet empowered or even capable of resisting such dominant attention from men, that saying “NO” was not yet in a woman’s accepted vocabulary, and so it must follow that this song cannot possibly be relevant or enjoyed in this day and age.
The Huffington Post, standard bearer of liberal and often revisionist news, pretty much sums up the politically correct understanding. This “Line-by Line Take Down” subjectively intuits that the female likely is under-age, that the song sanctions date rape and roofies, that it is rife with sexual double standards, and that men’s sexuality is nothing but a matter of pride.
Of course, rape is nothing to brush aside or to diminish—it is a violent crime in which the perpetrator deserves nothing less than a long prison sentence. But there is something deeply amiss when there is a call to censure, ban, or even rewrite a song because our culture fears and detests what amounts to an incorrect interpretation.
Do these same adults pay attention to the lyrics their teens listen to on a daily basis? There is far more fodder—for pearl clutchers of both the Right and the Left—to discover in today’s pop radio lyrics. Indeed, a little attention to those might actually do some good! For instance, here is a song wildly popular right now among the teeny-bop set, much more deserving of outrage. Enjoy some lyrics that the middle school girls in carpool can sing verbatim, from a current hit song by the group “Chainsmokers.”
So baby pull me closer in the backseat of your Rover
That I know you can’t afford
Bite that tattoo on your shoulder
Pull the sheets right off the corner
Of the mattress that you stole
From your roommate back in Boulder
We ain’t ever getting older
Rational defenders of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” have tried to explain its history, decipher the actual intent of the lyrics, and encourage listeners to understand the song in its proper context: a time when a woman didn’t worry that her boyfriend might put a roofie in her drink, and red-blooded men could pursue the attentions of a particular woman (and vice versa) without his actions being declared a “booty call.”
A “chaste” rewrite of the song is going viral, demonstrating a more “acceptable” and “proper” dating dynamic, as if yet one more educational tool for instructing men how to behave around women will do the trick. We don’t have to worry about raising sons to be men or to concern ourselves with teaching our daughters how to receive improper advances; we can just beat men over the head with metaphorical sticks when they get out of line, and all will be well.
Unfortunately, the only substantial change in this limp rewrite is that the poor guy is left sitting on his hands for the duration, and even sings through his teeth at one point, spouting all the clichéd and perfect responses that feminists and fearful dads-of-daughters believe are the safest and most appropriate responses to the female. But the gal somehow gets to continue to sing in a ditzy and mildly flirty manner, hem and haw over whether she really wants to depart, and send mixed messages to the poor guy. Interestingly enough, this mirrors the original duet: if she really wanted to leave, she should have and could have been “outta there” within two lines.
A streak of puritanical fear and the need to censor sexuality, and even a touch of the gnostic denial of the body, are an undercurrent in this P.C. interpretation of the song. The original lyrics are now badly interpreted as justification and encouragement of behaviors that both leftists and conservatives rightly decry. Leftists and feminists want us to believe it’s all about rape culture and male aggression, and some of the über-conservatives, like Charlie Brown hoping to finally kick the football, naïvely imagine that buying into this narrative is a way to have “dialogue” with the Left. There is no dialogue with this kind of insanity, however. And these Leftists will never make peace with the Right on questions of sexual morality.
Too many on both the Left and the Right demonize anything suggesting or embracing sexuality, even when sexuality is depicted in its healthy and normal application. Say what? Yes, sexual attraction is healthy and normal, and so is the flirting in the song. More than that, it is part of the thrill and the joy of sexuality. Flirting of this sort is one of the delicious things that makes life worth living and youth something fondly remembered.
Why are these scolds so eager to excise and edit and censor anything that suggests men and women are sexual beings and that sexuality, properly understood, is conducive to happiness? It is especially irritating in this case, where they want to edit and censor a song based on a subjective and lousy interpretation. Perhaps the truth is that the scolds fear the true meaning even more than their false and silly interpretation: the man and the woman both enjoy being together and they are lingering. They don’t want the night to end and they want to enjoy more time together, focused entirely on the other. How refreshing! But how painful for those who choose to wallow in fear of such happiness.
There are some interesting parallels between the original lyrics of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and Songs of Songs—the highly charged and graphic Biblical celebration of human sexuality (one that—shh!— hasn’t yet been categorized as contributing to rape culture). There are many lines that offer worthy comparisons of lovers’ yearnings, but among some uncanny similarities there’s this:
Drink deeply, lovers!
I was sleeping, but my heart was awake.
The sound of my lover knocking!
“Open to me, my sister, my friend,
my dove, my perfect one!
For my head is wet with dew,
my hair, with the moisture of the night.”
I have taken off my robe,
am I then to put it on?
It’s actually a good and intentional thing that we are sexual beings. We are not disembodied spirit after all. Nor is our body solely “Brother Ass” that St. Francis said was to be dragged along until death. People are needlessly falling off the deep end and denying Eros, one of those “Four Loves” that C.S. Lewis so eloquently and accurately describes. Lewis is clear: “Sexual desire, without Eros, wants it, the thing in itself. Eros wants the beloved,” and, “Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman.”
In the hysteria over “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” Eros mistakenly has been conflated with predatory and unrestrained animal instinct. Passion and desire are deemed as unqualifiedly dangerous, rather than as a potentially creative force and a part of normal and healthy human behavior, when properly ordered. Cupid’s arrow has been snagged, snapped in half, and used to pierce something other than a heart.
But the truth is, passion and desire are gifts, not vices, and it’s possible to embrace both yet still model virtue through the practice of temperance and prudence. Temperance and prudence are not meant to eliminate passion or desire, but are employed in order that one not become victim to one’s own passions and desires. Instead, passion and desire can be properly directed away from self and toward the beloved; they are appropriately embraced within the proper context and with reciprocity. The true intent of the lyrics of “Baby It’s Cold” suggests nothing other.
Still, one might disagree. If so, then what’s next on the list to censure? “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” might traumatize children, so take that off the Christmas playlist. How in the world did Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” become a classic? Strike that, too. And why stop at Christmas classics? Movie classics have highly objectionable music and lyrics as well. For instance, most certainly there should be a ban on Rolf singing to Leisl, “Your life, little girl, is an empty page that men will want to write on…” Don’t forget the pop-culture music teens enjoy, as mentioned earlier. The list would be endless—and ludicrous.
Instead, might these energies be better directed toward taking advantage of certain songs as “teachable moments,” not only with children, but with hand-wringing pearl-clutching friends? Why not just say “Hey! This simply is a 1940s duet with two lovebirds at the end of their date, they each are resisting separating from each other after a lovely and enjoyable evening. Her hair is tousled and she wants a comb because she just removed her hat, not because she was rolling on the sofa. And yes, in this day and age of course it is vital for young women to watch their drinks, but in this case the woman is commenting on her yummy libation and wonders about its ingredients.” Boom. Over. Sing along and enjoy.
Unless, of course, your rapt audience is ready to hear a bit about Eros, about one’s beloved, about the good and true progression from friendship to focusing solely on one’s true love, and the beauty of love in all its glorious manifestations. So much goodness and truth is possible, so much joy, in this genuinely romantic song. It’s a shame and a loss to reduce it to rape culture.
Editors’ Note: This piece was originally published on December 15, 2016. Given the events of recent weeks and the ever present temptation to hysteria and over-correction when we note the human weakness and imperfection which are usually at the root of individual acts of injustice, we believe now is a perfect time to remind ourselves of the things we risk losing if we give in to that temptation to sanitize life and remove all risk from it. Merry Christmas!