#MeToo And ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside”

A fifty-year-old song is getting new scrutiny in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

With many radio stations across the country switching to an all-holiday music format, one song has come under fire as being inappropriate in an era where there’s much more focus on sexual assault and harassment:

One of its hosts wrote “in a world where #metoo has finally given women the voice they deserve, the song has no place.”

He then posted the entire lyrics to the song, some of which some may find offensive in 2018.

My mother will start to worry - Beautiful, what’s your hurry?
Father will be pacing the 
floor - Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I’d better scurry – Beautiful, please don’t hurry
Maybe just a half a drink more – Put some records on while I pour

A similar decision was reached in Denver however, outraged listeners reportedly forced KOSI 101.1 to have the song put back on the air after an online poll overwhelmingly supported the song.

“We value the opinion of all our listeners and appreciate the feedback we received,” said KOSI’s Jim Lawson said in a statement. “Respondents voted 95 percent in favor of us keeping the song as part of KOSI 101.1’s tradition of playing all of your holiday favorites.”

“They’ve tried to ban books, now they’re banning music,” one person told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.

“It’s a Christmas carol. It’s part of everyone’s tradition of all generations,” another person added.

The song was written 74 years ago. It won the Academy Award for best original song in 1949 and has been redone countless times since.

Some of the decades-old lyrics have inspired parodies of the duet; changing the words to phrases like “say what’s in this drink?”

WCBS-FM’s Broadway Bill says the New York radio station has seen a handful of complaints over the last couple years.

“Older Americans say that’s the way adults deal with each other, but younger women are afraid and I understand that,” Broadway Bill said.

Some people say the song’s controversy is as much about its tone as it is about its lyrics. Singers have the ability to reshape how we all hear it.

“The latest version that’s a hit is by Michael Buble and Idina Menzel, when she says that line in question right now ‘what’s in this drink’ she kinda says its laughingly like ‘uh oh I’m getting a little tipsy here’ and it sounds less harmful,” Broadway Bill explains.

Since the song is under fire, it’s worth taking a look at the lyrics:

[Verse 1]
I really can’t stay (But baby it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to away (But baby it’s cold outside)
This evening has been (Been hoping that you’d drop in)
So very nice (I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice)
My mother will start worry (Beautiful whats your hurry)
My father will be pacing the floor (Listen to the fireplace roar)
So really I’d better scurry (Beautiful please don’t hurry)
But maybe just a half a drink more (Put some records on while I pour)
The neighbors might think (Baby it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink (No cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how (Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)
I ought to say “No, no, no sir” (Mind if I move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (What’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?)

[Chorus]
I really can’t stay
(Oh, baby don’t hold out)
Baby it’s cold out side

[Verse 2]
I simply must go (But baby it’s cold outside)
The answer is no (But baby it’s cold outside)
Your welcome has been (How lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm (Look out the window at the storm)
My sister will be suspicious (Gosh your lips look delicious)
My brother will be there at the door (Waves upon the tropical shore)
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious (Gosh your lips are delicious)
But maybe just a cigarette more (Never such a blizzard before)
I’ve gotta get home (But baby you’d freeze out there)
Say lend me a comb (It’s up to your knees out there)
You’ve really been grand (I thrill when you touch my hand)
But don’t you see? (How can you do this thing to me?)
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow (Think of my lifelong sorrow)
At least there will be plenty implied (If you got pneumonia and died)

[Repeat Chorus]

Leaving aside the question of whether or not this is actually a Christmas song — after all, it isn’t really about Christmas so much as it is about a man and woman in the middle of a romantic tryst on a night it just happens to be snowing — this isn’t an entirely new debate. Even before the rise of the “MeToo” movement, there were those who criticized the song as somehow endorsing date rape or drugging a woman in order to induce her to engage in activity she might not otherwise engage in, something that obviously brings to mind the Bill Cosby case and his long trail of victims dating back nearly half a century. Despite this, there has never been a real movement to “ban” the song from radio until now, and that movement appears to be motivated by the “MeToo” movement and the claim by at least some that the song promotes sexual assault even though there’s not really anything in the lyrics that says otherwise.

On some level, I suppose  I understand the argument of the people who object to the song. If you’re inclined to read things in that manner, there something of a “creepiness” factor to it. At the same time, though, can’t we say the same thing about songs like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” or “Santa Baby?” Yes there is an element to all of these songs that can be said to be questionable, but that’s arguably true of many songs written years before the “MeToo” movement became popular. Consider, for example, the lyrics to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” or “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” a song that makes reference to Vladimir Nabakov’s classic Lolita, which itself has been subject to several efforts at book banning. Arguably, both of these songs contain lyrics that are worse than anything Frank Loesser wrote sixty years ago. But does that mean they should never be played on the radio again? It’s the holidays, and this is just a song. Let it be for once, people.

In any case, I say continue playing the song and, in that spirit I offer what I think is the definitive version of the song, the duet performed by Ray Charles and jazz singer Betty Carter:

This version of the song, I think, emphasizes the playfulness of the lyrics on both sides, as well as the talent of both performers. Yes, standards to change as time goes on. That’s why movies featuring performers in blackface aren’t going to be shown on television again, but that doesn’t mean we need to throw the good out with the bad. And this is one of the good ones.

And as a bonus, here’s Earth Kitt’s version of Santa Baby, which would probably get an NC-17 rating if it were released in today’s era:

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Gender Issues, Popular Culture, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tyrell says:

    Weird, bizarre! Even some women have said that the whole uproar about this song is ridiculous.
    What song will be next? Good King Wenceslas? (“Bring me food and bring me wine) Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas? (“kiss her once for me”: nothing slow about Burl!)
    Have people completely lost their minds? Maybe it’s too much Christmas shopping.

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  2. Stormy Dragon says:

    Some of the decades-old lyrics have inspired parodies of the duet; changing the words to phrases like “say what’s in this drink?”

    Except the “what’s in this drink?” part isn’t a parody, but part of the actual lyrics in the original. Which show’s the problem with the pro song side of this: they probably haven’t actually listened to the song in decades and are just reflexively defending it to be argumentative.

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  3. Kathy says:

    It shouldn’t be played because the lyrics are terrible.

    But that’s true of many other songs.

  4. Kylopod says:

    Consider, for example, the lyrics to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”

    Sting has said repeatedly that he intended that song to represent unhealthy, obsessive feelings, and he’s expressed surprise that some people have interpreted it as a romantic love song.

    The intention of the songwriter has to be taken into account. Certainly there are old songs expressing antiquated attitudes or questionable values (think of the many pop songs about romancing underage girls, for instance), but it’s also important to keep in mind that being about a particular subject matter isn’t the same as promoting it. That can be a fine line, I’ll admit, especially since the convention in Western popular music is to think of the narrator and songwriter as one and the same. That’s particularly the case with the controversy over Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing.”

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  5. This is one of those things were I have to wonder if radio stations had stopped playing for some other reason if anyone would have noticed.

    Not to mention that not putting a song in a air play rotation is not a “ban”–a “ban” would be making impossible to purchases or somesuch.

    Most radio stations don’t play Bob and Doug Mckenzie’s 12 Days of Christmas, but that doesn’t make it banned. There are some Christmas novelty songs I used to hear on Dr. Demento that I never hear on the radio. Are they banned?

    What I especially find amusing and annoying is that I bet there is some significant overlap between people who are upset about the ban and people who think society is too PC (and therefore constantly criticize snowflakes for all their outrage).

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  6. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    but it’s also important to keep in mind that being about a particular subject matter isn’t the same as promoting it.

    I think we can all agree to that, and we can all come with examples. For instance Pat Benatar’s “Hell is for Children” is about child abuse:

    “Be daddy’s sweet girl and don’t tell mommy a thing.
    Be a good little boy
    and you’ll get a new toy
    Tell grandma you fell off the swing.”

    If the title weren’t enough to indicate condemnation, there’s a line which goes “And you shouldn’t have to pay for your love with your bones and your flesh.”

  7. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Face it: in it’s own way, in a full read, it’s kind of creepy.

    But it is a remnant from another age.

    Society changes, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. I’m sure that my own comments of gay and trans from 1987 would likely not be in line with my thinking today (or even closely acceptable in conversation).

    But we don’t have to go back 75+ years for unacceptable… If we take the words of the outspoken pillar of current conservative thought: Ted Nugent and his ballad to pedophilia (written when he was 32).

    I’ve got no inhibitions
    So keep your keys out of your ignition
    I steal a car like I got the curse
    I can’t resist the old lady’s purse

    Jailbait you look so good to me
    Jailbait won’t you set me free
    Jailbait you look fine, fine, fine
    And I know I’ve got to have you in a matter of time

    Well, I don’t care if you’re just thirteen
    You look too good to be true
    I just know that you’re probably clean
    There’s one little think I got do to you

    Jailbait you look so good to me
    Jailbait won’t you set me free
    Jailbait you look fine, fine, fine
    And I know I’ve got to have you in a matter of time

    Sad but true

    So tell your mama that I’m back in town
    She likes us boys when it’s time to get down
    She’s got this craving for the underage;
    I just might be your mamas’ brand new rage

    Jailbait you look so good to me
    Jailbait won’t you set me free
    Jailbait you look fine, fine, fine
    And I know I’ve gots to have you in a matter of time, now babe

    Honey, you, you, you look so nice
    She’s young, she’s tender
    Won’t you please surrender
    She so fine, she’s mine
    All the time, I woke my mind

    It’s all right baby, it’s quite all right I asked your mama

    Wait a minute officer; wait a minute officer
    Don’t put those handcuffs on me, what about her?
    Hey, I’ll share her with you!

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  8. Franklin says:

    Similar to “Every Breath You Take,” the Stone Temple Pilots song “Sex Type Thing” said things like, “I said you shouldn’t have worn that dress.” In both cases, some people didn’t seem to realize they were actually condemning it.

    But I doubt “Baby It’s Cold Outside” was meant as some social message. It was just meant to be fun. It does sort of straddle a line, though, one that has moved in the past 70 years or so.

  9. Scott says:

    Baby It’s Cold Outside, like all songs, can be interpreted several ways. I’m sure some singers can pour on the lasciviousness in their interpretations. You just can’t look at lyrics along. Now on the other hand, there is this Rod Stewart song which can be interpreted only one way: as a nasty old guy on the make:

    Tonight’s The Night

    Stay away from my window
    Stay away from my back door too
    Disconnect the telephone line
    Relax baby and draw that blind

    Kick off your shoes and sit right down
    Loosen off that pretty French gown
    Let me pour you a good long drink
    Ooh baby don’t you hesitate cause

    Tonight’s the night
    It’s gonna be alright
    ‘Cause I love you girl
    Ain’t nobody gonna stop us now

    Come on angel my hearts on fire
    Don’t deny your man’s desire
    You’d be a fool to stop this tide
    Spread your wings and let me come inside

    Tonight’s the night
    It’s gonna be alright
    ‘Cause I love you girl
    Ain’t nobody gonna stop us now

    Don’t say a word my virgin child
    Just let your inhibitions run wild
    The secret is about to unfold
    Upstairs before the night’s too old

    Tonight’s the night
    It’s gonna be alright
    ‘Cause I love you woman
    Ain’t nobody gonna stop us now

  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    IMHO, this debate is much ado about nothing. Though it is a distraction.

  11. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Fvck this noise…it’s two stations that are already reconsidering the policy.
    This is a faux controversy, akin to the war on Christmas.
    Stop it…this site is better than this.

  12. Gustopher says:

    Some songs don’t age well. This was once flirtatious, but now sounds creepy. Shrug.

    Lou Reed’s “I Wanna Be Black” was once a humorous embrace of stereotypes, and is now Racist AF.

    And Bob Dylan’s creeptastic “Make You Feel My Love” was somehow neutered into a love song by Billy Joel and Garth Brooks.

    I think the only song that will never be misinterpreted over time is Sir Mix-A-Lot’s classic, “Baby Got Back”.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s silliness. But if we’re doing this, let’s not stop at music, I think we need to look at art. Think of how much of the Louvre is filled with potentially offensive painting and statuary. They’d have to take a lot down. Probably have to sell it off at a deep discount. It’d be an art collector’s bonanza – buy low during the panic, sell when everyone sobers up.

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  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “It’s a Christmas carol. It’s part of everyone’s tradition of all generations,” another person added.

    Yes, because nothing says “Christmas like slipping a girl a mickey and not taking “No.” for an answer:

    But maybe just a half a drink more (Put some records on while I pour)
    The neighbors might think (Baby it’s bad out there)
    Say what’s in this drink (No cabs to be had out there)
    I wish I knew how (Your eyes are like starlight now)
    To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)
    I ought to say “No, no, no sir” (Mind if I move in closer?)
    At least I’m gonna say that I tried (What’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?)

    Because hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Right? Right?

    @Kylopod:

    That can be a fine line, I’ll admit, especially since the convention in Western popular music is to think of the narrator and songwriter as one and the same.

    I’m thinking here of Peter Gabriel’s “Intruder”:

    I know something about opening windows and doors
    I know how to move quietly to creep across creaky wooden floors
    I know where to find precious things in all your cupboards and drawers
    Slipping the clippers
    Slipping the clippers through the telephone wires
    The sense of isolation, the sense of isoloation
    Inspires me
    I like to feel the suspense when I’m certain you know I am there
    I like you lying awake, your baited breath charging the air
    I like the touch and the smell of all the pretty dresses you wear
    Intruders happy in the dark
    Intruder come
    Intruder come and he leave his mark, leave his mark
    Leave his mark
    Leave his mark
    Leave his mark
    Leave his mark
    Leave his mark
    Leave his mark
    I am the intruder

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  15. JohnMcC says:

    I’ve heard of this controversy from my 94 yr old Mom who was at a holiday gathering of Opera lovers that ended with popular seasonal songs. I guess they introduced it with some acknowledgement of the bruhaha. We agreed that probably no one would have their morals degraded by listening to the lyrics.

    So the concern is really similar to the stereotyped prude who keeps close track between the drawn curtains of how long that woman has been staying at that man’s house tonight! And what do you suppose they’re up to! Good heavens! The world is going to hell in a handbasket! To HELL, I tell you!

  16. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: For that matter, what about the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”? Sometimes it’s fairly obvious when a song is telling a story in first person without necessarily expressing the songwriter’s beliefs. Most of the time, though, it’s hard to tell–especially when the song is articulating feelings that–however questionable–are common in the general populace.

  17. Hal_10000 says:

    It’s not a Christmas carol. The husband-and-wife who wrote it used to sing it in the summer which makes the meaning of the lyrics much clearer. The entire point of the song is that she wants to stay, has stayed before but lives in a time when society expects her to pretend she doesn’t want to stay. So he’s giving her excuses to do what she wants to do anyway.

    Honestly, it’s a sign of how prosperous our society is that entire segments have nothing better to do than to run around looking for things to be offended about. And a sign of how dumb we’ve gotten than any outrage has to be treated seriously no matter how founded it is in ignorance.

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  18. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Honestly, it’s a sign of how prosperous our society is that entire segments have nothing better to do than to run around looking for things to be offended about.

    You say that as if it’s a bad thing. 🙂

    If you ever get annoyed
    Look at me, I’m self-employed
    I love to work at nothing all day
    And I’ve been takin’ care of business
    Every day
    Takin’ care of business
    Every way
    I’ve been takin’ care of business
    It’s all mine
    Takin’ care of business
    And working overtime
    Work out

    Bachman – Turner Overdrive – Takin Care Of Business Lyrics | MetroLyrics

  19. @Michael Reynolds:

    Not just the Louvre, Rumor has it there’s a big stone statue of a naked man in Florence. Surely that’s gotta offend someone.

  20. Yixiao says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Not to mention that not putting a song in a air play rotation is not a “ban”

    It certainly may be. If the PtB say “This song is not allowed to be played”, that’s a ban. The PtB have banned the song from that station.

    a “ban” would be making impossible to purchases or somesuch[sic].

    No. That would be a (very unconstitutional) governmental censorship of a work. One station may ban a song while another does not. And the song is certain to be available for purchase on the open market. “Ban” is entirely contextual. e.g.: Many companies ban blue jeans in the office. That does not mean that blue jeans can not be purchased.

  21. @Hal_10000:

    Your first point is a good one. This isn’t a Christmas song. But then there are a lot of “winter” songs that aren’t really Christmas songs either. Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland, Over The River And Through The Woods. How they ended up being solely associated with Christmas is a mystery.

  22. Slugger says:

    Nobody, nobody actually gives a s*** about this. No one.
    The abuse that many women have experienced is real, ugly, and we must reject it. I suspect that people bring up this song in order to trivialize a real problem. Real men treat others with respect. When a real man is around, it makes people feel uplifted and secure.

  23. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Hal_10000:

    The entire point of the song is that she wants to stay, has stayed before but lives in a time when society expects her to pretend she doesn’t want to stay. So he’s giving her excuses to do what she wants to do anyway.

    Seems to me a minor rewrite could fix most of the creepy issues and still capture that:

    Man: You really can’t stay (Woman: But baby it’s cold outside)
    We should call it a day (But baby it’s cold outside)
    This evening has been (So glad I decided to drop in)
    So very nice (Hold my hands, they’re just like ice)
    Your mother will start worry (There’s no need to hurry)
    Your father will be pacing the floor (Listen to the fireplace roar)
    We really must hurry (A bit later I’ll scurry)
    But maybe just a half a drink more (I’ll put on some records; you pour)

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  24. Todd says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What I especially find amusing and annoying is that I bet there is some significant overlap between people who are upset about the ban and people who think society is too PC (and therefore constantly criticize snowflakes for all their outrage).

    This.

    I think it’s fair to say that most of the people I interact with (especially online) tend to be at least left leaning. But on nearly every one of these “PC controversies” I pretty much NEVER hear from whoever these liberals are that were initially upset by the topic. Instead, it’s ALWAYS at least 90% of my right leaning friends who take to to social media to tell everyone how outraged they are that anybody could possibly be upset by {insert outrageous outrage of the day}. I assume this happens shortly after the story hits their favorite Facebook page or right-wing “news” site.

  25. Jc says:

    It is ridiculous nowadays. I just heard Winger “Seventeen” on 100.3 here in the DC MD VA area… I mean the lyrics plain as day say “she’s only seventeen, daddy’s little sweetheart, but she’s old enough for me” lol, song plays all the time, not just 97.1 during the holidays. Lighten up folks. I get trying not to offend people, but we should not be looking for offense in things where it should have been identified years ago if it were so offensive. Kinda dumb. Let’s just focus on the here and now

  26. grumpy realist says:

    If “Baby It’s Cold Outside” sets them off, they’d REALLY hate “Madeira, M’dear” by Flanders & Swann:

    She was young, she was pure
    She was new, she was nice
    She was fair, she was sweet seventeen

    He was old, he was vile
    And no stranger to vice
    He was base, he was bad, he was mean

    He had slyly inveigled her up to his flat
    To view his collection of stamps;
    And he said as he hastened to put out the cat
    The wine, his cigar, and the lamps:

    “Have some madeira, m’dear
    You really have nothing to fear;
    I’m not trying to tempt you, that wouldn’t be right
    You shouldn’t drink spirits at this time of night
    Have some madeira, m’dear
    It’s so very much nicer than beer
    I don’t care for sherry, one cannot drink stout
    And port is a wine I can well do without
    It’s simply a case of chacun à son goût —
    Have some madeira, m’dear!”

    Unaware of the wiles of the snake in the grass
    Of the fate of the maiden who topes
    She lowered her standards by raising her glass
    Her courage, her eyes, and his hopes

    She sipped it, she drank it
    She drained it, she did
    And he quietly refilled it again
    And he said as he secretly carved one more notch
    On the butt of his gold-handled cane:

    “Have some madeira, m’dear
    I’ve got a small cask of it here
    And once it’s been opened you know it won’t keep
    Do finish it up, it will help you to sleep
    Have some madeira, m’dear
    It’s really an excellent year
    Now if it were gin you’d be wrong to say yes:
    The evil gin does would be hard to assess
    (Besides it’s inclined to affect my prowess)
    Have some madeira, m’dear.”

    Then there flashed through her mind what her mother had said
    With her ante-penultimate breath:
    “Oh my child should you look at the wine that is red
    Be prepared for a fate worse than death!”

    She let go her glass with a shrill little cry
    Crash! Tinkle! it fell to the floor
    When he asked, “What in heaven?” she made no reply
    Up her mind, and a dash for the door —

    “Have some madeira, m’dear!”
    Rang out down the hall loud and clear
    A tremulous cry that was filled with despair
    As she paused to take breath in the cool midnight air

    “Have some madeira, m’dear!”
    The words seemed to ring in her ear…
    Until the next morning she woke up in bed
    With a smile on her lips and an ache in her head
    And a beard in her ear that tickled and said:
    “Have some madeira, m’dear!”

  27. grumpy realist says:

    (Take a look for the song on YouTube. There’s quite a few snippets of Flanders & Swann, mainly from filming for a US TV show. Also look up “Slow Train”, which is the ultimate in nostalgia for British nostalgics. Beautiful song, too.)

  28. JohnMcC says:

    @grumpy realist: OMG! I haven’t thought of that song for decades! I think the bunch I was with back then was also singing Zombie Jamboree. ‘Back to back’/And belly to belly/Don’t give a damn/’Cause it don’t matter really’.

  29. grumpy realist says:

    You will pry my Flanders & Swann away only from my cold dead hands…

  30. CMRivdog says:

    Yet no one objects to a song about a senior citizen involved in a hit and run accident on Christmas Eve.

  31. mike shupp says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    What was the Mona Lisa really smiling at? Let’s start the bidding now.

  32. Gustopher says:

    @Yixiao:

    It certainly may be. If the PtB say “This song is not allowed to be played”, that’s a ban. The PtB have banned the song from that station.

    By that definition, a Classic Rock station has banned Hip Hop, Country, Western and Classical.

  33. MarkedMan says:

    I’ve heard/seen some good versions of the song (Sigourney Weaver and Buster Poindexter comes to mind) but there’s a larger point here. Standards and morals change and they leave old art behind, no matter how good it was. Huckleberry Finn ( a work of pure genius) sounded different in an era when the n word could be said by a saintly aunt without anyone thinking ill of her. Ivanhoe was a work of daring liberalism in an age where Jews were thought of as an alien “race” but now it is painful to read. The moral of many original fairy tales has become incomprehensible. Blackface was considered a respectable art form, and Al Jolson was a megastar of his era, but now even if you aren’t offended by his filmed performances, they are ridiculous.

    Time moves on, but art cannot.

  34. Gustopher says:

    While it’s a little silly to get worked up about it, I do think the song is problematic — There are far, far too many instances of women fending off repeated advances gently and delicately because they are about a hundred pounds lighter and wouldn’t be able to defend themselves easily, and this song (presumably inadvertently) describes that situation.

    Nearly every woman has had to deal with the man who doesn’t want to take no for an answer. Nearly every woman has had a man who is a borderline stalker take an interest in her. And in that context, the song has problems.

    That and the roofies in the drink.

    If that all seems implausible, then maybe use your latent racism and homophobia for good — consider how the song would feel if it was sung by a huge scary black guy to a skinny white boy (possibly in prison, with the skinny white boy wanting to go out into the yard). It becomes more of a threat. And it’s also pretty offensive, so don’t go off recording that version.

    And, this threat is being presented as if it is romantic.

    Swap the genders so it is a woman pursuing a man and maybe drop that one line, and the whole thing is fine. The power dynamic has changed.

    Which is also why “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus” and “Santa Baby” are fine — they are presenting the woman as controlling the situation (inviting Santa down her chimney, etc).

    “Every breath you take” is supposed to be creepy, and the main character is not supposed to be good. It’s like a murder ballad.

    (My banjo teacher is not a fan of murder ballads — she points out that it is usually women getting murdered, and it’s hard to argue with that. “Frankie and Johnny” is great though)

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  35. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Gustopher:

    I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus

    I always interpreted this as “santa claus” being the kid’s dad dressed up and the kid not recognizing him because of the outfit and thinking it was the real Santa Claus.

  36. Gustopher says:

    @One American: are you stupid? My Goodness!

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  37. James Pearce says:

    @Todd:

    But on nearly every one of these “PC controversies” I pretty much NEVER hear from whoever these liberals are that were initially upset by the topic.

    And yet there are liberal people who take these PC controversies seriously, enough of them with enough reach to ensure that everyone else, even those with more “liberal” standards, must contend with them. For instance, I don’t know who will host the Oscars this year, but I know they won’t have ever tweeted anything offensive. Millions of dollars are at stake and the corporate media doesn’t want to incite the social media lynch mobs.

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  38. sam says:

    Heh. The only song I can recall radio stations refusing to play was Stan Freberg’s Green Christmas.

  39. KM says:

    @Gustopher :

    And in that context, the song has problems.

    Precisely. When I first heard the song when young, I immediately disliked it because of all the #MeToo implications – and this was decades before the movement had a name. It’s kind of hard for a child to hear a song where someone keeps saying “no, no” (even if it’s a social farce) and it’s not being respected at the same time you’re being taught stranger danger and it’s ilk. Several adults tried to explain the whole “song and dance”aspect of it and the required social/cultural understanding but even back then it sounded rather…. hollow. It just seems weird that people were mindlessly humming along with a song that required an historical explanation as to why it wasn’t “so bad” to younger ears. I’ve always chalked it up to the fact that every year, American culture embarks on a massive project to carefully recreate the Christmases of Baby Boomers’ childhoods and all the weirdness it may have contained. Some works don’t translate well across time and if you have to add a caveat every time, it might be time to re-examine if your nostalgia is worth the message you might be inadvertently sending.

    I really don’t care if people play it but then I’m that person that goes out of their way to avoid “Christmas” music in general. Play it all you want folks but be cognizant it’s not aging well – as the years go on, you’re going to start getting more and more side-eye for it from a younger crowd who’s social experience with “I really can’t stay” means “this is making me uncomfortable and I want to leave yesterday!” instead of the intended “there, I said my cover, let’s get busy”. Once the Boomers start passing, this song will most likely fade with them.

  40. Pylon says:

    I’ve always thought the song was creepy, the “what’s in this drink” is best sung by one of Bill cosby’s targets. It always reminds of movies/TV shows where James Bond, or Jim Kirk, or someone like that kisses a struggling and resisting woman, until they naturally succumb to the fact they are being kissed and join in.

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  41. MarkedMan says:

    @Pylon: FWIW, it’s a sign of where we are at that the line “what’s in this drink” brings up thoughts of date rape drugs rather than how it was originally meant and interpreted “this is a strong drink!”

    I’ve got no particular love for this song, but I think we’ve gone too far in equating one person trying to coax another into sex as de facto rape. I suppose the alternative doesn’t have to reach the level of negotiating a signed contract with all pertinent clauses and sub-clauses hammered out in, say a lawyers office two minutes before sex is initiated, and with an addendum stipulating a resigning of the contract after every stroke. Yeah, maybe it doesn’t have to reach that level, but it sure seems the safest route. I’m only glad that I’ve been in a happy monogamous relationship for better than a quarter of a century and don’t have to deal with this hysteria.

    And I’m not minimizing the me-too movement in any way. Equal social situations are very, very different than an employer/employee power dynamic. The me-t00 movement has been a long time coming and has shed a much needed light on horrible situations and has forced me to review my (now decades old) behavior. I certainly never physically forced myself on anyone, but still am ashamed to admit that I was at times selfish and a jerk.

    But the idea that, given a purely social relationship, only a man is responsible for what happens in the bedroom infantilizes women. We should be making sure our children, male or female, are raised not to let themselves get pushed into actions that they will regret, whether sexual or otherwise. We should help them become confident enough that they if someone is being a jerk they are strong enough to tell them off and walk away. And we should help them in identifying when someone is being an *sshole, when something is not cool, or not funny, or not “just kidding around”.

  42. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan:

    FWIW, it’s a sign of where we are at that the line “what’s in this drink” brings up thoughts of date rape drugs rather than how it was originally meant and interpreted “this is a strong drink!”

    Yes, he hasn’t put a roofie in her drink, he’s just trying to get her drunk. That’s much better.

    I’ve got no particular love for this song, but I think we’ve gone too far in equating one person trying to coax another into sex as de facto rape.

    After the fifth time she says no, he should take the hint. After that, the onus is on her if she wants to get it on.

    And I’m not minimizing the me-too movement in any way. Equal social situations are very, very different than an employer/employee power dynamic.

    Why do you assume that this is an equal social situation? If you listen to women, they will tell you that a man, 50-100lbs larger, making repeated sexual advances, is not an “equal social situation” at all.

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  43. KM says:

    @MarkedMan:

    We should be making sure our children, male or female, are raised not to let themselves get pushed into actions that they will regret, whether sexual or otherwise. We should help them become confident enough that they if someone is being a jerk they are strong enough to tell them off and walk away.

    Which is why people are pointing out the language of this song is problematic. If you had no idea of the social context where the song came from – the necessity for coy denials on the woman’s part to appear “pure” – and were hearing the song for the first time, it really comes across as someone not respecting boundaries. To the new listener, she *IS* trying to tell him off and walk away and he’s not getting it.

    There’s a difference between persuading the sort of interested and ignoring a repeated denial. You know those kiosks sellers at the mall that shout out you to buy their stuff? Imagine one following you your whole shopping experience and even out to your car because you’re “not interested” is a negotiation point to them, not the “buzz off” you meant. It’s one of the reason “no means no” was switched to “only yes means yes” – for some people, anything short of a gun to the face means they’ve got a chance to change your mind and will take it.

    @Gustopher:
    Most men don’t get that until they’re getting hit on by a guy bigger then them and aggressive AF. One of my more persistent would-be dates in college apologized to me later after just such a situation occurred to him. There’s nothing like being felt up by a gay guy twice your size to suddenly get why women are concerned about turning guys down that can do some damage physically. It made him feel weak and “like meat” and was very sorry that he may have made me feel that way. If only there was a way to get that point across with making every guy go through that…..

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  44. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher: In the context of the song, he has said, effectively, “c’mon, you know you really want to sleep with me”, over and over. And she has said, “I really must go”, over and over. If she really wants to go, why is she still there? If she doesn’t want to be talked into it, why doesn’t she leave? In the context of the song, he doesn’t even offer a drink, she just asks for one, after telling him several times that she thinks she should go. And again later on, after telling him several more times, she decides she’ll stay for a cigarette. She never says she doesn’t want to sleep with him. Instead she says she is worried about what her mother/father/sister/brother/neighbor might think. She comes out and says “no” exactly once. But right before that she says, ” I ought to say no, no, no, sir…. at least I can say that I tried”. Does she want to go, or does she want to be convinced? The way the song is written there is little doubt it is the latter.

    I stick with what I said. To listen to this song and come away with it that she has no agency is to infantilize her.

  45. MarkedMan says:

    @KM:

    To the new listener, she *IS* trying to tell him off and walk away and he’s not getting it.

    Except that she is in his apartment. Repeatedly telling him that it is time for her to leave, and then not leaving. Where would he walk away to, anyway?

    Shift the conversation. I’ve been in a situation skiing with a friend where I wanted to take a run that was above both our capabilities (if you never push yourself, you never know what you can do), and under that scenario it’s good to have someone with you. I said, “Do you want to go down this trail?”, and he said, “Wow that’s steep”, and I said “I think we can do it”, and he said “Do you think it is icy?” and so on back and forth. My feeling was that he wanted me to talk him into it.* If I had really wanted to go and given that I thought he wanted to be talked into it I don’t think it was out of line if I had pushed a bit. He was a full grown adult. If he didn’t want to do it he could have clearly said no. If he was a child, that’s different. If he was an employee, that’s different. But he was a friend, with his own agency. But it was skiing. Skiing is dangerous. You can get hurt. If I had said, “Come on, you should do it, you know you want to”, would I have been a monster?

    We are living in an incredibly puritanical time, where anything to do with sex is to be treated as fraught and dangerous and only capable of causing hurt and misery unless it has been completely reached within the strictest bonds of legality and documentation. Exactly how the Puritans thought about sex.

    *Being me, I refused to talk him into it, because then I would become responsible if he didn’t like it. But that’s not important here. We took the run anyway. We had a great time, although there was definitely a spill or two on the way down.

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  46. Pylon says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Maybe it was “this is a strong drink”, but there were Mickey Finn’s back then too (I’m likely closer to then than you are).

  47. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan:

    We are living in an incredibly puritanical time, where anything to do with sex is to be treated as fraught and dangerous and only capable of causing hurt and misery unless it has been completely reached within the strictest bonds of legality and documentation. Exactly how the Puritans thought about sex.

    This is nonsense. Mildly enthusiastic consent is a perfectly reasonable standard. It’s not hard to navigate.

    “Hey, babe, want to bump uglies?”

    “Let me see what’s on tv… eh, I’ve seen this episode. Sure, let’s bump uglies. I mean, it’s either that or have a deep, meaningful discussion of our life goals, and I don’t think either of us can face that.”

    This isn’t hard. This isn’t puritanical. This isn’t fraught with danger. It acknowledges that there are power differences, and generally makes sure that while someone might think hooking up with you was a mistake, it won’t be a regret or traumatic.

    I’m suspicious of the people who can’t understand that — do they think they will never get laid if they can’t badger someone into it?

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  48. Gustopher says:

    @KM: A lot of men are a little too dumb to figure that out. Not malevolent, just male.

    (That last sentence just popped out fully formed. I don’t even really agree with it, but I just like the look of it)

    I don’t think hands on lessons in consent from Dennis Hastert are the right way to go, but there has to be something.

  49. wr says:

    @Gustopher: “I’m suspicious of the people who can’t understand that — do they think they will never get laid if they can’t badger someone into it?”

    I’m suspicious of people who feel the need to apply the standards they demand of people they interact with to people who exist only in pop culture. I’m not really interested in a Maoist version of art, in which the only permitted songs and stories are those that glorify that which we want to see glorified.

  50. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher: I’m not actually disagreeing with you. I think getting consent explicitly is a good idea. Heck, I’ve been married nearly a quarter century and I still do a verbal check with my wife beforehand. (And, as a midwestern boy, this is really more information than I feel comfortable sharing.)

  51. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher:

    “Hey, babe, want to bump uglies?”

    I don’t think I want to live in a world where this works as a pickup line….

  52. MarkedMan says:

    Here’s what I’m really worried about. At some point in every relationship someone has to make the first move. And when it comes to non-oblivious physical contact that means the guy, ninety five times out of a hundred. At some point,someone has to lean in for a kiss. And risk the look of horror if you have misjudged the situation. Now, you want to add to that that the woman of your dreams can out you as equivalent to a rapist because you tried to kiss her? That she can get you fired, or doxed or blown up on Facebook as “that guy”? And I admit this is personal. There was a woman I met when I was a 19 year old college student. I took her to a ballet. Afterwards, we kissed, and more, although we didn’t go “all the way”. I thought it was an incredible night and the next day I reached out to her and… she completely ghosted me. She never replied or returned my calls, or acknowledged me in any way. In your scenario it seems I am all but a rapist and she is a damsel in distress. I admit I don’t really understand what happened but I don’t believe I was some kimd Of oblivious CEO-magnon semi-rapist.

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  53. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:

    To listen to this song and come away with it that she has no agency is to infantilize her.

    Yep. But I’d say we’re oh, about two years away from this being generally recognized. People figure things out so slowly. Yes, in pursuit of a simplistic sketch of human relationships, it’s become necessary to infantilize women to support the narrative. I assume this is just the seemingly inevitable swing of the pendulum, because God forbid we just stop the fcking thing from swinging back and forth and settle on a fair, rational, fact-based solution.

  54. @Yixiao:

    “Ban” is entirely contextual

    Ok, I will be more precise. It appears that as a programming decisions a handful (two?) stations have decided not to play the song. Technically, they have “banned” it (but again, that means that they have “banned” all the other songs they decided not to play.

    For something to rise to the level of news headlines about “bans,” however, I think that it requires something more systematic than what is being described here.

    The word “ban” is being deployed so as to generate outrage, not because it is really the best word to describe what is going on here.

  55. MarkdMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: OK this is picking nits but if the radio station program manager laid down the law and said “No one can play that f*cking song!”, it’s a ban. If no one at the station wanted to play the song so it never aired, that’s not a ban.

  56. MarkedMan says:

    Hey can someone check the mod queue. Not sure why I went there…

  57. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan: Did you use the f-word in full, or put the asterisk in there?

    Recently, I had a DISQUS comment at Kevin Drum’s blog thrown out (which hasn’t happened to me on that forum in a while), and weirdly I think it was due to my use of the word “cuck” (in reference to the alt-right). I edited the post to say “cück” and then the comment was accepted.

    If this very comment gets thrown into mod-hell, that’ll be hilarious.

  58. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: I used the asterisk. The mysteries of the OTB mod queue…. Who was it that was a regular commenter here and then found they couldn’t post under their usual name no matter what. It turned out to be something about an apostrophe in their name, if I recall correctly.

  59. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: Turns out I misspelled my name and so was sent to the first-timers queue. Penalized for sloppiness and carelessness. Are we sure this is Trump’s America?

  60. @MarkdMan: I am trying to be fair with Yixiao.

    But you and I are in basic agreement.