I will admit that I have no nostalgia concerning the Christmas song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” This is not because I dislike the song, but simply because I don’t remember hearing it played when I was growing up. In fact, this past week was the first time that I took the time to listen to the lyrics and find out what the song was about. The reason I wanted to understand the song was that it came to my attention that a couple had re-written the song because they objected that the original version promoted a “rape culture.”
If you’re not familiar with the original song, it goes back and forth between a woman singing about how she really should leave and go home while the man tries to convince her to stay the night by warning her that “it’s cold outside.” She talks about how the neighbors might whisper and her father might be worried, while he says things like “what’s your hurry?” and “what’s the sense in hurting my pride?” At best, I think that most people who are fond of the song see it as a playful dance of seduction, a good-natured back and forth between a man and a woman who are trying to decide whether or not to spend the night together.
In the new version, the woman’s part stays largely the same, while the man’s changes significantly. Instead of trying to convince her to stay by saying, “baby, it’s cold outside,” he says, “baby, I’m fine with that.” When she says, “I ought to say no, no, no,” he replies, “you reserve the right to say no.”
To be honest, when I first heard the politically correct version of the song, I thought it was a parody. It just seemed hysterical to me to think about a couple snuggling up in front of a fire in the glow of the Christmas lights and listening to a song about a woman who thinks maybe she should go home as her man ambivalently affirms her agency to do so. It’s not terribly artistic.
That said, I actually found myself sympathetic to the concerns about the song.
This surprised me because I am certainly no fan of political correctness. But I am also not a fan of a scene in which a man is trying to talk a woman into spending the night with him. This is not because I believe that a man who does this is committing date rape. This is because I think that a man should not seek to get a woman into bed unless he has married that woman. If he marries her, trying to seduce her is fair game! But trying to get her to give herself to him before he is willing to commit to her is something that I consider dishonorable.
I recognize that my Christian beliefs about sex being reserved for married men and women represent a minority position today.
At the same time, I think the controversy surrounding this song illustrates the wisdom of God and the problems with our casual attitude toward sex in our culture.
Some might claim that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” promotes a rape culture because it demonstrates coercion on the part of the man. Others will scoff at this, saying that there is clearly a difference between rape and the dance of seduction. I do believe that there is a difference between seduction and rape. I don’t believe we should equate a woman choosing to sleep with a man because he talks her into it with the horror of a woman being attacked by a man who forces himself on her. I think it is an insult to women who are brutally assaulted to equate the two.
That said, I believe that the man does something wrong in both cases. They are not equally wrong acts, but in both cases, the man essentially uses the woman for his own gratification. I don’t think the man who coerces a woman to sleep with him should be prosecuted. I just think he should be ashamed of himself. I believe God created men to show honor to women by giving a full commitment to them before asking them to give themselves to us physically.
I’m not a fan of the original version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” because it promotes the idea that it is harmless for a man to seduce a woman to whom he isn’t married. However, I’m not a fan of the PC version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” because it promotes the lie that the solution to the problem of pressured sex is simply to empower the woman in order to make sure that she can make the best decision. If there’s nothing morally wrong or socially sketchy about sex outside of marriage, then a man is free to try to convince a woman to spend the night, and the woman is free to say yes or no.
To be honest, I think many men might even take the message in the PC version as a new strategy for seduction. As long as I keep affirming that she doesn’t have to sleep with me, she will let her guard down and spend the night. But then the woman may discover that she’s been manipulated. Then we will need a new version of the song in order to show that men should not manipulate women into bed. Instead of the man saying, “I’m fine with that,” he will need to say, “I would really like to have consensual sex with you, but I just want to make sure that my interest or lack of interest doesn’t influence your decision in any way.” But then men might complain that women sometimes manipulate men and string them along in order to get men to take them out on nice dates and buy them things. Then we would need a new version of the song that addresses women. Perhaps the woman will have a lyric that says, “I really should go, especially since I don’t want you to think that I have any claim on your money just because you’re interested in me sexually.” The lyrics may not be deeply poetic, but it will be important to make sure the message gets out.
My point is that I believe we should not trivial rape by equating it with seduction and that we should not glorify seduction by equating it with the beauty of sex in a truly committed relationship.
The true beauty of sex is when a woman feels free to give herself to a man who she knows will be there for her.
The solution to the “rape culture” is not to work harder to delineate exactly where seduction becomes coercive. The solution is to recognize that our confusion over this line points to the eternal wisdom of God. He is not arbitrary in reserving sex for marriage. He is lovingly directing us toward the practice that will enhance the beauty of sex and will rescue of from the sadness, confusion, and regret that is brought on by casual sex.
God loves us. He doesn’t want men to use their wits to trick women into bed. And he doesn’t want women to have to walk in the uncertainty of wondering whether or not they have a man who is committed to them. God’s wisdom is always wise, and our ultimate good is always found in trusting Him and following His lead.