I was linked today to this defense of the song Baby It’s Cold Outside by feminist Slay Belle. It’s a well thought out article and if you’ve got the patience to read a few pages go look at it now. If not, the summary is, people have been complaining about one line in the song and Slay Belle thinks that’s silly. She sees the song as a story about how the female lead is being held back by society’s expectations (ie. disapproval of “good” women having sex) and the male lead is giving her the excuses (encouragement to stay, reasons not to leave, etc.) she needs to make the choice to have and enjoy sex. Unfortunately the author has utterly missed the part where this story trains people to commit rape.
The song Baby It’s Cold Outside is creating a myth, a sort of idealized view of a romantic relationship. In this particular myth we’re told the girl resists the boy’s advances, saying no, possibly giving excuses of several sorts, but since the boy is persistent, the girl gives in and they’re happy. The important thing is, she gives in because she really does want to, she’s just worried about what people will say, so she needs to “put up a good fight”.
If a man buys into that pattern of romance, he really should badger and push his girlfriend for sex over and over, no matter how much she says no. Because she wants to have sex underneath, she just can’t admit it, or she won’t be a “good girl.” Now her boyfriend can’t tell sincere no’s from “coy” no’s and may be coercing her into sex (which incidentally is rape). Still he may honestly believe that she doesn’t mean what she says because he’s been taught this false model of how women act by popular culture.
This is the problem that I have with Baby It’s Cold Outside. “You should pressure her because she really does want to, even when she says no” is not a message I find acceptable. No means no and yes means yes. Teaching people that they’re interchangeable if you push is a nasty slippery slope. That slope is exactly where popular culture was standing when Baby It’s Cold Outside was written in 1936.