Most Recent Podcast:


Deconstructing December: The Festive Date Rape Song

By now I am sure you have heard the song "Baby it's Cold Outside." You know what I am talking about; the song where a man and a woman sing over each other -- she makes multiple passive attempts to leave and he manages to get her to say with a lame excuse about the weather. It's been recorded many times by almost as many artists and seems to be rather playful song that most people like. That is, of course, until you really listen to the lyrics.

In the first verse the woman expresses a desire to leave, citing the worry of her father and mother as her primary motivation for excusing herself, but ultimately decides to stay for "half a drink more."
I really can't stay - Baby it's cold outsideI've got to go away - 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 to worry - Beautiful, what's 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
Well maybe just a half a drink more - Put some music on while I pour
This is disturbing on at least two accounts. First, she still lives with her parents. This isn't that uncommon anymore for a young woman, but in 1944 (when the song was written) it would suggest that she's probably rather young. Second, and related to the first point, if she is in fact young this "gentleman" has been providing a minor with drinks.

The second verse gets even more disturbing. At this point the woman knows that this gentleman has more on his mind than polite conversation and as an offhand comment suggests that she should leave for fear of what the neighbors might say. She next starts to feel (or at least suspect) that the drink contains some type of depressant and is starting to affect her. This poor woman then has a crisis of conscience out loud. She knows she should extricate herself from the situation and has already invented an alibi if she can't. At this point, she may be too dense to realize it, but to any educated listener it's clear that this gentleman is slowly drugging her.
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
To break the spell - I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say no, no, no, sir - Mind if I move closer
At least I'm gonna say that I tried - What's the sense in hurting my pride?
I really can't stay - Baby don't hold out
Ahh, but it's cold outside
I'd like to say that circumstances change for our hapless heroine, but alas, her fate was decided years ago. At this point she plainly says "no" and continues to name family members who will talk and/or take action based on the events about to transpire. However, clearly well under the control of the GHB now, she continues to drink. The suitor now moves in, creeping from complimenting her lips to kissing them.
I simply must go - Baby, it's cold outside
The answer is no - Ooh darling, it's cold outside
This welcome has been - I'm lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm - Look out the window at that storm
My sister will be suspicious - Man, your lips look delicious
My brother will be there at the door - Waves upon a tropical shore
My maiden aunt's mind is vicious - Gosh your lips are delicious
Well maybe just a half a drink more - Never such a blizzard before
The final verse she once again mentions gossip as her primary objection. Her tenacious suitor counters by insinuating that leaving could lead to her demise and adding that her death would bring him life long sorrow. It's a weak excuse, but she's so drugged at this point she's likely to believe anything.
I've got to go home - Oh, baby, you'll freeze out there
Say, lend me your coat - 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 life long sorrow
At least there will be plenty implied - If you caught pneumonia and died
I really can't stay - Get over that hold out
Ahh, but it's cold outside 
The last few parts of the song are rather incoherent.
Baby it's cold outside
Brr its cold….
It's cold out there
Cant you stay awhile longer baby
Well…..I really shouldn't...alright
Make it worth your while baby
Ahh, do that again….
It seems that she gives in and if you can believe the drug-addled ramblings of this young woman she asks this man to "do that again." We can only assume that she awakes a few hours later with very little memory of the past 24 hours, possibly in a bathtub full of ice and one kidney missing.

Now that, is a Christmas song!*

It's pretty clear that this song is about date rape. It's right there in the lyrics, but it's also in the original score. The printed score of the song lists the two singing parts as "mouse" and "wolf" which usually signify the woman and man's lyrics, respectively. Therefore, he's the predator and she the prey.

So what do we make of this? Do we continue to look the other way? Or do we stop pretending that this kind of song is "entertainment" and shun any artist (and there have been a lot) who decides to do a rendition of this for a Christmas album?

- On a side note, Ricardo Montalban has actually done a version of this song. Someone should really do a mashup of his parts with scenes of Captain Kirk. KHAAAAAANNNNNNNN!!!!!

*It was never actually intended to be a Christmas song, but it's setting (a snowy, cold place) slowly worked it into the Adult Contemporary Christmas music station rotations.

This article appears as part of a series. Visit Deconstructing December to see more.

This post originally appeared on Stuff Smart People Like. Subscribe to the Podcast.


  1. Some friends and I were just discussing this int he context of whether the She & Him version was less rape-y because it's super sexy Zooey Deschanel singing the "wolf" part and, um, "him" singing the "mouse" part? We said yes, obviously. Ah the double standards in our society.

  2. I totally agree, it totally changes the mood of the song with a female singing the "wolf" role.

    Speaking of holiday song lyrics that don't quite fit the holiday spirit. Has anyone listened to "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and wondered about the line "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago?" Who the hell tells ghost stories during the holidays? Or were the writers just desperate for something that rhymed with "glories?"

  3. Yes, it's definitely not rape if it's coming from a cute hipster chick. Or it's at least less creepy.

    Also, I had another thought about the lyrics after I wrote this. What if there really is no conflict going on on the woman's part and the many lines she sings where she second guesses (e.g., "at least I'm going to say that I tried") are just her subtext or how he is interpreting or "hearing" her protests?

    That's deep man.

  4. This post made me think of the lyrics of "You are my sunshine", which if listened to with the ears of a cynic are actually about someone obsessed with someone who has broken up with them...take a look at a sample of the lyrics...

    I'll always love you and make you happy,
    If you will only say the same.
    But if you leave me and love another,
    You'll regret it all some day:
    [excuse me...threatening the love of your life...questionable!]

    You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
    You make me happy when skies are gray
    You'll never know dear, how much I love you
    Please don't take my sunshine away
    [this seems a tad on the dependent side of comfortable]

  5. and your mother would say its "prey" not "pray"...