VS. SPIRIT OF #METOO
Recent controversy over the classic winter pop song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” reveals much about our present state of moral reasoning.
Written by Frank Loesser — best known as composer and lyricist for the Broadway musicals, “Guys and Dolls” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” — the song is a clever exploration of the tug-of-war between conscience and hypocrisy to which sexual desire often subjects us.
The premise of the song is as simple as it is universal: A girl knows she should remove herself from a sexually charged situation while a guy attempts to distract her from the warning bells ringing inside her head.
The humor of the piece lies in the obvious fact that she isn’t listening too closely to those bells and her resistance to his entreaties is half-hearted at best.
In our #MeToo-colored sexual atmosphere, the seduction theme of Loesser’s little comic vignette can seem a bit much. That theme was always intrinsic to the song, of course, and until recently, we enjoyed it as an amusing anecdote about human nature.
With Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and other notorious sexual predators revealing a bit too much about human nature, however, some are now hesitant to laugh openly at “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” — in public, at any rate. Hence, the call for banning it from the airwaves.
Most critics of the current controversy have dismissed it as merely the latest outrage du jour from the Feminist Left. That view is expressed in this headline on a column by Andrea Peyser of the New York Post…
“When they go after ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside,’ you know #MeToo has gone mad.”
But there’s more to it than that. In fact, it reflects the prevailing conflict (prevailing especially on college and university campuses) between two competing assertions: (1) that women should be free to act on their sexual impulses, and (2) that women must struggle within a “rape culture” by which they are constantly under threat from “toxic” male sexual aggressiveness.
It all turns on the question of female assent. “Hooking up” is fine if the girl wants it and initiates the situation. On the other hand, sexual overtures from the guy are unacceptable because they express his presumptions about the girl’s attitudes and they may make her feel encroached upon or fearful (even verbal compliments and certain desire-tinged facial expressions — winks and such — can stir her deepest insecurities).
Absent from any consideration are questions about the rightness or wrongness of the sexual arrangements contemplated. In particular, it’s assumed that the girl’s assent doesn’t hang on anything so abstract and illusory as religious scruple.
Her will is the beginning and the end of the matter.
At the same time, if anything should go wrong in the experience — if the relationship should prove hurtful, unsatisfactory, or short-lived — it’s not her fault.
That “toxic” male thing again.
The girl is always the presumed victim, regardless of how active a part she may have played at the time. (Naturally there’s no need to even consider the possibility of facing an unwanted pregnancy. The local clinic will take care of all that.)
I have a feeling that what people find discomfiting about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” isn’t so much that the guy in the song is pressuring the girl, as it is that the focus of the lyrics is on the girl’s conscience.
What the guy wants is a given; he’s already made his choice. Now it’s the girl who must decide. And the fact that she can either accept or refuse the guy’s invitation means that she does share in the responsibility for what happens. It isn’t all his doing.
That’s unacceptable these days. It’s much too traditional an idea (too patriarchal, too biblical) to be contemplated in the post-modern, post-Christian atmosphere of our overheated sexual scene.
Indeed, it comes too perilously close to…morality.
We’ve all thought about how pleasant it would be to exercise choice and preference free from the nagging of conscience. And on occasion, we’ve turned a deaf ear to that nagging. As St. Paul put it…
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
I think this accounts for at least part of the appeal of #MeToo. What started out as an honest, even brave, effort to expose sexual exploitation has become, for some people (male as well as female), a way to avoid facing up to human weaknesses, ethical compromises, bad choices.
But in such a case, how long can one put off admitting the truth about one’s own motives? How long can we bask in the warmth of self-deception?
Eventually we have to face the chill of reality.
And, Baby…it’s cold outside.
In the image at the top, Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalbán perform “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in the 1949 MGM film, Neptune’s Daughter. The Song won an Academy Award.
Someone posted this provocative question on Facebook…
As noted above, Andrea Peyser of the New York Post offers a more straightforward critique of the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” controversy…
“Dump the eggnog and strip the lights from the Hanukah bush, because the #MeToo movement is coming for holiday fun. #MeToo, which started out as a righteous campaign to stamp out sexual harassment and predation, has gone stark raving bonkers.”
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” isn’t the only song mired in controversy these days. The Princeton University Tigertones, a male a cappella singing group recently received complaints about its presentation of “Kiss the Girl” from the Disney film, “The Little Mermaid.” According to the Daily Wire…
“sophomore Noa Wollstein wrote an opinion article for the Daily Princetonian asking the Tigertones to stop singing the song because it ‘is more misogynistic and dismissive of consent than cute.’”
Wollstein complained that “Kiss the Girl”…
“launches a heteronormative attack on women’s right to oppose the romantic and sexual liberties taken by men.”