As you listen to Christmas songs this season, you may hear “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”[i] The song a duet, typically between a male vocalist who is referred to as “wolf” in the score, and a female vocalist who is called “mouse” in the score. As the catchy tune frolics on, the woman insists that she has to go home, but the man tells her it’s cold outside, and she really should stay the night. She says that her family will be worried, and he insists on pouring her another drink. She says that the she’s concerned about her reputation, but he doesn’t listen, continuing to pour on manipulative compliments. She says that he ought to say no to his advances, but he moves closer, asking, “what’s the sense in hurting my pride?” She threatens the reprisals of her family, but he waves that off. At one point she asks, “Say, what’s in this drink?” indicating that she believes that he’s drugged her to get her to stay. The more she resists, the more he insists. Finally, he gets his way and she decides to stay—but one is left wondering whether with all the pressure it really was her choice.
Now, I know I’m treading on thin ice by slaughtering this sacred cow—but just because it’s a popular Christmas song with a catchy tune and long tradition, that doesn’t make it right. In fact, I’d say it’s not a Christmas song at all—it’s just a winter song. And no matter what time of the year it is, it’s never too cold outside for a man to respect a woman’s wishes, and it’s never the wrong season for a woman to expect that a man should understand that her “no” means “no.” In fact, the man in the song doesn’t really love the woman. He’s not genuinely concerned for her warmth and safety—he’s just trying to get his way so he can have his way, if you know what I mean.
If you don’t see a problem with this song, then you’re probably a part of the problem. Ours is a culture that sexualizes and disrespects women, a culture that empowers men or at least excuses them if they treat women as sexual objects rather than precious treasures that they are. Unfortunately, demeaning and devaluing women has a long and glorious history that goes back to Old Testament times. Women in those days were bought and sold in marriage. Women were seen as such a burden that a father had to pay a dowry in order to convince a man to marry his daughter. In other cases, if a woman was to be valued, she was treasured as an object of property or wealth. Her virginity had a dollar amount attached to it. Exodus 22:16-17 says, “If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.”[ii] The reason the man must pay her father is that he had defiled her, and that she is used goods, so to speak. So we have a long tradition of treating women like they are sexual objects, whose virtue is to be bought, sold, or just grabbed by men. Unfortunately, popular Christmas songs bear that out.
In Deuteronomy 22, a woman’s desirability as a wife was measured by whether or not she was a virgin when she got married. And if she wasn’t a virgin, she’d be stoned to death. People didn’t believe a woman’s testimony. A rape was only considered a rape if she cried out, and if there was someone who heard her. Rapists could get the death penalty—a harsher sentence than today—but there was a way out of that. If the woman was unmarried and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days (vv. 28-29).” So if your daughter is raped, she’s lost her value—so the best thing is to get her rapist to pay you and then to marry her, and she can never divorce him. You see how women were devalued in those days? Do you really think it’s much better today?
Right now, celebrities, politicians, and well-known businessmen are being called on the carpet for sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are all about confronting sexual harassment and sexual assault, declaring that it’s time for these things to end, and calling men to act like men, not animals. Now, I’ll be the first to say that sexual harassment and assault isn’t always perpetrated by men, but that is the overwhelming majority of the case. We’ve got to teach our boys that when a woman says “no,” that means “no,” and that saying, “Baby, it’s cold outside,” and arguing and manipulating is wrong. We’ve got to teach them that if she has any reason to ask, “Say, what’s in this drink?” you’ve already gone too far. No woman should ever feel unsafe around a gentleman—in fact, God gave gentlemen to women to keep them safe, not to make them feel vulnerable.
Instead of following the sexual mores of his day, Jesus always treated women with respect. He valued them, and treated them as equals—even and perhaps especially those women who had been sexualized by society. He taught people to treat others the way they want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Men, this means respecting, honoring, defending, cherishing all women, and never treating them as sexual objects, worthy of harassment, assault, and rape. It means treating all women the way you’d treat your mother or sister—with dignity, respect, and godly love.
Not only do we need to teach our boys to treat women well—we’ve also got to teach our girls not to be mice who fall for wolfish words. Don’t let “Baby, it’s cold outside,” or any other convincing, harassing, or manipulative words talk you into giving up what you’re not ready to give away. Don’t be afraid to meet force with force—because if he’s treating you the way he wants to be treated, and he’s sexually assaulting you, then you have the right to use force to get away. And if he takes what you never meant to give, don’t ever let shame tell you that it’s your fault or that you’ve lost your value. You, my dear, are a daughter of the King, and are always precious in God’s eyes.
In Matthew 5:7, Jesus says, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” This means saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. It also means respecting another person’s “yes” as “yes,” and letting their “no” mean “no.” It means being a person of integrity—in the good weather and the bad, and even when it’s cold outside.
[i] “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” 1944. Words by Frank Loesser.
[ii] Scripture quotations are taken from the NKJV.