Ok, ok that was shameless clickbait. I’m sorry. It’s not that bad. What I am talking about is actually the conversation around “Baby It’s Cold Outside“. There are two camps around this popular carol, one that observes that it is a festive version of Blurred Lines only worse, and a counter point that it is totally not an ACTUAL date rape in progress, just an old timey courtship that looks like a date rape by modern standards.
The latter is going the rounds of my Vanilla-ish facebook, which I think misses the point completely of the first camp not enjoying hearing a woman playfully plead about not wanting to be there. It argues that “Mouse” (the woman) and “Wolf” the (the man) in the duet are consenting but playing out the script of the era, so to relax. Other versions mention it is a husband and wife team that wrote and originally performed it as if this was relevant.
I have things I can say on facebook- I can say it is problematic because it’s about the expectations of predation, a celebration of an era before enthusiastic consent, the mere fact that the duet parts are named after specific animals tells you the expected power dynamic and so on. I can rebut the fact that trying to defend it because she softens her no to blame other people is bullshit that doesn’t understand how women diffuse rejection to protect themselves.
And sharing it uncritically as old timey fun is how we end up with this rather gag worthy video where Bublé uses child actors to show how cute it is to push past a woman showing she’s not interested. This is probably a more accurate version from Funny or Die.
But… then I also write horrifying kink porn for fun and profit.
The thing that frustrates me is that there is no space to step in and tell people it’s ok to fetishize sexual violence, but you have to acknowledge it as sexual violence. Romance and erotica have always had a scope of displaying everything from full consent to outright rape, and the ability to label things dub-con (dubious or questionable) or non-con (sexual assault) in contemporary porn is part of developing a healthier conversation around it.
It is ok to be titillated or warm and fuzzy about a holiday song of light M/f. It’s ok to want someone to ‘force’ you into spending the night with them while pretending innocence, provided you also have the framework of free consent protecting you. The point it becomes dangerous is when you romantasize that being just how normal sexuality works or worked.
And it’s not like this was the distant past- people who fucked in the fifties according to these standards of conduct are still out having sex. Harrison Ford’s Deckard was assaulting Rachel Replicant in 1982 and having it be told as a straight if stormy love story (and his Indiana Jones was paired with someone he first boinked when she was 15 to his character’s 27 to which he blames on her). 80s era romances are notoriously rape-y, hence the perpetuation of the idea of the bodice ripper. The recent spate of sexual assault scandals are all built on the same idea that the enthusiasm of one of the partners doesn’t need to be present either at first or at all.
You, the reader, probably knows that real reluctance or real resistance is a flat out hard stop. If you permit either you have a global dynamic that means that “real” still gives your partners and out.
A safer world means one where we can explicitly say that Baby It’s Cold Outside is about as icky as He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss). It also means one where we look to why we feel the need to use historicals to tell stories about sexual assault or statutory rape (in the two 80s movies I cited, one is in faux 40s future noire and the other is set in the 30s, continuing the trend of).
I am turned on by fucked up shit. I also have dealt with harassment and violence, and I don’t ever want to do or experience that shit for real again, and harp on consent so much to stop this from being an issue. But as far as the complete picture, people like me are left out of the conversation because we can’t be honest about the reason why we are clinging to excuses to share and enjoy unhealthy relationships.
As the various people share that defensive tumblr post on facebook I can’t point out that what they want is a rape fantasy. The fact that talking about getting turned on by consent violations is taboo leads to a really unfortunate, lopsided conversation. The middle path here that lets people enjoy the idea of people ignoring their No while still having it respected for real is missing. Kinkshaming ruins everything and is forcing people who like a lil violence in theirf fantasy life into uncomfortable company with the people who like a lil violence in their real life. Since the latter should catch fire and fall into the sea, this sucks.
If we had a healthier conversation about the role that stealth kink plays in people’s idea of the romantic, we’d all have a happier Christmas.