Darn straight I’ll eat alone with a woman

I do not care about Mike Pence’s marriage. If it is true that he will not dine alone with women other than his wife, I should think this is generally good news for women.

I don’t mean to be over flippant here. Smart women have pointed out that if Pence is still following this policy, it puts women staffers at a disadvantage and might explain all those photos we’ve seen of Pence in important policy meetings with nary a woman present. There are good reasons to think a policy like this could have negative consequences for the way Pence does business.

But really, we didn’t need to know about Pence following the Billy Graham Rule to know that he wasn’t part of an especially woman-friendly administration:

No, I hate all this talk about Mike Pence’s marriage because it reminds me of the toxic world I used to be part of. As I told Twitter last week:

(Oh yeah, if you want to know about me being a pickup artist…)

I was going to write a post explaining that, yes, some people honestly believe that men and women can’t be just friends. This idea is so alien in the circles I move in now that I thought I might need to prove that people actually think it. Then The Federalist ran an article that was literally titled “Why Men and Women Can Never Be ‘Just Friends'”, so that ship sailed. (Check out Galen Broaddus’s Twitter rant about it though.)

Mike Pence: so godly he even obeys the six-inch rule with his wife. Photo: Gage Skidmore.
Mike Pence: so godly he even obeys the six-inch rule with his wife. Photo: Gage Skidmore. CC.

All I can think now is how impoverished this way of looking at the world is. These are people who don’t understand friendship, who don’t know anything about non-sexual emotional intimacy. Think about the kind of closeness that you can only experience by hanging out one-on-one with someone, and then imagine closing yourself off to that experience with half the people in the world.

It’s a set of beliefs you can only hold if you’re ignorant. We know that Pence is a bigot anyway, but the only way you can believe men and women can’t be friends is to ignore the existence of queer people. Some of my friends are lesbians. One of my dearest friends is asexual. Since I am not a rapist (some Christian men who refuse to be alone with women don’t seem so confident this is true of themselves), nothing is going to happen if I’m alone with them.

A couple of years ago I had dinner with a woman I know, and we ended up admitting that we were attracted to each other. Nothing was going to happen; she was married and monogamous. It was briefly awkward, but we ended up having a great time for the rest of the evening because we’re good friends. If a man thinks hanging out with a woman he can’t have sex with is pointless or meaningless, he is a fool. We still shared laughter, good conversation, and shared interests. If you don’t think that’s valuable, I pity both your friendships and your romantic relationships.

I remember Christian youth retreats where they told us that if we were alone in a car at the end of a date, we would inevitably end up having sex. My Accelerated Christian Education textbooks said we should never go on a date without a chaperone. My evangelical church encouraged us to go on group dates, if we had to date.

As a result, I missed out on years of friendships. I realise that these policies adversely affect the professional advancement of women. In that light, it might seem relatively trivial that they also cost me some good times. But I just wish the gender-essentialist crowd who think that dudes need to hang out with other dudes because chicks don’t like sports as much could see their ideas hurt everyone. There’s enough misery in the world without piling a load of sexist religious dogma on top.

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