Last March, when news broke that Mike Pence and his wife Karen have established rules in their marriage, which include not dining alone with a member of the opposite sex, I wrote in support of it for the now-defunct site Heat Street.
My husband and I have our own rules in our marriage--which include no new friends of the opposite sex.
I wrote “Sunlight is what works in my marriage. No ex-boyfriend gets to take a trip down memory lane with me. When I’m up late at night writing no one is sliding into my DMs without my husband hearing about it in the morning. Yes, these rules limit some interactions. We don’t get to make new, close friends of the opposite sex. Old friends are grandfathered in. When my husband has the occasional dinner with a close female friend he has known for decades, I encourage and support it. But he won’t be coming home and telling me about this amazing new woman he met and hanging out with her alone. And while he’s supportive of my maintaining close friendships with lifelong male friends, I don’t get to make new ones.”
That doesn’t mean I can’t have great interactions with men, as my husband can with women, but we aren’t suddenly going to form a close bond with someone, spend time one-on-one with them, share personal information the way we might have before we were married. These interactions don’t get to be private. We protect our marriage before all else.
The implication that we need Taliban-like separation of men and women to stop men from sexual violence is not what the Pence rule is about. Saying that all men are capable of this behavior only lets the predators off the hook.
That’s why it’s so alarming that people are conflating the Pence rule for their marriage with the current crop of sexual harassers. “See,” they say, presumably defending Pence, “if they had just followed the Mike Pence’s rule this never would have happened.”
Friday morning conservative writer Matt Walsh tweeted “3 politically incorrect things we could do to curb sexual harassment but won't because we're stupid and terrible:
1) Observe the Mike Pence rule
2) Emphasize chastity
3) Emphasize modesty”
Putting aside the last two, Mike Pence’s rule doesn’t exist so he doesn’t accidentally sexually harass someone. It exists so he doesn’t get into a consensual, romantic entanglement.
Author Erick Erickson wrote a few weeks ago that unlike Harvey Weinstein “Mike Pence could never be accused of wanting to have sex with someone other than his wife in these sorts of situations because he avoids putting himself and the other person into these situations.”
This implies that men like Weinsten are falsely accused. The accused men are largely predators, some accused of rape – no “rule” in their marriage would have made any difference. Rules against infidelity already exist in most marriages. No additional rule of not dining alone with women would have stopped these men.
The implication that we need Taliban-like separation of men and women to stop men from sexual violence is not what the Pence rule is about. Their rules don’t exist to stop men from being predators and I’m certain Mrs. Pence follows similar rules regarding engaging with men who are not her husband. The rules in my marriage don’t exist for just my husband, they exist for us both.
The people making this conflation think that they are defending Mike Pence and the way he chooses to conduct himself in his marriage. But what they’re really implying is that any man can be a sexual harasser or a rapist and that’s why Pence sets rules for himself. That’s just not the case and as I wrote a few weeks ago, saying that all men are capable of this behavior only lets the predators off the hook.
Let’s keep the focus where it belongs, on men who have hurt women, and not defend Mike Pence by suggesting he could be one of them.