Here are a list of reasons not to have lunch with someone of the opposite sex, if you’re married:
- You have a passionate sexual history with them
- It’s someone, in particular, that your spouse is uncomfortable with
- They have a history of sexual assault
- It’s Valentine’s Day and the meal is being served by room service
- They are a Tyrannosaurus Rex
- They aren’t wearing pants
There are valid reasons, I think, for a married person not to dine with someone of the opposite sex. There are situations, which, I think, might be described as unnecessarily tempting, or dangerous, or uncomfortable for your spouse. But, the presence of interchangeable genitalia on the participants does not qualify for any of those, IMO.
Mike Pence, no doubt, is influenced by his religion and a dedication to his wife. What’s the harm in him making personal decisions for himself, based on those things? Well, there probably is no harm to him or his wife. I mean, he paints himself as someone with very little will power or control over his physical urges, but, whatever, right?
The problem is, that when you remove women from the list of potential meal partners, in the world of business, politics, and even relationships, you remove them from potential power. How many important deals, agreements, and conversations happen at lunch and dinner? A lot. By excluding women from those areas, you’re excluding them from having a seat at a more figurative table. The table of power, where leaders sit.
You’re also saying, for you, women are sex objects more than they’re partners, equals, or co-workers.
Mike Pence could have cut a lot of this controversy off at the bend if he also committed himself to never talking business at meals. No women allowed, but also no business. That way, everybody gets to participate in power. Personally, I think refusing to be “just friends” with a woman is still something that’s really potentially harmful to Pence, as a person, but that’s on him.
I know a little bit about this world. First of all, my first wife was apocalyptically unfaithful to me. We didn’t have a rule about not having lunch with members of the opposite sex. But we did have a rule about being faithful to each other. We actually vowed to keep it in a very expensive ceremony, in front of clergy and our family. It didn’t seem to matter.
Also, I worked for a church that forbid staff members of the opposite sex to ride alone in cars together. I broke that rule. My co-workers broke that rule. Higher level leadership broke that rule. And it wouldn’t have mattered if everybody kept it, if avoiding temptation was the endgame. Because, I can guarantee you that I worked with people who were tempted, sexually, by members of their sex. 50 years ago, when everybody pretended being gay wasn’t a thing, it might have made sense to confine potential romantic entanglements to heterosexuals — but that particular toothpaste is out of the tube, and to deny that is stupid and obtuse.
I guess I should say, at this point, that I am a monogamist. I practice monogamy. I don’t believe humans are necessarily made for it. For 90% of our existence, we were polyamorous. That’s a pretty strong argument against monogamy. But, I’m not a monogamist because I think it’s an ideal human behavior. It’s okay to go against our programming. Like being a vegetarian. All evidence points to your body being designed to eat meat, but if you find a good enough reason to be a vegetarian, then meat be damned. Same for me and monogamy.
I understand and sympathize with Pence on some level. If you’ve committed yourself to a religion, then it makes sense that popular interpretation of that religion would be your basis for behavior.
But it’s not enough. There’s gotta be more. Your view of women, your commitment to your spouse, your thoughts on the value of monogamy have to have some underpinning more than rules created for you. Your values have to go deeper. You have to own them.
I can hear some of you now, “Who cares? I don’t care! Why do you care?” And that’s fine. I can’t make you care and I can’t convince you that it matters — but the fact is, none of us, especially the Vice-President of The United States exists in a vacuum. Being a functioning member of a working society means thinking about the effects our decisions have on others. Even when you’re trying to do what seems, obviously, like the right thing to you.